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Sling TV Review: Cheap, but Essential Live TV

For those looking to save money, Sling TV is worth checking out. However, if premium features, channel selection, or a rich cloud DVR is important, then there are better live TV streaming services.

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Sling TV

$30+ p/m
3.05

Experience

2.8/5

Channels

3.0/5

Content

3.5/5

Cloud DVR

2.0/5

Price

4.0/5

Pros

  • Cheap base price
  • Can customize
  • Wide device support
  • Some free content
  • Rentals and PPV

Cons

  • Can get expensive
  • Complicated plans
  • Lacking premium features
  • Limited cloud DVR
  • Not great for locals

Sling TV is a cheap, but effective live TV streaming service. For anyone looking to save money while maintaining access to live TV channels and networks, then Sling TV is worth checking out. If premium features, cloud DVR, or a more robust channel list is a priority, then other live TV streaming services are likely to be a better solution. However, at the current prices, it is easy to see why Sling TV remains a popular choice.

Sling TV: the basics

For those familiar with Sling TV or live TV streaming in general, skip to the next section. For everyone else, Sling TV is a service that provides access to live TV channels over the internet. As a result, consumers will need a reliable internet connection, as well as a device that’s compatible with Sling TV.

As the service is delivered over the internet, Sling TV recommends minimal internet speeds for a reliable connection. In addition, as bandwidth is shared between devices, the exact minimum requirement can depend on how many devices are accessing Sling TV at the same time.

Sling TV’s minimum internet recommendations:

  • Streaming video on portable devices: constant speed of 3.0 Megabits per second (Mbps)
  • Single stream TV, PC, or Mac: constant speed of 5.0 Mbps
  • Multiple devices in the same home: constant speed of 25 Mbps

Besides access to a suitable internet connection, consumers will also need to ensure they have a device that’s capable of downloading the Sling TV app. However, the list of supported devices is pretty long, with Sling TV available on many popular platforms.

Sling TV compatible platforms and devices:

  • AirTV
  • Amazon Fire Devices
  • Android phones and tablets
  • Android TV
  • Apple TV
  • Google Chrome Browser
  • Chrome OS
  • Chromecast
  • Google Nest
  • iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch)
  • LG TVs
  • Microsoft Edge Browser
  • Microsoft Xbox
  • Oculus Go
  • Portal TV
  • Roku
  • Safari Browser
  • Samsung TVs
  • TiVo Stream 4K
  • Windows 10
  • Xfinity Flex

Along with a reliable connection and a compatible device, consumers will need to choose a Sling TV plan before accessing live TV. Technically, Sling TV is a slightly complicated service, due to its a la carte approach, but at its core there are three main subscription options: Sling Blue, Sling Orange, and Sling Orange + Blue.

Sling Orange + Blue is simply a combination of the other two plans and therefore, the main difference comes down to the Sling Blue and Sling Orange plans. Both of which differ on the number of simultaneous streams and channel lineups.

While consumers will need to choose a Sling plan based on the channel selection and the number of streams, one area they do not have to choose on is the price.

Sling TV plan prices:

Sling PlanPrice p/mChannels
Orange$3030+
Blue$3050+
Orange + Blue$4550+

Again, these are simply the base plans. Sling TV offers a variety of options to further customize either package through add-ons and channel packs. Although, each of these optional add-ons also add to the overall monthly cost.

Experience and ease of use

Sling TV is an easy enough live TV streaming service to use. However, it is not the easiest to use and the general interface and experience is arguably one of Sling TV’s weaker points. While there are no major navigation problems, the design of the app can feel a little overly complicated and dated.

The interface does vary slightly from platform to platform, but the home screen typically is made up of various sections that are powered by Sling’s recommendation technology. Therefore, over time these sections will attempt to learn what the viewer likes and surface content based on those viewing habits. Some sections take this a little further with recommendations based on what’s trending or popular with Sling viewers collectively.

Sling TV home screen my channels
Sling TV: My TV home screen

The home page also includes dedicated sections, such as My TV, Guide, Sports, On Demand, and Rentals. Most of these sections are fairly self-explanatory with each one acting as a quick way to access live TV, sports, and on demand content. The only exception here is the My TV section, as that is the home screen.

Overall, some may like the way Sling TV is designed and especially those who only watch certain channels or shows. For those subscribers, the interface makes it easy to return to previously watched and favorite channels. However, those that are more likely to watch a wide variety of channels and shows, may find the interface is a little too basic and time-consuming to navigate, compared to other services.

Channels and live TV experience

Unlike Hulu Live TV or YouTube TV, channel selection is largely dependent on the package selected when setting up a subscription. Officially, Sling Orange is listed with more than 30 channels while Sling Blue is loaded with more than 50. Likewise, Sling Orange + Blue is also listed with more than 50 channels.

Read more: Sling Blue and Sling Orange channels compared

Again, these are only the base packages, and whether subscribing to Sling Blue, Orange, or Orange + Blue, consumers can further increase the channel selection through the use of add-ons, with the price rising accordingly.

Due to Sling’s complicated approach to plans, the exact channel selection is likely to highly differ between subscribers. However, one of the more fundamental differences between the base plans is that Sling Orange places more of a focus on Disney-owned and related channels, such as the Disney Channel and ESPN. In comparison, Sling Blue comes with more channels overall, including NFL Network and Fox Sports 1.

Sling TV plans
Sling TV: Blue and Orange plans

The way Sling TV deals with channels is both a selling point and a weakness. On the one hand, the service is so granular that consumers can create a very bespoke package that almost exactly matches their individual needs and budget.

From the other perspective, unless opting for a base package and the included channels, Sling TV requires more work and management to create a plan. Due to this, consumers looking to pay one price for access to as many popular channels as possible, are likely to find a live TV service that charges an all-in price more suitable, such as Hulu Live TV or YouTube TV.

Another area of concern is local channels. Sling TV does include locals, but they are limited. For example, other live TV services include more local channels, with Sling TV mostly limited to Fox and NBC locals. In addition, whether Fox and NBC local channels are even available will come down to the subscriber’s location. For those specifically interested in locals, Sling TV is not a great option, unless paired with additional hardware.

Channels aside, the actual live TV listings can be accessed through the Guide section. Here, there’s a Grid mode that displays channels in a similar way to a traditional TV guide with the user able to scroll down the channels list to see what’s on now. In addition, each listing can be tapped on for additional details, and there’s also the option to side-scroll through each channel to see what’s coming up later.

Sling TV Live TV listings
Sling TV: live guide and TV listings

There are some further refinement options on offer. For example, a filter box allows the viewer to narrow the guide down to their preferred channels, or by genre, including entertainment and sports. Alternatively, subscribers can select any day in the next seven to see specific listings for that day.

The Guide section also includes a Channel mode which changes the design from a traditional TV guide to one that’s more similar to Netflix. In this mode, subscribers can choose individual channels and see highlighted shows and movies that are either live, available to watch on demand, or scheduled in the coming hours or days.

Sling TV Channel guide
Sling TV: “Channel” live TV listings

Overall, there is nothing specifically wrong with the guide section and it does serve its purpose just fine. It does what it sets out to do and for those migrating from a traditional TV package, the guide will be simple enough to access and use, especially in Grid mode.

On demand content

While live TV channels are the main reason to sign up to a service like Sling TV, live TV is not the sum of what these services offer. This is particularly true with Sling TV considering the service has evolved to become something of a one-stop video shop.

For example, similar to other live TV services, Sling TV comes with plenty of on demand content for subscribers to stream at any time. As to be expected, the sheer majority of the additional content is provided by the relevant channels bundled with a package. Therefore, the specific on demand content will vary, based on the plan chosen.

Sling On Demand section
Sling TV: on demand section

Technically, Sling TV can be watched for free. Unlike other live TV streaming services, Sling TV includes a section with access to a variety of episodes and movies for free. This side of Sling TV does not require a subscription or even an account, although those with a subscription can still access the same free on demand content if they want, adding further value.

Free Sling TV
Sling TV offers includes free movies and episodes

In reality, this section is not that different to what is offered by many of the dedicated free streaming services. However, as it is integrated in the app along with the other Sling TV content, subscribers gain a convenience advantage of having the free and paid-for content accessible from within the same interface.

Adding to the options, many of the channels and networks linked to a Sling TV plan can also be accessed through their own TV Everywhere apps. Therefore, the level of on-demand content is not solely limited to the shows and movies displayed in the On Demand section.

Continuing with Sling TV’s all-in-one approach, the app also includes a “Rentals” section and this is exactly what it sounds like. Similar to Vudu, or Amazon Prime Video, the Rentals section offers subscribers a way to pay a one-time fee for one-time access to rentals, including new releases. Although, unlike some of those other digital rental shops, Sling’s Rentals section also includes many pay-per-view events, including live sports.

Sling Rentals section
Sling TV: rentals section

Overall, Sling TV offers access to a lot of content, although access is the key word here. While some of the content is free or included with a plan, other content requires payment. Sling TV does make it clear when additional content is being charged separately, as well as explaining the exact price before streaming, so there should be few instances where a viewer accidentally rents additional content.

Sling Cloud DVR

Cloud DVR is becoming an increasingly important feature for live TV subscribers as it offers a more convenient way to watch the shows and movies they want, when they want, without having to rely on them becoming available via on demand. However, this is an area where Sling TV is at a clear disadvantage.

Technically, Sling’s recording support has improved recently, considering the service did not previously offer any cloud DVR for free. Instead, subscribers were expected to pay an additional fee each month to record. That has now changed with each paid subscriber provided with ten hours of cloud DVR to use for free.

Sling TV cloud DVR
Sling TV: Standard cloud DVR

Ten hours is not very much, and it is significantly less than what most other live TV services offer, but it is a buffer. Instead of thinking of this as a cloud DVR feature, it is there for users to ensure occasional episodes, movies, or live events can be recorded without paying extra. Of course, this will involve a greater level of account management by the subscriber, as they will need to constantly delete recordings to guarantee the limited number of hours remain available when needed.

Read more: live TV cloud DVR comparison

Of course, Sling TV still offers the option to upgrade the recording experience through its Cloud DVR Plus add-on. Priced at $5 per month, this add-on increases the number of hours from ten to fifty. Once enabled, the cloud DVR experience improves massively and offers subscribers a way to worry less about how much they are recording, or having to manage those recordings as frequently.

Sling cloud DVR
Cloud DVR Plus add-on expands limit

Even with the Cloud DVR Plus add-on, Sling TV’s recording feature is still limited compared to what’s offered by other popular live TV options, and often for free.

Sling TV Price and value

Undoubtedly, price is Sling TV’s main selling point. With plans starting as low as $30 per month, this is one of the cheapest ways to access live TV. It is not the cheapest, with services live Philo and TVision Vibe even cheaper, but their channel lineups are more limited than Sling TV’s. For those who want access to many of the common premium live TV channels and networks, Sling TV is going to be a better affordable choice.

It is important to note, however, that the price is relative with Sling TV. It is not simply a matter of Sling TV being cheaper, as the base packages compromise more than expensive services. Likewise, the price is directly relevant to what the subscriber chooses, so for those who opt to expand on the base package with add-ons, the price is going to increase accordingly. With enough add-ons, the price will quickly rise until it reaches a similar level to Hulu Live and YouTube TV.

Total TV Deal add-ons
Sling TV cost adds up quickly

Therein, is arguably Sling TV’s ultimate selling point. Unlike other services, Sling TV provides enough options and routes to ensure a subscriber can create a package that suits their needs. For those simply looking for basic access to live TV channels, the two base packages offer a good enough level, at low enough prices.

Sling TV review summary

Sling TV exit screen
Sling TV offers value overall

Sling TV is not going to be for everyone. For those that are willing to spend more, expect premium features, or a greater selection of premium channels, then Sling TV is unlikely to be a good choice. Yes, they can create a package that meets their needs, but other services offer more value at the higher price points overall.

However, for those new to live TV streaming, or anyone looking to save as much money as possible each month, Sling TV offers plenty of value at a lower starting cost. It is only slightly more expensive than Philo and includes channels that will be important to some subscribers. At the current base prices, Sling TV offers cheap, but essential live TV.

Read more: How to cancel Sling TV

John Finn

By John Finn

John started Streaming Clarity to help consumers navigate the live TV streaming and subscription service landscape. John has been writing about technology and TV-related services and devices since 2014 and believes the best streaming approach is to bounce between services as needed. Contact John via email at john@streamingclarity.com or on Twitter

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