Hawaiian Telcom is a solid choice for TV service for Hawaii residents—with a couple caveats. You have to be on Oahu to get TV service, and there aren’t any standout features to help it rise above competitors DISH and DIRECTV.
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.
Hawaiian’s best content is its family-friendly channels. You’ll also get some decent sports content and news content, but its international content is what stands out most.
Hawaiian has about half the local channels you’d expect. You’ll get the big ones like ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, NBC, and PBS, but you won’t get any Spanish-language locals.
Hawaiian Telcom offers a pretty standard sports channel selection. You get the usual ESPN, FS1, NFL Network, and other common channels, but not MotorTrend or NBA TV. That said, we think most sports fans will be able to find something to watch here.
Family and education: 4/5
If you have kiddos (or just love cartoons and educational content yourself), Hawaiian Telcom is a great provider. It has more family-friendly channels than most TV providers, including Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, both Nat Geos, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr., and Disney and Disney Junior. History and science lovers will be satiated, too. But you might miss Cartoon Network and Family Entertainment TV.
News and politics: 3/5
You’ll get most of the news coverage you want, including CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, and Fox News. But if you want Newsmax, the Weather Channel, or Spanish-language news, you’re out of luck. We also love how much international content you get, especially channels from Japan, Korea, and the Philippines.
Entertainment and lifestyle: 3.5/5
Whether you like movies, prime-time programming, reality shows, or cooking, Hawaiian has some channels for you. But you won’t get everything. You’ll get Comedy Central but not Laff, for example, and Grit but not INSP. But we think most households will be mostly happy with the lineup.
If you love home renovation shows, feel-good movies, and reality TV, Philo has a channel lineup you’ll love. But you won’t find sports, local channels, or news.
Philo doesn’t offer any local channels, so that means no local news, no primetime favorites, no local sports, and no awards shows. If you want this programming, we recommend checking out live TV streaming options YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV or a traditional TV provider like your local cable company or satellite TV providers DISH or DIRECTV.
Like with local channels, Philo doesn’t offer any sports coverage. You can catch some sports content on ESPN+ or get a decent variety on services like Fubo or Sling TV. If you want to catch every NFL game, you could even try the NFL Sunday Ticket premium channel from YouTube.
Family and education: 2/5
Where Philo is a poor choice for sports and news, it’s a great choice for families and kids. You get multiple channels from Discovery with the base package price, plus Animal Planet, Great American Family, Family Entertainment TV (FETV), three Nickelodeon channels, Story Television, and Science. There’s no Disney, Cartoon Network, or PBS, but we love that 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.
News and politics: 0/5
While you can technically catch BBC America and BBC World News on Philo, there’s virtually none of the news or analysis you would expect from traditional TV. There’s not even Late Night Tonight, and no 60 Minutes or PBS Newshour. You don’t get Fox News, MSNBC, HBO, or CNN either, and we didn’t happen upon any foreign-language news programming in our tests.
Entertainment and lifestyle: 2.5/5
Philo does better—a lot better—when it comes to stories, movies, and inspirational shows. You get all the Hallmark and Lifetime channels before add-on pricing, plus A&E and the up-and-coming INSP channel. We also found 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 Frost's Boss Moves and much more. Even better, you get to choose from four different MTV channels before add-ons.
For a small local TV provider, Hawaiian Telcom offers a really great value. The channel count is quite high, with some plans offering 395+ channels. Best of all, you can bundle both TV and internet together for well under $100 per month, depending on the specific plan details. Compared to some other providers, that’s a steal—particularly regional providers, which tend to charge more than major national brands like Xfinity.
Cleverly named after the inventor of the television, Philo 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. 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. You’ll also find 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) 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.
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. It’s also a nice option for subscription hopping, if you can remember to cancel within a few months.
Hawaiian's equipment covers all the basics and provides a decent experience, but it doesn't offer any exceptional features.
Ability to watch: Fine
Hawaiian Telcom equipment is pretty standard. You’ll pay around $9 per month for every cable box you rent. It also offers the usual selection of TV apps (for watching content and managing your DVR on the go), TV Everywhere support (for streaming your favorite shows wherever you are), and on-demand programming.
Ability to record: Fine
The DVR is fairly average—you can watch and record up to six shows at once, and then manage your recordings online or on your smartphone with an app. Unfortunately, it can only store up to 130 hours of HD content, which is far less than the best DVRs on the market.
Ability to find: Good
Hawaiian Telcom doesn’t have a voice remote to help you find your shows, but otherwise the interface is pretty good. You can sort your recorded shows by date, by channel, or alphabetically, for example. Parental controls are easy to set up and you can block content by channel or rating.
Philo is pleasant on a day-to-day basis, and works better than some of its higher-priced competitors. There's no 4K, though, and we found some platform-specific quirks.
Ability to watch: Good
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.
We didn’t run into any issues when we tried multiple devices and browsers from different locations, which was a refreshing change from services like Hulu + Live TV, which tracks your IP address. Unfortunately, there is no way to watch in 4K—Philo maxes out at 1080p resolution no matter how you’re watching.
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.
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.
Ability to record: Excellent
The DVR and on-demand experiences with Philo 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 are impressed 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.
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.
Ability to find: Good
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 channel guide itself is less impressive. Channel numbers aren’t listed (just logos) and you have to click into a program to get additional preview info. It works, but there aren’t a lot of bells and whistles to rave about.
Ability to share: Good
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 viewers, 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.
You can watch Philo on up to three screens at a time, without a lot of verification or hassle.
Hawaiian Telcom customers seem pretty happy with their service. The website has a great support section with lots of troubleshooting help, and live chat and 24-hour phone help are also available. We don’t love how many equipment fees aren’t included in advertised prices, but at least they show up before you enter your payment details.
Installation itself is pretty standard, and the process is relatively straightforward. There’s a one-time activation fee of $34.99, but you may be able to waive it by activating online.
Philo makes it easy to sign up for the service, easy to sign in on different devices, and easy to cancel if you so choose. It’s also fairly simple to find and understand add-on pricing, and we love that the free trial lasts a full seven days even if you cancel midway through.
If you run into trouble, there’s a nice Help Center, a chat line, or a phone number to call. In this category, we believe Philo’s perfect score is well-deserved.