Sling TV Review
The cheapest cord-cutting service in the US is also a little confused in how best to present it
The cheapest live TV streaming service offers enough content, but with notable local TV omissions and nondistinct channel packages. Sling may be underpinned by a speedy, user-friendly interface, but 720p live streams and paltry DVR allowance means you ultimately get what you pay for.
- Affordable live TV bundles
- Speedy, smart interface
- Range of flexible add-ons
- Good performance
- Many local channels are absent
- Live TV is only 720p
- Indistinct channel packages means you need both
- Live TV, DVR recordings and on demand contentCord cutters will love the flexible way to access their favourite TV shows and movies
- Excellent apps for TV, mobile and webThe smart TV and mobile layouts are logical and content loads quickly
- Picture in Picture is handy on Apple devicesMinimise content but continue watching live TV as you browse elsewhere
Live TV streaming services continue to liberate viewers in providing flexible pricing, commitment-free plans, and access to the best entertainment and live sports.
Sling TV – not to be confused with the Slingbox hardware, although somewhat of a spiritual successor – first launched in 2015 and did plenty of the groundwork for the cord cutting services we see today with YouTube TV, FuboTV, and Hulu with Live TV.
It’s more affordable than those rival services, which are beginning to resemble cable and satellite prices.
Sling TV isn’t exactly raging against the machine though. Like the rival DirecTV Stream, it derives from a legacy provider. Sling TV is owned by the satellite provider Dish Network, so it’s about ensuring a continuing slice of the pie as viewing habits change.
There are two semi-distinct channel packages available, or you can combine them for a greater array of channels. Add-ons for some of the premium networks are available too.
Sling TV also offers cloud DVR, live TV recording, a flexible TV guide, and an app that’s available across multiple platforms. There are trade-offs, like the paltry base DVR allowance and relatively low-res feeds. However, for as little as $35 a month, they may be sacrifices worth making.
- USARRP: $35
- Prices from just $35 a month
- A la carte bundles round out the package
Sling TV is the lowest priced of the major cord-cutting live TV streaming services. It’s just $35 a month for the colour-coded Orange (1 device) and Blue (3 devices) packages, which offer different channel line-ups, but plenty of overlap. The combined package offering all 47 channels is $50. I’ll assess the merits of the colour coded packages later, but it’s not a straightforward choice like sports vs entertainment. There are numerous channel and perk bundles you can add too.
For comparison’s sake, YouTube TV starts at $64.99 a month, Hulu with Live TV costs $69.99 (but you get Disney+ and ESPN+ too), while FuboTV and DirecTV Stream also start at $69.99.
So, Sling offers savings in these inflation-ridden times and, as there are no commitments, you can sample a month. Sling TV is only available in the United States.
- No PlayStation app
- Most browsers and smart TV platforms covered
If you do most of your video streaming on the PlayStation consoles, Sling TV won’t be for you, but it is on Xbox Series S/X. Here’s the full lowdown of platforms below.
TVs and players: Amazon Fire TV, Android/Google TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, LG webOS TVs, Google Nest Hub, Meta Go/Quest, Meta Portal, Roku, Samsung, TiVo Stream, Vizio, and Xfinity boxes.
Phones, computers, browsers: iOS, Android, Amazon Fire tablets, Windows 10 and up, Safari, Google Chrome.
Consoles: Xbox Series S/X, Xbox One.
- Lightweight, speedy interface
- Flexible TV guide
- Picture-in-picture on iOS and tvOS
I’m a fan of the Sling TV interface. It gives you an excellent snapshot of what’s available and puts featured content in the right places. The TV guide is neat and minimalistic, and you can cycle through the entire day, with more than just the ‘now and next’ options preferred by some. I like the ability to filter channels by A-Z, favourites, news, and sports, etc., too. There are also dedicated tabs for DVR, On Demand and Search. It feels lightweight, unencumbered and the pay-off is speed and ease of use.
The home screen leads with ‘top channel’ picks based upon what you’ve watched before, while there are recommendations from live TV and on-demand offerings below that. Other rows include featured themed content. At the time of writing, there’s a row promoting the return of college football, while popular shows, hit movies, my channels, and the option to browse by channels exists too.
On mobile, when you minimise the live feed to return home or to the guide, the current programming drops to the bottom of the display with the video continuing to play in a thumbnail. It can be recalled at any time. On mobile, you’ll also get the option to access recent channels and favourites in a sidebar on the right side of the screen. It’s all neat and tidy.
Once you’ve selected programming, it appears quickly without any significant lag time required to hit the full resolution. The tvOS and iPadOS versions of the app have picture-in-picture too, enabling you to watch in a thumbnail.
- Live programming capped at 720p
- Only 50-hours of DVR included
- Watch Party feature is invisible
I mentioned there were trade-offs to account for the lower price. The max streaming resolution of 720p for live TV is chief among them. However, you can stream on demand programming at 1080p.
There’s no sign of 4K. And, while rivals like Hulu, YouTube TV and FuboTV have some 4K, it’s not widely available anywhere. However, 720p at 30fps is rather old hat in 2022. Dolby Atmos or HDR? Negatory. Audio is mainly standard stereo 2.0, but some on demand content is compatible with 5.1 audio.
Another trade-off is the DVR capacity. You only get 50-hours of recordings with your subscription, so you’ll have to be picky or watch quickly to make this work for you. Again, if you’re trying to save a buck, it’s something you can live with.
You can record a show or game as it plays live, or you can set to record new episodes/reruns. If you’re not watching live, there’s a timer that shows how far behind you are too, which is more useful than just a visual progress bar.
Sling TV does have a Watch Party feature for on-demand and live TV. Well, apparently it does, because I haven’t been able to find it. Every time I tried to start a Watch Party on Safari I was redirected to the sign-in screen. It’s advertised as available on browsers (Chrome and Safari) and iPhone. For some reason, the iPad app doesn’t support this feature, neither do any Android devices, Smart TVs or consoles. I’ve contacted the company for clarity.
- No rhyme or reason to Blue and Orange packages
- Limited local channel availability
Here’s where Sling TV differs from its rivals. There are two distinct packages with some overlapping channels in both. There’s Sling Orange (31 channels) and Sling Blue (41 channels) at $35 each, while you can combine them both and access 47 channels for $50 a month. There is some free content available too, when you’re not subscribed to either bundle.
There’s plenty of overlap between the two main packages, but I’m still a little confused about how you could be happy with just having Blue or Orange. Let’s go with the NFL as an example.
NFL fans will need Blue and Orange, but will still come up short. ESPN (Monday Night Football) is only on Orange. The NFL Network is only Blue. Sling also offers local Fox (Sunday afternoon games) and NBC (Sunday Night Football) in some markets. CBS (Sunday afternoon games) is absent completely, so you’ll need a HD antenna that (and ABC).
Sling will send you a free indoor HD antenna (worth $44.99) if you pre-pay for two months, but that defies the point of it being a cord-cutting streaming service. Sling will also give you an AirTV Anywhere streaming device so you can watch and record free local channels if you pre-pay for three months. Another device? It undermines the proposition again.
USA Network, the home of Premier League football, is only on Blue and this is a channel that’s a staple of every single pay TV service. It just screams that Sling is not trying to cater for different audiences, it’s just trying to ensure you buy both.
For Reality TV aficionados, Orange gets Bravo, Blue gets E!. Comedy Central is on Sling Orange, FX is on Blue. CNN is on Orange, MSNBC is on Blue. You get the idea.
All packages offer the same 50-hours of DVR storage, while Blue offers three devices for concurrent streams compared to one with Orange. If you get both, you can access four separate streams.
There are loads of extras to consider too. Including a 200-hour DVR for an extra $5 a month (YouTube TV has unlimited as standard), while there are sports, comedy and lifestyle add-ons too. Premium networks like Showtime, Starz and Epix can be added. However, the more you add, the closer to the other services the price gets and the more drawbacks, like low DVR storage and 720p streaming, start to sting.
- Fast loading content
- No need for lightning internet at 720p
One advantage of only having 720p live streams to enjoy is you’re unlikely to have any problems enjoying them! Every cloud and all that! Still, Sling TV is a very slick service.
The interface is rapid, streams were consistently strong over my 90Mbps internet connection, which wasn’t surprising given it only recommends 5Mbps. However, if you want to watch on multiple devices, Sling recommends 25Mbps for reliable streams.
Content is fast loading, recordings are reliable, on-demand content is, well, available on demand. The search functionality surfaces the content you’re looking for and there’s no problem with glitchy pre-roll ads.
If you’re looking for a relatively no-frills TV streaming service, Sling TV is not going to let you down on your smart TV, laptop or mobile device.
Should you buy it?
If you’re seeking a reliable live TV streaming service that covers most of the basics, but doesn’t break the bank, Sling is the best option. If you’re less concerned about high-end AV features and lots of DVR space, there’s plenty to enjoy here.
If you want a comprehensive cable-like line-up of channels, proper access to local TV feeds, a spacious DVR, 4K HDR content and don’t mind paying for the privilege, you should look at YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, or the others.
Sling TV is excellent as a skinny bundle for live TV streaming that maintains what we were promised; that cutting the cable would be cheaper. It’s also reliable and has an interface most people new to post-cable and satellite will get along with.
However, what you save in cash you miss in terms of available channels, DVR, and even full HD live content. I do wish Sling would do a better job of defining the different channel bundles to cater for different interests, but that’s more to do with the company wanting you to buy both.
How we test
We test every video streaming service we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Used primarily on 2021 LG smart TV via an Apple TV set-top box
Viewing on iPhone, iPad and the Safari browser for Mac
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NBC and Fox local channels are available in some areas, but CBS and ABC are not
There is no 4K content available within Sling TV
Sling Orange and Sling Blue has some channel overlap, but it’s not simple. Check the line ups or combine Blue and Orange
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