Sling TV Review: Is it Worth $20 Per Month?
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We tried Sling TV for two weeks in January as we had recently canceled our DirecTV contract and thought a review of the service would be good. We were intrigued by the idea of getting access to channels like ESPN for $20 without a monthly contract. Those who want to cut the cord are often held back out of fear that they’ll miss out on sports.
I used to be one of those people and was excited about getting ESPN and ESPN2 for $20 per month with the ability to cut it any time I want. We had a good overall experience, but ultimately decided not to keep it – we’ve used the service several times since and came to the same conclusion each time. Here’s a Sling TV review to give a full breakdown of the service.
How Sling TV Works
As mentioned, Sling TV is a no-contract way to get television content. Ironically, it was launched by Dish TV in 2015 though they don’t have the messy contracts or high costs of the parent company.
As I’ve shared in the past, we now get all of our content through the Amazon Fire Stick and are more than happy with that as a replacement. We also get our local channels with the Mohu Leaf which has worked great for us.
Sling TV is an Internet based TV service that offers just over 30 channels for $20 per month. They also offer a $25 per month plan for 40 channels – though that doesn’t offer access to ESPN. They offer a premium tier that offers all base channels for $40 per month. You simply download the app to get started. You can download it straight from the Sling TV website or you can download it for free from Amazon.
Sling TV works on a variety of different devices. We only used it on our television, but you can use it from the following devices:
- Xbox One
- Amazon Fire TV
- Amazon Fire TV Stick
- Nexus Player
- Google Chromecast
- Android and iOS based devices
As you can see, there are a fair number of options to use Sling. The installation, at least for our television was relatively simple. I set up our account for it through the Sling TV website as they offer a free 7 day trial. I then downloaded it through our Amazon Fire TV Stick, and was set up in a total of maybe five minutes.
I will add that while I was setting it up on our Fire Stick there was an ad to try it free for 14 days. I chatted with their customer support area and they instantly upgraded me – so keep that in mind if you sign up.
I will also add that Sling TV is a mix of live TV plus on demand shows, so it’s really a marriage of Netflix and the channels you want from cable.
What Channels Do You Get With Sling TV?
The Sling TV app offers a base package of 23 channels. Those channels are:
ESPN2 Travel Channel
AMC Adult Swim
Food Network CNN
History Channel Cartoon Network
TNT ABC Family
El Rey Lifetime
IFC Bloomberg Television
Disney Channel Polaris+
Comedy Central ESPN3
BBC America FreeForm
ViceLand AxS TV
Local Now FlaMa
Sling TV also offers eight, add-on packages for an extra $5 per month per package. Those packages are:
Sports Extra – which comes with nine channels, including ESPNews and the SEC Network.
Kids Extra – which offers five channels, including Disney Junior and Boomerang.
Best of Spanish TV – which lists 14 channels, including Univision and ESPN Deportes.
Deportes Extra – which provides seven channels, including Azteca.
Peliculas and Novelas Extra – which includes nine channels, including Uni Mas.
Hollywood Extra – which comes with six channels, including Sundance TV and TCM.
World News Extra – which offers seven extra channels, including HLN and RT.
Lifestyle Extra – which lists six channels, including DIY and the Cooking Channel.
In total, Sling TV offers access to 65 channels though it’d not make much sense to get each as you’d pay $60 plus tax every month. They also offer HBO Now if you’d like access to that for an additional $15 per month.
Sling TV – What to Like
There’s a lot to like about Sling TV. Most importantly, it’s relatively inexpensive and does not require a contract. That alone is worth consideration. It lets you access some of your favorite shows if you’ve cut cable without the nasty cost.
I also like that it’s compatible with so many devices. You can use it on your phone or even on a video game console if you like, so there’s obviously a lot of options. We only used the television interface but it was relatively straightforward. You simply launch the app on the Fire TV Stick (here’s our Amazon Fire TV Stick review) and navigate to the channel you want to watch.
The app provides a “What’s On” section so you can see what’s live. You can also navigate to the specific channel to see what on demand programming they have available. I will add that many of the channels have pause, rewind and fast forward features, which is nice – though it does not work on channels like ESPN, TBS or TNT.
The other thing of note I really liked is the 3-Day Replay Sling TV offers. It’s not available on all channels, but is on most. This feature allows you to access content that has been on the given channel during the past three days. They also offer a similar “Start Over” function that allows you to jump back to the beginning of a show. While not the full features found in a DVR it does offer some ways around it.
Sling TV – What Not to Like
The main complaint I had with Sling TV was buffering issues. We have a relatively fast Internet connection (42.85 Mbps download speed, 6.13 Mbps upload speed and 90 ms latency) since we work from home, but still ran into buffering issues.
The most glaring time I saw this was while trying to watch the college football playoffs in January – with the championship game being the worst. It took 10-15 minutes for the game to come on though I’m sure it’s because there were many other people trying to access it at the same time. That being said, they had much worse problems during March Madness last year so it’s something to keep in mind.
Additionally, there’s no way to look at what’a on without kicking your out of the platform altogether – ultimately forcing you to start over every time you want to watch something different. Want another no-contract option? Check out DirecTV’s new service in my DirecTV Now review.
Another thing to keep in mind is Sling TV only works on one device at a time on the base package. That wasn’t an issue for us though it may well be for you. Lastly, some of the more popular channels are linear only which means live is the only option you get with no ability to fast forward or rewind.
Sling TV Review – Final Thoughts
Ultimately, I believe Sling TV is the beginning of new things for those who want to cut the cord. As such, it’s not perfect. My hope is that they continue to improve its functionality and clear up the buffering issues. I think for those who want to cut the cord and still have access to channels like ESPN it can be a good option for the $20 per month price tag, especially given the lack of a contract. That’s also not to mention the fact they seem to be adding new channels and capabilities to the platform regularly.
We chose to forego signing up after the free 14-day trial. We have Netflix and HBO Now plus we can access a lot of content for free thanks to our Amazon Prime membership and Amazon Fire TV Stick. That saves us nearly $90 per month and we saw no need to add an additional $20 per month.
If you’re looking for something to include in your home theater system, then the Amazon Fire TV will be better suited for you thanks to its 4k capabilities and ability to connect to Alexa. Likewise, you can get the TiVo Bolt if you want to have a DVR in your home entertainment system.
We also get local channels with our Mohu 50 Leaf, so we’re set for our channels and if we really can’t get something we can almost always find it somewhere online. We may change direction come football season but for now we’re content without it – but it still might be a good consideration for you given it’s free for a week or two and has no contracts.
Do you still have cable and, if so, how much are you paying for it each month? What’s one channel you feel like that you can’t live without? If you’ve used Sling, what are your thoughts on it?
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