Sling is best for you if you’re OK with limited channels and a subpar interface. You won’t find a better deal than $25/month, but you won’t have your regional sports or other local channels. It may be a solid bet if you’re not into sports.
In my time with Sling, I never had buffering issues, but the stream quality wasn’t as crisp as YouTube TV.
You can change the video quality by adjusting the bandwidth allowance. Typically, you’d want your streaming service to determine the Internet strength on its own, then use the best possible quality. But sometimes, you might want to lower the quality so you can have multiple concurrent streams.
ESPN and Fox Sports stream at 60 frames per second to eliminate choppiness, but TBS, TNT, MLB Network, NFL Network, and NBC Sports are still in 30 frames per second.
You can’t pause live TV or go back on most channels. There is usually a message that says “pause and other playback controls not available on this channel.”
Sling Orange only lets you stream on one device.
Sling Blue gives you three concurrent streams.
You can log on from any location in the U.S. without issue. That’s excellent if you’re on the road a lot. Another benefit of having no location preference is it’s easier to share your account. (I’m not advocating sharing an account but realize many people do it. Some providers like HBO don’t care, but some do).
Sling Blue and Sling Orange are $25/month each, or you can get them together for $40/month. Sling broke up channels into small packages. (Compare the packages here).
Sling TV might be your best bet if you’re NOT into sports or network TV and still want cable, but I’m harsh on the grading here because sports and network TV are usually most important to people looking for live tv services. If you don’t need sports or live events, why do you need to watch TV live? Standalone apps like the regular Hulu, Netflix, HBO, Showtime give you great content, on-demand, without any commercials. While Hulu isn’t live, you can watch your Network shows the day after they air.
You might be able to catch your sports teams with Sling, but it’s not likely you’ll see everything. They only have about 20 regional sports channels, with only four different regional NBC sports networks. With Sling, I couldn’t watch the Celtics, Bruins, or Sox.
You can’t get any local channels (CBS, FOX, ABC, NBC) in most cases. The only local channel I got is NBC. I’m missing CBS, FOX, and ABC and both local sports channels.
There are tons of add-on packages that aren’t typically available with streaming services (NBA League Pass, NFL RedZone, tons of international packages, etc.)
Sling has a traditional guide with a “grid view” and it’s not bad.
There’s an “image view” too, but scrolling through channels and lineups isn’t easy with it.
The interface isn’t pretty or intuitive. Here are my notes:
Sling experiments with ditching the guide with an “On Now” section. I appreciate the effort, but the thumbnails for sports are generic and don’t show the teams in the thumbnails, making it hard to see who’s playing.
It’s not as good at predicting what I want to watch as YouTube TV is.
There are extra taps needed to perform specific tasks when one tap would suffice. For instance, when you tap on a show from the guide, it brings you to another screen, it should just bring you to the show.
The app is too busy. It tries to cater to too many demographics. I’d love to see a simpler version or an option to eliminate some of the noise.
I like that the mini guide can be used while you’re watching a show. It’s not intrusive and is actually useful. It’s the best part of the interface.
Sling isn’t smart about when it’s actively being watched elsewhere. If I’m watching in my living room, and close the app, and then go to my bedroom to watch, it tells me I’m still watching in the living room. Sometime it’ll let me watch in the bedroom, but usually, I can’t kick off the living room tv, even though the app isn’t active.
The Roku and Fire TV apps are the best Sling has, but Sling’s Apple TV app is one of the worst in the business. It doesn’t work well with the trackpad, it’s slow to load, and there are lots of errors.
DVR & On-Demand (F):
DVR isn’t included with either the Blue or Orange package. But for an additional $5/month, you can add “Cloud DVR” which will give you 50 hours of recordings.
You recordings are never deleted, but 50 hours isn’t much. Your newest recording will overwrite the oldest recording in your DVR when you get close to your quota.
You can’t record any Disney channels (including ESPN).
Fox channels can’t be recorded, but you can watch them on-demand with commercials.
You can record some local channels, but there aren’t many on Sling anyways.
There are no profiles. You’re stuck with a DVR and settings combined with all your household member’s preferences.
No other live streaming service is more compatible than Sling. Name a device and Sling is compatible with it.
You can cast from your phone app and it’s a decent experience.
You can’t AirPlay from your phone.
Quick Review (TL;DR)
Stream: You can’t pause TV or rewind. You can pick the quality, but it can be choppy and it’s not as crisp as YouTube TV.
Channels: You won’t get your local channels or local sports in most areas.
Interface: It has an adequate guide, but the rest of the interface is awful and tough to navigate.
DVR: It’s not included, but you can add it for $5. There are no profiles, countless restrictions, and only 50 hours of storage.
Devices: No other service is more compatible than Sling. It works on everything.