AirTV Mini review: A streaming dongle for Sling TV diehards

    If you subscribe to Sling TV—and plan to for some time—the AirTV Mini may very well be the perfect streaming gadget for you.

    Unlike a Roku or Amazon Fire TV Stick, the $80 AirTV Mini is constructed round Sling’s reside TV streaming service. The Sling TV app launches mechanically when the gadget boots, and the distant has helpful shortcut buttons for navigating Sling’s menus. While you possibly can actually entry Sling by different units, none of them make it fairly as simple.

    Still, anybody who has second ideas about committing to Sling ought to look elsewhere. The AirTV Mini and Sling TV are so inextricable that utilizing the streaming gadget for every other goal could be a problem, and your choices for different reside TV providers are extra restricted than they’re on different units. For most Sling subscribers, a Roku participant, Amazon Fire TV, or Apple TV will nonetheless be higher matches.

    A streamer for Slingers

    Though it’s a bit hefty for a streaming dongle, the AirTV Mini nonetheless manages to hold out of your tv’s HDMI enter through a brief, rubberized cable. It has a quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, which is sufficient for scrolling easily by menus and launching apps at once. It additionally helps 4K HDR video in apps like Netflix and YouTube, nevertheless it gained’t show superior HDR codecs equivalent to Dolby Vision and HDR10+. While the dongle solely has a single micro-USB port for energy, you should utilize a USB OTG cable to plug in an exterior USB onerous drive or recreation controller.

    slingairtnetflix Jared Newman / IDG

    The Sling TV app launches mechanically when the AirTV Mini boots up.

    Whenever you boot up the AirTV Mini, it masses straight into Sling TV, whether or not you’re paying for the reside TV service or not. (Read our full Sling TV review here.) The underlying software program, nevertheless, is Android TV, so you possibly can at all times hit the distant’s dwelling button to see a menu of different apps, equivalent to Netflix and YouTube. (The Sling TV menu additionally has its personal integration with Netflix, so you possibly can scroll by suggestions or bounce into the app with out visiting the primary app launcher first.)

    The distant management is equally Sling-centric. Alongside the standard directional pad and playback management buttons, it has an enormous blue “Sling” launch button close to the highest. It additionally has devoted buttons for viewing the Sling TV information, the channel recall menu, and the information display screen for no matter’s presently taking part in. None of those buttons serve any goal outdoors the Sling app.

    airtvminiremote Jared Newman / IDG

    The AirTV Mini distant has devoted buttons for Sling TV’s programming information, channel recall operate, and data pages.

    Unlike the AirTV Player from a pair years in the past, the AirTV Mini has no full-sized USB ports, so you possibly can’t straight plug in a TV tuner to look at over-the-air channels from an antenna. Instead, you’re supposed to make use of AirTV’s networked tuner, a separate $80 field that may stream broadcast TV into the Sling app over Wi-Fi. The AirTV tuner helps USB onerous drives for recording over-the-air channels as effectively, so you would probably have a number of AirTV Mini streamers served by a single tuner and DVR. (I attempted connecting the AirTV USB tuner adapter to the Mini by an OTG cable, however this solely prompted the Sling TV app to reboot with out recognizing it. Hauppauge’s USB tuner didn’t work both.)

    airtv box AirTV

    The separate AirTV networked tuner ($80) can stream over-the-air channels into the Sling TV app.

    Taken as an entire, the AirTV system is a handy method to mix Sling TV, different streaming apps, and non-obligatory over-the-air channels. If you’re used to how a cable field launches straight into reside TV, with distant shortcuts for most typical TV capabilities, AirTV gives an identical expertise. And combining Sling with an antenna stays a good way to economize over different reside TV streaming packages. The Sling app on Roku and different units may present the identical content material, nevertheless it’ll make you thumb by extra menus and click on extra buttons alongside the way in which.

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