DirecTV Now vs. PlayStation Vue vs. Sling TV: Face-Off

Product Use case Rating
DirecTV Now 4
Playstation Vue 8
Sling TV 7

Editors' Note: YouTube TV has been announced, and it offers some advantages over these services. See how YouTube TV compares to Sling TV, DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue.

Suppose you're ready to get rid of a restrictive, expensive cable package, but not quite ready to give up a variety of live channels at your fingertips. Cable-replacement services like DirecTV Now ($35 per month), Sling TV ($20 per month and up) and PlayStation Vue ($40 per month and up) are here to split the difference.

More versatile but more expensive than a strictly on-demand service like Netflix, DirecTV Now, PS Vue and Sling TV combine the comforting versatility of channel surfing with the convenience of accessing what you want, when you want.

Between optional channel packages, varying device compatibility, vastly different pricing structures and distinct approaches to user interfaces, the choice between DirecTV Now, Sling TV and PS Vue is anything but straightforward. You definitely don't need all three services, so read on to find out which one will fill the cable- or satellite-shaped void in your heart.

Content

Ultimately, a streaming service is only as good as the content it offers. DirecTV Now, Sling TV and PS Vue offer a wide variety of channels. The way in which they offer said channels, however, is wildly different, and no service is as simple as it could be.

DirecTV Now offers more than 120 channels, and subscribing to them is a pretty straightforward process. Viewers can select from four different tiers with various numbers of channels: Live a Little (60 channels), Just Right (80 channels), Go Big (100 channels) and Gotta Have It (120 channels). However, there are only two stand-alone channels: HBO and Cinemax, which is bad news for people who wanted specialized movie or foreign language packages.

MORE: A Year with Sling TV - What I Love and Hated

The selection is pretty broad as well. Cartoon Network, CNN, Comedy Central, Discovery, ESPN, Food Network, Fox News, History, Nickelodeon, Spike, Syfy and the Weather Channel are all available at lower tiers, and premium subscribers can get a whole host of Starz channels, too. Network channels include ABC, Fox and NBC.

PlayStation Vue has access to a theoretical total of about 110 channels, if you subscribe to its most comprehensive tier and purchase all optional stand-alone channels. (We'll talk more about pricing later in the face-off.) One big advantage over PS Vue's competitor is that every tier of the service offers all the major broadcast networks: CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC. Sling TV has either half as many, or none, depending on your plan.

Beyond that, PS Vue has something to suit just about every taste: ESPN and NFL Red Zone for sports fans; CNN and Fox News for media junkies; the Disney Channel for kids; Showtime and Epix for movie buffs; and a variety of other basic cable mainstays, such as the Discovery Channel, FX and TBS.

Sling TV also uses a variety of different tiers and optional channel packages. If you add every channel pack together, you get a total of 162 channels, although this number is a little misleading, since some packages overlap each other — including the two basic tiers of service: Sling Orange and Sling Blue. Confusingly, the more expensive Blue package isn't just Orange plus more channels: The two share some channels but not others. You can subscribe to both simultaneously.

Sling also covers a plethora of channels, including ESPN, CNN, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network, A&E, FXX, Bravo, HBO, Starz, the Disney Channel, MTV, Epix, MSNBC and more. Sling TV also has more access to Spanish and Hindi channels than its PlayStation counterpart. Network TV provides something of a challenge, though: Sling Orange doesn't include any broadcast networks, while Sling Blue provides only Fox and NBC.

WINNER: DirecTV Now. Regarding how many channels you get in a given package, DirecTV Now is hard to beat. The selection is broad enough to please almost anyone, especially at higher tiers.

MORE: Best Streaming Players: Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV & More

Interface

I tested all three services on a variety of devices, including PCs, mobile devices and streaming players. On dedicated streaming devices, like Rokus and Amazon Fire TVs, none of them acquits itself terribly well.

Sling TV shows you listings one painstaking channel at a time, with cumbersome options to search or access settings. PlayStation Vue is even worse, as scrolling through channels shows you only what’s on right now; you need to click through and wait for the video to load before you see what's up next. DirecTV Now offers a comprehensive channel guide, which puts it ahead of the other two, although bringing it up blocks whatever you're watching.

On video-game consoles, though, PlayStation Vue gains the upper hand over Sling TV. PlayStation Vue has an absolutely gorgeous interface on the PS4, complete with a comprehensive, interactive guide that informs you what's on for the entire day. It even tells you which shows you can rewind and watch from the beginning. Navigating through the menus is snappy and doesn't interrupt your show. Sling TV on the Xbox One, on the other hand, is similar to its Roku counterpart, but sluggish, and constantly drops the video stream to jump between menus.

Both services fare better than DirecTV Now, though, which does not offer any console apps.

None of the mobile apps is great, but again, PS Vue has a slight edge, due to its appearance. With an attractive blue background and clear, square boxes for each channel, navigating PS Vue is easy and doesn't interrupt the video stream. Sling TV takes longer to bring each video up to HD quality, and while you can see what's on next more easily, the long load times counterbalance the convenience. DirecTV Now offers simple options to navigate between channels and see what's on, but the service is buggy, often turning up an unhelpful "Error 40" and forcing the app to restart. It's not nearly as stable as the other two.

WINNER: PlayStation Vue. While none of the services has a great streaming player or mobile apps, PlayStation Vue excels on game consoles.

DVR and On Demand

Watching TV shows on your own schedule is a given in the modern era of streaming and binging shows. That's why it's somewhat bizarre that Sling TV doesn't offer DVR capabilities. (One is currently in beta for both Roku and Amazon devices; we'll see when it's available.) You can rig something up with an external box, like a Channel Master, but recording is simply not built into Sling TV yet. Some channels offer a handful of on-demand shows and movies, but it's not enough to make up for the critical lack of DVR capability.

Likewise, DirecTV Now offers a handful of on-demand shows and movies, but the selection is inconsistent, and the streams are often unreliable. There's no DVR functionality here.

PlayStation Vue, on the other hand, has one of the simplest and least restricted DVR features I've seen in a streaming service. You simply add a show or movie to My Shows, and it will then automatically record each new episode when it airs. The service records everything in the cloud, so you don't need to worry about conflicts or limiting the number of simultaneous shows you want to record.

You have 28 days to watch each program — it's not as good as keeping it indefinitely, but it's better than nothing. The selection of on-demand shows and movies is also much more generous than Sling TV's, perhaps owing to a larger base of channels.

WINNER: PlayStation Vue. Sling TV and DirecTV Now don't offer DVR unless you come up with a DIY solution, while PS Vue's DVR offering is both simple and comprehensive.

MORE: Best 4K TVs for Every Budget

Availability

Don’t let the PlayStation name fool you; PS Vue is available on a wide variety of devices from a plethora of manufacturers.

In addition to PS3 and PS4 consoles, the app is also available on Sony smart TVs and Blu-ray players, iOS and Android devices, computers, Roku, Chromecast (as pictured above), Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV.

Sling TV is not available on PlayStation consoles, but does have a presence on the Xbox One. It's also included in a variety of smart TVs and Blu-ray players. Users can download Sling TV apps on computers, iOS, Android, Chromecast, Android TV, Roku, Fire TV and Apple TV.

DirecTV Now fares the worst of the three, as it's available only on computers, mobile devices, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV, as well as a handful of smart TVs. While a Roku app is forthcoming, the service should not have launched without one. It also has the dubious distinction of being the only cable replacement service without a game console to call home.

WINNER: Sling TV and PlayStation Vue. Both Sling TV and PS Vue are available on a wide variety of devices. DirecTV Now isn't.

MORE: Best Shows to Binge Watch

Video Quality

Gauging exact video quality on either service is hard, since no service comes right out and tells the user the resolution or bit rate on any given show. With a little digging, I found that Sling TV lets users select an amount of bandwidth for low-, medium- or high-quality streaming, while PS Vue has a network strength bar next to each show.

DirecTV Now does not offer any resolution information, but claims that some of its on-demand content can reach 1080p. HD TV shows generally stream at 720p, and it appears that all three services met this standard through a home internet connection that channels about 15 Mbps.

WINNER: Draw. All three services stream HD video in real time, and they look roughly equivalent to the naked eye. Gauging exact measurements beyond that is difficult, however, given the endless variables in home Wi-Fi setups.

Value

Pricing on DirecTV Now, PS Vue and Sling TV can vary, depending on which channels you want to watch. Sling TV starts off much as the least expensive of the three. The cheapest package for Sling TV costs $20, while the same for DirecTV Now costs $35 and PlayStation Vue costs $40. On the other hand, DirecTV Now and PS Vue's basic packages grant a lot more channels.

At the other end of the spectrum, if you were to subscribe to every single channel either service has to offer, you could run up a pretty extensive bill. PS Vue's most comprehensive package costs $75 per month, and its optional stand-alone channels range from $2 per month to $40 per month. Getting everything would cost $120.

Sling Orange costs $20 per month, while Sling Blue costs $25 per month; both together cost $40 per month. Assuming you wanted every optional channel package on top of that, too, your total cost would be $194.

DirecTV Now's cheapest package costs $35 for month, which gives you access to about 50 channels. Its most expensive package costs $70 per month, plus $5 per stand-alone channels. The most you could spend at present is $80 per month.

Granted, very few users will need every single channel that any service offers, so the question of value ultimately boils down to what users want to watch. All three services offer a fairly broad — even eclectic — selection of channels, and each package is relatively commensurate with the number of channels it offers. Sling TV's $20 package grants 28 channels, for example, while PS Vue's $40 package grants 48 channels and DirecTV Now's $35 package grants 50 channels. Neither selection is "better," as it depends on what channels you need.

The add-on packages themselves run the gamut from highly focused to extremely eclectic. PlayStation Vue’s midrange Core package ($45 per month) includes channels like the NFL Network and Sundance TV, in addition to everything from the $40-per-month Access package. Users can also purchase stand-alone channels like Epix and Showtime for between $10 and $15 per month apiece, depending on your subscription options.

MORE: PS4 vs. Xbox One: Which Console Is Right for You?

Sling TV, on the other hand, offers more than 15 individualized channel packages, from just adding HBO at $15 per month, to whole packages of Spanish- or Hindi-language channels for $5 to $10 per month. Other packages tend to cater to special interests, such as comedy, sports or kids' programming. Channel package costs can add up quickly, but you're more likely to get just what you want, without the channels you don't need.

DirecTV Now follows the PlayStation Vue approach: Comprehensive packages, with only a few stand-alone extras. While the channel selection is competitive, though, DirecTV Now still suffers from a lot of bugs and performance issues. That alone brings down the potential value that users could glean from the service.

Overall, I give this round to Sling TV, if only because its introductory package is cheaper, and it's a bit easier to customize a more expensive package to suit your tastes. Since both it and PlayStation Vue promise to be around for a long time and offer plenty of channels, though, it's a close match.

WINNER: Sling TV. Those who don't need a ton of channels will find Sling TV's basic packages perfectly acceptable, but the services are evenly matched at higher price tiers.

Bottom Line

After testing all three services, I found that PlayStation Vue has a slight edge over Sling TV and both services have a sizable advantage over DirecTV Now. I can say that PS Vue's DVR capabilities made the service indispensable for someone like me, who prefers recorded TV to live TV. I can also say that Sling TV and DirecTV offer a larger numbers of options at a potentially cheaper prices.

There's a lot of room for improvement for all three services, however. Getting around Sling TV is no picnic, while PS Vue's navigation is not much better, except on Sony devices. PS Vue and DirecTV Now can get so expensive that some may want to stick with a cable subscription, while Sling TV's pricing can add up quickly as you tack on channels. None of the services offers the sheer breadth of content that you'd get on a regular cable or satellite subscription.

Still, for the moment, PlayStation Vue is generally the most comprehensive option. You can get a free seven-day trial for either service, so if you're ready to cut the cord and desperate to keep live TV, it's probably worth your time to try out both first. Even better — if it's not to your taste, you can cancel any service at any time, with no commitment. That alone may make DirecTV Now, Sling TV and PS Vue preferable to traditional pay TV.


Create a new thread in the Streaming Video & TVs forum about this subject
33 comments
    Your comment
  • GinoT
    I don't pay that much more for my DirecTV account monthly and I don't have to rely on the local cable company to get the service. With my new wireless setup, I just don't see any big advantage to going to something like this.
    1
  • Michael Cannon
    Why pay extra for network TV and local channels?.... it's all free with an antenna!

    It looks like a big part of what Sony is charging you for with Vue, is available for free with a quality antenna.
    0
  • Orbit29
    I only pay $34.99 for 70+channels, it's only $44.95 for 100 channels and that includes the local channels. Not sure where you get $50.00 from.
    -1
  • Edwin_19
    I think another thing you should add is ps vue can not be used outside your home. Its tied to your ip address as where as sling you can sign in from anywhere
    0
  • PJ_4__
    I use Roku and OTA TV (OTA = around 20 stations I will wattch, and over 100 in my area), I also like live TV ... To date (10/2016) I've been using Sling TV (blue package $25 per month) for around a year now and I like it. I'm trying PS Vue cheapest plan ($30 and its day 3 for the trial) The reason Im trying PS Vue because Sling does not offer TLC, Discovery, Destination America, and Disney is not offered with Sling blue package unless I want to pay $40.. nah). As far as OTA (MICHAEL CANNON post). You dont get A&E, FoodTV, History, etc... those cable type channels OTA, but OTA does have more then enough... but I wanted more without spending lots .

    Anyway I like BOTH... now all I have to do is choose what stations I would watch more that the other company does not offer.

    I do not see PSv offer A&E, History. and I did not see that STV offered TLC, Discovery, Dest Amca, Fox News. and those is what I like
    1
  • Math Geek
    keep in mind local channels are not available everywhere for PS vue, only a few cities actually. it does add to the cost in those areas since they have to pay to carry the local feed. i use it myself and love it. antenna gives locals (33 free channels in my area) and the rest i get from vue.

    something i have yet to see noted on any of these reviews is that to set-up profiles on vue you HAVE to have a PS 3 or 4. works great on other devices but you can't set-up profiles for multiple users outside of the PS interface. happen to have a PS 3 in my house to use but others may not have access to one to set up the profiles.

    other than that, i freaking love the service. you may not be able to watch live feeds outside of home but you can still access all the channel apps with your vue login juts like other cable services so you can still access a ton of stuff away from home.

    the cloud based dvr is nice as well. unlimited and each profile gets it own to use. only get 28 days to watch but should be plenty of time to stay up to date on your shows.
    -2
  • Hoskins2
    I only pay $30/month, not $50 for 55+ channels on Vue. I assume $50 was from one of the larger markets? Went with Vue due to DVR and 5 streams at once. You do NOT need a PS3/4 to create an account or to set up profiles, and I watch just fine outside of the home via mobile. It is true that you cannot receive ALL content, but it is not completely locked down.

    I would however, recommend the Amazon products at home over the Chromecast and Roku products. Having used all 3, the Amazon gives you a TV Guide, AND allows you set up/create additional user accounts - the other two do not as far as I could tell. Much cleaner UI than that of the Roku and casting device any way you cut it.

    More streaming devices coming like DirecTv, but it's been reported only 1-2 streams at once. We'll see what happens with that one and with Google and Hulu. So far, Vue is winning IMHO.
    1
  • Math Geek
    thanks for the info. been 2 months since i set up vue service and at that point there was no way for profiles outside of PS systems. good to know amazon has the option now as well. hopefully roku and the others will also see this feature soon enough.

    i was a bit annoyed that i could not just go online to the account and set them up. still not sure why that is not an option. the FAQ at the time specifically stated the PS was the only way to do it. i hope they come to their senses and just add in an online option. i don't miss the guide at all on the roku and actually prefer the way roku has it over the guide the PS has. really odd way to organize it thye chose.
    0
  • Nathan_968
    Nevermind that PS Vue just dropped all Viacom channels (MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, etc)
    0
  • Math Geek
    hopefully they get them back. don't care for many of those channels but losing spike tv hurts. need my lip sync battle :D

    comedy central is important as well but can stream new south park episodes either way so still good.
    0
  • vaharleygirl
    Agreed - losing Comedy Central for Late Show, and Spike for LSB, sucks. OTOH, getting BBC America is nice, got my mom hooked on Dr Who, and my Alzheimer's-afflicted dad likes the Star Trek marathons.

    Hopefully Vue will get the Viacom channels back.

    And agree about the $29.99/mo starting point - even when I tried them in July, it was only $30/mo to start. The top tier is I think $55/mo & includes HBO & SHO.
    0
  • Elevator Guy
    Ps Vue review for Midwest region, I mainly want service for sports, I DVR 2 Fox Midwest Blues Hockey games, both games missed up to 4 minutes of gameplay at the end due to DVR, there are no settings to lengthen time for DVR.
    DVR 3 football game 1 had terrible resolution and other 2 were just OK, I have fast Charter $60 a month internet, I used ethernet to a powerful Nvidia Shield TV console, so I cancelled the $35 a month PS Vue service.
    I would rejoin service if both these problems were fixed.
    0
  • Math Geek
    i jumped to the directv now service that just launched. no dvr yet nor roku/PS/XB support yet but it'll be there early next year.

    but for $35 a month for 100 channels was too good to pass up. if i don't like it can always go back to vue. love the no contract part of it :)

    they even send a free fire stick with first month paid. throw in the free week trial and you get 5 weeks of it for the cost of a fire stick!! if you've ever had directv, think of the ~$70 package that was all but a couple of the channels before adding in any premiums. that's the package they are offering for $35 right now. price is not supposed to go up if you maintain the account and don't change the package. plus you can add HBO for $5 more if you wish.

    no better deal out there right now that i know of.
    1
  • jsh169
    Why isn't an option like Streamsmart tv on here? Is it because it's basically new? My friend can access cable channels on his tv for free with internet, it's weird try to find more info on the devices, because there is a million different variations, but can't.
    0
  • Math Geek
    the article itself was about PS Vue vs sling TV which is why it is not included here.

    that specific product and those like it, are not on the site anywhere since it is basically a fancy way to pirate media. package it how you want but pirating is pirating and not condoned on this site nor supported in any way. do you really think there is some legit "free" way to view all the stuff most people have to pay for? it's simply pirating the stuff from across the web which is not legal and not a good thing to do.

    so....yah...that's why it's not on here.
    0
  • Paul_238
    You need to update your pricing for Vue, it starts at around $30.
    -1
  • Blue Moon32
    I have Comcast and I like it very much but can not afford $161.00 every month on disability. I love live t especially news. I stream a lot on my tv since I am disabled what else is there to do. I love horror, drama, lifetime, Christian like TBN, Hagee, Billy Graham and more. I love all kinds of programming too many t mention. I have the original Roku, and my Comcast might soon be shut off. I don't know much about the PlayStation Vue, and the other streaming devices. If it takes 3 devices to get comparable TV watching like Comcast and much cheaper I am all for it. I just need help with how or which devices to do it with. Please someone communicate back to me. God Bless you all!

    AD
    0
  • Math Geek
    i just switched from playstation vue to the new directv now service. it is basically the $70 sattelite package you can get but it streams through the internet. right now you can get the $60 a month service for $35 and it comes with a free amazon fire stick (it only works right now on fire stick or apple tv).

    it is an awesome solution and for only $35 a month it beats the heck out of anything else out there right now. throw in the free fire stick you don't even have to lay out any other cash to get started. all you'll need is your internet access and an antenna for local channels as they are not on the service yet.

    an antenna should run about $40 or so and can be had at your local walmart/best buy type place. the $35 is supposed to stay the same forever so long as you don't change the service. can't find a better solution right now in streaming services. say goodbye to yur expensive cable bill and all those BS fees and charges thay tack on :)

    https://directvnow.com/ go here for info and your free week trial
    2
  • John_582
    Only issue with Direct TV and yes I ran Direct TV and Vue on the same unit, going back and forth testing them and Direct would keep hanging up or trying to buffer. Vue never did, nor did Sling TV - I just felt Vue's options were better.
    0
  • Math Geek
    yah Vue has the better features for now. odly even though i cancelled it over a month ago, it still logs in and let's me use it on one tv in my house. not complaining :)

    i am waiting for the dvr features and roku support for directv now and hopefully they come soon. but i can always go back to Vue if needed since the price has not changed or anything like that. i did want to lock in the $35 for directv now to see what it offers. so far i am not seeing any buffering issues but i have very strong solid net access. there will always be a few hic-ups in the beginning and so long as they can keep upgrading and adding features that are missing, they will have a winner on their hands.
    1