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Review: The AirTV from Sling TV


Sling TV just released the first streaming media player that it backs. The new AirTV comes from its parent company, Dish, and takes the best of over-the-air TV and Sling TV and puts them in one device.

I played with the new AirTV at CES last week. It offers a smooth, easy streaming experience, and it always loads straight into Sling TV, making that your home page. Along with Sling TV you can plug an antenna into the box thanks to a USB tuner. When you plug in an antenna it puts your local channels directly into the Sling TV guide.

You will be able to see upcoming shows just like you would with TNT or ESPN. Switching between OTA channels and channels streamed from Sling TV is indistinguishable. This makes the AirTV box one of the best ways to combine OTA and Sling TV.

That is not even the best part of AirTV as it takes Netflix and puts it right into your Sling TV app. When you login to Netflix your list of shows and movies you want to see will be right in your Sling TV app. If you select a Netflix movie or show it will launch over to the Netflix app and start streaming.

The AirTV runs Android TV the same as the Nvidia Shield or Mi Box. This allows you full access to all that the Google Play store has to offer. You can easily add more apps to the AirTV for services such as Hulu.

Update: The demo shown here includes some features that will soon be included in free a update.

Pros

  • Simple to setup and use
  • OTA integration
  • Netflix integration
  • Perfect for anyone who uses Netflix and Sling as their main streaming service
  • Easy-to-use remote perfect for anyone who is new to streaming

Cons

  • $129 for the AirTV and USB tuner is a bit pricey

Final Thoughts

This is a great box to buy someone who is not technically inclined. This box makes using Sling TV, OTA, and Netflix easy. Power users may find less expensive boxes just fine for them, but the AirTV makes being a cord cutter super easy.

In the end the AirTV is the box I would buy my parents or grandparents to help them break free from high monthly bills. The super-easy user interface removes any potential learning curve for new cord cutters.

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  • Cenarl

    Integration with OTA channels (+netflix) into the sling guide is amazing IMO and not just for grand parents :p I wish Sling had the same package as Direct TV nows current $35 promo, but as is I’ll just have to stick with them and pray they vastly improve their horrible service…because that promo package is great if you need the variety to please your family, but I will freely admit its the biggest waste of money ever ATM because 99% of the channels never load for me…terrible service.

    • Gardo

      Thought about sticking around until they fixed it but end up canceling, the service is just way to unstable and is not even worth the $35 they are charging.

      • Cenarl

        They got me with the Apple TV deal, if all else fails I sell that and probably break even making it a no risk situation for me, it doesn’t excuse the bad service, but that’s the game you gotta play with them ATM i guess. The upcoming Hulu service looks pretty slick from that video they released, hopefully they will also be competitive.

      • bob Johnson

        DirectTV Now is much better now. Runs very smooth on Apple TV 4.

  • TerryL

    The fact that Sling’s Cloud DVR is around the corner, they should’ve included a REC button on the remote. That would’ve been a game changer!

  • TerryL

    The fact that Sling’s Cloud DVR is around the corner, they should’ve included a REC button on the remote, that would’ve been a game changer!

  • Eric

    Can you watch your locals remotely on the sling app? Also, can you hook this up and watch your locals inside the Roku Sling app?

  • Eugene Stilianopoulos

    I wonder if you can install SPMC or Kodi on this device? I’m assuming you can

    • UberCrew

      It is running Android TV so don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to install Kodi.

  • bob Johnson

    The big question is what version of Android is this? Can we use a third party app for the OTA tuner. OTA tuners and possibly DVR is supported in Android TV 7.0 Mine arrives today so I guess I will find out.

    • UberCrew

      Read a couple posts from people who own one and they say it is currently running Android TV 6.0.1.

      • bob Johnson

        Well if you can extract the APK for it, I’d assume it will work with not much issue.

        • UberCrew

          Yeah, I would think so, unless Sling puts some device check in to make it only work with their AirTV box. Then the APK would have to be modified. Hopefully we will see the APK available for people to try on other Android TV devices soon.

  • UberCrew

    What are the device specs? SoC, RAM size, eMMC size, type of USB port, type of Ethernet port? Complete audio & video specifications? Looking at the FCC documents I know this device has WiFi AC & Bluetooth 4.1.

  • Roger P

    I have had the airtv for two days now and I am NOT impressed and disappointed with all the hype. First the unit is used to get you to subscribe to SlingTV. I know the leadership at Dish and this is a smart way to get your credit card for a subscription. The OTA feature will only work if you subscriber to SlingTV at either $25 or $40 plus per month. If you I subscriber to SlingTV subscription your AirTV box is a useless brick as the OTA TV feature is integrated within the SlingTV programming guide.

    If you have a Roku, or any smart Blueray DVD player, connected TV or game console the AirTV is NOT for you. If you want SlingTV just download the app on these devices and you are good to go. A programming note, SlingTV used to carry network programming when I was an early adopter, that is no longer the case and I assume that there was an issue with streaming rights for Licensed programming.

    If you do not have a connected Blueray DVD player or game console or SmartTV this will work for you just fine but why? Chances are you have a connected TV that allows you to 1-Download most streaming apps including SlingTV and 2-Allows you to connect an antenna and scan for free OTA broadcast programs.

    So this unit is pretty much useless since you are handcuffed to the SlingTV subscription service to get it to work out of the box.

    Now for some technical review. The picture quality is not smooth, it is choppy due to the processing and compression. The output can be 4K but that means nothing since the internal processor can not provide a smooth picture play.

    SlingTV service looks much better on a Samsung connected TV using the app in a side by side comparison with the AirTV. The OTA antenna dongle is not selective nor sensitive. It has a difficult time detecting signals that are all 100% on my giant 20 element digital antenna. All my other devices including my favorite device of all time my ChannelMaster DVR+ have full signal but not the AirTV, it would not scan all channels nor play an OTA signal without dropping the channel during reception.

    I’m disappointed with the AirTV, it’s marginal at best and the fact that it’s being used to cuff you into a Dish SlingTV subscription is pretty sneaky to cord cutters.

    My best recommendation is to stick with your connected TV and use apps and pull in an OTA signal into the ChannelMaster DVR+ to record your OTA programs with excellent quality.

    • Malcolm Smith

      Are you certain about the need for a SlingTV subscription to continue to receive OTA channels through the box? If so, then this a huge deal breaker. How do you know this? If you hook up the AirTV and then plug in the adaptor without setting up SlingTV, then you’ll receive no OTA channels? Also, maybe this issue is fixed with upcoming AirTV software update?

  • TedContreras

    Just got my AirTV and it almost got through setup before getting stuck on “Unable to Connect to Google”. Checked my network and internet access is fine, and AirTV is visible on the netowork (in fact I configured across the network using my Android Tablet). Turns out that there is no way to reset this device though if it is messed up without… you guessed it… going through the device settings to perform a reset. So if the device isn’t working you can’t reset it but if it is you can. Go figure… Because of this Sling has to send me a replacement device. They also need to know the account you registered when you ordered but it’s never possible to log back into the AirTV.net site with that login afterwards. There isn’t even an option to do it. And if they ask you for an order #… believe it or not the confirmation email you get doesn’t have one. The rollout seems like a truly amateur operation with little thought or professionalism evident. I just hope the replacement box works.

    • TedContreras

      Finally fixed this myself since support had no idea even how the setup menus flowed. If you need to do this reset then you can do this by entering recovery mode by unplugging the unit, holding down the “remote” button on top of the unit while plugging it back in. Once it boots into recovery then use the “remote” button on the unit to scroll through options. Hold the button for 2-3 seconds to select an option. Performing a factory reset straightened out my problems although then the remote wouldn’t re-pair. To reset the remote control hold down the “guide” and “info” buttons on it for 3-4 seconds to unpair and then repair the remote.

  • webslappy

    This demo is misleading because the integration that is shown here is not what ships with the unit. There is no grid integration, there is just a button at the end of the sling menu to switch to OTA.

    • TedContreras

      Exactly! This review has nothing to do with what is actually delivered. You have an icon at the end of the sling guide listing of sources that you then scroll down, then select the “Launch” button. Now you are in Android TV LiveChannels where you can get a real guide like most people are used to BUT it is only for the OTA channels, not for Sling. Basically they delivered absolutely nothing that you couldn’t have with a Nexus Player and an external TV tuner (and I know because I’ve also been trying this setup).

      The author of this article should update it to reflect that it is a complete fabrication. Fake News!!!!

    • Luke Bouma

      I contacted the AirTV team about this. They stated that a free update will be released soon that will add OTA to the Sling TV as shown. I updated the story to reflect that.

  • TedContreras

    Just got off the phone with customer service and they flatly deny all the capabilities in this demo. There is no integration of local channels as shown and there is no integration of your Netflix queue.

    • Luke Bouma

      I talked with the AirTV team and they stated that a update will be coming out that will upgrade all AirTV boxes to the same features shown here. They did not state when that update will go live. I updated the strory to reflect that the demo includes features that will be included in a future demo.