An previous enterprise adage says to go to the place your prospects are. Realizing that it is shedding cable subscribers however gaining broadband customers by the hundreds, Comcast is pivoting towards streaming. That is one motive why it is giving the Xfinity Flex streaming field to its Web-only prospects without cost. However whereas the Flex has numerous good options, equivalent to voice search and built-in good residence controls, it wants much more apps (although it simply acquired a giant one, particulars under) earlier than it could compete with the likes of Roku and the Amazon Fireplace Stick as one of many best streaming devices.
Xfinity Flex value and availability
The Xfinity Flex grew to become out there within the fall of 2019. Comcast Web prospects who don’t get cable TV service can obtain one Flex without cost. Further containers value $5 every, and a family can have as much as three.
The Xfinity Flex is a small, squarish field that measures 5 x 5 x 1 inches; it is about the identical peak because the Apple TV however with about twice the footprint. On the again, you will discover an HDMI port, USB-C for energy and an Ethernet jack for those who select to hard-wire the system to your router moderately than use Wi-Fi.
The highest of this grey field has a delicate design product of small, indented triangles, and the perimeters of the Flex are beveled. Whereas not as flashy because the shiny, black Apple TV or Amazon Fireplace TV Dice, the Flex’s design lends a modicum of visible curiosity to one thing you are in all probability not going to take a look at all that a lot.
The Flex makes use of the identical X1 distant as Xfinity’s present cable containers. It is not as minimalist as one thing you’d get from Roku or Apple TV — this distant has a quantity pad, as an illustration — however it’s in all probability less expensive for Comcast to make use of the identical distant.
There are quantity and channel rockers up high, media playback buttons under them, a D-pad within the center and a quantity pad on the backside. There’s even a Report button, however it would not do something.
I do not thoughts the additional buttons; what I do thoughts is how stiff they’re. It took much more effort to press the membrane buttons on the X1 distant than on another distant I’ve used.
Getting the Flex up and operating was simpler than beginning up different streaming units I’ve used. After I plugged it in, the Flex robotically discovered and related to my residence Wi-Fi community, with no enter required from me. I used to be anticipating to at the least need to kind in my password. After that, it was only a matter of logging in to my respective streaming apps.
Urgent the Xfinity button on the distant brings up the Flex’s important residence web page. The highest two-thirds have thumbnail pictures of exhibits or films which are at the moment enjoying, and on which channels. For instance, someday, once I turned on the field, MovieMax HD was enjoying Quantum of Solace, HBO HD was displaying Les Misérables and Epix 2 HD had No Strings Hooked up (exhausting go on all three).
Under these rows, there is a row of icons: Free to Me, Stay TV, New, Music and Right now. Most of those are fairly self-explanatory, however Right now is a singular addition to a streaming field. Choose it, and also you’re offered with numerous quick video clips of the day’s occasions, divided by class: Information, Sports activities, Leisure, Late Evening Highlights, and New & Trending on YouTube.
Farther down the homepage, you will discover content material sorted by extra classes (Genres, In style Apps and extra). On the very backside are icons for Search, Account, Settings and Assist. I really feel that, of those choices, Search and Assist ought to be on the very high of the web page.
For many who do not need to scroll by lists of exhibits, Xfinity’s voice search will show very helpful. Press and maintain the mic button on the distant, and you may search by title, actor, style and extra, and the Flex will search throughout your entire put in apps. Inside the outcomes display, you may as well filter outcomes by video high quality (SD or HD), whether or not or not it is free, and if there is a video description or SAP. Voice search labored nicely however the outcomes weren’t with out their quirks. For example, “Westerns” isn’t listed as a style, and for some motive, Fifty Shades of Gray is listed as a romantic comedy.
Apps and content material
Whereas it has Netflix, Amazon Prime and the premium cable channels (HBO, Showtime, Epix), the largest failing of the Flex is its extraordinarily restricted variety of apps and content material companions. For instance, there is not any Disney Plus, no Sling TV, no AT&T TV Now and no Spotify. CBS All Entry will not be out there till later in 2020. The one service that Flex will get forward of most different streaming units is Peacock. NBC’s new streaming service will probably be out there on the Flex on April 15 however will not roll out to others streaming units till July.
Flex is making progress on apps, as Hulu simply began rolling out on March 19. The service and its present will circulate into the highest of the house display, the Free to Me part. Additionally count on a New on Hulu row to maintain you abreast of latest content material.
Whereas the Flex is a brand new system, the shortage of a few of the largest streaming providers places it at a particular drawback in comparison with Roku’s and Amazon’s streaming containers.
Xfinity’s Flex hasn’t completely shed its cable roots. Press the Information button on the distant, and also you’re handled to a standard channel grid, which exhibits premium cable providers (HBO, Showtime, Epix, Cinemax, Starz) in addition to just a few different channels, equivalent to ESPN3, Cheddar, and the Dwelling Buying Community. The grid exhibits the channels whether or not you subscribe to them or not. I want that the information (and the Flex) might incorporate native over-the-air channels as nicely, much like what you are able to do with the Amazon Fire TV and the Amazon Fire TV Recast.
The Flex helps 4K, in addition to HDR 10 from all streaming providers and Dolby Imaginative and prescient when streaming from Netflix.
Good residence controls
Xfinity’s xFi app has some fairly good controls for many who use its cable modems. These options allow you to monitor and management who’s in your community and helps shield towards Web threats.
By way of the Flex interface, you may entry a few of these options, and when you’ve got an Xfinity residence safety system, you may obtain alerts by your TV and think about feeds from Xfinity safety cameras. It is a sexy additional characteristic for many who have or need a residence safety system. Nevertheless, Amazon’s Fireplace units allow you to view feeds from a a lot wider vary of residence safety cameras and video doorbells.
The Xfinity Flex is off to an excellent begin. It’s straightforward to arrange, has an excellent voice search, and allows you to monitor your good residence units and residential safety system. However in the end, a streaming field is simply nearly as good because the content material you may stream by it. Whereas Xfinity’s system has Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, when you think about the hundreds of apps out there on Roku and Amazon’s units, which value as little as $30, the Flex is way, far behind. However you may’t argue with free.