Spectrum offers speedy, reasonably priced cable internet service, and a strong budget plan. We wish there were fewer fees attached, though.
Xfinity is a fantastic provider overall. It offers fast speeds, reliable service, and reasonable prices. Some plans still require contracts, and others still have data limits. Watch out for Xfinity’s hidden fees and spotty customer service record, but it may not be as bad as it once was.
Spectrum service offers a solid value—particularly at the lowest tier. There are only three plans to choose from, which could either be a plus or minus depending on your perspective. In this case, we feel it’s a good thing: the plans are straightforward and easy to understand.
The lowest-tier plan offers speeds up to 300 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary) at a decent price, according to government benchmarks (1). That's just $0.17 per megabit per second, with speeds that blow any DSL plan out of the water. The other two internet plans are less exciting, but still reasonably priced for the first year. After 12 months, your price could be up by $20 or more.
Xfinity is generally a very good value, especially at the middle and lower tiers. In fact, it offers some of the best budget plans of any of the major internet service providers, with a 50 Mbps Internet Essentials plan for less than $20 per month and a 400 Mbps plan for $50 per month in some areas. Those plans have a data cap of 1.2 terabytes per month, which is disappointing but common among cable internet service providers (ISPs). Removing it costs an extra $30.
The 400 Mbps plan, which is about right for an average family, is also a great price. It rings in at about 36% of the national benchmark in its range. (1) That means you're paying just $0.18 per megabit, with plenty of megabits to go around.
Faster plans are available, but they are pretty pricey compared to the best fiber internet competitors we reviewed. Some areas can get speeds up to 2 Gbps, and others can get plans as fast as 6 Gbps. That is ludicrously fast, but it’s also really expensive. Most households don’t need those internet speeds unless they’re streaming a ton of 4K content at the same time or have 10 or more users, so we don’t recommend them for most households. They do come with unlimited data, though, so might still be worth it for some households.
Spectrum offers speedy performance overall, with packages up to 1,000 Mbps available (wireless speeds may vary). The lower tiers are more exciting—almost every provider has a gig plan these days, but Spectrum’s lowest plan has speeds up to 300 Mbps, which is still excellent for all but the heaviest users. Additionally, there are no data caps on any of the plans, so you can use as much bandwidth as you like.
Speed is only half the equation, though—even the fastest connection is useless if it doesn’t work when you need it. Luckily, Spectrum is on par with its closest cable competitors here. It offers faster-than-advertised speeds most of the time, according to the US Federal Communications Commission (2), and earned the top spot for median speeds from Speedtest.net (3). Spectrum’s latency scores were a little higher than competitors Xfinity and Cox, but at just 25 ms, you’re still within the playability range for most online games.
Xfinity internet performance is excellent. Its speeds are fast and reliable. In fact, in many markets, it has one of the fastest internet speeds around. The service is reliable and consistent. If outages occur, Xfinity is responsive and generally restores service within hours. Xfinity internet is also highly rated for speed (2), and research from the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) scored it among the top for reliability (3).
Spectrum’s equipment setup is a bit different than most—at least when it comes to fees. There is no charge for the modem, but there is a $5 monthly fee for the wireless router (waived on the gig plan). What this means is that Spectrum gives you a separate modem and router, instead of a combined gateway. It also means you can opt to bring your own wireless router if you prefer. Customers can also add Wi-Fi extenders, called Pods, for $3 each per month. If you use the Spectrum router, you can use the company's highly-rated smartphone app to manage settings and parental controls.
Installation is straightforward and affordable. If you need a pro to come out, you can opt for a professional installation for $59.99. If you can handle the installation yourself, the self-install kit is about $25. We’d prefer free self-installation, but it isn’t the highest self-install fee we’ve seen, so we’ll take what we can get.
Xfinity internet offers the usual choice of professional and self-installation. The professional option is often more affordable than competitors, at $100. It's required if you haven't had Xfinity service at the address for more than 12 months. The self-install kit is free, though you may pay for shipping and handling. If you have trouble installing yourself, you can contact customer service for help but may face long hold times.
As for equipment, the Xfinity xFi gateway is fairly typical (and costs a fairly typical $14 per month). You can also add a Wi-Fi extender (and unlimited data) if you bump up to xFi Complete for about $15 per month for the first two years (and $25 per month starting in year 3). This is a bit steep for just the extender—you can grab an excellent Wi-Fi extender for right around $50. However, using Xfinity's equipment gives you unlimited data, and you qualify for a free upgrade after three years.
Read more about how internet bills work.
If you use your own equipment, unlimited data costs an extra $30 per month for lower tier plans, but is included for plans of at least 1 Gbps.
We’ll just come right out and say it: Spectrum has a lot of fees. While you may never see most of them, it’s worth noting that they’re there. Here’s a sample:
These aren’t going to be on every bill, and you may never see most of them. However, when you do, it makes for a poor experience.
When you add second-year price hikes in the range of $20+, things aren't looking good for Spectrum customers. However, Spectrum customers seem to be about as satisfied with customer service as customers with competitors Cox and CenturyLink, and it's only slightly worse than average. (4)
If Spectrum is the only cable provider in your area and your home isn't wired for fiber internet, we recommend the service. Just set a calendar reminder to contact customer service in a year and see if you can negotiate the price down!
The Xfinity internet customer experience is kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, you have reliable service, with the option for unlimited data if you want it. This makes for a great day-to-day experience.
On the other hand, Xfinity internet has a spotty customer service track record. Technically, it ranks above average on customer surveys (4). That said, we all remember the memes from a few years ago. While customer service seems to be improving (based on survey scores, at least), not everyone has a great experience, and we still see a lot of complaints about billing issues and miscommunication between the company and the techs it hires.
If you need to connect with the company, we recommend using its customer service portal and downloading the Xfinity app first before trying to reach reps by phone.