Is ditching your favorite cable network the final obstacle you must overcome before you tell Comcast to go fuck themselves?
If you’ve been longing to cut the cord, but just cant comprehend living without ESPN, or getting your daily Guy Ferriri fix. Sling TV hopes to be your saving grace.
(UPDATE: 2/9/2015 You no longer need an invite for Sling TV, you can sign up online right now. Sling TV has also added a bunch of extra package options. Sports Extra, Kids Extra, News and Info Extra, each cost an additional $5 per month)
Crowned best of CES 2014. Sling TV has finally arrived, for some of us at least. Currently available by invitation only (sign up here), you may have to wait a few months before you can subscribe.
As of this writing, signing up for Sling TV is a lot like signing up for any old shitty cable TV service, minus installation. You cannot sign up online. You are given a unique invite code which you must then redeem only by calling the number provided on the invitation email. Yes, must talk to someone before you can use Sling TV. It’s kind of a pain in the ass, but I expect it to become more streamlined as the service matures. The service is still very much in beta mode considering their lack of a true website, and no app in the Google Play store. That is correct, you must download the Android APK via unique link and install it manually, it’s a lot like how you install the Amazon app store.
Sling TV login screen
Android isn’t the only platform you can watch Sling TV on. There is also an app from iOS, Mac, and Roku 3. That’s it. So yeah, there aren’t a whole lot of supported devices right now. Windows users are fucked for the moment. I don’t believe you can watch Sling TV directly from your browser just yet. Sling promises to support more devices “very soon”, but your guess is as good as mine when this will happen and what devices will have support. Assuming you have an invie, a Roku 3, iOS, Android, or Mac device, you can start watching Sling TV right now.
So is Sling TV any fucking good? In short, yes and no. Without Sling TV, or someones Comcast login info, it is nearly impossible to watch live TV from anything other than a cable box. Here is the current line up for Sling TV’s base package. ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, CNN, ABC Family, Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, and Adult Swim. Not a bad selection, but technically it is more expensive than standard cable TV. Sling TV offers 11 TV channels for $20, about $1.80 per channel. Compared with a normal cable TV service, say 200 channels for $80, that comes out to about $.40 per channel. On a per channel basis, Sling TV is way more expensive. But if you consider the fact that you may only watch 1/4 or less of the channels in your cable TV package, the price kind of evens out.
I wish a had a fucking compatible Roku device to test Sling TV on the big screen, but apparently, my Roku is too damn old. So I can only give you my opinion based on their Android offerings. Disappointing, considering I would mainly watch Sling TV on my living room TV, so I guess we will just have to use our imaginations.
Sling TV for Android brings a nice, fluid experience. Everything works as itvshould for the most part. Switching from channel to channel is mostly painless. A few seconds to buffer, and you’re watching live TV from your Android device, probably about 5 seconds per channel change. I am running a rooted OnePlus One, with a custom Lollipop ROM. Thankfully the app doesn’t appear to have any root restrictions, and functions just fine on Google’s latest and greatest OS. A big plus in my book.
Sling TV Android interface
Afteryou log in (once) the app doesn’t fuck around. You launch the app, you are watching TV. It works like it should work. The interface overlays ontop of the TV picture, so you never have to miss what’s on TV when surfing channels. The menu system requires a slight learning curve. It isn’t quite as intuitive as I would like. Once you get the hang of it, it not too bad. But there is certainly room for improvement.
The picture is about what you would expect. If you have a good connection, you will probably have a good picture. On a bad connection, the quality is obviously more on the shitty side. But on a stable connection, I don’t think you will have too many complaints. It looks good on my 1080p 5.5″ screen, so I imagine it would scale up to a 60″1080p TV just fine. I wish I could give it a test on my 60″ 4K TV, but fuck me right!?
High quality stream
Shit quality, potato stream
Now here is my least favorite thing about Sling TV. Not all of the channels share the same capabilities. You can pause, rewind, fast forward the Food Network all you want. But switch over to ESPN/2, and you don’t get shit. Miss a show? Fuck you, pay me. Start a show late? Fuck you, pay me. Want to see that ridiculous Odell Beckham catch again? Fuck you, pay me. But don’t fret, you will never miss your favorite Food Network moments! “Did you see the color of the fucking bundt cake Giada just pulled out of her ass? I gotta see that shit again!” I am sure this has everything to do with the suits at ESPN/Disney (ESPN is owned by Disney), rather than the good folks at Sling/Dish Network. My point is this, the software is obviously capable of DVR like control, but some dick munch says we cant have it. Why? Fuck that guy.
Mmmm bundt cake…
Some channels have on-demand content, but
some most do not. You’re going to have to figure that out via trial and error. But don’t expect to catch up on full seasons of your favorite TV shows any time soon. There are usually only 3 or so, on-demand episodes per show at most. But most shows do not have on-demand content available. For most channels, if its not live, you cant watch it and you cant schedule a recording. It’s not a DVR, nor does it advertise itself as such. But that capability is not there, just in case you were wondering.
Sling TV also features their own digital rental service. Standard fare for any digital media service these days. It’s quick and easy, but nothing spectacular. Feel free to keep on using your normal services, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, etc. They will probably have a far superior selection anyway.
Sling TV movie rental service. Average prices, okay selection
The Final Word
Sling TV is certainly a step in the right direction. I could see this idea catching on very quickly. Consumers want choice. We don’t want a bunch of shit we don’t want. Until cable companies decide to go completely à la carte (dreaming), you are going to continue paying for shit you don’t really want. Sling TV is another step closer to giving consumers that choice. Even though the service is far from perfect, and can be a little hit & miss in terms or programming and features, it is still a good alternative for those wanting to ditch their cable TV subscription. Now we just have to stand back and wait for cable TV’s response. Sling TV is the first to successfully pull off internet TV, but you can bet your ass they will not be the only player for long.