Xfinity is offering its internet-only customers a new, free way to stream TV.
I signed up for Xfinity internet when I moved into a new home recently. The Comcast installation technician told me I was eligible to receive the Flex device for free since I was an internet-only customer. I was skeptical, but he left it with me to try.
After reviewing several streaming devices for Team Clark, including the new TiVo Stream 4K, I decided it was time to put the Flex to the test.
In this review, I’ll tell you what I liked and didn’t like about the Flex after spending a few days using it as the primary streaming device on one of my televisions. I’ll also compare the Flex to some of the most popular streaming devices.
Xfinity Flex: The Basics
What Is the Xfinity Flex?
The Xfinity Flex is a TV streaming device offered free-of-charge to Xfinity internet-only customers. It streams on-demand television shows and movies as well as some live streaming content. Streaming customers of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video can access their subscriptions on their televisions through this Comcast device.
The Flex also lets Xfinity customers use their TVs to control other Xfinity services, such as parental controls for the internet and in-home security (if they use Xfinity Home).
How Can I Get the Xfinity Flex?
You must be an Xfinity internet subscriber to get access to the Xfinity Flex. This device is not for sale on the open market and isn’t compatible with non-Comcast internet service.
Why Is It Free?
If you’re like me, you may be wondering: What’s the catch?
Presumably, Xfinity offers the Flex as a way to keep a competing streaming device — like a Roku or Amazon Fire product — out of your hands. And in that process, Comcast is keeping customers within its content ecosystem so you’ll be more inclined to rent movies, subscribe to HBO or even opt into additional Xfinity services like cable TV or home security.
It’s also a great way to promote NBCUniversal-related content, such as the new Peacock streaming network.
What Comes Preloaded on the Device?
The good news is that many popular streaming options are already loaded on the device. When you turn on the Flex device, you’ll instantly have access to the following:
- Peacock (free access)
- Pluto TV (free access)
- HBO (subscription required)
- Netflix (subscription required)
- Amazon Prime Video (subscription required)
- Hulu (subscription required)
- CBS All-Access (subscription required)
- Xumo (free access)
- Tubi TV (free access)
You also can stream music with the Flex, using popular services like Pandora, iHeart Radio, YouTube and Amazon Music.
The bad news is that you’re out of luck if you prefer a streaming service that’s not preloaded on the Flex device. Xfinity keeps the ecosystem locked down to its partner streaming apps: You can’t download an outside service like you would on a more customizable app. So for example, you’re not going to be able to watch YouTubeTV or Sling TV on the Xfinity Flex.
3 Things About the Xfinity Flex That I Liked
1. Setting It Up Was Extremely Easy
The Xfinity Flex setup process was painless. Assembly took me less than two minutes.
There are just four items included with the device:
- Flex receiver
- Voice-command remote control
- Power adapter
- HDMI cord
Setup takes just five steps: 1) Connect the power adapter to the back of the Flex receiver; 2) Connect the HDMI cord into the back of the Flex receiver; 3) Connect the power adapter to a nearby power outlet; 4) Connect the HDMI cord to your television; 5) Turn on the Flex receiver with your remote control.
Since the device is already paired with your Xfinity internet account, the Flex automatically connects to your in-home Xfinity WiFi. That cuts down on the setup time pretty substantially.
(Note: Your experience may be different if you don’t rent the Xfinity router/modem combo. You may have to set up the Flex manually, but you also may be saving money by using your own equipment. Nice work!)
2. Peacock Is Included For Free
This may be the top perk of the Flex. NBCUniversal, which also is owned by Xfinity-parent Comcast, has a live and on-demand video streaming subscription service called Peacock. It will be available to customers with any streaming device beginning in July 2020, but it will be free for Xfinity customers who use the Flex device. The normal price for the subscription level of Peacock is $4.99 per month.
Hit NBC shows like The Office, 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation will soon call Peacock their exclusive streaming home.
3. Flex Serves Many Functions if You’re Plugged Into the Xfinity Ecosystem
Xfinity customers will find that you can do more than just stream TV with the Flex.
If you rent Xfinity’s XFi to serve as your router and WiFi device, you’ll be able to personalize your WiFi network with your Flex remote control. It gives you access to information like how much data you’ve used, what time of day you’re using the internet the most and a device-by-device analysis of usage that you can monitor and limit with parental controls.
Xfinity subscribers who pay for home security through Xfinity Home can use the Flex to control and monitor settings through their televisions. And with the voice-command remote, you’re able to call up these functions with relative ease.
You also can access a local weather report and curated news stories from the Xfinity Flex menu screen.
3 Things About the Xfinity Flex That Were Pretty Lousy
1. It Doesn’t Have Most Popular Live Streaming TV Apps
Pay attention to this gripe, because I think it’s probably a deal-breaker for many streaming junkies.
While the Xfinity Flex does let you log in to some of the mainstream video streaming subscription services, such as Netflix and Hulu, it will not allow for live streaming TV subscriptions from a non-Comcast entity.
If you’re looking for free streaming TV options, the Flex does have services Pluto TV, Xumo and Tubi preloaded on the device. Those have some live elements to them, but they’re a far cry from the paid services.
2. You Can’t Add Any Additional Video Streaming Services
At the time of this writing, there is no way to access those streaming services via the Xfinity Flex. When comparing this to a Roku or Amazon Fire TV device, that’s a major drawback. Both of those allow you to add apps for many of the most popular streaming services.
3. The Remote Is a Little Clunky
After a few years of using a smaller, more minimalist remote with Roku and Amazon Fire devices, it was kind of hard to turn back the clock to use the remote Xfinity gave me for the Flex.
Take a look. From left to right: Roku Premiere, Amazon Fire TV Stick, TiVo Stream 4K and the Xfinity Flex remote.
As you can see, there’s a noticeable size difference. From the appearance, Flex’s remote is much closer to a traditional cable or satellite TV remote.
The functionality is probably closer to a classic “box receiver” remote as well. While there are some slight differences, the Xfinity Flex remote feels and functions much like the remote you get with Xfinity’s X1 cable television service.
As I mentioned earlier, the remote does have a responsive voice command system, so it’s not all bad news.
Can the Xfinity Flex Replace a Roku or Amazon Fire TV Device?
If you’re considering the Xfinity Flex, that likely means you’ve already decided to cut the cord from Comcast’s traditional cable subscription.
As a “first step” into the streaming world, I can see how the Xfinity Flex could be a good stepping stone device. It’s pretty easy to use, and it has a familiar “cable TV” feel with its interface and remote functionality.
It offers voice-command capabilities on its remote, streams in 4K and has a user-friendly search function that makes it easy to find content available across all apps. Those are functions that stack up well against a Roku or Amazon Fire TV device.
But, for most people, it’s not an adequate replacement for most popular streaming devices. As the streaming world advances and new services crop up seemingly by the day, flexibility is king with your streaming device.
And Xfinity is missing the mark by excluding apps that could be seen as competitors for its existing line of television products.
If you subscribe to popular streaming services like Disney+ or YouTube TV, it probably makes sense to forgo the Flex and spend $30 for a Roku Express so you can actually stream the content you like.
Are you considering using the Xfinity Flex as a streaming device for one of your televisions? Here are some pros and cons to consider before making the move:
Xfinity Flex: Pros and Cons
|Free for Xfinity internet customers||Restricted access to live streaming options like YouTube TV|
|Complimentary access to NBC’s Peacock||Missing on-demand streaming from Disney+ and HBO Max|
|Voice-command remote included||Only accessible for Xfinity customers|
Bottom Line: If you’re already an Xfinity internet-only subscriber, it’s worth trying out the Flex since there’s no financial obligation. You may find that you like it. And you may find the free access to the subscription-level of Peacock is worth keeping the Flex on one of your televisions.
But this device is useless to non-Comcast customers, and it’s severely hindered by its restrictions for live streaming TV apps. For most streaming consumers, this is not going to do the job if you’re looking to replace a Roku, Amazon Fire or Apple streaming product.
Do you have the Xfinity Flex connected to one of your televisions? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!