Sling TV review: A sorely needed skinny bundle

android, sling tv review: a sorely needed skinny bundle

Sling TV review: A sorely needed skinny bundle

At a Glance

Expert’s Rating

Pros

・Lower base price than most other live TV services

・Easy-to-navigate app and grid guide

・Video quality settings help avoid data caps and buffering

Cons

・DVR storage is frustrating to manage

・60-frames-per-second channel support is limited

・Multiple base packages and add-ons can cause confusion

Our Verdict

If you don’t need local channels, Sling delivers a solid streaming TV package for less.

Price When Reviewed

Sling Orange: $35/mo; Sling Blue: $35/mo; Sling Orange+Blue: $50/mo

Best Prices Today: Sling TV

Retailer Price Delivery Sling TV $35.00

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A lot’s changed since Sling TV first shook up the cord-cutting scene seven years ago.

Sling’s channel lineup has grown and fractured into two base packages, and its starting price has ballooned from $20 per month in 2015 to $35 per month in 2022. (Of course, cable’s become more expensive as well.) It’s also a much more polished service than it used to be, with built-in DVR service and an excellent live channel guide.

But because Sling TV lacks local channels in most markets, it’s a drastically different service than major competitors such as YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV. Its DVR is also more restrictive and can be frustrating to manage.

Sling TV can certainly save you money over those other streaming TV packages. But whether it’s the best bundle for you will depend on whether you can live with its limitations.

This review is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of live TV streaming services.

Updated August 16, 2022 to report that Sling TV has added Discovery+ as an optional add-on service at $4.99 per month for the ad-supported version or $6.99 per month for the ad-free version. New Sling customers can sign up for a 7-day free trial to Discovery+.

Sling TV Orange vs. Blue

Sling TV’s two base packages are called Sling Orange and Sling Blue, and they each cost $35 per month with the option to pay for additional channel packs. You can also combine the two base plans for $50 per month total.

What’s the difference? Only Sling Orange includes ESPN and Disney channels, while Sling Blue includes channels from Discovery (including HGTV), NBC (including Bravo), Paramount (including Nick Jr. and BET), Fox (including Fox News and FS1), and the NFL Network. Sling Blue also lets you stream on up to three devices at the same time, versus just one for Sling Orange. (To view the full channel lineups for each, head to this page and click “View All.”)

Sling also sells an array of add-on packages, based around themes such as “News Extra” and “Sports Extra.” These add-ons also vary between Sling Blue and Orange, and you can read the details here.

No matter which package you pick, Sling TV includes 50 hours of DVR storage, which you can watch on any device. An optional $5-per-month add-on gives you 200 hours of storage instead.

Sling Blue does offer local NBC and Fox feeds in a small number of major cities, but in most places, Sling is bereft of local channel coverage. For antenna users, this is actually a blessing, because local channels are the most expensive part of traditional pay TV packages. With an antenna, you can get those channels for free, and an AirTV tuner lets you view (and optionally record) them directly through the Sling TV app.

All of this is a lot to take in compared to other services that charge one price for a large selection of channels, including locals. But given that YouTube TV costs $65 per month, and both Hulu + Live TV and Fubo TV charge $70 per month, Sling TV’s savings can be significant if your channel needs are more limited.

AirTV Anywhere

android, sling tv review: a sorely needed skinny bundle

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MSRP: $199.99 Best Prices Today:

$199.99 at AirTV

The Sling TV interface

android, sling tv review: a sorely needed skinny bundle

The Sling TV home screen uses a left-hand sidebar for navigation.

Jared Newman / Foundry

For device support, Sling TV is available on every major smart TV and streaming platform, though it’s not available on PlayStation consoles. There’s no native Mac app either, though you can watch in most web browsers on any computer.

After a big redesign in 2021, Sling TV has become much easier to use. The home screen recommends live channels to watch, lets you resume DVR and on-demand videos, and suggests upcoming shows for your DVR. Sling’s explanations for its recommendations—such as “Trending” or “Because you watched…”—are also a nice touch.

android, sling tv review: a sorely needed skinny bundle

Sling TV’s grid guide offers lots of filtering options and a list of favorite channels.

Jared Newman / Foundry

Clicking over to the left sidebar lets you navigate between the home screen and other menus, including the search bar, a channel guide, your DVR list, and an on-demand library. Within each menu, you’ll find additional navigation tabs. The grid guide, for instance, lets you filter live channels by genre, while the DVR list has tabs for your schedule and recently-deleted recordings.

Even with the new interface, some nitpicks remain: There’s no easy way to browse the full Sling TV catalog by genre, and if you navigate to the individual pages for each channel, some of them only let you browse their shows in alphabetical order. That can be inefficient if you’re looking for programs to feed into the DVR.

Also, some older Roku devices can’t display live channels from Sling TV while viewing the full channel guide. Instead, you’re limited to a separate mini-guide, which lets you scroll between recent channels or the full channel list.

android, sling tv review: a sorely needed skinny bundle

Sling TV’s mini guide lets you quickly switch between recent channels.

Jared Newman / Foundry

This isn’t an issue with Fire TV or Android TV devices, or with the Roku Ultra. On these devices, you can click up during live TV playback to show a thumbnail preview inside the grid guide. Sling also supports picture-in-picture mode on Apple TV devices, so you can browse the grid guide or even use other apps while watching Sling channels in a small window.

android, sling tv review: a sorely needed skinny bundle

Sling TV also lets you browse the full channel guide with video in a thumbnail view—but not on Roku devices.

Jared Newman / Foundry

How Sling TV’s DVR works

While most of Sling’s rivals offer unlimited DVR storage with time limits, Sling’s DVR works the opposite way: You get 50 hours of storage—upgradable to 200 hours for $5 per month—but those recordings never expire as long as you have enough space.

android, sling tv review: a sorely needed skinny bundle

Sling TV’s DVR service operates the opposite of the competition.

Jared Newman / Foundry

In theory, this should appeal more to cable-DVR diehards who want to precisely control which recordings show up in the list. The problem is that Sling doesn’t offer enough ways to manage that storage and prevent the DVR from filling up.

While you can record individual episodes and avoid recording reruns, you can’t limit the number of episodes Sling records from a given program—a popular feature of TiVo and some other cable DVRs. Sling also lacks the ability to create team or league passes, so you must remember to record each sporting event individually.

android, sling tv review: a sorely needed skinny bundle

Sling TV’s recording options are fairly bare-bones, which is a problem given the limited space available.

Jared Newman / Foundry

Once Sling TV’s DVR fills up, it will automatically delete old or watched recordings unless you “Lock” them in the DVR menu. So if you record a heavily syndicated TV program, like Seinfeld or Friends, your DVR will easily become overrun with that show and little else.

To make things worse, you can’t delete entire seasons all at once, so your only options are to wipe the entire show or remove episodes one by one. It’s almost as if Sling is more interested in upselling you on more DVR storage than providing the best possible experience.

android, sling tv review: a sorely needed skinny bundle

Syndicated shows can quickly fill up Sling’s DVR, and you can’t delete full seasons all at once.

Jared Newman / Foundry

Sling TV’s video quality options

Sling TV channels stream at up to 1080p resolution, on par with other live TV streaming service, and I find it difficult to discern any difference in crispness between them. (YouTube TV and FuboTV both offer 4K video for some live events, but both of them now charge extra for the privilege.)

The bigger issue with Sling TV has to do with frame rate. While ESPN, Fox Sports, and Fox News channels deliver smooth 60-frames-per-second streaming, many of Sling’s other news and sports channels top out at 30 frames per second instead, giving them a choppier appearance. YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, and DirecTV Stream all deliver more consistent 60-frames-per-second support.

Sling TV doesn’t support surround sound either, though other streaming services are hit-or-miss on this front as well. Only DirecTV Stream and Hulu + Live TV offer it consistently, while YouTube TV only supports it on a limited number of devices.

On the upside, Sling TV deserves praise for letting users manually reduce video quality. This can be extremely useful if your internet plan has a data cap, or if you’re running into buffering problems due to limited bandwidth. YouTube TV is the only other live TV streaming service that offers this feature.

android, sling tv review: a sorely needed skinny bundle

Sling’s video quality controls may be invaluable for bandwidth-strapped users.

Jared Newman / Foundry

Sling TV integrations

Like other live TV streaming services, Sling TV works better with some devices than others. On Fire TV, Android TV, and Google TV devices, you can use the voice remote to launch live channels by voice. Sling also integrates with the live channel guide on Fire TV devices, Google TV devices, and the TiVo Stream 4K, so you can preview what’s on before you even launch the Sling app. These are nice-to-have features that make accessing your favorite channels a bit easier.

A useful cost-cutting option

Sling TV fills a unique role by offering live cable channels—including news and sports—at a lower price than its rivals. It’s especially valuable for antenna users who can plug the gaps in Sling’s local channel coverage, or for anyone else who doesn’t want to pay upwards of $65 per month for just a handful of cable channels. While no live TV streaming service is perfect, Sling’s potential for cost savings makes its shortcomings easier to forgive.

Corrections: An earlier version of this story said Roku devices did not support viewing a live channel while browsing the grid guide. According to Sling, this feature should be available except on some “older or less powerful devices,” though it did not work on the latest Roku Streaming Stick 4K in our testing. Also, some channel pages offer more ways to browse their content beyond just alphabetical order, but this is up to the individual channel.

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