Tech Junkie Review | AirTV adds antenna TV channels to your home network

Have you cut the cord?  Many people have, switching to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and SlingTV.  Problem is, you don’t always get local channels with these services.  Plugging an antenna into your TV is an option, broadcast TV is free afterall.  Problem is, you don’t get that fancy channel guide or the ability to record your favorite shows.  Colorado-based Dish Network is working to change that with their newest product called AirTV.  I took it for a test!

Hardware

If this box looks familiar, that's because it's basically the same plastic shell as the Slingbox.  This shouldn't be a huge surprise since AirTV is made by Dish, which also owns Slingbox.  On the back of the AirTV box you'll find just a few ports; power, ethernet and coax for the antenna.  It's as simple as it needs to be since it's basically just a router for your antenna signal.

The most important thing about hooking up the AirTV hardware is connecting an antenna that is in a good spot to receive your local channels.  This may take some trial an error depending on your location.

Setup

Simple.  I was actually impressed with how easy they made this.  I opened up the SlingTV app (yes, the same one that you use for streaming cable) and selected the option to add an AirTV device.  From there, it connected to the AirTV and prompted me to connect it to my home Wi-Fi network.  After that, the AirTV scanned my antenna signal and found my local channels.

That's it!  The entire process took about 5 minutes.  Luckily I have an antenna mounted on my roof so I didn't have to make any adjustments to pickup all of my local channels.  You may have to spend some time finding the sweet spot in your home.  The nice thing about the AirTV is that you can put it anywhere in your house.  Is the best antenna signal upstairs in the spare bedroom?  No problem, AirTV doesn't care.  As long as it can connect to your home network.

Using AirTV

There are 2 apps that you can use to access the AirTV.  One is simply called "AirTV" while the other is the SlingTV app that is used for pay streaming channels.  Either app can be used without paying any subscription fees.  In my opinion the SlingTV app seemed like a better option plus you can always add paid channels into the mix if you wish.  The folks at AirTV seem to suggest the same.

Using the AirTV in the SlingTV app is a seamless experience.  Your local channels pop up in the guide and you can switch from one to another just like you would expect.  In my tests, it took about 1-2 seconds to begin the stream after tapping on a channel.

Right now, you can't pause, rewind or record.  The AirTV product manage tells me that will be changing this year.  You'll be able to add a USB storage device (hard drive or memory stick) to the back of the AirTV box to store your recordings.  This will essentially create a whole-home DVR with zero subscription fees.

Whole Home?

Yup, once you setup AirTV you can use the apps to watch those broadcast channels anywhere in your home.  You can add it to the Roku in the basement, the FireTV in the living room and the AndroidTV box in the loft.  AirTV is essentially a router for your TV antenna.

Even better, the mobile apps on your Android device or iOS device let you take that live TV stream anywhere.  Heading out on a trip?  You can still watch your favorite local news or sports teams in your phone.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, you can get all of the channels by simply plugging that same antenna into the back of your TV.  You don't need AirTV... right?  What you won't get is a beautiful channel guide, a rich menu experience and the future-added capability to DVR your favorite broadcast TV shows.  AirTV is a huge step in the right direction for cord cutters.  Frankly, the experience of using an antenna directly into your TV stinks.  It feels archaic and AirTV bridges that gap.  It also takes that antenna signal and sends it to smart TV boxes throughout your home.  The decision by AirTV (Dish Network) to sell this box without requiring any type of subscription is awesome.  Sure, you can add SlingTV "cable" channels at a cost but you don't have to.  It's easily one of the most elegant antenna TV experiences yet.

AirTV is available right now directly from their website for $120.

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