Review: The XFINITY X1 Platform From Comcast
Comcast was kind enough to invite me over to their Indianapolis testing center for hands on time with the XFINITY X1 Platform. Some of you may already be using the X1 in your home, but this was the first chance I’ve had to check it out and I must admit – I am very impressed with what Comcast’s latest television viewing experience offers. I had a big grin across my face the entire time I was using the X1 and I lost count of how many times a newly discovered feature caused me to say “Awesome” out loud. Compared to the old Comcast cable box that I’m currently using at home, the X1 Platform is a significant leap forward.
On the outside, the new X1 Platform cable box looks just like a cable box. The all black box includes a bright LED clock, indicator lights for Remote, Data and Record, a physical power button and a USB port on the front. On the back, you’ll find an impressive array of ports. For input, you’ve got two coaxial ports, two HDMI ports, an Ethernet port, another USB port, and it even comes with an eSATA port. As far as output ports go, there is an HDMI, RCA Video (Red,White and Yellow), and Composite out ports for video, as well as a digital audio out port.
All of those ports make the X1 platform a great addition to any home theater setup and having a physical power button and a clock on the front is an improvement over my current box, which doesn’t have either.
Crammed inside, you’ll find five separate TV Tuners, along with 500 GB worth of storage space, which is enough room for hundreds of shows. Four of those tuners can be used at once to record television programs while the fifth is used for watching live programs as they air. This is a any room DVR, so those four extra tuners also allow up to four different programs to be played back on up to four different TVs. Pretty cool stuff.
The remote that comes with the X1 is easy to use thanks to a great button layout that makes perfect sense and puts everything within reach without ever feeling cramped. I was successfully navigating the on-screen guide without needing to look down to see which button I was about to press moments after being handed the remote for the first time. The remote also uses RF technology, which allows it to communicate with the cable box even if it isn’t in the user’s line of sight.
Comcast has also released a free X1 Remote app for Android and Apple devices. It allows users to control the X1 using only their smartphone or tablet and includes a very useful voice command feature, which accurately responds to what it is told and makes searching more convenient.
Without the use of this app, you’ll need to use the remote’s alphanumerical buttons to enter search queries. According to Comcast, that will change in the near future as they intend on releasing an updated X1 remote that includes a microphone for voice search. The experience isn’t bad either way though, Smart Search on the X1 almost always figured out and auto completed exactly what I was typing within a few button presses while using the remote anyway.
Perhaps the most dramatic change present on the X1 is the new interactive program guide. It features a modern design that is both attractive looking and intuitive to use. While the old guide relies solely on text for channel and program descriptions, the new X1 guide features logos for channels and beautifully rendered cover/poster art for movies and television programs. It even shares information such as cast, ratings and synopsis about each program before you begin watching them.
From the guide, you can view what is available to watch from multiple sources, including Live TV, XFINITY On Demand, your DVR library, and others. Navigating the new interactive guide is quicker and far more enjoyable than navigating the previous guide I’ve grown accustomed to. That is especially true when you venture into the vast XFINITY On Demand library of movies, shows, music and sporting events, which features a great new layout. Comcast has done an excellent job of dividing On Demand content into categories and maybe it was just luck, but it seemed like every category that I was interested in checking out was always easy to access. I didn’t find myself needing to scroll through long lists of categories and options that didn’t interest me just to find the ones that did.
The “Last” button has received some attention as well. It now brings up a on-screen list of the last 9 programs/channels you’ve watched instead of just returning to the previous channel. This list includes programs from both Live TV and On Demand and makes hopping back and forth between multiple shows a breeze
The X1 Platform also comes with several pre-installed, internet-connected applications, including Facebook, Pandora, Sports, The Weather Channel, News, Stocks and Horoscope. All of the apps on the X1 seem to work as they should and most are useful, but my personal favorite one is the Sports app. With it, users can check scores and keep track of multiple games at once while watching another game. When opened, the Sports app on X1 takes up a small portion of the display on one side. From there, you can use the remote to cycle through a wealth of information about your favorite sports, teams, and players. It’s easily the best sports watching experience I’ve ever had on TV.
I didn’t get to spend as much time with the X1 Platform as I would have liked, but based on what I’ve seen so far, I really like where Comcast is going with their television viewing experience. So much so in fact, that my wife and I plan on upgrading to the X1 Platform in the near future.