We recommend: Try Sling TV’s free trial.
Sling TV is the à la carte television service that tries to beat cable at their own game. For $20/month, you can get 20 channels (and we mean “real” ones, like ESPN and AMC) streaming through your Roku, computer, smartphone, and other supported devices. The idea of Sling TV is to replicate the cable experience, add mobility, and drop the extra channels that you don’t watch and therefore don’t want to pay for. So how well does it achieve that goal, and is it worth your money? We set out to find out.
First things first: Sling TV succeeds at its main goal, which is emulating the cable experience while slashing the price. Seeing what’s on is a breeze, and it’s great to cede a little control over your viewing once in a while. For the first time since you cut cable, you’ll find yourself watching the second half of Total Recall while you do your ironing. We never thought we’d miss time-wasting, channel-surfing, mindless television when we cut cable; but we did, and we owe Sling TV a big “thank you” for bringing it back.
The channel selection on Sling TV is truly excellent. Its basic 20-channel package is a real cross-section of the sorts of channels that the big packages include, so casual fans of most kinds of content will find that they’re covered. The inclusion of ESPN unlocks most WatchESPN broadcasts, which is a huge plus for sports fans. The expansion packages (low-priced packs that add a handful of channels each) are well-assembled and fulfill Sling TV’s promise of à la carte subscriptions. Of course, the lack of major networks (NBC, CBS, FOX, and ABC), while expected, was disappointing.
Sling TV worked really well for us, because we already had some of the devices that it’s compatible with. But we were disappointed to see a few common streaming tools missing from the list of supported devices. Amazon Fire TV and Roku are both supported, but Apple TV and Chromecast are not. Xbox One is supported, but not Xbox 360, Wii U, or any PlayStation model. To watch on your laptop, you’ll have to download Sling’s dedicated app – an extra step that Netflix, Hulu, and Pluto TV don’t require. That said, Sling TV did have both iOS and Android support, which made it a breeze to use with our tablets and phones – which brings us to our next section.
The quality of mobile video on our network (Verizon) was excellent, and buffering, while present, wasn’t the a constant problem. Changing the channel was a bit more of an endeavor (it takes a few taps, and the channel-changing widget will cover your video for a moment while you get the job done).
One disappointing aspect of the mobile app is that it lacked a Chromecast button or similar functionality, meaning that you can’t use your mobile device as a tuner while watching video on your television (you’ll have to use your Roku or Xbox for that). Still, the app was fairly user-friendly, as were the apps for other devices (they were all pretty similar).
The one big knock we have on Sling TV is that it limits viewing to one device at a time. That makes it a tough sell for families – if Junior starts watching Cartoon Network on his mobile device while you’re watching a movie on AMC, you’re going to lose your stream. For individuals and smaller groups, though, this isn’t a big deal.
Sling TV does all the things that it claims to do, and it does them all pretty well. The value is more questionable for large families, due to the lack of multi-screen capabilities, but the overall experience is excellent.
Sling TV is a great service at a great price. If you like the channels it offers, then getting a subscription is a no-brainer.
If you’re going to take our advice and check out Sling TV, we recommend you start with their free trial. If you don’t like it, you can bail out before they charge – and even if you do, hey, seven free days!
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