I read with excitement a few months back about how Roku and Comcast were working to move the Xfinity TV interface over to the Roku video streaming box. We already have both of these in our bedroom, and I was thinking we’d get another when the Xfinity TV app is finally ported for the media room. Then, we could get rid of two Xfinity boxes.
Well, the boxes that we now use to connect Comcast to our TV’s are expensive. The DVR (a third box on a TV in the living room) comes for free with the subscription we have, but additional boxes are $10/month. Ouch. Plus, their control box, in my opinion, sucks. It seems like all they’ve designed is an overpriced, very under powered computer. I know that the media room box, in particular, was designed by the Devil, himself. It’s unreliable. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.
I kept checking the Roku and Comcast websites to see if/when the Roku’s would finally get fully supported. I read that Comcast had already demonstrated Xfinity TV Go running on a Roku at a show somewhere…so I knew it was getting close. But then I read that someone else had gotten Xfinity TV Go running on an Amazon Firestick TV. What?
Yes, I have an Amazon Firestick TV. I read the instructions, side loaded the app, and was able to start it. The problem is that the Firestick TV had no way of letting me enter username and password. Apparently, you have to have a keyboard and mouse. I thought about going out and buying one but then wondered about the Xfinity TV controls you get using a regular browser.
Duh. Of course, those work just fine. I tested it on my PC. I thought I could cast the screen over to the TV using Chromecast but then I wondered, why not hook up my backup system (an Apple Mac Mini) directly to the TV. So I did.
Here’s the Mac Mini sitting on top of my Samsung Bluray player. On top of the Mini is my backup storage. Of course, there’s a keyboard and mouse. I had to get wireless so that I could relax in my easy chair and switch channels. The browser-based Xfinity TV controls look and behave very much like the one you get with the Comcast box. The difference is, it’s more reliable. Really. That box was terrible. It would double press keys on the hand control, sometimes fast forwarding would just shut down the box and TV. We have other, similar boxes and I’m pretty sure they, too, have issues…but maybe mine was the worst.
The advantage of having the Mac Mini become my TV by virtue of the monitor actually being my TV is that I can watch live TV, recorded programs, On Demand programs…and, on a whim, I can switch over (via the browser) to Neflix or Amazon Prime.
I still have a Firestick TV installed, but I haven’t used it…haven’t needed to.
Is there a downside? Maybe. Sometimes the video stutters. Sometimes it stops completely. It’s easy to restart the browser session. But this is annoying. It happens enough to make me wonder why. I don’t see the same behavior if I use my Windows 10 PC to watch programs. It could be a MacOS thing. I dunno. I am running server software on it, so maybe there are conflicts going on. (I should consider adding more memory.)
The one concern I have now is data consumption. I read that, when the Roku finally got Xfinity TV running, Comcast would not charge you for the data running through their Internet connection to you. I don’t know if the same holds true for streaming to a browser. I’ll probably get a Roku to replace the Mini when this happens to be sure.
Another problem I have is that I lose digital audio so surround sound isn’t available. The Mini doesn’t have a digital out for audio (the higher end Roku does). My hearing is so bad that I probably wouldn’t notice. I use earphones a lot, now, anyway. But, it would be nice to have in case someone else wants to watch.
I may try to borrow a Bluetooth mouse/keyboard to see if I can get the Firestick TV running the Xfinity TV Go app. That’s just the engineer in me trying to satisfy my curiosity.
I calculated that all the Comcast boxes have rental fees that really add up. In a single year, one could easily justify the cost of a PC. So, doing something like this on your own is a way to save.
Final Thought/Suggestion – if you try this, make sure your Comcast account has Cloud DVR enabled. This doesn’t replace your DVR, but it does make it possible to access the DVR content (programming it, playing back from it) from the Xfinity TV app. I was in an online chat with Comcast’s support for about 30 minutes to make sure this happened.