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Xfinity Flex Review 2020: Free Is Free, but Is It Good?

Xfinity Flex adds more free shows and movies during the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Update 4/10/20: To help its customers cope with sheltering in place, Xfinity has added additional content and resources to its Xfinity Flex streaming device. New free content includes a preview of NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming TV service and 300 documentaries on CuriosityStream.

Are you an Xfinity internet-only customer? Do you want Flex right now? Request your Xfinity Flex package.

Price: 

Free to Xfinity internet-only customers

Customer rating:

(3.75 /5)

 

Data effective 3/27/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

What is Xfinity Flex?

Xfinity Flex is a free streaming device and streaming service available to Xfinity internet-only customers.

Unlike most cable, satellite, and streaming TV services, Flex doesn’t require subscribing to a channel package. It relies on free TV (and music and movie) apps, Xfinity’s vast on-demand library, subscription services (Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, HBO®, etc.), and a handful of free channels.

Xfinity Flex pros and cons

Pros

  • Affordability (it’s free)
  • Voice search across apps
  • Up to 4K UHD
  • Fast, easy installation and setup

Cons

  • No way to add or remove apps
  • No DVR
  • Commercials
  • No way to use existing credentials for premium-channel app

To get started, Xfinity customers can simply request a free Flex set-top box, perform the five-minute install/activation process, and start watching.

But other devices offer much more for a relatively small initial investment, making them flexier than Flex. (And, since Flex is available only to Xfinity’s internet-only customers, it’s not available on other devices).

Xfinity Flex vs. the competition

Swipe Left to See All →
ProductPriceDownload appsStorageVoice searchVideo quality
Xfinity Flex
View product
Free*

Up to 4K UHD
Amazon Fire Stick
View product
$39.99*

8 GB internal

(Alexa integration)
Up to 1080p HD
Amazon Fire Stick 4K
View product
$49.99*

8 GB internal

(Alexa integration)
Up to 4K UHD
Google Chromecast
View product
$35.00*

Up to 1080p HD
Roku Express
View product
$24.00*

Up to 1080p HD
Roku Premiere
View product
$38.99*

Up to 4K UHD
Roku Premiere+
View product
$44.99*

Up to 4K UHD
Roku Streaming Stick+
View product
$39.00*

Up to 4K UHD

*Amazon.com Price (as of 03/27/20 at 2:55 PM MST). Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. CableTV.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

† to Xfinity internet-only customers.

The Flex device and service are a nice way to aggregate movie and TV apps in one spot. But so much of Flex’s content has unskippable commercials. And you can’t add/remove apps—Flex gets more apps only when Xfinity adds them.

We feel like Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K and Prime Video service ($5.99–$12.99 a month) give you a more complete streaming experience for not much money.

Amazon’s stick gives you the same apps, features, 4K resolution, smart home integration, and voice search as Flex. You can also add/remove apps. Prime Video’s on-demand library is bigger and better—with no commercials.

But Flex is free, and free rules. So let’s buck conventional wisdom and look this gift horse right in the mouth. Maybe it’ll surprise us.

What you get with Xfinity Flex

Flex’s No. 1 perk is its price—both the device and service are free. It also has other redeeming qualities.

Stuff we like

  • XR15 voice remote
  • Low, low price (free)
  • Huge on-demand catalog
  • Voice search across apps
  • Easy plug-and-play install
  • Hulu app (coming Mar. 19)
  • Exclusive early access to the free and premium versions of NBC’s new streaming service, Peacock (late April)
  • Lighted voice remote that also controls TV
  • Ability to rent or purchase movies and shows
  • Smart home integration (requires Xfinity Home subscription)
  • Xfinity Stream app (for watching rented, purchased, and subscription content on mobile)
  • Ability to cancel and return anytime

What you don’t get with Xfinity Flex

Flex aggregates content that is already free. Many other devices support Pluto, Xumo, Tubi, and many of the other apps on Flex. And we’ve already mentioned how you can’t add or remove apps on Flex. But, as you’ll see from the list below, there’s more missing from Flex.

Stuff we wish Flex included

  • Local channels
  • A better way to sort “Free to Me” results
  • A way to add or remove apps
  • Internal storage or micro SD/USB slot
  • DVR
  • Spotify
  • Ability to skip commercials
  • Ability to use existing credentials for premium-channel apps

About that last item: If you already subscribe to EPIX, HBO®, CINEMAX®, SHOWTIME®, and STARZ® online, you can’t use your existing credentials to sign into them. You have to cancel your current service and resubscribe through Comcast/Xfinity. What the flex, Flex?!

How to get local channels with Flex

Local broadcast channels are free, but you can’t get them with Flex. You know how you can get them? Buy an over-the-air (OTA) antenna. We like the Mohu Leaf 50. It’ll pick up free stations in a 50-mile radius. For more information, check out our guide to OTA TV.

Xfinity Flex apps

Live TV streaming channels and services

Much of Flex’s live TV content comes from the free livestreaming services Pluto and Xumo, each of which delivers 100+ live TV channels. It’s all ad-supported content, though, so don’t expect to be able to skip commercials.

Flex will add NBC’s livestreaming and on-demand service Peacock (both the free and premium versions) when it debuts in April. That’s three months before the general public gets to check it out. And going forward, Flex users won’t have to pay the $5 monthly fee for Peacock Premium1.

  • Peacock (due late April)
  • Pluto
  • Xumo

Cross-referencing the streams

You wanna see what else is out there before going with Xfinity Flex or Amazon Prime Video? Be our guest. Check out CableTV.com’s guides to the best streaming services.

On-demand streaming apps

Here are some of the on-demand streaming apps Flex currently supports. Several of these (denoted by ‡) require a separate paid subscription, so the main benefit of them being on Flex is to have free Flex content and your favorite paid streaming services in one place.

  • Amazon Prime Video‡
  • Cheddar News
  • ESPN3
  • FilmRise
  • HBO®‡
  • Hulu‡
  • Movies Anywhere
  • Netflix‡
  • Peacock‡ (due in July; early preview for Xfinity Flex and X1 subscribers in late April)
  • SHOWTIME®‡
  • YouTube

Other streaming apps (games, music, etc.)

You can also listen to music on Flex with the following apps. It’s a shame that Spotify isn’t one of them.

  • Amazon Music
  • iHeart Radio
  • NPR One
  • Pandora
  • XITE

Xfinity Flex equipment, installation, and specs

Our Flex unit arrived in five days. Inside the box were the Xfinity Xi6 TV box, Xfinity XR15 voice remote, an HDMI cable, and a power cable.

Installation and activation are a breeze. Plug Flex in, power it on, answer a few easy questions, connect to Wi-Fi*, and pair the remote. We were ready to roll in less than 10 minutes—15 if you count the time it took to sign in to Prime Video, Netflix, and YouTube.

(*If you’re using a rented Xfinity Gateway modem, it’ll connect automatically—no need to enter your password.)

Xfinity Flex specs

  • Price: Free to Xfinity internet-only customers
  • Size: 5” x 5” x 1”
  • Video: Up to 4K UHD
  • Audio: Dolby Atmos
  • Storage: None
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11ac
  • Remote: XR15 Voice Remote

Xfinity Flex user experience and channel guide

In spite of its simple setup, Flex doesn’t have the smoothest user experience.

Flex has three guides—one for Xfinity (for premium channels) and one each for Pluto and Xumo. They’re the standard grids with separate tabs for live and on-demand programming, as well as some filtering options.

At first, it’s a little weird to switch between all of these guides and on-demand menus. Also, “Free to Me” isn’t as handy as it tries to be.

The Xfinity guide on Flex is a standard grid and shows only premium channels and a few of Flex’s freebies.

The Pluto guide on Xfinity Flex includes tabs for Live TV and On Demand, plus a category menu for filtering.

Xumo’s guide on Xfinity Flex is similar to Pluto’s, but with fewer filtering options.

The real headache comes when you’re trying to find on-demand content. Like a lot of streaming services, the on-demand guide is all carousel menus and tiles. Flex struggles to present its cornucopia of content, even when you can sort it every which way (alphabetically, by app/genre/new/popularity/service and more).

You’d think that “Free to Me” would simplify things. Nope. Remember, most of Flex’s content (Pluto, Xumo, Tubi, Xfinity on-demand, etc.) is free. All you’re doing here is filtering out rental/purchase-only titles. And if you’ve connected any of your subscription services (Prime Video, Netflix, etc.), you’ll have even more free stuff to sort through.

Marking favorites helps narrow things down. But we had trouble finding the on-screen favorites menu. The XR15 voice remote came in handy here (keyword: “favorites”).

Xfinity Flex’s on-demand guide: “Free to Me” has a lot of content to sort through.

Xfinity Flex remote user experience

The remote control is one area where Flex stomps the Fire Stick. Flex’s XR15 remote fits nicely in your hand, and we love the feel of the soft, rubber, backlit buttons. And the voice search feature is incredibly accurate—it hasn’t misunderstood one of our commands yet and searches across all of Flex’s apps.

The XR15 X1 remote will also control your TV’s power, volume, channel selection, and inputs. If it could adjust the TV’s settings, we’d happily make it our main clicker.

Side note: The XR15’s “Aim Anywhere” technology means you can point the remote at your bellybutton, your cat, or the mail carrier, and the signal will still reach your device.

Killer clicker: Xfinity Flex with the XR15 Voice Remote.

Xfinity Flex video quality and interface

Free doesn’t mean a thing if the picture quality sucks. Fortunately, Xfinity Flex can handle all resolutions up to 4K UHD with HDR. But what you see depends on the quality of the movie or show you’re watching.

We watched a mix of standard definition (SD) and high-def (HD) content. Everything looked how you’d expect, and we didn’t encounter any problems.

UHF as streamed on Xfinity Flex. “I dunno . . . What do you think of Flex?”

Xfinity Flex home page.

As for the interface, it’s a little different from other streaming services.

The onscreen controls don’t include rewind, fast-forward, 10-second jump back/forward options, or pause. You get an info/status bar with a channel up/down button and that’s about it.

We get it: free means watching commercials. But Xfinity could compromise and include a modest 20-hour cloud DVR that’d allow rewind/fast-forward/pause functions—just not during ad breaks.

Our verdict: Is Xfinity Flex good?

Overall, we think Xfinity Flex is good. Free is free—to complain too much about Flex and its frustrations would be silly. If you’re an Xfinity internet-only customer, you have nothing to lose by using it. And Flex is new; it could improve down the road.

If you have an internet-TV bundle through Xfinity and you’re contemplating cord-cutting, Flex might be a good first step when your contract ends. (You may even be able to sign up for both Netflix and Prime Video and still save money.)

That said, while the Amazon Fire Stick and Prime Video aren’t free, they equal a more complete and satisfying streaming experience. You’ll get almost all of the same content and features as Flex—plus a bigger on-demand catalog (with no commercials) due to its ability to add and remove apps. To us, that’s worth the money.

Xfinity Flex FAQ

Does Xfinity Flex have Hulu?

The Hulu Basic app is on Xfinity Flex as of Mar. 19, 2020. Xfinity X1 users will get Hulu on Apr. 6. All users will need a separate subscription to Hulu to use the app.

Also, NBC’s Peacock streaming service comes to Flex in late April—and both versions (Peacock Free and Peacock Premium) will be free to Xfinity X1 and Flex users. Everybody else will have to pay $5 for Premium.

How do I get Xfinity Flex?

Xfinity internet-only customers can request Xfinity Flex here.

Is Xfinity Flex worth it?

Xfinity Flex is worth it because free is almost always worth it. Xfinity Flex is a free 4K-enabled streaming device and service that gives you access to 200+ live channels and 10,000+ on-demand movies and shows. It has a clunky interface, and you’ll have to watch commercials, but free is free.

Can I use Xfinity Flex with my own modem?

You can absolutely use Xfinity Flex with your modem. When Xfinity first announced Flex, the provider required you to lease a modem from them. They’ve since dropped that requirement.

Can you use Xfinity Flex on a computer?

Xfinity Flex is a streaming device and service for your TV, so it can’t be accessed on a computer.

ENDNOTES

  1. Decider, “Do You Want an Early Peek at Peacock? You Need a Flex.”

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