Comcast Xfinity vs. CenturyLink

Recent Updates: Less than 6 months
Heads up: CenturyLink is discontinuing its CenturyLink Prism TV service nationwide. However, CenturyLink will continue to offer TV service as a bundle deal through its partnership with DIRECTV. We will update our analysis of how this compares to Xfinity, but we don't anticipate any changes to our overall ranking as it stands.

OVERVIEW: 

This one’s pretty easy for us: compared to CenturyLink, Comcast Xfinity is a better service with more package options and lower prices in our area (but maybe not yours). Comcast’s major hangup is notoriously bad customer service, but it has been improving over the years and currently ranks better than CenturyLink according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI)1 and JD Power.2 You’ll get better internet speeds from Comcast Xfinity, and its TV service has what most people need.

If you’re a football fan, you may opt for CenturyLink because its TV service partners with DIRECTV to deliver NFL SUNDAY TICKET and the Genie DVR (which we would say is better than the Xfinity X1 DVR). Other than that, we assume very few people will find a better deal from CenturyLink than Comcast, but it’s always worth checking local deals for yourself.

Comcast Xfinity vs. CenturyLink—overall comparison

Comcast XfinityCenturyLink
Monthly pricing$19.99–$299.95$19.95—$104.95
Download speeds10 Mbps—1 Gbps1.5 Mbps—1 Gbps
Channels45–260+150–240+
DVR storage200 HD hours200 HD hours
DetailsView PlansView Plans

*Pricing and availability may vary depending on location.

Best for most

Comcast Xfinity has faster speeds than CenturyLink (up to 2 Gbps on its fiber-optic network) for internet with a 1 TB data cap that should be enough for most users. It also offers an unlimited data option, unlike CenturyLink.

Xfinity TV keeps improving with the X1 experience, which includes a huge on-demand library (69,000+ titles) and a nifty DVR with a voice-controlled remote. It’s true that Comcast’s bad rap for customer service is warranted, but the scores are improving (mostly).

Internet only—Comcast Xfinity vs. CenturyLink

Comcast Xfinity is faster and cheaper than CenturyLink in most cases.

Even if a higher-speed plan seems like a better option, you may want to go with Comcast. Why? According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Measuring Broadband Report, Comcast delivers better advertised speeds compared to Centurylink.3

This means you get more of what you pay for with Xfinity. For instance, compare Comcast’s Performance 25 plan ($39.99) with CenturyLink’s Pure Broadband plan ($34.95) using the FCC measurement:

  • Comcast’s 115% of 25 Mbps equals 28.75 Mbps
  • CenturyLink’s 85% of 40 Mbps equals 34 Mbps

As you can see, the 15 Mbps difference is closer to 5 Mbps. Keep in mind 40 Mbps is CenturyLink’s max speed—most areas won’t have these speeds available. Comcast may be a better deal even though your advertised speed is less than CenturyLink’s.

Comcast cable internet

PlansMonthly priceDownload speedDataDetails
Performance Starter$19.9910 Mbps1 TBView Plan
Performance 25$39.9925 Mbps1 TBView Plan
Performance Pro$49.99100 Mbps1 TBView Plan
Blast! Pro$59.99200 Mbps1 TBView Plan
1 Gig*$70.001 Gbps (1,000 Mbps)UnlimitedView Plan

Pricing and availability may vary depending on location.
*Price may be as high as $140 in some areas, depending on location and competition.

Comcast claims it has increased internet speed seventeen times over the past fifteen years.4 In fact, this past year, it doubled speeds in areas including Maine to Virginia to Utah to Minnesota at no additional charge. With that in mind, it doesn’t seem so scary to lock into a one- or two-year contract with Comcast.

With Comcast, we’d advise buying your own modem instead of leasing (it’s cheaper) and figuring out the highest speed you can afford. Consider the number of users, devices, HD video streams, and gaming users in your house before picking a plan.

CenturyLink internet

PlansMonthly priceDownload speedDataDetails
High-Speed Internet$19.95Up to 12 Mbps1 TBView Plan
Pure Broadband$34.95Up to 40 Mbps1 TBView Plan
1 Gig$79.991 Gig (1,000 Mbps)1 TBView Plan

 Pricing and availability may vary depending on location.

CenturyLink is geared towards the budget-minded customer who just needs basic internet, and most of its internet plans are affordable, albeit slow. CenturyLink sells both DSL high-speed internet and fiber-optic internet, but most customers will see only the 7–40 Mbps plans. The Pure Broadband plan is likely your best bet, unless you have the Gig plan available; in our area it was $35 for 40 Mbps.

CenturyLink has long-term contracts with up to two- or three-year price guarantees. You’ll want to renegotiate whenever your contract is up because the regular price could be almost double what your advertised price was.

Data

Comcast’s 1 TB data caps may be more than enough for most, but we still don’t like limits. Xfinity will charge you if you exceed this cap, but it won’t throttle your internet speeds unlike CenturyLink. Neither company will roll over data to the next month. However, Comcast Xfinity gives users the option to pay for unlimited data.

Meanwhile, CenturyLink recently upped its data caps to 1 TB for most plans. While this is a higher data cap than it used to be (250 GB), it’s still not unlimited (boo!). CenturyLink won’t charge you for going over your limit, but it will throttle your speeds. CenturyLink might even disconnect your service after your third month of excessive usage in a year. That’s kind of wack. Thumbs down.

CenturyLink vs. Comcast Xfinity internet only summary:

Comcast is typically a better deal and delivers faster, truer advertised speeds than CenturyLink. Plus, if you need unlimited internet, you can add it for $30 per month. But if you don’t, be aware of potential overages for data use.

TV only—Comcast Xfinity vs. CenturyLink

DIRECTV wins in the battle of Comcast Xfinity and CenturyLink.

We’re really comparing three different TV services here: Comcast delivers Xfinity, while CenturyLink provides both Prism TV and DIRECTV. Price-wise, DIRECTV is the clear winner because it includes equipment for the whole home and more channels than the other providers, all at a cheaper price. Comcast Xfinity TV is better than Prism, however.

Xfinity TV

PackagesMonthly priceChannelsDVR storageDetails
DIGITAL STARTER TV$49.99140+60 HD hoursView Plan
DIGITAL PREFERRED$59.99220+60 HD hoursView Plan
DIGITAL PREMIER$99.99260+60 HD hoursView Plan

 Pricing and availability may vary depending on location.

Comcast Xfinity’s plans range from $39.95–$114.99. You have $10 per TV in equipment fees, and if you spring for the X1 (which we’d recommend) you’re looking at $20 for the main receiver.

With the costs out of the way, a few things Xfinity TV has going for it are the X1 DVR, the largest on-demand library available, and an easy interface that also searches within Netflix for titles.

CenturyLink TV

PackagesMonthly priceChannelsDVR storageDetails
Prism Essential$69.99150+295 HD hoursView Plan
Prism Premium$124.99340+295 HD hoursView Plan
DIRECTV ULTIMATE$44.99245+200 HD hoursView Plan
DIRECTV PREMIER$94.99325+200 HD hoursView Plan

 Pricing and availability may vary depending on location.

When it comes to getting TV from CenturyLink, we’d steer you toward DIRECTV instead of Prism. DIRECTV is better than Prism because it has good first-year pricing, NFL SUNDAY TICKET, all the channels we actually watch, and a Genie DVR with three Genie Minis to outfit your home. Aside from the equipment and promotions, DIRECTV is generally cheaper for a lot more channels, as you can see in the table above.

Comparatively, with Prism you’ll pay an extra $9.99 every month per TV for set-top box rentals. This isn’t unheard of from cable companies (like Xfinity), but it’s expensive compared to the free Genie DVR + three Genie Minis.

The only benefits of Prism compared to DIRECTV are 1) avoiding a satellite dish on your property and 2) customers who bundle internet with Prism TV are not subject to data caps—a nice perk, but it makes it more obvious that companies don’t have to charge data caps.

Comcast Xfinity vs. CenturyLink TV only summary:

If it were us, we’d go with DIRECTV from CenturyLink. You’ll get your equipment for four rooms free, NFL SUNDAY TICKET, and three free months of the premium channels. Go for DIRECTV, and you’ll save at least $120 while getting better equipment for your whole home. Just remember that after the first 12 months, DIRECTV’s price will go up. Unless you have a special deal in your area, we’d avoid standalone Prism service.

TV + internet—Comcast Xfinity vs. CenturyLink

Comcast is internet king, but DIRECTV with cheap internet is appealing.

Depending on the type of user you are, you may find a better deal from either company by bundling. Be mindful that your TV and internet contract terms may be different, especially in the case of pairing up two different brands like DIRECTV and CenturyLink.

Xfinity TV + internet

PackagesMonthly priceDownload speedsChannelsDetails
PREFERRED XF DOUBLE PLAY$89.99100 Mbps220+View Plan
PREMIER XF DOUBLE PLAY$109.99100 Mbps260+View Plan
HD PREFERRED XF TRIPLE PLAY$159.99200 Mbps260+View Plan

 Pricing and availability may vary depending on location.

Bundling with Xfinity not only reduces your monthly bill but also gets you X1 DVR service included if you upgrade to a Triple Play package (phone + TV + internet). The HD Preferred Triple Play plan has 200 Mbps download speeds, which is great for HD gaming even if you have multiple people playing. 260+ channels is more than we really need, and it includes all the movie channels we like (yay!).

CenturyLink TV + internet

PackagesMonthly priceDownload speedsChannelsDetails
PRISM Essential + Pure Broadband Internet $89.99Up to 12 Mbps150+View Plan
INTERNET + DIRECTV ULTIMATE DOUBLE PLAY$79.95Up to 12 Mbps240+View Plan
INTERNET + PHONE + DIRECTV CHOICE TRIPLE PLAY$104.94Up to 12 Mbps175+View Plan

 Pricing and availability may vary depending on location.

Bundling with CenturyLink doesn’t seem to save much money other than getting installation for free. The Prism Essential + Pure Broadband Internet plan is the same price as if you ordered each plan separately—no bonus for bundling? Bummer.

As we mentioned earlier, we’d go for DIRECTV over Prism for TV service anyway. If you’re getting the same internet speeds, you might as well get better TV. With DIRECTV you’ll get a Genie DVR and three additional set-top boxes and NFL SUNDAY TICKET included for free as part of your bundle. Plus, it’s a cheaper price with more channels, better equipment, and better customer satisfaction scores.

What package would we get from CenturyLink? Well, DIRECTV sells the ULTIMATE plan for $75, so making it a double play by adding internet for $5 for a monthly total of $79.95 makes perfect sense.

Comcast Xfinity vs. CenturyLink TV + internet summary:

  1. If you want better internet speeds and you watch TV casually, go with Comcast.
  2. If you just need basic internet but love TV, go with CenturyLink with DIRECTV.
  3. If you’re a more balanced TV and internet user or an internet-heavy user, you’ll do better with Comcast.

Comcast Xfinity vs. CenturyLink recap

We’re not saying it’s a complete blowout, but Comcast is the overall winner based on our findings. Keep in mind your location’s prices will differ and CenturyLink may end up costing less than Comcast (in our area, it didn’t). If you just want to add internet to DIRECTV, then CenturyLink is a decent deal.

Here’s a quick summary of our recommendations:

Internet

  • For just internet, pick Comcast Xfinity. Xfinity offers unlimited data, but charges for overages on other plans; CenturyLink won’t charge you for going over, but it will slow your speeds (or cut your service off completely). Though both providers offer fiber-optic internet in a select areas, Xfinity gives users a wider range of speeds to choose from in more locations.
  • CenturyLink internet is a benefit for anyone looking for bare-minimum internet for a decent price. The company’s speed stats aren’t exactly the best, but if you just casually use the internet for things like Facebook and Netflix, you should be more than fine most of the time.

TV

Bundling TV and internet

  • If you’re bundling, Comcast is definitely the way to go. Xfinity’s bundles save at least an extra $10 a month by ordering TV and internet together. Plus, many plans include the X1 DVR so you can record live TV, watch shows anywhere with Xfinity On Demand, and download stuff onto your devices for offline viewing.
  • While CenturyLink offers bundles, you don’t really get much more bang for your buck. We’d say the most appealing way of looking at it is if you want to add internet to your DIRECTV service, it’s only $5 or $10 more depending on the plan.

Find the best internet providers in your area.

We do our best to cover the majority of users concerns. If there’s anything we didn’t quite cover in this review, let us know by leaving a comment below!

Sources

1.    American Customer Satisfaction Index,  “ACSI Telecommunications Report 2017
2.    JD Power, “U.S. Residential Telephone Service Provider Satisfaction Study
3.    Federal Communications Commission, “Measuring Broadband Report – 2016
4.    Comcast, “Comcast Increases Internet Speeds For Majority Of Customers From Maine To Virginia

  • derek

    For online gamers it’s especially important to get some latency measurements, if available, from bandwidth testing services (ex. Ookla). I was forced to switch from Xfinity to CenturyLink because Xfinity had heavily oversubscribed my area. As any gamer knows high latency usually gets you kicked from the game you’re playing. Browsing the web or watching Netflix might work where latency is high but not while you’re playing online.