Earlier this year at CES 2015 Dish announced a brand new product called Sling TV. This impressive new service is a $20 a month subscription and companion app that lets you watch a collection of live TV including ESPN online on your Xbox One, Amazon Fire TV, Nexus Player, Roku, Mac, PC, as well as both Android and iOS without a regular cable subscription. And it’s awesome.
It’s an aggressive attempt to break a current trend of overpriced cable subscriptions and channel packages that have led to many cutting the cord and going with Netflix, Hulu, and other online alternatives. Sling TV aims to get a few of those back with one simple and affordable package, and after a little over a week of using Sling TV, I might be sold.
I’ve been able to enjoy Sling TV for the past week or so and below we’ll go over a few things we like, what we don’t like, how it stacks up, and share my initial thoughts and impressions on Sling TV.
Before we get started though we want to mention that you need to look at Sling TV for what it’s worth. It won’t have everything, or the most options in the world, but it offers an excellent package of some essentials for a low price. Basically appreciate what it has to offer, based on the price vs some of the cable companies around the US.
So what is Sling TV? It’s a $20 a month (or more if you add select additional channels) service that lets you essentially watch tons of live TV, rent movies, and more, all from an array of devices that you’d usually never be able to. Rather than pay an overpriced cable provider for a bundle of channels you’ll never use, they offer the basics in one easy solution for multiple devices.
I’ve been watching ESPN, ESPN 2, TBS and more from my Android smartphones and tablets, and the little one has been able to enjoy multiple different Disney channels on my Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro tablet. These same features and channels will eventually come to the Xbox One, Fire TV and Fire Stick, the Nexus Player, and many other devices. Currently I’ve only used it on an Android device and the Roku 3, which isn’t our favorite media streamer, but this isn’t about the Roku, it’s about Sling TV.
The Roku probably isn’t the best device to test Sling TV on, and the experience has been far better on my Android devices, and surely once Nexus Player and Amazon Fire TV/Stick support arrives it will be even better. That said, Sling TV itself is rather impressive, and works great.
For $20, you can watch a handful of channels, and there will be options to add additional channels, but it will not be an à la carte option that lets users add one single channel. Here are a few of the main channels you’ll get for $20, with more coming soon, and additional options you can add for $5 will be announced when this launches to the public later this quarter.
- ABC Family
- Food Network
- Cartoon Network
- Adult Swim
- The Disney Channel
- ESPN 2
They actually have Disney Junior, Disney Kids, and multiple channels for families as well, but those won’t be in the initial $20 plan. Not to mention more and more partners will be on board and announced in the coming weeks and as the general release arrives for the public.
After sampling the service on my Android devices and the Roku 3 I’ve came away fairly impressed after one week. The most important thing for me is being able to watch things like ESPN at home or on a mobile device, without a cable subscription. Then when I am home the Sling TV app on Roku (and soon other streaming devices) lets me watch TV shows, movies, and even rent new releases. It’s priced a bit high at $2.99 or $4.99 for HD, but it sure is convenient.
The apps design is pretty straightforward and simple across both platforms. You have a channel guide on the bottom, and a quick tap or scroll will switch channels. You can even browse ahead in the day to see what’s on, and even pause some channels, all while your current show (even another channel) is playing in the background. I can keep watching ESPN while I search for a movie to rent for the night, and more, all with ease. All said and done though, it’s the mobile aspects I’m enjoying. Here’s a few screenshots.
There is hardly any lag or buffering, I’ve experienced zero crashes during a week of heavy streaming on my mobile device, and overall it’s great for what it has to offer. There are a few settings for quality of streaming, and you may want a WiFi connection so you don’t drain your mobile data limit. That said, for $20 a month having access to TV, ESPN, Movies for rent, and tons of content on my Android smartphones and tablets is a pretty awesome deal. Not to mention everything it offers in the living room.
As we said at the beginning, you have to appreciate Sling TV for what it is. An internet-based TV streaming service from Dish that delivers a little of something for everyone, at a low price. Basically as a slimmed down bundle it covers all of the bases for an entertainment package. Those being news, sports, casual TV browsing, kids stuff, and of course movies. And it does all of this on an easy to understand system and app for only $20 a month, no contracts.
Pay each month, or whenever you need the service. There are no hidden fee’s, no contracts, and no obligations. It’s a curd-cutters way to get some of those channels and things they want from cable back, without having to give into the entire cable package we’re so used to dealing with. Our only complaint is it’s only one device at a time. I can’t enjoy a movie on my Fire TV stick or Xbox One, while a family member or the kids stream Disney to their tablet. Multi-user support isn’t included, and it doesn’t sound like it’s coming anytime soon either.
Sling TV certainly isn’t for everyone, and we’ll need more time with it before we give our final thoughts. So far though, it’s something I could see myself using along with Netflix, and simply canceling my cable subscription completely while relying on someone else for better, faster internet.
Dish began handing out limited invites last week to people who shared their e-mail address at sling.com and we can expect a general release in the near future, but no exact date has been given.
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