Provider Face-Off: Comcast vs DIRECTV and DISH

Comcast
Comparison Score: 86/100
Customer Rating: (3.8/5)
Best Price
$29.99/mo for 12 months

Digital Starter (80 chnls, promo pricing).
24-month contract required.
Fairly good plan with diverse programming; near the top of the heap of ANY national cable plan.

Max # channels
200+ channels

Digital Premier ($84.99/mo)
All channels are digital quality, with a growing percentage in HD.

Whole-home DVR
AnyRoom DVR Service

Includes one primary DVR (record and playback) and other "accessory" receivers that can ONLY playback (ie, no multiple recording).

On-screen Guide
Average, at best

It's serviceable, fairly slow and, at times, buggy.

TV, Internet & Phone Bundle
XFINITY Triple Play: $99.99/mo

TV: 80+ channels
Internet: 20 Mbps download (no cap)
Phone: VoIP, unlimited domestic calling
(won't work in a power outage)

TV & Internet Bundle
XFINITY Double Play: $89.99/mo

TV: 160+ channels
Internet: 20 Mbps download (no cap)

Customer Service
Below Average

Based on our experience (1.5 years as a customer) and visitor feedback, CSRs are really hit and miss. If a problem arises (with billing, service, etc), unfortunately, you can usually expect a bit of a battle.

DISH
Comparison Score: 89/100
Customer Rating: (4/5)
Best Price
$19.99/mo for 12 months

Smart Pack Plan (55 chnls, promo pricing).
24-month contract required.
The lowest price in the industry. Those 55 channels are all quality-level as well, you won't find any part-time or "toss-in" programming.

Max # channels
290+ channels

America's Eveything Pak ($74.99/mo)
All channels are digital quality, with about 65% available in HD.

Whole-home DVR
Hopper with Joey

Simultaneously record and playback on up to 3 different DVRs. Hard drive space: 2 TB. Learn more.

On-screen Guide
Improving

Clearly better than Comcast's, but just not as user-friendly as DIRECTV's guide.

TV, Internet & Phone Bundle
no phone bundles

DISH's infrastructure doesn't support traditional (landline) or VoIP phone service.


TV & Internet Bundle
DISH Bundle: $75.99/mo

TV: 145+ channels
Internet: 10 Mbps download (no cap)

Customer Service
Above Average

Years ago, their call centers were mostly outsourced and their reps clearly not sufficiently trained. They've drastically improved over the past few years and, recently, been independently rated at the top of the industry (JD Power).

DIRECTV
Comparison Score: 92/100
Customer Rating: (3.7/5)
Best Price
$29.99/mo for 12 months

Entertainment Plan (140 chnls, promo pricing).
24-month contract required.
Their second most popular plan, its value and channels are hard to match (they just don't go below $29.99/mo so DISH wins out).

Max # channels
285+ channels

Premier Plan ($89.99/mo)
All channels are digital quality, with about 70% available in HD.

Whole-home DVR
Genie DVR

Simultaneously record and playback on up to 5 different TVs (there's ONLY one box). Hard drive space: 1 TB. Learn more.

On-screen Guide
Industry Leader

Immediately intuitive with a superb design, it doesn't get much better.

TV, Internet & Phone Bundle
no phone bundles

Same story - DIRECTV won't be adding phone to their service for the foreseeable future.


TV & Internet Bundle
DIRECTV Bundle: $44.95/mo

TV: 140+ channels
Internet: ~10 Mbps download (no cap)

Customer Service
Above Average

Right up there with DISH. Agents are extremely patient and take their time troubleshooting issues and addressing any/all complaints. Haven't had a bad experience in over 4 years as a customer, it's actually a pleasure calling them up.



BUYING GUIDE

DISH versus DIRECTV
If you're leaning towards satellite TV, get a more thorough breakdown here.
Stack up the Specials
Compare the current satellite promotions and lock in the best plan available.
Channel Lineups
Find out which packages include your favorite channels in this interactive, side-by-side table.
Verizon FiOS vs Satellite
If fiber optic service is an option in your area, learn more about what Verizon FiOS has to offer.
Cable versus Satellite
Get a more general overview of how cable's features and options compare to satellite TV.
RV & Mobile
If you'll be on the move, use this guide to reliably stay connected at every turn.

More about Comcast

Comcast first came on the scene in the early 1970s. After unparalleled growth in the 90s, they're now the #1 cable and internet provider in the US, third in phone service. Obviously, they ground their teeth in the cable game, but Comcast intelligently utilized coax technology to bring high-speed internet (and phone) to their customers in the form of convenient add-on bundles. For the most part, we recommend Comcast TV to folks if they're already paying for their cable or phone service. Their bundling prices can be attractive, especially if you lock in a quality promo (expect having to sign up for at least a 2-year contract).

As mentioned above, Comcast's major downside revolves around their customer service. Amongst their current and former customer base, it's sort of a running joke at just how subpar it is. Simply put, there's a risk that comes with dealing with a huge corporation spread across different technologies -- when stuff breaks, their service reps often have to guess or play catch-up on the fly (you'll usually have to escalate the issue to resolve it). If you're technologically savvy, you'll probably be able to deal with the typical issues that popup on your own (receiver glitches, programming delays, etc.). Otherwise, you may want to consider going with either DIRECTV or DISH, where you'll get a bit more personal attention and decidedly better technology and programming options.

Xfinity Bundles

Early in 2010, Comcast rebranded their triple play bundle (TV, internet and phone) into the new Xfinity brand. Some have suggested it was done to move past the bad PR of the "Comcast" name, but for better or worse, it's the name of the product if you're looking to combine services (individually, they're now called Xfinity TV, Xfinity Internet and Xfinity Voice). The only exception is if you live in a smaller city or rural area where all three services aren't yet available; in that case, the company will still go by "Comcast." Back to the plans, here's how they breakdown:

XFINITY TV

  1. Limited Basic - 10+ channels, $24.99/mo.
  2. Digital Starter - 80+ channels, $29.99/mo.
  3. Digital Preferred - 160+ channels, $39.99/mo.
  4. Digital Premier - 200+ channels, $84.99/mo.
XFINITY Internet
  1. Economy Plus - 3.5 Mbps
  2. Performance Starter - 6.0 Mbps
  3. Performance - up to 15.0 Mbps (+5 Mbps with PowerBoost technology)
  4. Blast! - up to 50.0 Mbps (+5 Mbps with PowerBoost technology)
  5. Extreme 105 - up to 105.0 Mbps
  6. Platinum - up to 305.0 Mbps

Have something to share?

If you have a story concerning Comcast or you thought of an important feature not covered above, please feel free to get in touch.

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