Three months ago I unplugged my Comcast cable box, packaged it up, and shipped it back. After a flurry of app setups on my new Apple TV 4K, I'd gone fully digital, streaming cable channels via the DirectTVNow app and watching network shows via their assorted apps. Now that I've had the summer to experience the ups and downs of cutting the cord, I thought I'd provide an update for all of those dreaming of losing the cable box.
Short answer: I'm happy I did it, and so is my wallet.
My setup: DirectTvNow ($35/month) + HBO ($5/month) + Comcast Internet ($80/month) = $120/month, versus my previous Comcast Xfinity Bundle which topped $300/month.
I also received a free Apple TV 4K with my DirectTVNow trial.
I admit I wanted to go fully Comcast-free, but their internet speeds and pricing were considerably better than anything offered in my area.
- Streaming quality: No issues with buffering or stutters. The only change versus regular cable is that when you first open apps like DirectTV, there is a two second progress bar as the channel loads.
- Channel surfing: You surf channels on DirectTVNow the same way as normal, with the usual channel guide. DirectTVNow also has a built-in cloud DVR at no extra charge. The channel guide is designed to use Apple TV's swipe up/down/left/right remote. Unfortunately it's executed in a logical but non-intuitive manner. To get to a menu directly left of where your cursor is, you would naturally want to swipe left, but instead you may find yourself swiping up to the top menu, left across the top menu, then down to the side menu. Not a big deal, but a bit quirky.
- Finding content: Similar to Comcast voice commands, the Siri remote will let you search for programs by voice. In this case, it searches all apps (not just DirectTVNow), so it may respond with something like "Watch on AMC", seamlessly opening the AMC app and streaming the show. Often I just go directly to the network app. For example, I'll just open the HBO app and click on the John Oliver Show to watch the latest episode. Because nearly every tv show can be streamed from its network app, I rarely open the DirectTVNow app (because I'm usually not watching episodes live).
- Interface: The network apps in particular are very polished. The Disney Kids app has animated full-screen characters interacting with you as you browse episodes for their shows. It's much more engaging than just reading text on a channel guide.
- Local channels: At first, DirectTVNow only had Fox available for my local channels, which was an issue because there was some local content I wanted to watch on NBC. I bought a cable antenna and watched it live. Since then, DirectTVNow has added NBC to my local lineup, allowing me to record it using DirectTV's free cloud DVR. I still have the cable antenna - it's nice to know that if there's an internet outage I can still watch over-the-air tv.
- Games: I bought two Nimbus game controllers. Apple TV has similar games as your iPad, so you can play Minecraft, Asphalt 8, Lego Batman, etc. I have fun playing these with my daughter. Games like Asphalt 8 or Skyforce really feel like console games on a large TV.
- It took a good two hours to initially set up all the apps. Every single one needs to be activated by going to a webpage and typing in a code, and everyone needs to be connected to your DirectTVNow account.
- Infrequently an app will log itself out of DirectTVNow, prompting you to enter your email/password to watch content. It's quick - AppleTV remembers your logins - but a bit of a nuisance.
- The Apple TV remote is a bit too modern. When surfing, you swipe up/down on its touchpad, which gets old quickly, and you end up fighting with it as it overshoots channels. Call me old-fashioned, but touch surfaces are not always an improvement over physical buttons. Although the remote does turn your tv on/off and control the volume, it oddly has no mute button. I use the pause button when I have to mute the TV.
- Apple TV lets you do text searches, but does so in the most maddening way possible - by arranging the letters alphabetically in a straight line and making you swipe left and right one letter at a time. It's worse than trying to text on your cell phone from 1998. Fortunately you can use voice commands to either spell things or simply say their names.
- Not really a negative, but a bit of a surprise that the Apple TV app store is somewhat sparse compared to its iPad counterpart. I'd like to see more apps ported.
But, all-in-all, I'm very happy with my cord-cutting choice. Picture quality is excellent and I like how well integrated everything is. I'm continuing along my cordless journey, and enjoying the extra money each month.