Review: DirectTV Now

Review: DirectTV Now

 

DirectTV Now is a service launched by AT&T through their Direct TV brand. It’s the next iteration in streaming TV, and for the most part it’s a good idea, but it’s just not there yet.

There’s plenty of pricing information, and plan information directly on their website, so let’s not muddle in the minutia. My test devices included a Chromecast (1st generation), BLU R1HD Smartphone, Kindle Fire Tablet (7in), and my Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 14.

 

App Performance

During the entirety of the 7 day trial I could not watch either streaming or live video from the App on my phone, or tablet. I just received an error saying try again. Using the app on either to control the Chromecast worked quite well. There were times when switching channels I’d lose connection to the Chromecast and have to resend the show to it, but it was far and few between. The web interface was easy enough to use on my laptop, though some different color schemes would be nice; the schedule can be hard to read from a distance  due to it’s very mono-color interface.

As far as the actual streaming, once you’ve cast it (or started it in a web browser) it’s a fairly quick buffer time, and ramps the quality up after the first few seconds. It’s a neat trick to allow a near instant channel change, without having to pre-buffer everything. In my testing I could easily run two streams (1080p) in the house along with normal internet usage without problems. For reference I use a 50mbps link through the local cable company.

 

Content

The package I tested seemed bang on as far as content. Plenty there, with enough variety that it pleased the whole family. The live stream made it feel like you’re watching a standard DirectTV package, but lacks local channels. This makes it a little harder for cord cutters like myself, since I still have to have the bulky outdoor antenna (in my area) to get local channels. Their “on-demand” content lacks depth, and is a large disappointment. During the test phase there was 20 movies, and about that many TV series, usually without the previous seasons.

 

Overall

It was an interesting experiment, and is a step in the right direction. Having said that, the lack of DVR functionality, coupled with the lack of “on-demand” content means that this fails to meet my needs. Unfortunately in order to continue watching the shows we’ve been watching, we’d need to continue paying for Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. There’s simply too little content to be worthwhile at this point. Also as of this point in time, DirectTV Now is missing the console (PS4, Xbox) audience, and Roku audience. PS3 has been (until recently) our chosen method of consuming streaming video. It’s easier to have one box to teach the family to use, as opposed to several. DirectTV Now just isn’t a good fit for my family, or even me, at this time. It’ll be interesting to see how it continues to evolve, and I hope eventually it’ll be worthwhile. Happy computing!

 

(Bonus) What I’d like to see

A little extra item for the list. Maybe someone on the Dev staff over at AT&T/DirectTV will take note.

  • The ability to select and play items directly from the guide (Web/App), like in the traditional Direct TV set box experience.
  • When using Chromecast on an Android Device, minimize the play window, or shift it to a now playing tab. This way when using a mobile device you can see more than 1 or 2 lines of the guide.
  • Have a Search function in the guide, so I can search for a specific show, and see the time and channel it’s on.
  • If your not going to give us DVR functionality in the near future… a way to set reminders and tie into your calendar.
  • DVR functionality
  • A Roku “Channel” app
  • A Windows Universal app (So you hit your Xbox, PC, and Windows Phone audience)
    • You could even put the DVR function on the app, and save it locally so you don’t have to pay for storage in “the cloud”
  • Local channels
  • MORE CONTENT!