AirTV 2 review: Antenna TV and Sling TV merge, with mixed results

For cord-cutters, there’s nothing on the market quite like AirTV. Although it’s not the only networked TV tuner and over-the-air DVR combo you can buy, it’s the only one that ties into Sling TV, letting you watch local broadcasts and streaming cable channels through a single app.

AirTV now has a new version of the tuner that’s smaller and more attractive, with Wi-Fi 5 for streaming over either a 2.4- or 5GHz network. But while the idea of combining over-the-air and Sling TV is neat as ever, the $100 AirTV 2 tuner corrects hardly any of the original version’s mistakes. Some big limitations on audio and video quality still apply, and the Sling app can still use more ways to integrate over-the-air channels.

If you’re committed to Sling TV for the long haul, you might be able to look past those shortcomings for the sake of having all your TV channels in one place. But those who want to make the most of free over-the-air TV should instead look to other DVR solutions such as Tablo, Channels DVR, or Plex.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best over-the-air DVRs, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.

How AirTV 2 works

Be aware that the AirTV 2 itself is not a streaming video player, and it does not connect directly to your television. Instead, it hooks up to any over-the-air antenna and streams live TV to other devices, including phones, tablets, most streaming players, and some smart TVs. That way you can set up a single antenna wherever you get the best reception and watch on any TV throughout the house. You can also plug an external USB hard drive into the AirTV 2 and record local channels, effectively turning the device into a whole-home DVR for your antenna.

airtvrear Jared Newman / IDG

The AirTV tuner has a coaxial input for your antenna, an ethernet port for optional wired network connectivity, and a USB port for recording to an external hard drive.

What makes AirTV unique from other networked tuners is that it streams local channels through the Sling TV app. Although a Sling TV subscription is optional (prices start at $30 per month), adding one  gives you a single menu for both antenna and cable channels.

Once the AirTV 2 is plugged into outlet power with an antenna attached, you can complete the setup through the Sling TV mobile app for iOS or Android. This involves connecting to the AirTV’s Wi-Fi signal in your phone’s network settings, entering your router’s Wi-Fi password back in the Sling TV, and then connecting once more to your home network. (The AirTV also has a 10/100Mbps ethernet port if you have the infrastructure to support a hardwired network connection.) The AirTV will scan for channels based on your zip code and pull in guide data fromo the internet, at which point you can use the Sling TV app on other devices to watch.

airtvsetup Jared Newman / IDG

Using the Sling TV mobile app, you can connect the AirTV tuner to your home network for streaming local channels.

Unfortunately, AirTV’s over-the-air integration still doesn’t work on all versions of the Sling TV app. You can access local channels through Sling TV on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, iOS, and Android mobile, but not on Apple TV, game consoles, web browsers, or smart TVs from Samsung, LG,or Vizio. (In fact, the original AirTV tuner worked with a separate AirTV app on Apple TV, which wasn’t integrated with Sling, but this app doesn’t work with the AirTV 2.)

As with the original AirTV, the new version still has two TV tuners, so you can watch or record up to two channels at once. You can also watch local channels outside the house on any device that AirTV supports, but only with one stream at a time.