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AirTV review: AirTV puts old-fashioned antenna TV air, there and everywhere

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The Good AirTV allows you to watch your over-the-air TV channels on any TV in the house, or on tablets and phones outside the home. Easy setup and integration with the SlingTV subscription service. There's no monthly fee for program information, and AirTV costs less than Amazon's Fire TV Recast DVR.

The Bad If you're not a SlingTV subscriber, much of the appeal fades. Unlike with Recast, AirTV's DVR features requires you to bring an external hard drive.

The Bottom Line For SlingTV subscribers who want to make it easier to watch local over-the-air channels at home and on the go, AirTV is a one-time investment that works almost invisibly.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Ecosystem 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 9
  • Value 8

When I finally decided to cut the cable TV cord, I knew one thing was certain. I definitely wasn't going to be one of those nutjobs who hang an antenna out of a window in an effort to pull in free over-the-air TV signals.

Dropping my regular cable service wasn't even a premeditated decision. Upgrading to a completely awesome 65-inch LG OLED meant moving the TV to a different wall, and the coaxial cable from the cable company wouldn't reach unless I added an extension and started routing up to the ceiling and over.

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Dan Ackerman/CNET

So, out of sheer laziness, I ditched traditional cable and went with SlingTV as my new live TV provider. Coincidentally, sheer laziness is why I found the AirTV box to be an overall useful and rewarding experience, and went back on my no-antennas pledge. SlingTV and AirTV are both subsidiaries of satellite broadcaster Dish Network, and their respective products are tightly integrated in the Sling TV app.

SlingTV worked for me out of all the available streaming options because it had most of the channels I was looking for, and offered some flexibility with tiers and pricing. But it was missing most of the broadcast channels, offering just NBC and Fox in my area. And none of the streaming services have PBS stations, which was a reason I waited so long to make the switch.

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People's Court or Murder, She Wrote? 

Screenshot/Dan Ackerman

AirTV adds those live over-the-air channels back in -- at least the ones available in your location -- and, more importantly, just sticks them in with the rest of the SlingTV lineup in the SlingTV app. Being as lazy as I am (see above), that part is key. I can barely be bothered to launch one app to watch TV, flipping to another app for a different set of live channels sounds like a real drag.

OTA meets OTT

The AirTV itself is a simple black box, about the size of an old VHS tape, with coaxial, Ethernet and USB connections on the back. You supply your own antenna, typically of the flat HDTV style that can be found for under $50, and connect it to the AirTV box via its coaxial cable. As far as hardware setup goes, you're done.

I then used the AirTV app (via iOS in my case) to connect the unit to my Wi-Fi, and synced it my account on the SlingTV app. After a quick channel scan, about a dozen new over-the-air channels were seamlessly integrated into my channel lineup. As a test, I flipped on the big-screen version of the Sling app, on my TV via Nvidia Shield.

All the over-the-air channels where there, and looked at least as good, if not better, than the Sling-provided cable channels. I did run into a little occasional stuttering, but that may have been because of my suboptimal antenna placement -- I literally just stuck it in the nearest window. Some channels showed up twice, representing duplicated signals in my area. 

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