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.
Xfinity TV offers a lot of features and strong channel prices, as well as powerful internet to bundle up with. High fees hamper the experience, but Xfinity remains one of the best cable TV options on the market—and it’s also one of the most widely available.
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.
If you look at package rates alone, Xfinity is one of the cheapest TV providers out there—prices are low, and while the channel count isn’t the highest, it’s got all the most popular channels (1) covered. However, a slew of additional fees causes the monthly price to be quite a bit higher than advertised (it wouldn’t be a stretch to see $60 or more in fees on your TV bill, in addition to the package price). Ultimately, while the service itself is a solid value, it’s going to end up costing you.
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.
Xfinity offers the X1 DVR system, which is one of the best all-around DVRs on the market. It’s easy to use and offers a substantial amount of storage—up to 300 hours of HD video. The only unfortunate thing about the X1 system is that you need to order at least two set-top boxes to get an X1—the first box will just be a basic DVR without the advanced features and voice control. That said, many users will want at least one box for the living room and one for the bedroom, so this shouldn’t be too steep of a barrier to entry.
The standard X1 system comes with a sleek charcoal-colored remote with small buttons, but the company also offers a large remote with optional wrist-strap for customers who need the extra accessibility.
Xfinity also offers the Xfinity Stream app, which gives you access to your entire channel lineup, plus on-demand content and your DVR recordings, on any device. Xfinity Stream works on iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, and it’s a great way to stay up-to-date with your favorite shows while you’re traveling (or just waiting in line).
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.
Xfinity offers both professional and self-installation options. Having a pro come by costs less than $90, which is less than many other providers. The self-install kit is free of charge, though you may pay for shipping and handling. We generally recommend self-installation whenever possible, both because it’s cheaper and because you can do it on your own time.
Aside from the installation fee, you’ll need to determine how many DVRs you want for your home prior to installation. You don’t have to pay for them up front, and you can always add more later, but ideally, you’ll have the right number of boxes from the outset, so you can just start enjoying your new TV service.
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.
Xfinity has all of the premium channels you could want, including HBO Max, SHOWTIME, STARZ, Cinemax, EPIX, and more. Prices for these add-ons vary from around $5 per month to around $15 per month.
Xfinity also has a healthy selection of sports channels available, including ESPN, the Golf Channel, the Tennis Channel, MLB Network, the Olympic Channel, and many more. It’s worth noting that with sports, the selection does differ slightly between packages, so while the higher-tier plans offer more sports channels, you actually give some up in the process—just pay close attention to make sure you’re still getting the networks you want!
If the sports coverage isn't up to snuff, you may be in luck! Check out our expert resources on how to watch pro baseball, how to watch NFL games, how to watch hockey, and more.