Friday, 8 June 2018

AirTV Review: Sling TV Viewers Can Take Antenna Live TV Anywhere

AirTV Review: Sling Viewers Take Antenna TV Listings and Antenna Channels Anywhere: Sling's AirTV lets Sling Viewers Take Antenna Channels Anywhere. Although it took me a while to warm up to the device, I finally enjoyed my time with the $99 AirTV Player from Dish. The cable-replacement company's Android TV box was a competent streaming gadget on its own but it became something special when you considered its definition of HD antenna channels.

If you want the same slick HD-antenna integration but do not need a full-fledged streaming box to do it, check out Sling's new AirTV ($120), a streaming device that can rebroadcast your local channels just about anywhere.


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The device does what it is designed to do very well. I'm just not sure that what it's designed to do is that exciting. The AirTV can rebroadcast your local OTA channels to a handful of streaming devices (both handheld and TV-adjacent), either in your house or on the go. But only a few platforms support it at present (Roku, Amazon Fire, iOS and Android), and the DVR functionality is limited.

The AirTV covers the same ground as the HDHomeRun and the Tablo, but it costs a little less and integrates particularly well with Sling TV. Like with the AirTV Player, there's probably a niche group of Sling TV fans who will find this useful, but I do not think the device solves all that many problems for the casual TV viewer.


How AirTV works


The AirTV is not a streaming player, like Roku or an Apple TV. Instead, it hooks up to an HD antenna in your home, then rebroadcasts that signal to Sling TV or AirTV app on other devices that you own. At present, you can watch TV on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android and iOS; Other operating systems should arrive in the near future. (Out of curiosity, I tried accessing TV antenna on both a Chromecast and an Xbox One.)

Because there's no navigable interface, setting up the AirTV is dead simple, although it takes a little time. You plug the device (a black box about 6 inches long by 4 inches wide) Any HD antenna will do, although the system does not come with one, so you'll need to purchase said antenna separately.

The AirTV is not a streaming player. Instead, it hooks up to an HD antenna in your home, then rebroadcasts that signal to other devices.

Then, using either the Sling TV or AirTV app on Android or iOS, you will follow a few simple prompts to connect your AirTV to your home network and have it set up a channel guide. You can use either Ethernet or Wi-Fi, which is a nice touch; most OTA-broadcasting devices offer only Ethernet connectivity.

Once that's done, you pretty much never need to even look at the AirTV again. You'll manage everything through your phone or tablet, although it would be nice if you could get the same functionality on a computer or game console.


Antenna TV Listings and antenna live TV


Once the AirTV is set up, there's pretty much only one thing you can do with it, and viewers can watch OTA television with Antenna TV Listings. I set up the service on my Android tablet, and I was pleased to discover that AirTV found 50 local channels, just like my antenna does when it's hooked up to my TV.

Finding shows to watch is also extremely easy, thanks to the Sling TV app's straightforward interface. The app lists whatever OTA channels you get in order of channel number, complete with a channel's colourful logo and a full lineup of programs for the next week or so. It's easy to see what's on the air right now or what will be available later on. Tap on a show and select Watch, and you're done.

The AirTV app, useful in case you do not subscribe to Sling TV, is similarly straightforward. (A Sling TV subscription is not required to use the AirTV, but if you have one, you can incorporate the AirTV's channels with the rest of your Sling TV interface.) However, you can not use the Sling TV and AirTV apps simultaneously. You'll need to reset the hardware and go through the setup process again, which could be a huge pain if you cancel your Sling TV subscription.

Currently, you can watch two simultaneous AirTV transmissions in your home, or you can watch a broadcast while you are away from your home network. In my experience, the flows were immediately loaded and stabilized in HD resolution quickly at home, but they were terribly delayed at work. Your results will depend a lot on your individual network configuration, so, obviously, having strong and stable connections in your locations will strengthen your chances of having a quality flow.

However, you can not DVR any content for later, even if you pay for that functionality in your regular Sling TV subscription. Sling plans to add this feature later, but it seems that launching it would have been useful.

From the point of view of functionality, there is not much to say about AirTV, other than that it "works". I'm not convinced it works better than an HDHomeRun, a Tablo or any similar device, but it's certainly not worse.


For whom it is?


The AirTV allows a simple transmission to a phone or tablet, which is useful if you are frequently watching live shows on mobile devices. Because AirTV does not allow you to record programs (yet), the only time it could be useful is if you are away from home and absolutely need to see something in real time from your local network: a ball game, perhaps. Frequent travellers could take advantage of this, although getting that functionality merits buying a $120 contraption is debatable.

Even so, you could save money compared to getting only a dedicated transmission service.

A decent antenna costs around $30, which makes the entire AirTV package $150. An HD antenna plus Sling's basic orange package would give you something comparable to the $40 per month PlayStation Vue or YouTube plans TV. Even during the first year, you would see significant savings with Sling TV plus AirTV: $390 for Sling and AirTV, versus $480 for a cable replacement with more broadcast stations. It is worth thinking if most of them watch television on the net.

Another useful application for AirTV could be the provision of antenna TV in real time to a location without access to the antenna. If you have a rec room in the basement or a cavernous living room where the TV is not near the window, AirTV could be useful. The device could also be useful if you want to use a single HD antenna for two different TVs in two different locations in your home, although, again, if both TVs are near the windows, it is much cheaper to buy another antenna.


Final words


For viewers who love network television and want it fully integrated with their Sling TV experiences, AirTV is not a bad investment (although AirTV Player is probably better). However, it is fair to ask why Sling TV asks users to provide their own network stations instead of simply expanding their own offers. The service should also work with computers and game consoles, instead of just portable devices and two streaming players.

PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV, among other companies, have made great progress by including networks such as ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox. Sling TV still offers a relatively small selection (NBC and Fox), and even then, only at its Blue level more expensive ($25 per month). Because the basic Sling TV orange package costs only $ 20 per month, I will not go into the complicated economics of the issue, but the fact is that the company is asking users to pay for a gadget to access something their competitors They provide as part of a monthly cost.

However, if you already fell in love with Sling TV and want a simple way to watch TV by antenna wherever you go, AirTV is probably the easiest way to incorporate those channels into your daily routine. However, for most people, connecting an antenna to a television will still work well. Or you can always look for other DIY options through media servers like Plex.

THE GOOD

Easy to configure
Integrates with the Sling TV app

THE BAD

DVR not available at launch
Very limited scope
Expensive
Few compatible platforms.

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