Just because you don’t subscribe to cable doesn’t mean that Comcast doesn’t want your money. On March 26, the cable giant will launch Xfinity Flex, an optional add-on for existing Xfinity Internet subscribers that will add a streaming device to your setup for an extra $5 a month.
For that price (plus the cost of your existing Xfinity internet connection), you’ll get a 4K- and HDR-ready streaming box that will connect your television to live video apps like ESPN3 and Cheddar and music platforms like Pandora. Xfinity Flex also comes with Xfinity’s voice-controlled remote, which Comcast says will give customers “the ability to use their television and voice control to manage all of the connected devices in their home.”
You’ll also be able to subscribe to premium streaming services and video channels like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO, and Showtime using the Xfinity Flex box, although you’ll have to pay the services’ regular subscription fees in order to use those apps. Internet television services that compete with Xfinity, like SlingTV or PlayStation Vue, will not be supported.
Basically, Xfinity Flex is the same as Comcast’s Xfinity X1 service, except without cable television. If you change your mind and want to spring for a cable subscription, Xfinity Flex will let you sign up for Xfinity X1 using the Flex box so you can start watching live TV right away.
Xfinity Flex doesn’t seem to offer much that you can’t get via other streaming devices, although for existing Xfinity internet subscribers, the convenience of having everything bundled together might be worth the nominal fee.
The price seems about right, too. While the Amazon Fire Cube, which we gave five out of five stars, retails for $120, Xfinity Flex will only set you back $60 a year, making it a decent stopgap while you wait for higher-end devices to go on sale.
On the other hand, if you don’t mind using your mobile device to control your video feeds, streaming sticks like the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Google Chromecast cost even less, especially if you haven’t upgraded to a 4K TV yet. You’ll also get to keep them if you switch internet providers, and you only have to pay for them once before they’re yours forever.