We’ve shown some love for Spectrum by picking it as the fastest cable internet provider, but it’s still an internet service provider (ISP), which means it has its hangups—for example, not-so-fantastic customer service. As for Spectrum TV service, it can’t beat AT&T’s DIRECTV, which makes Spectrum’s DVR and TV service seem paltry and outdated. However, we’re not big fans of AT&T’s U-verse internet because of its lower-than-advertised download speeds. So how do you choose between these two not-perfect services for the best TV and internet service? Well, our pick for the best option (for most) might surprise you.
AT&T U-verse vs. Time Warner Cable Spectrum—overall comparison (TV + internet)
|Spectrum||$89.99–129.99/mo.||60 Mbps||125–200||View Plans|
|AT&T U-verse||$84.99–169.99/mo.||5–100 Mbps||200–550||View Plans|
If you’re trying to pick between AT&T and Time Warner Cable, you should know this first: Time Warner Cable is history—well, kind of. Charter Spectrum bought Time Warner Cable and rebranded it under a new name, Spectrum. We doubt anyone will shed tears that Time Warner Cable is no more, but since Charter Spectrum absorbed it, there’s been plenty of confusion over what TV and internet services are actually available where Time Warner Cable once existed.
The best option (for most)
We know you’re not most people, but we have to make a recommendation for the masses, or in this case, the millions of people who are trying to decide between AT&T and Spectrum (or old Time Warner Cable).
AT&T gets our pick for the best option (for most) for TV and internet service combo. The reason? AT&T’s DIRECTV is an almost-excellent TV service with flawed pricing (second-year price increases). However, if you get DIRECTV with AT&T internet, you don’t have to deal with DIRECTV’s pricing antics. Specifically, you get a flat rate for DIRECTV that will save you hundreds when you bundle it with another AT&T service.
Internet only—AT&T vs. TWC (Spectrum)
Spectrum internet only offers one plan, but we’d still take it over AT&T’s internet.
|Spectrum Internet||$44.99/mo.||60 Mbps||None||View Plans|
Choosing a Spectrum internet-only plan is easy—because there is no choice. No, but seriously, we think it’s pretty funny that Spectrum internet only offers one plan and that it’s called “Spectrum Internet.” (It may be the first time the name of an internet plan is truly self-descriptive.) The 60 Mbps download speed is best-case-scenario speed (it may be lower where you live), which offers plenty of value, especially when you compare it to a 5 Mbps plan at almost the same price from AT&T internet.
AT&T Internet Plans
|Internet Basic 5||$40.00/mo.||5 Mbps||1 TB||View plan|
|Internet 10-100||$60.00/mo.||10-100 Mbps||1 TB||View plan|
|Internet 300 (fiber)||$70.00/mo.||300 Mbps||1 TB||View plan|
|Internet 1000 (fiber)||$90.00/mo.||1000 Mbps||Unlimited||View plan|
AT&T internet gives you more choice for internet-only service than Spectrum, but its plans feel needlessly confusing. For example, the Internet 10-100 all have the same price: $60 a month. But we’ve confirmed that you get faster speeds depending on what’s available in your area. We joked about Spectrum’s lack of selection, but at least we’re not puzzled by what it’s trying to sell us.
We want our internet, and we want it fast
We know Spectrum is faster because we checked the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) report on “consumer fixed broadband performance.”1 Translation: it’s a report that measures ISPs’ download speeds. According to this FCC report, Spectrum’s download speeds are 100% of what it advertised. That means most customers get the download speeds as advertised—you pay for a 30 Mbps plan, you get 30 Mbps. Spectrum, and even the recently expired Time Warner Cable, delivered download speeds consistent with what it was selling. However, AT&T doesn’t come close to either Time Warner Cable or Spectrum.
AT&T’s actual download speeds were as low as 35% of what was advertised.2 Yikes! That’s like paying for 30 Mbps and getting 10 Mbps instead. To put it in perspective, a two-hour HD movie from iTunes can take as long as an hour to download at 10 Mbps instead of 20 minutes at 30 Mbps speed. That’s assuming you don’t share your internet connection with someone else or run other internet-connected devices (smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc.), which would affect your download speed and result in even longer download times.
TV only—AT&T U-verse vs TWC (Spectrum)
AT&T’s DIRECTV does TV service better than Spectrum (and U-verse!)
AT&T (DIRECTV) TV
Now that AT&T owns DIRECTV, there’s no real reason to hold on to AT&T’s U-verse TV service. In fact, every representative we spoke to tried to sell us DIRECTV instead of U-verse TV. We understand, though; DIRECTV has more HD channels, the exclusive NFL SUNDAY TICKET, and a DVR that can record 200 hours of high-definition (HD) programming. So we’ll focus on AT&T’s DIRECTV and ignore the lackluster AT&T U-verse TV.
TWC (Spectrum) TV
|TV Select||$64.99/mo.||125||View plan|
|TV Silver||$84.99/mo.||175||View plan|
|TV Gold||$104.99/mo.||200||View plan|
Spectrum TV service feels like a simple TV service, and that’s okay if you don’t need much. The difference in its TV plans comes down to channel count and price and not much else. The same Spectrum DVRs are offered with all three TV plans, but you don’t get to choose—you either get a Motorola or Cisco DVR, but you don’t know which until it’s sent your way.3 Spectrum isn’t bad TV service by any stretch of the imagination, but when you know what else is out there, like DIRECTV, Spectrum’s TV service becomes less appealing.
The TV dilemma: go with Spectrum or AT&T (DIRECTV)?
If you only want TV service and you’re trying to decide between Spectrum and AT&T, we say go with AT&T’s DIRECTV. Here’s the thing: DIRECTV’s smallest TV plan (SELECT) gives you 150 channels (some in HD) for $50 per month, and that’s including equipment (DVR, receivers, etc.). Spectrum’s smallest plan (TV Select) has a higher price with fewer channels and a DVR that can record only 21–45 hours of HD—we’d use 21 hours of that just recording The Bachelorette.
DIRECTV’s Genie records 200 hours of HD programming, so there’s no need to delete Army of Darkness off the DVR. It can also record up to five shows at once, whereas Spectrum’s DVRs can handle only two shows at once.
If you don’t share the TV or follow too many shows, the Spectrum DVR might work fine, but we’d take DIRECTV’s Genie because we never want to make a Sophie’s Choice of what to record—don’t make us choose between Chopped and Married with Children reruns.
If you’re more curious about channel selection, you won’t find too much that’s different between DIRECTV and Spectrum. Well, DIRECTV does have the exclusive NFL SUNDAY TICKET, but it’s more of an add-on service than a channel. If you’re devoted to a few channels, you’d do better to start with finding what plans have your favorites. For example, if you have to have the Food Network, you can check DIRECTV’s selection and Spectrum’s selection for it or other must-have channels.
We’ve covered most of the reasons to go with AT&T’s DIRECTV over Spectrum for TV-only service, but we have to bring up DIRECTV’s price increase. It’s the black eye on an otherwise good-maybe-great TV service.
DIRECTV requires a two-year commitment, and halfway through (twelve months), it jacks up the monthly service price. For example, the $50-a-month price for the SELECT plan increases to $90 a month the second year. That second-year price might be acceptable to you because it includes a Genie DVR, three receivers, and the monthly service fee, but it’s nowhere near the awesome value of that first-year, $50-a-month price. If it were up to us, we’d say just charge us a flat $70 per month for the length of contract, but that’s almost too practical, right?
TV + internet—AT&T vs. TWC (Spectrum)
If we’re getting TV and internet service together, we’d go with AT&T.
AT&T TV + internet
|DIRECTV SELECT + Internet 5||$65.00/mo.||5 Mbps||155+||View plan|
|DIRECTV CHOICE + Internet 5||$75.00/mo.||5 Mbps||185+||View plan|
AT&T’s TV and internet bundles bring AT&T’s internet and DIRECTV service together. It feels like an odd pairing because DIRECTV requires a two-year contract and AT&T internet requires a one-year contract. Also, AT&T sells DIRECTV at a flat price for two years, which is an awesome deal, but only if you pair it with another AT&T service for two years.
If all these AT&T conditions seem confusing, we don’t fault you for feeling that way. It can be hard for us to keep straight too. To be fair, it’s not just AT&T that deals in overly complicated conditions for bundled services, so be sure to ask plenty of questions and check the fine print before signing up.
Spectrum TV + internet
|TV Select & Spectrum Internet||$89.98/mo.||60 Mbps||125||View plan|
|TV Silver & Spectrum Internet||$109.98/mo.||60 Mbps||175||View plan|
|TV Gold & Spectrum Internet||$129.98/mo.||60 Mbps||200||View plan|
With Spectrum bundles, it feels like an “okay” TV service tacked onto better-than-most internet service. As for pricing, it’s easier to understand than AT&T’s, but still be sure to read through the ins and outs of a bundle’s contract terms.
Should I get, an AT&T or Spectrum bundle?
Comparing AT&T to Spectrum should be like comparing apples to apples, but if only it were that simple. Here’s what we have to say about picking internet and TV service:
- If you’re the person who wants to get the most out of that new 60” 4K TV, then you should go with the better TV service, which AT&T’s DIRECTV delivers. Your internet won’t be as fast, but you won’t mind waiting for downloads if you have a DVR loaded up with movies and shows and access to NFL SUNDAY TICKET.
- If you’re an internet fiend but a casual TV viewer, go with Spectrum. You’ll get better download speeds, which means you won’t have to wait for carpool karaoke to load while streaming YouTube in the kitchen.
- For TV lovers/casual internet users, we recommended AT&T’s bundles.
- For internet lovers/casual TV watchers, we recommended Spectrum.
However, this is just the start of finding the right service bundle for your needs.
We suggest you call AT&T and Spectrum and see what each can offer you. Now that you’re armed with some information, you have an idea of what to expect and can pit these two providers against each other to bid for your hard-earned dough. After all, like in The Bachelor/Bachelorette, AT&T and Spectrum should be competing for the chance to provide you with internet and TV service.
Still need help deciding?
If you’re still having some difficulty choosing between AT&T and Spectrum, feel free to ask questions. We appreciate them, and we get a warm and fuzzy feeling if we’re able to help out.