XFINITY’s X1 DVR isn’t our best DVR, but we like it because we don’t have to think about using it. We forget it’s the reason we can watch One Punch Man on our work break. We don’t realize it’s why we can binge watch the new Survivor this weekend. We can’t remember what it’s like to channel surf out of necessity. Although it’s not all rosy, X1 has made life easier and—dare we say it—better. We’ll take you through the ups and downs of owning this box.
What is the X1?
The latest series of set-top boxes from Comcast, XFINITY’s X1 Entertainment Operating System contains both the receiver box and a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) that links your television, internet, computer, phones, tablets, and home security subscriptions from Comcast (or other providers).
In simpler terms: X1 is a set-top DVR that links your TV and internet into a universal, searchable platform for you to access entertainment.
Why upgrade to X1?
If you’re still using an old set-top box from XFINITY, it’s definitely time to upgrade. Even if you’re not interested recording, streaming, or all the other convenient features, the update to the interface alone is worth it. The channel guide is way more responsive than Comcast’s old menu system and cable box. Did we mention it looks better, too?
The new X’s single search brings up listings from live TV, Comcast’s on-demand library, your DVR recordings, and streaming apps (Netflix, YouTube, etc).
What else makes the X1 noteworthy?
The X1 has a lot of cool features built in, like sports stats, voice commands, and must-know info for your day-to-day life (weather, news, traffic, stocks, photos, voicemail, horoscopes, etc.). These things may come across as overkill, but for someone who’s looking to consolidate their daily activities from the couch, it’s simple and effective.
You can use the X1 and your big screen TV as an entertainment and information command center. We like playing music from Pandora (or one the many music channels) while we’re doing chores. Most of these features are ready to go on your phone or tablet, too, or to meet up with you at work via your laptop or desktop computer. All you need is your XFINITY login.
Blank TV screens can suck up the energy in a room, but the X1 has rotating images (nature landscapes, animals, etc.) that keep your space looking vibrant. For an extra touch of hominess or customization, you can link your Facebook, Instagram, or Flickr accounts to the X1 to work as a screensaver as well.
Should I get an X1?
Although it’s not perfect, we recommend the X1 if…
- You have no DVR or way of recording television.
- You have XFINITY TV and internet service.
- You like the idea of a Cloud-based DVR for easy access across devices.
- You want up to six recording tuners.
- You want mobile and offline access to recorded shows.
- You want to record when you’re not at home.
- You hate ads (not all ads can be avoided, however).
How does XFINITY X1 compare to other DVRs?
X1 has about half the storage of the DIRECTV Genie and a fourth of the DISH Hopper 3. But the X1’s 500 GB translates to 60 hours of HD programming (300 hours if you don’t mind SD quality). If that’s not enough, you can add an external hard drive starting around $50 (see on Amazon). We recommend adding a hard drive if you want to fuss with your storage as seldom as possible or if you like to keep a large library.
Having access to a big on-demand library will keep you from feeling bored. It’s a big consideration in a DVR, especially for mobile or offline use. XFINITY excels with 163,000+ on-demand titles, 90% of which are free; to compare, DISH has 93K+ and DIRECTV has 41K+. Pair it with your other streaming services if that’s still (somehow) not enough.
XFINITY X1 records six simultaneous programs, whereas DISH and DIRECTV record sixteen and five programs, respectively. X1 and Hopper 3 have voice control remotes, but DIRECTV requires an app and mobile device.
Considering switching from DISH or DIRECTV?
With DISH and DIRECTV, satellite picture quality is slightly better than XFINITY cable, which sends a compressed signal. X1 is capable of 4K resolution, but most stuff will be closer to 1080p. These high resolutions are nice for older adults or anyone who may have a hard time seeing.
XFINITY will almost always beat DISH and DIRECTV when it comes to internet download speeds and data caps. We also like the X1 Experience channel guide and search functionality better.
What you need to know about the X1
What it’s like to watch TV with the X1
X1 Experience displays a visual directory (or channel guide) that allows you to select shows based on titles and descriptions instead of channel surfing by the numbers. It provides showtimes and other information like episode summaries, parental guidance ratings, release dates, and cast and crew credits.
The software updates regularly (like, every night), so you won’t have to wait for large updates all at once. In fact, you won’t notice updates most of the time—it restarts around midnight and will always ask if you want to restart now or later if you’re watching a program.
Also, if you unplug your box, which you may have to do to reset a malfunctioning device, you’ll have to wait anywhere from 5–10 minutes for the interface to load complete channel and show information.
You can watch a show while you browse, which is much preferred to channel surfing with annoying audio breaks. X1 also pauses and rewinds up to 60 minutes of live TV, assuming you don’t change the channel. This means you can pause a show, run and grab some cheeseburgers, then munch it down while you finish up your show.
However, time skipping is where the X1 could improve the most: when navigating through a live show with rewind/fast-forward, at times it’s glitchy and requires some guesswork to compensate for the lag. It’s not clear whether having a lot more bandwidth would eliminate the lag; it’s possible that this is just the current level of streaming capability. We hope this feature improves with updates.
To receive service to more than one TV, you’ll have to add companion boxes for $10 per TV, so costs might add up. The companion receivers/additional boxes have full DVR functionality with the exception of controlling live TV (pause, rewind, instant replay, etc).
What recording is like with the X1
You can preview shows and schedule your recordings up to two weeks in advance. You can do this from anywhere: your TV, computer, phone, tablet, etc. On top of that, you can set the X1 box to record either a single show or an entire series. That way you don’t have to remind yourself every two weeks to set up your Survivor recordings.
Are my recordings stuck on the DVR?
The X1 stores your recordings in the Cloud, not the physical DVR, so even if your power goes out, you can access your recordings from a mobile device. Even in a worst case scenario (i.e., a freak mocha frappucino spill kills your set-top box), you won’t lose your recordings.
You can download shows from one of a bajillion hotspots for free. These are easy to find. The map provided by XFINITY shows that we’re rarely more than a block from Wi-Fi (in Salt Lake City, at least). You can also use the app to locate nearby hotspots. Cloud storage and Wi-Fi combined make it really easy to watch whatever you want most of the time.
How many hours can you record on the X1?
The X1 records 60 hours in HD and 300 hours in SD. You can expand this with an external hard drive via the eSATA port. We recommend going with an additional terabyte of storage, like this WD 1TB My Book AV DVR Expander External Hard Drive.
How many shows can you record at once with the X1?
The X1 DVR has six simultaneous recordings possible. So if you add another X1, 12 recordings are possible.
How many rooms does one X1 provide service for?
Each X1 box provides six tuners total, meaning the main TV and five more. You’ll need
X1 remote control
Even with a slick interface, sometimes there are too many channels to work through. The search feature has always been an added convenience, but since the latest XFINITY update, it’s even faster.
Our Comcast remote, the XR11, includes a microphone. It’s been our favorite feature for the past year. Aside from searching for shows, you can get the X1 to help you with other practical things. For instance, Comcast recently added a power-saving mode. To activate it you can say “go green,” or you can turn the set-top box completely off by saying “power down.”
Voice commands are processed by Comcast’s servers, and they use that data to improve the functionality. For example, if Comcast learns that a lot of people search for “Here’s Looking At You, Kid,” they’ll add Casablanca to the search results, despite it not containing the title, actor, director, or genre.
It’s a smart service that improves over time, so don’t be afraid to ask it who played “Porky” in the Lil Rascals remake, or channel your inner secret agent and say “Bond, James Bond.” Chances are if the X1 doesn’t know it yet, it will.
It picks up accents pretty well, which is a relief for anyone who doesn’t have an American or British accent and has been frustrated at the inability to be understood.
That’s not to say the voice control is perfect because we do have a few small complaints. Although we can’t fathom being much lazier, we don’t like that you must hold the voice control button down the whole time. Sometimes we forget to hold it down and wonder why it isn’t working. True this is pure user error, but we wish there was an option for an automatic cut-off after a second or so of silence.
Keep in mind specific searches may be too narrow when a simple search will do just fine. For example, the X1 voice search did not find “SNL with Father John Misty,” but it did pull up his music videos, which enlightened us to an easy way to play music videos and share new songs with friends. When in doubt, try another simple search like “SNL” and find the episode from there.
What do the quick buttons on the X1 remote control do?
- “A” is the “assistance” or “help” button. It brings up your settings as well as tips and guides for the X1 remote.
- “B” is for browsing. The video stream is condensed into a scaled window that hovers in front of the browser so you can keep watching and/or listening as you scroll and search. Uninterrupted flow is nice, and you can avoid awkward silences or switch right as a commercial starts.
- “C” allows you to see the sports app. We were stoked about the different options, like pulling up individual players’ in-game stats and personal profiles, including how they rank.
- “D” is for delete. You can select a single DVR recording or delete a whole TV series within a folder.
Mobile and on-the-go
XFINITY Stream provides a lot of titles on the go but not everything. Certain licenses only work in-home, so be mindful.
If you’re looking for a quick show to watch on your commute, you’d hate to pick three or four shows that were only available in-home, cutting out a good chunk of your watching time. There is a filter so you can see only Available Out of Home titles. The remaining filters are great for HD fans, those with impaired hearing, or non-English speakers.
Your digital library has some limits. Devices must be authorized via email and can store only a certain number of recordings (10 per device). That being said, we’ve never had a problem aside from wanting to watch programming available only in-home.
Home automation and security
Fans of home automation and security will like the X1, too. The X1 can control the following from either the set-top box or the XFINITY Home Secure app:
- Arm/disarm your system
- View images/videos from connected cameras
- View and lock/unlock doors
- Turn connected lights on/off or adjust dimmer settings
- View and control connected thermostats
- Use the voice remote to control XFINITY Home settings
- View event history
If you needed that extra little push to get a home security setup, the X1 makes it easier.
Take your time back now—get an X1
The X1 platform is a sign of what it’s like to be living in modern times. The world waits on you—you just have to let it know what you want.
While this may seem a bit poetic for a piece of technology, we do appreciate having the X1 as our daily DVR. We spend time with friends watching the NBA finals. We catch up with our family over a stupid comedy. We get a chance to zone out for some “me” time, whenever we can squeeze it in.
What streaming services can I use with the X1?
So far, you can stream video content only from Netflix and YouTube. You need a separate device for streaming Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, and Hulu.
Where is the X1 available?
XFINITY is available in 41 states to 21.52 million residential subscribers. Comcast reports that 52% of its customers use the X1, but it hopes to get closer to 60% by the end of the year.1
Is it worth it to upgrade to the XFINITY X1?
If you’re a prospective or new customer, we’d definitely recommend a Double Play or Triple Play package. For the price of a couple of movie tickets every month, you won’t run out of stuff to watch. What is X1 Double Play?
What is X1 Double Play?
Double Play is a bundle package, usually combining TV and internet. At minimum, an XFINITY Double Play package is required for X1 full functionality.
What is X1 Triple Play?
A Triple Play package usually involves TV, internet, and then either phone or home security services. If you add a home phone service, you can stream from your smartphone directly to your TV. That way you can use your big screen the same way you use your computer for Skype calls.
Help us help you
Any more questions about the X1? Some great feature that we missed and you want to tell the world? Let us know by leaving a comment!
1. Market Realist, “How Comcast Expects to Maintain Its Growth for the Rest of 2017”