Made up of brands Wave, RCN, Grande, and enTouch, Astound offers internet-based entertainment that uses TiVo, Sling TV, and the Google Play store. Fabulous first-year pricing includes internet, but if you want premium perks or a provider you can grow old with, swipe left on this one.
Philo is a great value if you love feel-good movies, reality TV, and shows about home and family, but you’ll miss out on sports, news, and local channels. We put it to the test on browsers, phones, and streaming sticks, and we think it’s a fair contender for the softer side of live TV.
Astound’s base plans are pretty standard compared to competitors, and initial costs are low. However, if you start adding custom channels, costs quickly add up. Plus, after a year-long honeymoon with great introductory rates, Astound turns up the heat and quickly drains your bank account. Although Astound leans on Sling TV to deliver its live TV channels, it offers a better experience and more channels than just Sling alone.
Astound sells its TV and internet plans together. First, you’ll pick your internet plan, then you can add a TV plan. Whichever TV plan you choose, you’ll stream all your shows over your Astound internet connection, so getting the right internet plan is critical. If you’re a small household that doesn’t stream a ton of HD content, a 110 Mbps internet plan could be plenty. But if you want to take full advantage of Astound’s 4k streaming capabilities, we recommend at least the 400 Mbps plan.
Philo, a live TV streaming service cleverly named after the inventor of the television, is one of the cheapest live TV options we tested. It’s a great value for limited live TV and an endless array of movies, entertainment, and lifestyle shows. It offers HGTV plus all the Hallmark and Lifetime channels before add-on pricing, unlike some competing live TV services. There are other add-ons, but even if you pay for them all, you’ll still pay less than most of the other live TV services we reviewed.
It’s a nice price, but there’s a reason Philo can get away with charging less than half the other guys: there are no sports, no local channels, and very limited news options. That means missing out on more than just your local news broadcasts and home games. You’re also locked out of recently aired entertainment from PBS, NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox. A digital antenna is an easy workaround, but you’ll need a separate DVR if you want to save the content to watch later. You could sign up for on-demand streaming apps to make up the difference, but prices add up quickly.
Astound leans on TiVo’s Stream 4k device to combine the capabilities of a DVR, live TV (via Sling), and streaming services (via Android apps). If that sounds like a lot of stuff to try to sort through while your popcorn gets cold, you can use the voice button on the remote to tell your TiVo what you’re looking for—or ask it to give you a few curated options.
If you ever want to leave your couch (like, say, to run out and get more popcorn), you can use the Astound TV+ app to watch shows in line at the quickie mart, tap into a respectable 125 included hours of Cloud DVR storage, or schedule a future recording. Register up to 12 devices, and watch on up to five at a time.
If you love home renovation shows, feel-good movies, and reality TV, Philo has a channel lineup you’ll love. You get more than 60 channels, including Lifetime, Hallmark, A&E, and the up-and-coming INSP with the base package price. We also happened upon shows from TV’s rich past, including I Love Lucy, Father Knows Best, Matlock, Doctor Who, and even Touched by an Angel. There’s a strong selection of shows about the Black experience, too, including Rasheeda Jones’s Boss Moves and much more.
In addition to its own channels and on-demand offerings, Philo makes it easy to access free programming from services including Crackle, Cheddar News, Gusto TV, and RetroCrush, the new station featuring classic anime hits.
There are more than 60,000 shows in the on-demand library, but it’s hard to recommend Philo for most cord cutters. The service stays super cheap by skipping local channels, sports, national news, and many of the most popular national networks. (1) That means no games, no Modern Family, no Late Night Tonight, and no 60 Minutes. You don’t get Fox News, MSNBC, HBO, or CNN either, and we didn’t happen upon any foreign-language programming in our tests.
It’s not great, but there is a silver lining. Philo comes with a free trial and is easy to cancel online, so you can sign up for just a month or two whenever you’re in the mood for all the movies and programming it offers.
Astound uses a mix of cable, DSL, and fiber infrastructure, so depending on where you live, performance could vary widely. Your Wi-Fi router is your new best friend because you’ll be streaming everything, even live TV (Astound uses Sling for this). You aren’t required to run wires from a modem to your Stream 4k box, but you might experience more interference or have a harder time troubleshooting if you don’t. Because Wi-Fi.
Equipment costs with Astound vary based on where you live, and therefore whether you’re using Astound powered by Wave, RCN, Grande, or enTouch. Generally, equipment rental costs are low—just remember you’ll need to budget for both internet gear (like a modem and Wi-Fi router) and TV gear (like a DVR player).
Astound has a free self-setup option and often runs promotions for free professional installation (otherwise around $80). If your house already has working coax outlets, you’ll probably get off scot-free with no installation costs.
Philo offers many of the features you’d expect from a modern live TV streaming service. In our tests, it was easy to create profiles for different watchers, and the DVR libraries and favorites were kept separate. You can add up to 10 profiles and assign each a separate mobile phone number, so different users can sign in using their personal phones. However, there were no parental controls to be found.
The DVR and on-demand experiences were pretty par for the course in our tests, and Philo recently upgraded its cloud DVR to save recordings for up to a year. We like that you get three extra months to watch your recordings, compared to competitors Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV, which give you only nine months. Unlimited recordings is also pretty sweet, and we liked Philo’s 72-hour Rewind feature. You can use it to watch almost anything that’s aired in the last 72 hours, even if you forgot to add it to your library before it aired.
You can watch Philo on up to three screens at a time, without a lot of verification or hassle, and we didn’t run into any issues when we tried multiple devices and browsers from different locations. Unfortunately, there is no way to watch in 4K—the service maxes out at 1080p resolution no matter how you’re watching.
Overall, Astound’s Basic and Signature plan channel lineups are about average. The Premier plan has a few premiums included, but you’ll have to add most of these a-la-carte ($15–$19/month), for an additional fee. The upside is you can pick and choose a little more, but you won’t save much, so we’re not that into it.
Unlike many competitors, Astound’s lowest-tier plan (Basic) includes Fox Sports. Its mid-level plan (Signature) is pretty standard and includes sports like ESPN, Fox Sports, TNT, and the Golf and Tennis Channels. A top-tier plan (Premier) adds more music (CMT and MTV) and cartoon channels (like all the Nickelodeons). (1)
We tested the Philo interface on iOS and Android mobile phones, a few different web browsers, and an Apple TV. The interface was similar across devices, and the setup was one of the simplest among all the live TV streaming services we tested. After we entered payment info, we got right into the guide. The original browser saved our login info. Signing in later on different browsers and apps required two-step verification using a mobile phone number or email address, but we never had to enter (or remember) a password.
When you get to the Home screen on Philo, you’ll find a roundup of trending live and recommended shows, plus top movies and other categories. You can see whether a show is available on demand by clicking through to the episode description or by hovering your mouse over a particular episode, but there’s no way to tell at the series level. However, you can favorite shows at either the episode or series level, and saving a series means all future episodes will be recorded in your Saved library. You can also favorite channels, and that makes them show up first in the channel guide. It’s fairly simple to unfavorite, and the changes appear across devices instantly.
The viewing experience is about what you’d expect from a live TV provider, but with some oddities. Watching live, the only way to skip commercials is to record the episode in progress, wait several minutes, and skip ahead whenever the commercials come on. You can also fast forward through most commercials on DVR content, and some channels let you skip ads with one click on Roku streaming devices. The weird part was seeing political ads for candidates and issues in faraway states. We didn’t love the repetitive commercials that have become common on streaming services in the last few years, either.
We ran into some buffering issues with Philo on the Apple TV we tested, particularly with the channel guide. It happened on different devices in multiple locations, so we’re pretty sure it wasn’t a bandwidth issue. The slow loading wasn’t a dealbreaker, but we can see how channel surfers would be annoyed.
To get the most out of Philo, we recommend spending some time in the beginning to find and add your favorite shows. Within a few days, your Saved library will fill up with dozens of episodes to choose from.