Thursday , January 28 2021

T-Mobile’s TVision live TV hands on: Worth $10 if you’re already a customer

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The TVision Vibe package offers a great mix of live channels for $10. But the more expensive tiers — and the $50 Hub streamer — are less compelling.

There’s never been a better time to cut the cord. These days, more than ever, people are looking to save money on streaming, and the selection of robust, affordable live TV streaming services make cable TV totally unnecessary. T-Mobile is throwing its hat into the ring with its revamped TVision service. After spending some quality hands-on time with TVision, I can tell you that it offers one tier that promises particularly good value at just $10 per month. The more expensive options? Not so much.

TVision began as a not-so-affordable cable replacement in 2019, but the service is now similar in concept to app-based services like Sling TV and Philo. At the moment it’s available only to T-Mobile wireless customers, with Sprint users scheduled to get access by the end of the year. Everyone else should be able to sign up in 2021, but likely for higher prices.

The entry-level tier, TVision Vibe, offers a grab bag of solid cable channels for $10 a month. There’s nothing else that comes close to that pricing — the next-cheapest option is Philo, which costs twice as much. Vibe is so cheap because its channel selection is very limited: no sports, news or local channels (ABC, Fox and NBC), and if that’s OK with you, it’s worth trying out. The other packages, which do offer those channels, start at $40 and are much less compelling.

TVision does have some excellent features, like speedy channel surfing and voice search using the optional $50 TVision Hub. But compared with other apps, its content discovery — meant to help you find new shows — is lacking. Overall we prefer Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV or YouTube TV over any of the non-Vibe packages, because their channel-for-the-money ratios make more sense and their apps are better.

TVision is a live TV streaming service exclusive to T-Mobile customers, and it includes a live TV guide, on-demand content and up to 100 hours of DVR. There are four different tiers:

It’s worth noting that the Vibe and Live TV channel lists are completely different, with no crossovers. Vibe includes channels such as AMC, Animal Planet, BBC America, Comedy Central and the Discovery Channel, while the Live tiers include the Cartoon Network, CNN, ESPN and Fox News. In addition, TVision offers Starz ($9), Showtime ($11) and Epix ($6) as add-ons or stand-alones. See the end of this article for a comparison with other services.  

Like Sling Orange and Philo, the entry-level package doesn’t include locals, and users will need to move up to the Live packages to get ABC, Fox and NBC (but not CBS).   

The service is compatible with Apple iOS and Android phones and tablets, as well as TV streamers and smart TVs including Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV/Google TV. But T-Mobile is hoping you’ll opt for the TVision branded Hub.

The $40-plus Live plans include 100 hours of cloud DVR storage, while those on Vibe or the add-ons can add 100 hours of DVR for $5 per month. 

The TVision Hub is a $50 Android TV box with a separate Google Assistant-capable remote. Though you don’t need the TVision Hub to use the service, the remote integrates TVision-specific functions. 

The TVision Hub is virtually indistinguishable from the TiVo Stream 4K and it’s also very similar to the Chromecast. All of these products are $50 and offer essentially the same functionality. Though there’s very little reason to buy the Hub instead of the Google product if you don’t use T-Mobile’s TV service, the Hub does offer TVision-specific integration through the remote and voice search. 

The remote offers three new buttons — Guide, DVR and TVision — as well as incorporating a number pad for directly inputting a channel’s number. 

T-Mobile’s new TVision app works on a variety of devices. 

Having used AT&T Watch TV in the past, and being used to its general sluggishness, I was pleasantly surprised by how zippy the app was — both when using the TVision Hub and on a (T-Mobile supplied) iPad Pro. Changing channels was quick, and skimming the guide was also very fast. Suffice to say, its general responsiveness is the best thing about the service. But being fast isn’t the only thing people care about.

Content discovery is important to any streaming service — for though you sometimes know what you want to watch, often you’re just trying to find something interesting. This is one area where the TVision app does particularly poorly. Sure, it has a standard grid-style program guide like cable, but beyond that it’s kind of a mess.

The app is broken up into five main sections: Home, Guide, Shows, DVR and Search. To get the menu onscreen, you need to press the TVision app button on your controller — pressing the Enter button brings up the playback controls. Unfortunately, the Shows subsection is the worst of all. It’s a jumble of random on-demand and recordable shows, but until you click on a title, there’s no indication of which it is.

If you’re using another device that isn’t the Hub — as most users of the service will be — the interface is slightly different. For example, the iPad app keeps the options onscreen unless you’re watching a show. The back button brings the menu up again, as it does on the TVision device.

Channel surfing is familiar on TVision: Press up or down while watching a program and it’ll switch to the next channel. It’s fast, taking only a couple of seconds. In comparison, AT&T TV Now could take up to 10 seconds to “flip.”

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Below I’ve included a comparison between TVision and the competition spanning 100 of the top channels. Not every channel is included, but all the major ones are.

Philo subscribers should definitely take a look at Vibe. Though Philo has a DVR and more channels overall, they share a lot of lifestyle favorites like AMC, Comedy Central and HGTV.

The more-expensive $40 Live package has ABC, Fox and/or NBC locals in some markets, but beyond that, Sling TV Blue has a comparable mix of other channels (and Fox and NBC in a handful of markets) for $10 less. We’d recommend that most people in that $40 price range step up to Hulu at $55, however, with its superior channel count (including CBS and more local markets for the other three) and access to Hulu’s on-demand library too.

For more details check out the full article.

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