THE BOTTOM LINE: Charter leaves little confusion during the buying process. Straightforward offers come without the weight of a two-year contract, but with that comes higher monthly rates and increases. You don’t get to choose your DVR, but can add up to four DVRs for a flat rate of $19.99. Spectrum TV’s offering may seem limited, but most users will find it’s enough to fit their needs.
- No contracts
- Flat-rate DVR service up to 4 DVRs
- Convenient virtual support
- Potential price increases
- No choice in DVR
- Low channel counts
Freedom comes at a price.
No-contract options are great for anyone who expects to move within a year or two, or otherwise doesn’t want to commit to a particular service and face potential early termination fees (ETFs). On the other hand, without an agreement established you could face rate hikes from month to month. Charter bills you in advance, so you’ll always be aware of rate increases before you actually owe, giving you an opportunity to inquire about any changes.
Charter is currently offering to buy out new customers’ existing TV contracts for up to $500 for their Triple Play service (internet/TV/phone), which could be appealing for anyone looking to switch. Triple Play comes with a DVR, so it’s worth looking into if you also need internet and phone. This offer has no definitive end date.
Charter comes with a broadcast TV service charge of $6.05 per month, which is par for the course. Installation for your new service costs $34.99 ($49.99 with a $15 discount), which isn’t the highest we’ve seen, but plenty of providers like DISH and DIRECTV provide installation for free. When it comes to keeping your equipment in proper working order, you can purchase the Wire Maintenance Plan for $4.99/month, which covers a basic level of “troubleshooting and repair of wires.”
You’ll want to plug in your zip to see Charter rates in your area.
Charter makes it simple to choose
Spectrum service only offers three different packages, with the difference between the first level Select and top level Gold packages being 75 more channels and $40, which is a pretty steep climb for not much more content. Considering AT&T U300 with ~390 channels is $99/month and Cox Contour’s Premier package is ~340 channels for $96/month, Charter’s 200+ channels for $99.99/month is on the weaker side. Charter’s straightforward packages could be construed as a lack of options, but this isn’t to say you won’t get what you need.
It’s important to note the lack of contract. For someone who isn’t planning on sticking around for two years, this is a blessing for avoiding early termination fees, but the downside is you could potentially see rate hikes.
“TV Select” package
The most basic package, this offering from Charter is great for anyone who doesn’t require premium channels or extensive sports coverage.
Notable channels: NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX. (Premium channels not included.)
“TV Silver” package
With 50 more channels, including three premium channels, the Silver package is a decent offering, especially considering the fact you’re not locked into a contract.
Notable channels: NFL Network, Nick Jr., DIY Network, FXM, FOX Sports, HBO, Cinemax, Showtime.
“TV Gold” package
Get everything you need with TV Gold. The top tier package includes all your favorite premium channels and important sports networks like NFL RedZone and ESPN Classic.
Notable channels: HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, The Movie Channel, Starz, Epix, Encore.
Check Charter’s site for more info on current packages, since they change occasionally.
You’ll get most of your favorites, but not everything.
Charter has a large library of 10,000 On Demand choices, with over 5,000 of them being free. Over 1,500 programs are available in HD. That being said, their advertised channel counts are low compared to other brands. For example, Charter’s TV Gold service features 200+ channels at $99.99/month, whereas Optimum’s Silver package is $89.99/month for 365+ channels.
Depending on your location, the true channel counts will become clear. For example, with the ZIP code we used, the Gold level actually features 495 channels. Many of these were the HD versions of regular channels, but with Charter, HD channels are free.
Equipment and features
A lack of choices may leave you wanting more.
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DVRs and receivers
Unfortunately, Charter doesn’t provide much info about their available DVRs. You don’t get to select your DVR, but the general rule of thumb is that newer customers get newer equipment; higher-paying customers get better equipment.
Charter provides you with a Spectrum TV with DVR receiver when you sign up for DVR service, but only if you get their Triple Play package. Otherwise, they charge an equipment rental fee of $6.99/month per DVR.
You’ll likely get an unspecified Motorola box or Scientific Atlantic box depending on availability. All Spectrum DVRs feature HD programming, storage for 300 SD hours/75 HD hours, and dual tuners to record two shows at once. These stats rank low with the other TV providers’ DVRs we reviewed. Comparatively, our favorite DVR, DISH’s Hopper 3, has 2,000 SD hours/500 HD hours and the ability to record six shows at once.
DVR service for a single box is $11.99/month, but if you want to record more than two shows, any additional DVRs bump the price up to the flat rate of $19.99/month. Each DVR adds two recording slots for the ability to record eight shows total simultaneously.
With the Spectrum App, you can use your phone or tablet to watch over 170 live channels, On Demand content, and even watch downloaded shows offline. Your device can act as a remote and also program your DVR.
*Note: You can only download regular broadcast content; On Demand content is only available for streaming. More info and a breakdown of DVR options can be found on Charter’s site.
Charter appeals to the customer with guaranteed results.
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Nobody likes waiting around for the cable guy. Charter wins points for guaranteeing a two-hour appointment window. If the technician fails to show up in the arrival window, you’ll qualify for a $20 credit on your bill.
Like most providers, Charter customer support is available 24/7. In addition, they have a Virtual Support Guide that works like a chat agent with canned responses that link to support articles (which is not much different than speaking with a real agent). It actually turned out to be quite helpful and provided information that wasn’t obvious in the checkout process, such as installation costs and broadcast fees. And while it’s not ideal that you have to use the Virtual Support Guide to find out basic info, at least you can find what you’re looking for without having to make a phone call.
When chatting with the sales agent to clarify information, we got the standard copy-and-paste answers we’ve grown all too accustomed to when dealing with TV providers. However, the scripted sales style isn’t convoluted, and the agents make sure to answer your question—or if they can’t, they’re honest about it. You can expect a quick response that satisfies your needs, but be prepared to hear about upgrade options and add-ons.
Charter’s value is easy to see.
Charter’s service rides the line of fair, non-contractual pricing and necessary features rather than charging you a lot for all the bells and whistles a basic user might not require. While it would be nice to have some say in which DVR you receive, chances are it will cover your needs just fine. And as always, high channel counts don’t equate to quality, and Charter carries the big names you’re after.
With HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime, the Silver package is the sweet spot for Charter at $79.99. You also get their Digital Tier 1 bundle which includes the NFL Network, Nick Jr., and Cartoon Network. A single DVR should work for most homes since you can record two shows simultaneously and watch live TV for up to four rooms. And although the Wire Maintenance service doesn’t appear to be very comprehensive, for only $5 a month, it’s worth the peace of mind knowing that Charter will take care of you in the event something goes terribly wrong.
Click here for ordering information regarding Charter Spectrum TV packages.