Cable and satellite providers may need to worry about competition, because the Sling TV service is cheap and quite good, complete with DVR.But does that mean you should you give it a try?
Developed by DISH Network, Sling TV offers cord-cutters a viable alternative starting at $20 per month. There are several other channel packages available that you can tack on from $5 to $10, including options like News Extra and Sports Extra. The DVR option costs $5 per month.
Here’s what the Sling TV reviews have to say — both good and bad.
Tom’s Guide’s Marshall Honorof reviewed the Sling TV and found it to be a useful cable replacement tool for those who just need access to basic channels. According to Honorof, Sling TV’s interface could be better, especially if the company wishes to stay competitive with YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV. Overall, he found Sling TV to be a solid streaming service that can help consumers save money by cutting ties with cable and satellite providers. However, he noted video quality can get shaky if your Wi-Fi connection is unreliable.
“As one of the veteran players on the market, Sling TV is available on a respectably wide variety of platforms. You can use Sling TV with Windows, Mac OS, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Android TV, Xbox One and a variety of smart TVs and smaller streaming boxes.”
“Sling TV excels not only in the sheer variety of content it offers, but also in how it sells that content. Rather than asking you to sign up for an expensive package with a bunch of channels you don't want, Sling offers two basic options, and lets you build on top of that with some extremely granular offerings.”
“Although you can specify bandwidth limitations in Sling TV's settings, it's frustrating that there is no way to gauge video quality on any given stream.”
“The PC version feels unpolished; if you go back to the main menu while watching a show, there's no easy way to get back to your program, leaving it droning on in the background until you either pick something else to watch or navigate back there manually.”
CNET’s David Katzmaier wasn’t as impressed with Sling TV’s offerings, but he also saw its value for casual streamers. With live channels, on-demand content, DVR and cable-quality video resolution, Katzmaier believes Sling TV priced fairly — although this is also dependent on your selected package. One drawback Katzmaier noticed was Sling TV’s lack of pause, fast-forward and rewind controls for many of its channels. However, that’s only a problem if you’re not OK with watching live broadcasts as in the olden days.
“Sling TV remains the cheapest way to stream numerous live TV channels without getting tied into a long-term contract.”
“Pricing aside, Sling's biggest advantage is that it works on pretty much any device; it even works with PC and Mac computers, and there are no restrictions for mobile devices.”
“The base package [Sling Orange] is missing local broadcast channels (CBS, Fox, NBC, etc.), as well as most popular regional sports networks.”
“Additional channel tiers can be added for $5 to $10 more per month...at which point, you're back to paying a pretty hefty ‘cable’ bill again.”
Like most reviewers, Scott Teran from Reviews.org agrees that Sling TV is perfect for those who aren’t ready to give up live television. Teran says Sling TV is a relatively good streaming service, but the Orange and Blue packages are confusing content-wise.
When deciding between packages, Teran found it odd that popular channels like ESPN and Disney were available on the cheaper Sling Orange, but weren’t a part of the pricer Sling Blue. “This goes against traditional TV plan pricing — where you get all the channels in a cheaper plan when you pay for the more expensive plan,” Teran said. Despite pricing, Sling TV redeems itself with accessible newly released digital movie rentals.
“If you just want to rest, relax, and tune out by tuning in, Sling TV’s On Now feature tells you everything that’s on TV in mere seconds.”
“We especially enjoy the orange-ish progress bars that let us know how far along a [live broadcasted] movie or show is.”
“Sony’s Playstation Vue is a Sling TV competitor so [Sling TV] not available on the PS3 or PS4 systems.”
“Sling TV’s lower pricing means starting with less channels (20–30+ channels depending where you live), whereas DirecTV NOW and Playstation Vue start with 45–60+ channels.”
Talk Android’s Jared Peters wrote an overwhelmingly positive review on how Sling TV stacks up today. He says Sling’s packages are great if you know what you like to watch, and the “skinny bundles’” pricing is hard to beat.
Peters also appreciated Sling’s optional add-ons such as HBO, Cinemax, Starz and foreign-language programming. Sling’s cross-platform accessibility also received praise, since many other streaming services aren’t as widely available. Aside from a limited selection of channels, Talk Android believes Sling TV is a winner.
“Sling allows you to pick a few favorite channels that will show up in front of everything else, and these sync across devices.”
“And if you just don’t know what you want to watch, you can use Sling’s guide to find something you’ll like. It will list everything currently available or on at that time, and it breaks everything down into genres.”
“Content options, though, are definitely a little worse than some of the packages from competitors. There’s no arguing that DirecTV offers the biggest bundles, so for someone that wants a ton of content and doesn’t mind paying for it, it’s difficult to get that from Sling.”
“Even PlayStation Vue offers bigger packages, but again, both of those services are quite a bit more expensive than Sling TV.”
Nick Pino from TechRadar says Sling TV is a great value service, but has its share of drawbacks. Since Sling TV’s main focus is to provide live television programming, switching between devices can be frustrating. For example, Pino had to manually rewind his program on the Sling TV app when he switched from a Roku to iPhone 5S. This is different from standard streaming services that pause your content when you close the app, but it goes to show how far Sling TV takes its live features. However, Pino believes Sling TV can help people and businesses save money by cutting ties with cable providers.
“By and large, the [Sling TV] experience on Roku was everything I've come to love about a cable box: simple functionality, clean layout and crisp picture.”
“Also similar to Slingbox, Sling TV lets you watch its service on most mobile devices anywhere in the world. That is, as long as you can establish and maintain a bitrate of about 1.5 Mbps for high-quality streams, 0.8Mbps for medium resolution, and 0.5 Mbps for low-quality.”
“One function that I felt was a huge weak point on every platform, however, was the ability to search for the show you want to watch — search exists on every platform, but it's not complete and often returns results that don't make sense.”
“Throw it from a mobile device onto the big screen via Chromecast, however, and everything goes awry — quality dips in and out, while audio goes from pristine cable quality to a crackly garbled mess.”
Engadget’s Richard Lawler saw pros and cons to the Sling TV, but overall felt the television industry needs to evolve and that Sling doesn’t tackle the industry’s “stone age” issues. Lawler believes Sling TV can be a reasonable cable replacement service for some households, but the company’s small Orange and Blue packages weren’t enough to suit his interests.
Sling TV’s inconsistent DVR also allowed Lawler to pause, fast-forward and rewind on certain channels, but wasn’t available for others, which he found outdated. Despite how Sling TV fell short for Lawler, he still believes the company can further innovate live TV on the Internet.
“If you do just need SportsCenter, a quick dose of fixer-upper info, some kids shows and the occasional shot of cable news talking heads, then boom — this package is made for you.”
“It does work for someone who can mostly live without TV, but wants to pick it up sometimes for a few months here and there. There's no contract (with a 1-week free preview period on signup), and no installer, so tossing these channels on top of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, et cetera takes just a few clicks, and so does getting rid of them when you're ready to move on.”
“There are just too many shows missing, and despite the rise of other streaming services it's not quite a competitor for the cable bundle, even given its much lower entry price.”
“It's still what many cord-cutters say they hate: a bundle. Plugging the holes with more sports or other genres is just falling further into the same trap that the current TV giants have been getting rich off of.”
Sean Buckley from Gizmodo expressed his fondness over Sling TV’s live TV features, including commercials and minimal DVR capabilities. Buckley simply enjoys how Sling TV brings back old school television via the Internet, and this is the exact demographic Sling is targeting. Access to live TV programming, coupled with a streaming interface provided Buckley a unique viewing experience. Like other reviewers, however, Buckley expressed disappointment that Sling TV sticks to cable-like bundles instead of allowing users to pick their channels individually.
“In one clever way, Sling TV feels like television: when you start up the app for the first time (or any time) something immediately starts playing. Just like turning on a TV.”
“You can also look at a more condensed "on-now" list that only shows programs playing right now or sort channels by Sports, Entertainment, News & Information, News (a little redundant) and Family. It's a more visually rich program guide than the ugly grids of blue text I'm used to seeing on my friends' cable boxes, and it feels more modern.”
“Sling TV is live, but it isn't fast. Channels take about 5-6 seconds to load and another two to buffer up to HD quality. It's not a dealbreaker, but it spoils the age-old practice of mindlessly flipping through an endless ream of channels until a brief flash of color catches your eye.”
“If the Watchlist was smarter, it could push notifications to my phone. What's that, I'm about to miss the latest episode of Star Wars: Rebels? No I'm not, I have Sling on my phone. Bam. I'm genuinely sad that isn't how it works.”
The Verge’s Chris Welch saw value in Sling TV’s inclusion of ESPN and ESPN2 for sport lovers. Not only can Sling TV subscribers watch their favorite sports on ESPN, but they’ll gain full access to the Watch ESPN app. Welch says people who aren’t fans of sports may find Sling TV’s offerings less enticing, however, this can be remedied through add-on packages, movie rentals or supplementary services like Netflix. Though Welch found minor flaws in the menu system, Sling TV’s “math works out in your favor” if you barely watch TV and only need something to hold you over during downtime.
“The app's design is slick, lag-free, and straightforward across platforms, and jumping between channels is effortless.”
“The mobile apps let you choose a maximum quality setting if you're concerned about eating through your smartphone's data cap, and the Android version in particular makes it very easy to check what quality you're seeing at any moment.”
“Sling TV doesn't support offline playback, so if your internet drops, so will your movie.”
“Licensing deals between the NFL and Verizon mean Sling TV customers will be hit with blackouts when trying to stream games on a smartphone. Watch on a TV or laptop and you'll have no problems.”
When it comes to cable replacement options, there are a number of services to choose from, but Sling TV is the only one that offers a bargain bundle as low as $20. The content Sling TV offers is varied, but the tradeoffs are smaller base packages (although users have a selection of 100+ channels to select as add-ons) compared to other live TV services like Playstation Vue and Hulu with Live TV. At the same time, Sling TV provides cable-like quality at home or on the go, without contracts or bulky equipment, which makes the service all the more compelling for the price.
Ultimately, Sling TV’s value depends on what you like to watch. Sling TV offers 7-day free trials for its $20 Sling Orange, $25 Sling Blue and $40 Sling Orange + Blue packages, so give those a try before you commit.