Cox Communications is one of the most expensive cable TV providers on the market, especially when you consider all the hidden costs. But if you want sports and premium channels, have only one TV, and bundle with internet and other services, this provider could make sense for you.
DIRECTV is our top choice for regional sports networks and offers channels for every appetite, but watch for price hikes, second-rate DVR tech, and hidden fees.
Cox Communications has two types of plans. Cox TV includes live TV and on-demand TV. Cox Contour adds the ability to connect streaming apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime to your TV and search their content using a remote. All plans come with a one- or two-year contract, after which you’ll be on month-to-month pricing, which is around $15/month more.
Although it looks like Cox has a ton of channels, its lineup (which varies by plan and location) is padded with up to 50 music channels. (1) Other than that, Cox delivers a decent—but not outstanding—channel lineup, and it’ll cost you more than other companies. You’ll get the most bang for your buck (and some sweet premium channels) with the Ultimate plan, but a Premium plan has plenty of channels for most people and the option to add inexpensive premium channels à la carte, which range from $5-$15 per. We don’t generally recommend the Starter plan because you can get most of its channels for free with an HD antenna, though its signal is less reliable than the coax TV that Cox provides.
DIRECTV’s satellite service is a solid choice for viewers who don’t have access to cable TV or fast internet, and it’s the only way to catch every Sunday NFL game. However, its high prices, required two-year contract, and steep second-year price hikes (up to $70 per month) make it a poor fit for budget-conscious shoppers.
Starting with DIRECTV’s first-tier subscription, you get access to HGTV, cable news, Nickelodeon, and ESPN. That basic offering starts at about the same price as its biggest competitor, DISH. For around $10 more each month with DIRECTV, you also get one season of NFL SUNDAY TICKET. But compared to both satellite and cable TV competitors, DIRECTV gets expensive fast.
With DIRECTV’S top offering, PREMIER, you get more than 340 channels. That’s more channels than you can get through most other cable or satellite services and more channels per dollar. You might not care about all the channels—specifically the music and advertising ones—but there’s sure to be something for everyone. You’ll pay extra for sports add-ons, but prices for these extras are on par with the competition.
Cox offers some solid features that make for a great entertainment experience. Its DVR service uses cloud storage so you can access recorded shows anywhere with the Cox Contour app. How much storage you get (50–1,000 HD hours) and how many shows you can record at a time (1 to a whopping 24!) depends on your plan, which seems sensible to us. When you have more channels, there are more shows to record, right?
While at home with your TV, you’ll use Cox’s “award-winning” voice remote. We couldn’t find the specific award Cox claims it won. Instead, we found it hard to remember which “convenient” feature each of the four lettered buttons commanded (help, accessibility controls, sports, and delete or cancel).
Away from your TV, the Contour app lets you stream shows, schedule DVR recordings, and adjust parental controls. The only casting device that works with the app is Chromecast, though, so you can’t stream with a Roku or Apple TV. (2) Unfortunately, this means many customers won’t be able to use the Contour app to avoid paying for cable boxes for multiple TVs.
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DIRECTV’s Genie HD DVR receiver is everything you’d expect from a premium cable TV or satellite service. It can record five channels at once and store up to 200 hours of HD content. That’s not quite as many channels as with the latest DISH Hopper 3 DVR, and you also get less storage capacity than with almost any live TV streaming service we tested. But unless you need to record a ton of content or several channels at once, DIRECTV’s tech should be adequate.
The included backlit remote comes with all the controls you expect for finding, recording, and selecting channels. It doesn’t come standard with voice control, but it’s possible to set that up if you have one of Amazon’s Alexa devices. You also won’t be able to watch streaming services like Netflix and Hulu on your Genie, but that comes standard with DISH.
DIRECTV reports 99% signal reliability (virtually the same as DISH), but if you live in an area with a lot of storms or other interference, it’s possible for your signal to drop out. If that happens, you can still access your DVR, find on-demand content, or stream online. You can also stream away from home using the DIRECTV app on your iPhone or Android.
Cox TV uses cable infrastructure to keep you reliably binging your favorite shows. Your first Contour box is free, and every additional one is $8.50/month. So if you have multiple TVs, you’ll have to rent more boxes.
If your house is already wired with cable jacks for all your TVs, self-install is a free, easy option. Professional installation varies by location but will run you around $75, which is pretty inexpensive. Learn how to choose between self installation or profressional installation.
Professional installation of your new DIRECTV satellite dish is included with your subscription and $19.95 activation fee, but you’ll have to schedule an appointment with a local technician. DISH also includes installation at no extra cost, but traditional cable TV providers can charge $50–$100 or more, even if you do the work yourself. Included installation is a big benefit, but you’ll pay for it in the long-run over the course of your two-year commitment.
Rental of your first Genie HD DVR receiver is included with your subscription, but you may have to pay up to $25 every month to use the HD DVR. You will also be charged $7 per month (plus activation fees) to rent additional mini receivers or to upgrade to the wireless version of the Genie HD DVR. Check the fee schedule from DIRECTV for a complete breakdown.
In comparison, DISH charges about the same for additional receivers and about $10 less to connect your DVR every month. Most cable companies also charge a DVR connection fee, but the DIRECTV DVR fee is one of the highest we found.
Cox cable TV includes a decent sports lineup in its Preferred (mid-tier) and Ultimate (top tier) plans, but not its Starter (lowest-tier) plan. ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, and the Golf channel are all included in a Preferred plan, and the Ultimate plan adds NFL Network, NFL Red Zone, the Tennis Channel, and the elusive MLB channel.
If you spring for the Ultimate plan, you’ll also get an extensive list of premium channels—including ten HBO, eleven Cinemax, five SHOWTIME, and nine STARZ channels—at no extra charge. If you want all the premiums, this top-tier plan is definitely your best bet! But if you want only a few, grab a Premium plan and add your faves when you check out. Unfortunately, Cox doesn’t let you add premium channels to a Starter plan.
DIRECTV is the only way to get NFL SUNDAY TICKET, at least through the end of this season, and it offers more regional sports coverage than the competition. That’s a big win! It offers premium packages for MLB, NBA, and international sports as well, but you’ll pay extra. You can also get a wide variety of college games, but it might be easier with DISH than with DIRECTV.
For the best of the best in entertainment and solid foreign language coverage, DIRECTV has you covered. If a particular channel isn’t included in your package, there’s a good chance you can add it for a fee. You even get the first three months of top movie channels included with the second and third tiers—just don’t forget to call and cancel or you’ll be charged premium fees.