Playstation Vue Access Slim vs. Sling Best of Live

Playstation Vue Access Slim vs. Sling Best of Live

("quick and dirty" comparison/review)
by Yasue Grogan

Sony Vue VS Dish Sling TV

First, Playstation Vue is NOW available for Roku. Wanted to mention it  because some of you will probably be wondering how it compares to Sling. 

I just inherited an Amazon Fire TV Stick and was messing with it anyway, so now seemed as good a time as any to take a tour. Many cable cutters use other streamers beside Roku! 

It's still early and this can change. I'm going to alternate between Strengths for each for now and summarize at the end. It's by no means comprehensive, just my "drive by" assessment. ;) 

Vue Strength: Variety

As of its nation-wide launch (mid-March 2016) the most basic Vue package has over 55 channels for 30 dollars. To get the same number on Sling right now, one would have to start with the $20 package with half as many channels (23) and add on several $5 packages, which could tip you over the Vue price! Note: Vue prices may vary in some large markets - I think you pay a bit more in some cities that have local channels included in the basic bundle. 

Of course, this may not appeal if you watch only a couple of channels that Vue has to offer, but I think in many households with a wide variety of viewers, it may be easier to assure everyone has plenty to tune into.

If you compare the two dollar for dollar/channel for channel right now though, Vue offers a lot more variety for less money even if you start increasing in price by going up a tier to their next package.

Sling Strength: Easier to Budget (IF you're careful!)

If the base channels offered by Sling appeal to your household, you're all set for a mere $20. If you need only a bit more, the add-ons are broken down more, so you can budget carefully and add or drop the monthly cost as you see fit. 

For example, if you're home more in the colder months, perhaps you'll elect to pick up a their $5 Hollywood Extra movie package (for example), but skip extra sports or kids channels. If you travel in the summer, you could only keep the basic package active and add a sports package and catch updates away from home. 

The drawback here again is that you'll quickly land at the same cost as Vue or even go over the basic package's cost easily. If you're one who likes the idea of changing up what's available on a month-to-month basis, Sling can be sensible though.

One warning: you must COMPLETELY cancel your Sling sub and restart it to change what you have. They have a sneaky-bad habit of NOT retaining your changes. The first time I tested it, I added two $5 packages; I'd logged in and removed those and updated my account. NOPE. They charged me for the prior add on packages. I blamed myself the first time (thought I was too tired) and removed/updated it again. NOPE. They charged me for all of it a second time. I'm still mad about that. I only picked Sling up again begrudgingly to watch the primary debates and town halls in real time. 

While it's not as bad as the stories we hear of people dealing with CoNcast hassling you to stay, they did more or less cheat me out of 20 bucks ($10 extra x2) as I see it. I had no issues or hassles with being charged when I canceled the whole shebang though. 

Vue Strength: More Playback Choices 

While I haven't had Vue for long, there seems to be SO much to go back and play that it makes Sling look a bit sad.  It breaks down like this: 

  • DVR-like function - you can "record" shows by adding them to a favorites list. Any shows after will be retained for your viewing leisure for 28 days. Bonus: this is held on their end, so you don't need a DVR of any kind (or any form of external storage). 
  • Catch Up - allows you to go back a bit and view episodes of shows you have already missed. For example, if you missed an episode of a serialized show and want to see it before the new episode, you can watch it first. As far as I can tell this feature is fairly robust too as most shows I examined had 3-4 prior episodes for me to choose from).

Vue Drawback - You CAN'T watch these away from home. Even so Vue does work with TV Everywhere (a mobile app) that allows for limited playback similar to Vue's Catch Up. If you're away Vue expects you to use their credentials (like a cable company verification) to log into the websites of each channel to access content on their sites. For many people this will suffice though.

Sling offers some playback, but ALL of it is like Vue's Catch Up feature. For example, if you want to watch a few episodes of The Walking Dead that you missed, they tend to be offered for viewing again close to the air date of the newest episode. The issue is that there seems to be no set time they may be there for you to watch. 

I've personally had major issues with Sling's playback freezing and failing to resume in the same place the episode (or even their app) crashes. This has resulted in starting the same episode OVER from the beginning and more often than not, it's not worth my time to do so. For this reason, I have never been impressed with or even counted on Sling's playback to catch up on anything. For me, it's always a "last resort" feature to use when there's nothing worth watching on any live channels.  

Sling has a few channels on which there is zero playback. For example, you can't go back and watch a documentary you missed earlier in the evening on CNN. Vue may have the same issues, but so far if those issues exist, it's well hidden in the sheer volume of what you can go back and catch up on or even "record".

Sling Best of Live Package Strength: Superior Portability

Sling is Sling is Sling on all of the devices we have in our house and I can use it on my Android tablet anywhere I go if have a secure wifi-connection to the Internet. This is great for anyone who travels. Vue is limited to (get this) within your own home andnowhere else. They have a Chromecast app - BUT it's only available for iOS devices. Even so, their app won't work on all iOS devices. Say what? This alone brings my appreciation of Vue down a few pegs. 

Vue Strength: Multiple Screens in Your Home

Unlike Sling, I don't see a limit on how many people in your home can stream at once. Keep in mind I might be wrong, since I have nothing portable to test it on (see above Sling Strength) and we have a single TV. If Vue fixes the strange lack of broad device/app support or if you have devices that DO work with it or if you are a many-TVed household, this is a dream for many streamers I know. 

Sit the kids down and let them watch Disney in their room. You can tune into the news with your sweetheart in the living room. Let granny watch a show on her iPad in her room...and so on. 

Vue Strength: Stability 

This may be a fluke, since I've not had it nearly as long as Sling, but with several hours of near-constant use, I had zero crashes, zero program freezes, and no pixelation (when the picture gets blurry and boxy) with Vue. Sling seems to have good days and bad days, but more often than not, it has good hours and bad hours. Sling can be the pits when it comes to stability. 

I've had some fairly aggravating quality issues with Sling. Keep in mind that this might vary, based on many factors too; Sling seems to suffer more when there's a big rush for a show's premiere and (for all we know) I may be very close to a server hub for Vue and far, far away from Sling's. It may also be that Sling has more subscribers trying to use the service, while Vue is new to a broad market. In any case, I feel like I spend too much time cussing at Sling or restarting their app and that's a big, fat buzzkill for me. 

Sling Strength: Easy Movie Rentals

This may not be a biggie if you have a Roku and keep a lot of access to various services (Netflix, Hulu), but I decided this *could* be a pro in homes that want to be budget conscious and only rent a movie here and there or if you have someone who likes to stay within one app for many uses. 

For example, I have a friend that is the least tech savvy person you can imagine. If she got used to Sling as her main app to stream, I think she'd like having quick access to a newer movie right within the app. For her, it would fill the on-demand rental niche she is accustomed to with cable. 

User Interface (Both UIs have Pros and Cons)

Sling's UI is pretty simple and very easy to learn. I appreciate that a great deal. My 83 year old father, whose most advanced tech is an old-timey clam-shell flip phone would do fine with it. I know, because I made him test it. That says a lot, since good UI always makes it easy for the least advanced user.

The key here is that there's very little to get lost doing and it's easy to move from one area to another within it with virtually no lag and no freezing in the UI. The UI is (mostly) built around a horizontal layout, with some vertical actions used to access extras. For example, you can move left to right and vice versa to see all the channels you can choose from at any time and they are grouped by themes. You use the up and down buttons on the Roku (or Fire Stick remote too) to read program details or open up any available playback. 

Slings drawback: there's no built-in program guide to compare ALL your program choices for the entire day/night at once; you need to look at each channel's list of current or upcoming shows. They do offer navigation of channels based around themes to mitigate this a little bit; for example, all of the sports or all of the movie channels can be clustered together if you are in a mood for one genre and need to look at only a few channels worth of listings. 

Vue's UI is robust and offers great exploration features if you don't know quite what to watch.

Though it's robust, it's still simple enough for anyone with a bit patience (even if they aren't very tech savvy) to learn. Anyone who's used a modern TV UI or DVR will adapt immediately. It's built in a similar manner to Sling, with a mix of horizontal layout and vertical navigation, though it takes quite a bit more clicking and up and down various actions to do things outside of simply watching shows. 

Some of it's shining features include: the ability to add shows and channels to Favorites lists. In the case of shows it will "record" but in the case of channels it gives you a customized program schedule, in which you can see what's on each channel in a grid (a style common on modern TVs and cable). 

Vue also has various ways to find new content. You can look up shows by genre and it will suggest similar shows you might want to add. You can view popular shows or shows suggested by other Vue users. In this respect it reminds me of using a service like Netflix of Hulu, where you might stumble into things you'd otherwise miss if you leave it up to chance as one must with Sling. With just 30-40 mins of poking around and exploring, I added several shows I had no clue existed, that I already like, so I know that will help me get my money's worth. 

The drawbacks: though their channels don't lag at all, the UI does lag at times. In some cases, it should recall preferences. For example, you can sort content by genres like Netflix, but it always goes back to the default, which is a minor annoyance if you're adding favorites from a single genre. 


Well this will be a matter of personal preference for sure. I personally find Sling to be extremely lackluster. I am a documentary and science nerd though. I enjoy sci-fi for drama most of the time and I'm even picky about that. Vue just has more channels with (my kind of) nerdy goodness.

Sling might very well have every channel you need and love. If so, that's good news for you. Even though I think Vue has a lot of great channels and I think their playback/discovery rocks, I have a feeling I'll tire of having more channels on Vue than I'll (personally) use, even if the value is greater in some ways. 

The channels for both can and will change, so keep in mind this is accurate as of mid-March 2016. Some markets for Vue may have different channels too

Click Here to Access Spreadsheet

Spreadsheet Directions

To address the section above, I've made a pretty basic spreadsheet (Which you can see here). 

Channel Name - this column has the (duh) the name of the channels. Overlapping channels on BOTH services are less common than I expected and those are highlighted in the Channel column in pale green.  

Because you may not know what each channel offers, the name of the channels are links. Click these to go to pages with the channel's schedule or list of shows. In some cases, Wikipedia had tidier lists than the official pages.  

Channel Theme - these are my summaries of what most of the programming seems to focus on, but may not represent everything they offer. For example, Entertainment/General is what I used if the channel had a mix of original programming and movies, but that doesn't mean they don't have reality shows. I use Lifestyle to describe things that seem marketed to a specific type of viewer ("foodies", wanna be builders, hipsters etc!). If you look you're bound to know one channel well enough to make sense of my descriptions. 

Live Y/N - this is more for future edits. Sling has some channels that are only video clips and Vue has On Demand content in some markets (ABC, FOX, etc). Right now MOST channels are live, but I can imagine we'll see more on-demand access integrated with both services.  

Channels Columns and Restrictions/Benefits Columns

Sling in one (pale yellow) column and PS Vue in one (pale orange) column. Each has a 1 if it has that channel and 0 if it doesn't.  

I'm more familiar with Sling's benefits and restrictions, so you'll see more details there for now. Vue may have more, but it seems to carry over into most channels, so it's not listed for all channels. Instead Vue's resrictions/benefits are summed up at the top, with a few differences in the On-Demand channels at the end.

At the very end, highlighted in BRIGHT yellow is the total number of channels in the most basic packages. Keep in mind that you can add channels to BOTH services. I only covered the entry level options here. 

Right now, I think Vue is a better service. Of course that can change at any time. Either way though, I'm glad to see more variety for those who want a cable-like experience without being held hostage by local cable. Competition for our dollars is always good. 

Yes, yes we ALL want ala cart channels, but I doubt we'll see that anytime soon. Very few companies own very most of the content and they ultimately decide to push all providers to carry ALL of their channels even if we hate that. Still, these two services are a step in the right direction for many consumers who are STUCK with a single cable option or no cable at all (rural areas). The smaller bundles from both seem to "get" that we don't want 200+ channels.

The only way to *really* know which of these two services is for you if at all, is to try out a free trial, which both offer. To do that though you need: a pretty fast internet connection and a device that can deliver Vue. 

I've seen people complain that that means you need a PS3 or PS4. You don't. It just doesn't work with Roku or some mobile devices right now. Check the site FAQ for details though and check streaming news for any additional devices and/or apps going forward.  

I hope this helps those of you who are curious about Sony's Vue streaming package as compared to Dish's Sling TV.

UPDATE on TV Everywhere usage with Vue: There is NO mobile support for Android at this point, only iOS. The website has two different sections that made it seem like they added broader support, but had some limits for iOS. In any case, the CS person I spoke with said to head to the official Vue blog and pipe up there about that and to let them know they should bring it to Roku. Here is a link to their blog,  to let your feelings be known.