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Sling TV brings inexpensive live TV to Google's cheap Chromecast streamer (hands-on)

Now you can watch live TV for as little as $20 per month on a dongle that sells for $35. Sling TV, the Internet-based TV service with channels like ESPN, AMC and TNT, is now on the Chromecast.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Watching Sling TV is now cheaper than ever.

The live TV service, which competes against cable with a range of channels and packages starting at just $20 per month, is now available on the cheapest mainstream video streamer you can buy: Google's $35 Chromecast .

A version of the Sling TV app with Chromecast support is available today for Android tablets and phones, as well as Apple iPhones and iPad tablets. Compatibility for Windows and Mac laptops is "coming soon," according to Sling.

As usual when it reaches a new device, Sling is sweetening the pot with timed offers. Chromecast owners new to Sling TV can get a two-month free trial of the service's base $20 per month package via the Chromecast website (available later today).

If you don't already have a Chromecast, the companion offer might be appealing: prepay for three months of Sling TV's at $60 and you get a free Chromecast. Similar offers currently exist for more-expensive devices like Roku and the Google Nexus Player, as commenter JoeDMol points out.

Sling TV delivers 22 live channels in its base package, including ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, AMC, History, The Disney Channel and Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, and also offers packages with HBO, Epix, additional sports, Spanish-language and kids' channels for additional fees.

Unlike a traditional cable service it relies on your Internet connection, allows you to cancel at any time and streams to a variety of devices, including phones, tablets, computers, Roku , Amazon Fire TV and more (there's no app for Apple TV , but you can use AirPlay Mirroring). Downsides include not offering DVR functionality or even pause on most channels, limited on-demand content and only allowing one simultaneous stream per subscription.

For its part, Chromecast is a small device that connects to the HDMI port on your TV and uses your Wi-Fi network to stream various apps and services, including Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and more. Unlike a traditional home video device, it relies on your phone, tablet or computer as the "remote control," one of the reasons it's so inexpensive.

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David Katzmaier/CNET

Hands-on impressions

I fired up the new version of the app on an Android phone with the new 2015 Chromecast and it worked as expected, casting to the device with basically the same quality as other streamers I've tested. The TV showed the Sling logo briefly as the video queued up, but as usual most of the graphics were restricted to my phone.

Navigating Sling's crowded interface on the phone was a bit easier because it didn't overlay moving video, so I didn't have to swipe to summon it or move it aside when I wanted to watch--I just had to glance up at the TV. It connected as quickly as other devices when I switched to different shows, and responded well to other commands, although of course Sling restricts pausing, rewind and fast-forward on most channels.

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David Katzmaier/CNET

I was also able to 'cast to other compatible devices in my test lab, including a Google Nexus Player and Nvidia Shield . Of course those devices have "native" Sling TV apps of their own, which I generally prefer to using a phone as the remote--in particular with apps like Sling, with interfaces seemingly designed more for the big screen.