Sling TV hasn’t changed much since we saw it unveiled at CES, but starting Tuesday, Dish will begin sending out the first invites for its over-the-top internet TV service. For $20 (and without any commitments or other gimmicks), you get a smattering of channels led by ESPN that can be streamed live anywhere; when you’re mobile, you can watch Sling TV on your smartphone, tablet, or PC. At home, it’ll work with set-top boxes like Amazon’s Fire TV, Roku 3, and the Nexus Player, along with Microsoft’s Xbox One console and Samsung TVs. Within a couple weeks, Sling TV will be ready for its full-fledged consumer debut, and I’ve just spent a few days testing the service to see if it’s indeed worth making a switch from cable.
After sampling Sling TV across iOS, Android, and on Roku 3, I’ve come away fairly impressed. The app’s design is slick, lag-free, and straightforward across platforms, and jumping between channels is effortless. TV shows start playing quickly, with barely any buffering time needed before they’re streaming at full quality. Obviously that could change depending on your connection, but Sling looked fantastic on my iPhone 6 Plus and Nexus 6 when watching over LTE. And at home on the Roku, I didn’t notice any significant downgrade when comparing against cable. The mobile apps let you choose a maximum quality setting if you’re concerned about eating through your smartphone’s data cap, and the Android version in particular makes it very easy to check what quality you’re seeing at any moment. You’ll probably want to leave video-on-demand rentals for your home Wi-Fi connection, though.
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