Review: The AirTV 2 Broadcast TV DVR

by | Last updated Feb 5, 2024

The AirTV 2 is a two-tuner broadcast TV tuner that connects to your home network by Wi-Fi or Ethernet. The addition of an external USB hard drive (not included) allows viewing of live TV or recorded shows on a website or on the Sling app for Roku, Fire TV, Android, iOS, and other platforms. You can watch one show while recording another, or record two shows at the same time.

The Air TV’s sister product, AirTV Anywhere has an internal 1TB drive and four tuners, allowing you to record up to four shows at once.

AirTV works in conjunction with the Sling app, but you don’t need a paid Sling subscription to use it; you can sign in for free. Note that SLING TV L.L.C. and AirTV L.L.C. are wholly owned subsidiaries of DISH Network Corporation.

Although the AirTV 2 is a capable product, overall I recommend the Tablo Gen 4 for most people. If you want to be able to watch your recordings away from home, however, the AirTV 2 does that while the Tablo Gen 4 does not.

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Physical Design

The AirTV 2 is a small plastic box that stands vertically. The box includes a wall-wart power supply and quick start guide. As I mentioned, you need to supply a USB hard drive to do any recording.

The AirTV 2 box has ventilation holes near the bottom and at the top of the unit. I like this design because it allows cool air to flow in from the bottom and exit out the top.

AirTV 2 Rear Panel
AirTV 2 Rear Panel


If you’ve ever set up a Ring doorbell on Wi-Fi, the process is very similar to setting up the Air TV 2 on Wi-Fi. First, you need to install the Sling app on your phone and create a free account. Next, you’ll have to get onto the Air TV 2’s Wi-Fi network and enter your Wi-Fi network’s password (the app will guide you through this).

The Sling iPhone app going through the setup process
The Sling iPhone app going through the setup process
The Sling iPhone app showing I got 169 broadcast TV channels
The Sling iPhone app showing I got 169 broadcast TV channels

Or, you could set up the AirTV 2 using wired Ethernet, but I prefer Wi-Fi to avoid having to run long cables around my home, and to allow me to put it close to my antenna, not next to my router.

Set up went smoothly for me, except for when I entered the wrong Wi-Fi password. The app just hung. When I re-started it and entered the correct password, it worked fine.

After you do a channel scan, you’re ready to start watching live TV assuming you’ve connected an antenna.

One note, if you reset your AirTV, you’ll have to delete it from your app in order to restart the pairing process.

Tuner Quality

The AirTV’s tuner is excellent. My AirTV 2 picked up a whopping 169 channels in Los Angeles. More importantly, it was able to find VHF channel 13 and its sub-channels (where I watch Star Trek on Heroes and Icons), which my Tablo Dual Lite DVR wasn’t. So, that is a big win for AirTV! The tuner brings in more channels than the Tablo when connected to the exact same antenna in the exact same location!

UPDATE: Some months after writing this article, I re-tested the Tablo Dual Lite and the AirTV 2 tuners, and this time Tablo found more channels. It’s possible that Tablo’s firmware was updated to bring in more channels.

Watching Live TV

The Sling app offers some good free streaming content in addition to your broadcast TV channels. I found their free channels similar to Pluto TV’s. I was stoked to be able to watch The Walking Dead on one of these channels.

The channel guide is what you would expect with each row being a different channel and the columns being times. If you view all channels, the streaming channels are mixed in with your broadcast channels in the channel guide, making them hard to distinguish. Luckily, there is a “Locals” tab that allows you to see only your broadcast TV channels. The TV station’s logo is shown to identify the channel, which is great, but I wish it also displayed the actual channel number as well.

AirTV 2 channel guide on desktop
AirTV 2 channel guide on desktop
AirTV channel guide on phone
AirTV channel guide on phone

As with the other DVRs, it takes a long time (over 5-6 seconds) to switch from viewing one channel to another. With these devices, it’s best to just look at the channel guide to decide what to watch rather than to surf.

If you have a hard drive connected to your unit, you are able to pause live TV (contrary to what is said in some other reviews of AirTV; they’re probably using it without the hard drive).

Killer Feature: Watching When Away From Home

With the AirTV 2, you can watch your recordings and live TV when away from home using the Sling app! This is actually a pretty important feature now, since the Gen 4 Tablo can’t do it (some previous generation Tablos can do it though).

Picture Quality

When comparing the AirTV picture to the picture on my Samsung TV connected directly to an antenna, the AirTV picture seems more blurry with the artifacts (which I believe are in the original broadcast signal, not from the viewing device) more noticeable. Granted, this could be simply due to the Samsung doing more visual tricks like adjusting contrast.

Screenshot on my Samsung TV with antenna connected directly
Screenshot on my Samsung TV with antenna connected directly
Screenshot on my computer watching AirTV
Screenshot on my computer watching AirTV

Hard Drive Compatibility

To record, you need to attach a USB hard drive. That’s where I had my first problem. I’d been using a 160GB Maxtor USB hard drive with my Tablo Dual Lite for years with no problems. Unfortunately, when I connected this drive to the AirTV 2, it said the drive did not meet the minimum read and write speeds required.

Air TV 2 message saying my USB hard drive did not meet minimum requirements
Air TV 2 message saying my USB hard drive did not meet minimum requirements

Next, I tried using the 500GB Western Digital hard drive that I got from my Fire TV Recast, and that worked fine. Note that when plugging in new drives, you may get a message that no USB drive is attached; just let it sit connected. Sometimes it takes a while to recognize new drives.

The Air TV website DVR page used to provide a short list of drives that were verified to work with the Air TV, which are as follows at the time of writing:

  • Western Digital My Passport
  • Western Digital Easy Store
  • Western Digital Elements
  • Western Digital My Book
  • Seagate Expansion

The page seems to be down now, which is not a good sign for this product.

Anyway, in my experience, the AirTV 2 is a lot fussier about drives than other DVRs are.

Also, the AirTV 2 will only use the first 2TB of drive space of your hard drive. In other words, if you plug in a 5GB drive, it will only use 2TB of it. Tablo will work with drives up to 8TB in size and will use all of that space.

Recording and Discovering New Content

Let’s talk about how to record shows. On AirTV, you go to the channel guide and hover over the round record button. If the show is a series, then you’ll have the option to that episode only, new episodes, or new episodes and reruns.

That’s fine and works as it should. But, the Tablo DVR has a killer feature where you can see a Netflix-style grid of all of the TV shows or movies coming in the next two weeks. This is invaluable for finding new shows or movies to record and it reminds me of browsing Blockbuster Video in the old days:

Tablo app showing free upcoming movies on broadcast TV.
Tablo app showing free upcoming movies on broadcast TV.

On AirTV, you have to scroll through the channel guide, or type in the name of the show you want to record in the search form. That works, but you’re probably not going to discover something new to record that way.

On the Sling app home page, there is a grid of recommended shows, but unfortunately, those are mostly from streaming services. There’s no way to see just the upcoming free broadcast TV content in this format.

Recommended shows on the Sling app
Recommended shows on the Sling app

As a side note, the Sling TV web app has an obvious Record button. On the Sling TV app for iOS, there is no “record” button available while you’re watching live TV. Instead, you need to go back to the channel guide, press and hold on the show in the guide, then select Recording Options -> This Episode only.

No Manual Recording

In the comments, reader Ron pointed out that the AirTV has no way to do manual recordings, i.e., to set a recording time like a VCR, as opposed to using the guide.

Most people would never do that, but he lives in a part of the country that is between TV markets, so the AirTV guide that comes up does not encompass all of the channels he is able to get. As a result, he can’t watch or record all of the channels that are available with the AirTV.

Fast Forwarding – Slow!

On AirTV 2, when I press the “30” button to skip ahead by 30 seconds, it takes about 4 seconds to respond. Not ideal for rapidly skipping commercials. This is actually kind of a big drawback.

Going backward is equally slow.

Internet Access Required to Watch TV

Unfortunately, you can’t even launch the Sling app when you have no Internet access. That means you can’t watch live TV or recorded shows on your AirTV when your Internet is down. This isn’t a big deal most of the time, but one of the cool things about broadcast TV is the ability to still watch TV when your Internet is down.

Closed Captioning

AirTV supports closed captioning when playing back live TV. I have not verified, however, if it records closed captions and will display them on playback. It’s on my “to do” list but if anyone knows, please leave a comment below!


In my testing, the AirTV was pretty solid. The main bug I encountered was that sometimes the sound would go out after selecting a new channel. This could be easily fixed by closing the channel and selecting it again.

More problematic is how the device works with external drives. For example, if you unplug a drive without “ejecting” it using the software, you may have to do a factory reset to be able to use it again.


Here’s a summary of all of the aspects that I compared between the AirTV and Tablo Generation 4:

FeatureAirTVTablo Generation 4
Physical DesignStands vertically (may result in better airflow)Horizontal
Network ConnectivityEthernet and Wi-FiEthernet and Wi-Fi
Ease of SetupGoodGood
Internal StorageAvailable with or without internal storageHas some internal storage but can add more.
Number of Tuners22
Tuner QualityGoodGood
Watching on Multiple TVsSling app is available on many devices.App support for Generation 4 is limited but more apps are coming.
Watching Live TV and Recordings Away from HomeYes!Nope
Picture QualityGoodGood; Can get non-transcoded video when using external storage for even better picture quality.
Hard Drive CompatibilityWouldn’t work with a Maxtor USB drive that worked with Tablo.Good. Works with a lot of drives.
Max Hard Drive Storage2TB8TB
Recording and Discovering New ContentThe Sling app shows paid content mixed with broadcast content, making it hard to find free stuff to record.Tablo’s Netflix-style grid lets you see all broadcast TV shows and movies coming in the next two weeks.
Automatic Commercial SkipNoHad it before on Premium Service but discontinued now
Watching Recorded TVSkipping ahead is slow.Skipping ahead past commercials is much more responsive.
Manual RecordingNope.Generation 3 Tablo had this, Generation 4 doesn’t.
Requires Internet to WatchYesYes. With the old Tablo, you could watch live and recorded TV even without Internet.
ReliabilityI’ve encountered some bugs while navigating.There are some software bugs.
Channel Guide CostFree.Free.
Countries It Works InU.S.Gen 4 only works in the United States. Older Tablos would work in Canada as well.

AirTV Pros

  • No fees for the channel guide!
  • Great tuner (brings in the most channels).
  • Has Wi-Fi.
  • Can watch live TV and recordings away from home.
  • Easy to set up and use.
  • If you need four tuners, AirTV Anywhere offers four tuners.

Air TV Cons

  • Paid streaming services are mixed in with upcoming broadcast TV shows in the user interface, making it harder to find free content.
  • Doesn’t work with all USB drives (or any SSDs). Might need to purchase a recommended USB drive rather than use one you already have.
  • Only uses the first 2TB of drive space.
  • Can only set up recordings through the guide. No manual recording setup.
  • Skipping ahead (fast forwarding) is slow and cumbersome; terrible for skipping past commercials.
  • There is no customer service number listed on their website (as of September 10, 2023) that you can call if you need help. UPDATE: folks on Reddit say you can call this number for support: 888-363-1777 then 3.
  • App won’t work without Internet access.
  • Only works in the United States.


For most people, I would recommend Tablo Gen 4 over AirTV 2 due to the superior user interface, better drive compatibility, and better customer service. However, if you want to be able to view live TV and your recordings away from home, then AirTV is a good choice.

What do you think of your AirTV? Any questions? Please leave a comment below. For a walkthrough of using the AirTV on the Sling app, check out my demo of the user interface on YouTube:

Demo of AirTV on the Sling App

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Brian Shim,

I'm an electrical engineer (BSEE Caltech) with twenty years of experience designing industrial and consumer products, and now a web developer who loves to share ways to save money on TV content, Internet access, and cell phone plans! Read more about me here.

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1 month ago

Airtv has a customer service line should use it

1 month ago

Ok this info is outdated and in accurate for one the airtv2 has a lot more storage depends on hardrive size also picture quality depends on internet and antennae reception..

3 months ago

Thanks for the review. Informative. I’m using YouTube TV and enjoy it, but sling TV offers the channels I like at half the price. Free Sling TV app is working fine on my LG TV. I want to use my own USB storage device for recordings but the connectivity problems sound bad with Air TV 2. If I go with an orange or blue Sling TV package can I use Tablo as the front end app/guide to bring in and record Sling channels, ota channels, Tubi, etc?

3 months ago

I removed the account linked to the AirTV2, I verified all accounts signed off, I Factory reset the device.I reconnected all cables and rescanned the channels. I was able to get the device to recognise my HD but it just will not record. I then purchased a new AirV2. SAME EXACT Error. Internet is running over 200mb down and over 75 up so it is not the internet

Help the crying guy !!

3 months ago

Has anyone been able to get any support on the AirTV2 devices that are used with Sling ? Slings Customer service is in my opinion is ranked 11 on a scale of 1-10. They were absolutely useless. The Local Channels work fine. I just can not get the DVR function to work. Keeps giving me the following error “We’re sorry! Temporarily unable to record the program. Please check internet & try again. (Error 16-476)” or “We’re sorry! Temporarily unable to record the program. Please try again. [16-468]. I so wanted to get rid of my Tivo and use this device, HELP !!!!

4 months ago

With requiring internet access, and what you noted with less picture quality than Tablo, do you know if the video is streaming from your AirTV 2 to your streaming device direct over your home network? Or is it being uploaded from your AirTV 2 to Sling, and then streaming from Sling servers or whatever to your streaming device? Obviously direct over your home network is ideal. Would help me make my final decision.

Richard T
Richard T
6 months ago

I’ve had an Airtv 2 for several months. It worked well with Roku, but a got a new LG tv and the sling app under their OS is unstable. 3 days ago, the Airtv disconnected and wouldn’t reconnect. After a day and about 20 resets and reinstalls, I can now get local channels, but the OTA DVR is gone. For a long time it would simply not connect to the external drive, but after several more hours of reformatting and resets my iPad now sees the external drive, although my LG TV still doesn’t. But it doesn’t reallly matter because if I try to record something I get a “reason_0-0” error. Bottom line, Airtv is trash . Don’t buy it

Myles Minkin
Myles Minkin
6 months ago
Reply to  Richard T

Join the club. I reset the AirTv2 so many times I wore out the reset button.

Myles Minkin
Myles Minkin
7 months ago

MyAirTv2 doesn’t seem to support OTA recording anymore. It did for a while and it is listed as a compatible hard drive. I’ve reset up several times , reformatted the hard drive and I get an error message saying it’s not present. I’ve been trying to resolve this for months and you must know the problem getting tech help. Any ideas? Repeated setting this thing up from scratch is sending my nerves over the edge. As far as recommending this device; I can’t do it. As for quality, I’m on my second AirTv2 I had to return it and get a replacement. The first one wouldn’t set up at all, Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

Myles Minkin
Myles Minkin
6 months ago
Reply to  Brian Shim

I’ve finally determined the AirTV2 is junk..going into the trash. I’ve had 2 of them. The first one, I wasn’t ale to set up at all. I returned it. The second was not much better, as I couldn’t record with it. And that was using a Sling recommended hard drive. I don’t know Brian, but I really can’t agree with you on it’s usefulness. I finally wore out the reset button. It’s going out with the next trash pick up.

Thank you for trying to help though.

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