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Dish’s AirTV Brings OTA and Streaming Together

When Dish Network unveiled it’s AirTV at CES 2017 this year it promised to bring streaming and broadcast TV together in one device. I’ve been using the new AirTV for about 2 weeks now and want to go over the my experience so you can decide if this is the device you’ve been waiting for.

What is AirTV

AirTV is an android TV based streaming device from the makers of Sling TV. It also includes an option for a TV Antenna adapter. This allows channels received from  your antenna to be shown in the same interface as your streaming services.

You can purchase AirTV in two flavors; A straight up Android TV device for $99, or the device with an OTA adapter for watching TV channels received from an antenna. The latter costs $129.99. If you opt to purchase just the AirTV Android box, you can add the OTA adapter later for $39.99. Therefore, buying both up front will save you $10. Both can be ordered through Dish’s AirTV website.

AirTV also comes with $50 of Sling TV credits, so you can add a month or two of Sling TV free when you purchase AirTV. Although, Sling TV isn’t required to use the device. AirTV function’s using apps you can download from Google Play Store. This allows services like Hulu, Netflix, and HBO Now to also be used on AirTV. Ultimately, it works like any other streaming device.

AirTV Setup

The AirTV was surprisingly easy to set up. I purchased the $129 version with the USB antenna adapter. Everything you will need is included in the box, even batteries for the remote and an HDMI cable. Of course, you will need your own antenna. If you do not have one, you can check out my article for finding the best TV antenna based on your situation.

Connecting the device is simple. Here are the steps:

  • Connect the Air TV device to your TV with the included HDMI cable
  • Plug the USB/Coaxial adapter in the USB port on the AirTV
  • Connect the coaxial cable from your antenna to the coaxial connection on the adapter.
  • Connect the power adapter to power the device and turn on your AirTV using the included remote.

Once powered, AirTV walks you through each part of the setup step by step. It easily connects the device to your network, links you to your Google Play account, and scans your antenna for local channels. It even auto-discovered my TV and audio setup. Therefore, my AirTV remote was able to control the volume and power on my TV without extra programming.

Obviously, if you purchased the $99 AirTV without the antenna adapter, you can skip the steps regarding the antenna. AirTV, then functions like any other Android TV box.

AirTV Interface

As Dish is made by AirTV, the Interface is anchored in the companies Sling TV interface. From this interface, you have access to not only Sling TV content, but Netflix content, and your local OTA channels as well. Provided, you have hooked up an antenna to your AirTV.

Furthermore, you don’t have to be a Sling TV subscriber for the menu to work. You simply won’t have access to Sling TV content. Although, purchasing an AirTV will come with a promo code for $50 worth of Sling TV.

As stated earlier, AirTV is an android TV box. Therefore, anything you can install from the Google play store can be installed on your AirTV.  Once installed, they appear at the bottom of the main interface. Those not familiar with Sling TVs interface may find it a bit awkward to use at fist, but after a few days the menu’s become intuitive.

AirTV menu responsiveness is impressive. Navigation feels near instant. Furthermore, load times are minimal for the apps I have experimented with. As far as load times and responsiveness, AirTV is at least on par with Roku.

AirTV Features

AirTV is a well made streaming device. It holds it’s own against all the major players in the industry. Furthermore, AirTV features a robust voice search that works with Google Play Store. However, one thing that set’s it apart is the remote. The AirTV remote allows you to control the volume and power on your television. While that’s a simple enough concept, AirTV is the first major streaming device to seamlessly implement this feature. The remote includes a voice search microphone. There is also a locator button on the AirTV that pings the remote in case you can’t find it. This feature is a must if you have kids.

Another excellent feature included with AirTV is Chromecast Built-in. This lets you “cast” content from a Google Chrome browser right to your TV. While many apps already support Chromecast, you can also watch browser based content using Google Chrome with the Chrome Buit-In extension. Anything you can watch on a PC or Mac, you can now watch on TV by casting to the AirTV.

Here are a few of the specifications

  • Ports: 2 USB, 100 Mb Ethernet, TOSLINK digital audio, HDMI
  • Supports up to 4k UHD video
  • Supports 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz Wifi g/n/ac
  • CPU: quad core A53 @ 1.2Ghz RAM: 1GB Onboard Storage: 8GB

Is AirTV Right For You

I’m personally enjoying the AirTV. Since it’s an Android TV box, it has a lot of versatility through installing apps from the Google Play Store.  If you are a Sling TV user, it’s the device to have for the convenience of the interface alone. Add in the OTA TV and choosing this device is a no brainer.

As for performance, apps and content load quickly. The menu navigation is extremely responsive, and I haven’t experienced a single crash in the 2 weeks I’ve used the device.

Aside from having antenna TV and streaming all in one device, my favorite feature is easily the remote. I’m able to control my TV volume and power while loading apps with the same remote. Typically, you would need to purchase a universal remote to do this with other streamers. The only thing it’s missing is a headphone jack for quiet listening.

The only drawback is really one of android TV. That’s the lack of iTunes and Amazon Instant Video. iTunes is expected as Apple is a walled garden. However, the lack of an Amazon Instant Video app is a problem for many, myself included.

That said, there is a  workaround. You can use Chromecast Built-In to cast your Amazon content to the TV with a Chrome browser. It’s not the best solution as it forces you to rely on 2 devices, but it’s all we can do for now.

In the past, you could “side load” the Amazon Instant Video app, however, Amazon has been cracking down on that. They recently released an Android app for the nVidia Shield. Hopefully it will be available in the Google Play Store soon.

If you take full advantage of what AirTV offers by combining it with an antenna, then I recommend it. However, if you are just looking for a streaming device, I’d stick with Roku.

For those wanting to look into getting a TV antenna,  I’ve written a guide to help choose which an antenna is the best based on your situation. However, installation of an antenna may be a different story. Luckily, dish will help you with that as well. You can have a Dish technician come to your house to have the antenna installed.

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Categories: TV Streaming Devices
Dennis Restauro :Dennis is the founder of Grounded Reason. He also hosts the Grounded Reason Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: Follow Dennis on Twitter

View Comments (41)

  • Are there android apps that would replicate DVR functions (on screen guide, future or series recording, etc.) That would make this really useful.

    • Tablo is coming out with one, but that will only record broadcast networks from the Antenna. However, Sling TV is beta testing a cloud DVR to record the networks you can stream through their service. So the short answer is . .. soon.

  • what is difference between Sling TV and Dish TV?

    Are the Mohu antennas (30 and 60) as good as the directional antennas (EZ HD, HD Stacker)?

    • The question on antennas is relative to your situation. I'm in a situation where I wanted even gain from multiple directions so I went with a Mohu, however if you want gain in a certain direction I'd go with a directional antenna. I provide a bit more detail on the topic on this guide to picking the best TV antenna.

      As for DirecTV vs Sling TV it really depends on the channels you want. Both offer free trials. Try both and se which you prefer.

  • I am getting ready to " cut the cord" and have decided on dish Air TV /sling. I live in an apartment where i cannot use an outdoor antenna. My locale channels are in the 50-52 mile range. Would the new wireless antenna coming out soon work for me? I have thought about using indoor antenna's but am not sure if it would work as my apartment faces north with building and trees. Thank your for your help

    • Try an indoor rabbit-ears antenna. What do you have to lose? The higher you can put it, with the fewest obstructions (near window facing where most of the TV towers are), the bigger it is, the better your chance of getting a signal. Try it. If it doesn't work, return it to Wal-Mart.

  • Dennis
    Thank for the heads up on the new Dish Air-TV desk top box. For a satellite company offering TV service to market a product that is goign to cannibalize its own revenue surely is s sign of coming technologies.
    Have you (or will you?) put together a list of all the new Desk Top boxes that incorporate both OTA and OTT streaming? Would be a good resource if you have the time.
    Have you found any product that might work in the multi-tenant situation for both OTA and OTT?
    Have you seen the new Mi-Box http://www.mi.com/en/mibox/ not for use if it supports both, but the price of $69 is right.

    • I want to try the Mi-Box. I've heard they are decent, but I am yet to try it myself.

    • They should have the update out for that soon. I have mine up and running, I'm waiting for the update to come out before I put together a review.

  • AirTV does not appear to support Amazon Instant Video. I can find the app, and the customer service rep had never heard of Amazon video.

  • Dennis great article thanks for the info. I have one question for you. I already own a Tablo DVR do you think, or have you tried, using a splitter on the antenna? Would this still allow recording of OTA programs on the Tablo DVR?

    • While you could do that it would split the signal power so you may need to use a pre-amp to compensate for the added noise from splitting the signal.

  • I think the DVR capability is going to be critical for these all-in-one devices. This is a good step forward not haveing to integrate my own OTA and streaming device like I do today. I also am concerned about the Cloud DVR service from Sling. First want to control my content when I want to record how much and how long I want to keep it. Second is the "subscription" cost of a cloud-based solution can get prohibitive if I store much content. Memory is cheap.

    Next, a good scheduler is needed. Looks like that may be coming, but needs tight integration with the DVR.

    Totally agree MUST have Amazon. Casting is not a solution

    Thanks for the review... keep them coming.

    Tom

  • Can multiple TVs be used with this? Sling offers two simultaneous displays don't they?

    Thanks

    • They offer up to three on the Fox package, but only 1 on the Disney based package. However, you will need a device on each TV that you want to watch Sling TV on.

  • Dennis
    Good report
    You didn't say anything about the on-screen programming guide like the channel-master has. Is it included in the AirTV box?
    How do you connect other TV's in the house do they all need a desktop box and remote?

  • Hi Dennis. Nice article. You're one of the few places that answered my question about whether AirTV player has Ethernet connection. Would you know if you need to use the AirTV (antenna) adapter with the AirTV player, or could you just use any ol' off-the-shelf cheaper one (if it even exists?). Thanks.
    I'm almost ready to buy the AirTV player since the performance of the SlingTV app with my RokuHD box is pretty bad (frequent app crashes and freezes; buffering) -- if it weren't for the low $20/mo price, I'd go back to being a "cable/satellite hermit + OTA-only" which I was for 20 years before Sling came along.

    • Any antenna should work. I'm using mine with a Mohu Sky at the moment.

  • Our family watches Foxnews and Investigation ID...... I'm waiting for a streaming service to offer this in a live feed!

  • Dennis
    I have been using OTA for over a year and totally pleased, I have a Channel Master DVR device and like the on screen guide. But a few times a week late in the evening all the channel go blank. No pattern of time and it last up to ten minutes. We using an exterior antenna about 20 ft off the ground and w're about 40+- miles to most of the Jacksonville towers.
    The only common denominator might be fog. Is that possible. Got any suggestions?

    • It can be any number of things unfortunately. However, any signal loss related to fog should be mild. Are there any new structures possible shadowing your house?

  • Dennis
    Does the new Sling box have a built in wireless receiver, I don't want to run Cat5 cabling to my TV.

    • The AirTV? Yes the AirTV does. A "Sling Box" is a completely different device not related to Sling TV.

  • Terrible product and company. Mine has had nothing but glitches and technical issues since I purchased it. Company won't return it because it's past the "30 day return policy" window. They would exchange for up to a year but not until you mail yours in (at your expence) and wait for the new one to arrive. I am without a streaming player for a week or longer?!? Beware.

    • John, Thank you for sharing this. Mine worked great for about a month or two and then started with a lot of loading issues. I went back to my Roku. Anyone else having this issue?

  • The update added the ota channels to the tv guide. I really like the box but after of using it for a week, the ota channels keep getting lost. I had to reload them 2 ti es tonight. Anyone else having this issue?

    • Hi Matt,

      I'm seeing the same issue. I'm not sure if it's the adapter of the box itself. I would write there support and see what remedy they can offer you.

  • I have a Sling TV subscription (love it!) and ROKUs on all tvs where we access Sling TV. Will I be able to see OTA on all of my tvs through Sling TV with the AirTV & OTA adapter ? This is the last piece of my cable cutting process. BTW, no matter how much I search, I also end up on your web site. It's so helpful, informative and easy to understand. Thank you!

  • Have you tried using Amazon Underground to load amazon prime video onto the AirTV? You have to get to amazon underground from a browser but I assume you can install a browser onto AirTV. https://www.amazon.com/underground

    It requires installing apps from outside the app store, which I assume you can do on the airtv?

    • Yes, I've done this in the past. AirTV is android so it did work. However, that was last year.

  • The Amazon store app itself has Amazon prime in it so all you would have to do is install Amazon and open then go to prime then movies.

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  • Will the AirTV with the OTA adapter allow you to record local channels to the Sling cloud DVR service?