AirTV 2 still stands as a reliable over-the-air DVR custom built for the Sling TV app. It seamlessly blends local broadcast channels from your TV antenna with a Sling TV subscription. The potential cost-savings that an AirTV 2 brings compared to a cable TV or satellite plan is obvious. But these days, AirTV 2 has some serious competition from other subscription-free DVR models such as the 4th generation Tablo.
- Who is the AirTV 2 for?
- My personal experience with AirTV 2
- What I liked
- Room for Improvement
- Where to Buy
Who is the AirTV 2 for?
Cord-cutters come in many different stripes. There are antenna-only households, and there are die-hard streaming fans that have never touched an antenna in their lives.
But current market research suggests that there is a growing contingent of pro-antenna households that also rely on streaming services for part or most of the year.
Cost is a significant factor for OTA viewers, with 50% of OTA viewers in a 2022 Nielsen survey indicating that they watch free, ad-supported streaming services, according to 2022 findings by Nielsen.
Nearly 70% of OTA audiences spend less than $100 per month on TV programming, Nielsen says.
For households that are Sling TV customers no matter what, there is a lot of value to be had for combining your local channels with a streaming option for cable stalwarts such as CNN and ESPN.
My personal experience with AirTV 2
I started using an AirTV 2 in the fall of 2020. I have tested it alongside a variety of other over-the-air DVRs that I test from Tablo, SiliconDust’s HDHomeRun and Hauppauge.
Over the years, AirTV 2 has proven to be as reliable as an HDHomeRun or Tablo, but it comes with a different interface since it is locked into the Sling TV app.
The Air TV 2 debuted in September 2019. The third generation of this device, AirTV Anywhere, was released in September 2020 and included twice as many TV tuners (4 total) and 1TB of internal storage.
The AirTV 2 has a slender, tower design that measures about five inches high and about seven inches long. It’s made of a sturdy black plastic. The back of the DVR has a port for the antenna, power and a USB slot to connect an external hard drive needed to store recordings.
You can perform a channel scan within the Sling TV app. The Sling TV app makes it convenient to go between your OTA channels and cable networks that are part of your subscription. Within the guide section, you can even filter “Locals” just to see your broadcast channels from the antenna.
Ease of Use
The AirTV 2 works well as a plug-and-play DVR that just about anybody can use. Non-tech savvy people could easily add this to their subscription so long as they were using a decent TV antenna that was correctly installed and positioned.
To start using it, you plug in your TV antenna to the back of the tuner, and you scan for channels using the Sling TV app on your smartphone. The AirTV 2 connects to your router over WiFi so it doesn’t need to be near your WiFi router to work. But you do have the option to connect the unit with an Ethernet cord.
Just to avoid any confusion, the AirTV 2 is only for recording these local channels you get through a TV antenna. The AirTV 2 has two ATSC 1.0 tuners for the digital broadcast standard. It is not an ATSC 3.0 or NextGen TV device.
AirTV 2 doesn’t record channels that you get through your Sling TV account.
If you want to record your favorite show on A&E, you can use your 50 hours Cloud DVR that comes with your Sling TV subscription.
The AirTV2 is a network tuner, so in other words, it’s the same as a TV tuner that is usually found inside of a television. This is a two-tuner model. That means you can record and watch up to two programs at once.
Once you’re done setting things up through the Sling TV app, you can watch your local channels and Sling TV channels on your supported Smart TVs, Roku, Fire TV Stick, NVIDIA Shield, iOS devices, Android smartphones and an AirTV mini.
I have been impressed with the picture quality. One big plus for the new 4th Tablo OTA DVR has been its ability to show live OTA TV in its native MPEG-2 format.
AirTV 2 uses H.264 video compression format to encode and stream live TV and recordings over your network. H.264 is a widely used video compression standard that offers good video quality while reducing the amount of data required for streaming.
This compression allows for smoother streaming and compatibility with various devices and streaming platforms. However, it means that the original MPEG-2 format used for OTA broadcasts is transcoded into H.264 by the AirTV 2 to facilitate streaming and recording. This allows you to watch your OTA TV content on various devices and apps with better efficiency and compatibility.
The bottom line is that I, or another serious OTA enthusiast, would notice the difference between MPEG-2 and H.264 regarding picture quality. But most people would not.
I used an extra hard drive that I put in a case for recordings. I haven’t noticed any particular hard drive brand that works better with AirTV 2 than another.
One of the biggest advantages to the AirTV 2 is that there are no monthly fees for channel guide data.
On your Sling TV account, the settings are for a 7-day channel guide. But during my testing, I got only four days worth of data. Your mileage may vary on this. I don’t know if this was a technical issue on my end.
How to Record
To record local channels with the AirTV 2, you need to connect an external hard drive. Some people also use a USB 2.0 flash drive as a budget option. Note, it’s 2.0 and not a 3.0 flash drive. The AirTV 2 only supports USB 2.0. I didn’t try the flash drive option, but it’s worth mentioning.
In my tests, I used a hard drive that came from a computer that I put in a case. I also like to use Western Digital and Seagate hard drives for some of my other DVR setups.
A couple quick things to note about connecting a hard drive to the AirTV 2. The Sling TV app on your TV will prompt you to format the entire hard drive, so do not use a hard drive with data that you want to keep.
Regardless of what size hard drive you use, the AirTV 2 will only use up to 2TB of hard drive space. So I wouldn’t go out and buy a 4TB drive for recordings expecting to build up a massive library.
Sling TV isn’t known for a polished channel interface like you see on YouTube TV. But there are a couple of ways the Sling TV app serves up local channels that I thought were really nice.
One quick way to get to live over-the-air channels is by hitting the up button — or in my case, it’s the top of the wheel on my remote control.
The footer menu can filter local over-the-air channels.
A footer-style menu will pop up. You can move up to the top of the menu and choose over-the-air channels. You will also find your local channels if you were browsing under the all-channels tab. But using the footer and filtering the menu gets you there a lot faster.
There’s another way to just look at your local channels.
Under the guide tab, you can go over to your filter options in the upper hand left corner and choose “over the air”.
By the way, you can also do this if you’re watching TV on your smartphone. Just hit the filter button, and choose over the air channels. That’s really handy if you’re in your garage working on something, and you want to have a college football game playing as background.
Pausing, using a web browser
There are some limitations to using an AirTV 2 that you should really know about if thinking about buying one.
You can’t pause an over-the-air channel with the AirTV 2 when you’re watching live TV. And you won’t see your over-the-air channels if you’re watching Sling TV from a web browser.
If you can live without those two things, and you’re all in with using Sling TV, then I think the AirTV could be a real value for you.
Picture quality: Live TV & Recordings
I recorded a number of college football games from my local ABC stations, and a few other shows like Frontline on PBS.
I was satisfied with the picture quality.
All the live TV that I watched through the AirTV 2 was crisp and bright. The picture quality was on par with the Sling TV channels that I was streaming. I don’t think many people would be able to tell the difference between an AirTV 2 and just a TV antenna.
While watching live TV, I noticed that it takes a few seconds for an over-the-air channel to populate the screen. And there is a slight delay from watching those same channels when you just have a TV antenna plugged directly into a TV.
Fast forwarding is done in increments of 30 seconds, and there’s no preview window. Rewinding is done in 10 second increments. Both worked fine.
To get to recordings, I scrolled down to the “My TV” tab. And you’ll see that I have my over-the-air recordings and ones that are saved on through Sling TV Cloud DVR account. Overall, the AirTV 2 worked really well for me, and having local channels and streaming channels in one menu is a really nice feature.
You’re essentially able to replicate a channel lineup that’s similar to cable TV at a much lower price.
What I liked
What sets the AirTV 2 apart is its flexibility. Unlike some DVRs that require a subscription, AirTV 2 offers the freedom of enjoying your OTA channels without any monthly fees.
With the introduction of FreeStream by Sling, which includes approximately 335 free, ad-supported FAST channels, users can access a wide range of content without additional costs. This flexibility allows you to pick and choose when you need cable networks, ensuring you pay only when necessary.
Air TV says that it offers a 30-day money back guarantee on its DVRs, a one-year parts warranty and free shipping.
- Integrated channel guide with Sling TV
- No subscription fees
- Budget price point
Room for Improvement
This may be a very minor point, but a salient one nonetheless. I wasn’t crazy about the power port on the back of the AirTV 2. Performance-wise, it works well. But the prong design is uncommon.
If you were to lose this cord, or it were somehow damaged, you may be challenged with replacing it. A more universal fitting would be a positive improvement for the hardware.
Now that the Tablo 4th generation has entered the scene with its 128GB internal hard drive, polished interface and integrated FAST channels, it dings AirTV 2’s overall value proposition.
Nevertheless, AirTV 2’s solid performance and clear picture quality, especially for HD channels, make it a robust choice for those who seek a seamless integration of OTA and streaming content.
- Limited to Sling TV interface
- Transcodes from MPEG-2
- No internal storage
On a scale of 1 to 10, the AirTV 2 rates an 7.83 based on my hand-on testing and how it compares to other OTA DVRs that are at a similar price point. I initially reviewed the AirTV 2 in 2020, and my updated rating was made in December 2023 after roughly three years of on-and-off use.
|Value for money
|Ease of use
The AirTV 2 has been out for a few years now. It is currently priced at about $60 when you buy it from a major retailer. That’s about $40 less from when it debuted.
There is a lingering question as to whether AirTV will come up with a newer generation model. The last OTA DVR from the company was released in 2020.
If someone is an avid Sling TV user, but wants local channels in their lineup, then the Air TV 2 can be a good add.
Performance & Value ratings for AirTV 2
The AirTV 2 is a good buy at $60. But keep in mind you will need to purchase a hard drive separately.
It’s important to note that the AirTV 2 does require an external hard drive for recording, which may be seen as a minor drawback for some users. It’s also an added expense since most people probably don’t have a spare hard drive sitting around their house.
Customers should consider whether an AirTV Anywhere would be a better buy considering it already has 1TB of internal storage.
The AirTV 2 is a niche product that works with a live TV streaming service. That’s not a criticism, but I mention it so any potential customer takes a step back and considers their priorities.
If you just want local channels and the ability to record them, spending the extra money on a newer OTA DVR such as the 4th generation Tablo OTA DVR is a better buy.
But if you are set on having your local channels within the Sling TV menu, then the AirTV 2 is a fine, entry-level budget DVR for cord-cutters.
Where to Buy
The AirTV 2 is available on Amazon for about $60. But the better deal may be getting one with a Sling TV subscription.
AirTV sent me a complimentary review unit to test out their DVR back in 2020, but this was not a sponsorship. AirTV has no control over my review or editorial process. If you buy an AirTV 2 or another AirTV product through links here, I do use affiliate links. Any commission I receive helps support my work.