The Essential DIRECTV NOW Review: Do You Need It?

If you feel like DIRECTV’s huge collection of channels in 6 packages plus variations of HBO and STARZ are a bit too overwhelming and just looking for the right amount of channels, the tv service provider has a baby brother plan for it.

Introducing DIRECTV NOW.

DIRECTV NOW is the much more affordable version of its main counterpart, removing all the extra EXTRA features and only adds in the essentials. We’re happy to know that they still kept the same good reception as DIRECTV.

With only 4 plans and a few optional accessories to purchase, DIRECTV NOW is more ideal for people who like to watch TV but not too much. This is great for individuals or families that watch tv lightly and more on surfing the web, streaming or gaming.

While it may be cheaper than its big brother DIRECTV, it’s still more expensive than other cable providers like Sling TV. What you’re paying for here is the consistent quality of DIRECTV’s service in a more affordable way.

We’ll be going through the various plans and its prices, the available channels, the equipment, the customer service, and the backdrops.

Check out our other reviews on DIRECTV NOW’s competitions including SLINGTV, Dish Network, and DIRECTV.

If you need to know the best of the best, see our Top 5 Best TV Providers.

Let’s start with the plans:

Plans & Pricing

Personally, we just love how the plan names suit well with DIRECTV NOW’s purpose. They’re truly the light versions of any DIRECTV plan that only provides you with the essential channels for the general niches.

So how does DIRECTV NOW work and what else makes this apart from DIRECTV? If you haven’t seen the difference between DIRECTV and DIRECTV NOW at this instant, here are some key differences:

  • DIRECTV starts at 155+ channels + HD DVR with 1TB storage, 72 HOUR REPLAY, and DIRECTV App
  • DIRECTV NOW starts at 60+ channels + free DVR with a storage that’s good for 20 hours of recording
  • Both providers have HD channels
  • DIRECTV NOW doesn’t have any other fees except for the monthly bill for the plan.

There are no contracts with DIRECTV NOW

Another good thing we’d like to mention is that you can simultaneously stream with 2 devices on any plan. If you need to add one more device for streaming, just pay up an additional $5/mo for each extra device.

In a lot of ways, DIRECTV NOW is very much more hassle-free than its bigger predecessor. But you’d be surprised by what’s in store for subscribers.

The Live a Little package is more like just for the sole purpose of your family having TV at home so your friends who come to visit won’t think you’re a weirdo and out of the status quo for not having any TV service.

It has all the general stuff like ESPN, NBC, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Food Network, and kids’ channels.

We give kudos to the Live a Little package as it offers the best 60 channels for such a good price, making this one of the best starter plans for the folks who want quality TV on a budget.

However, if you’re a sports or news fan, this just won’t cut it. True fans will need more than just ESPN and NBC, right?

As the name goes, sports fans and news fans will find this plan juuust right.

With 20 additional channels over Live a Little and a larger plethora of sports channels like ESPN U, ESPN News, MLB Network, SEC Network, and FOX Regional Sports, and more options for the followers of mainstream media like CNBC and CNBC World.

Along with the addition of channels are the awesome AWE, Sundance TV and Science.

$55/mo doesn’t hurt here at all. Again, the number of channels you pay which is good enough for the whole family for such a price is JUST RIGHT.

If we have a great recommendation for you in this article, it has to be Go Big. With over more than 100 channels in classic DIRECTV quality for $65/month, this one has the most complete essential channels and more under a reasonable price.

It has bonus channels for Mommy, Daddy and the kids such as NHL Network, NBA TV, Olympic Channel, FXM, FYI, MTV Classic, OXYGEN, and Universal Channel among many others.

However, it’s still a mystery for us as to why it doesn’t have Hallmark Movies & Mysteries like in Live a Little but if you’re not into that, it’s fine.

This is also the best-selling plan for DIRECTV NOW since it’s highly-valuable for $65.

If you’re considering subscribing to DIRECTV NOW, this is it Chief.

And finally, we have the most complete plan in the bunch. As the name suggests, you GOTTA HAVE this plan.

Sure, it’s nowhere near DIRECTV SELECT’s 155 channels plus HD DVR but with over 120+ channels for just $75 a month and no extra costs, this is still a considerable choice for a TV fan.

It offers all of the best channels and its counterparts included. Fans of any niche will find this as the broadest and the best selection of shows to choose from.

However, a lot of people do have second thoughts about the Gotta Have It plan.

You see, a lot of potential subscribers have always been comparing this to the DIRECTV XTRA.

This costs $75 per month for 120+ channels including great stuff like NFL Network, VH1, and 8 delicious varieties of STARZ.

DIRECTV XTRA, however, costs only $55 a month for a whopping 235+ channels. Included in this package are the Genie HD DVR with 1TB storage (good for 100 hours of HD recording), DIRECTV app, and the coveted NFL SUNDAY TICKET that is good for one season.

Sure, you can get the XTRA plan but what DIRECTV never told you was that it’s only good for 2 years under a contract plus a price hike after a year of subscription, plus activation fees.

DIRECTV Gotta Have It, however, doesn’t have any other costs except for a flat $75. At least, Gotta Have It has a fulltime subscription to STARZ (in 8 channels too) while XTRA has STARZ for only the first 3 months after subscribing.

Taking the extra costs into account, yes, the $55 plan turned it from XTRA good to XTRA yikes.

If you were to ask us if you should get this instead of XTRA or even at least ENTERTAINMENT, we’d say just go for the DIRECTV NOW Gotta Have It.

Yes, the price does look intimidating at first but just look at the bright side of ths: You’re $75 per month, tax-inclusive, no contracts, no mid-year price hikes, and no activation fees.

We’re talking about saving as much as more than $100 a month if you choose to stick with Gotta Have It.

And we’ll say it right now: You GOTTA HAVE IT.

Now let’s look at the other channels to take note of in each plan.

Other Channels

Does DIRECTV NOW have optional channel packages like DIRECTV? It doesn’t.

Remember, NOW focuses on just the essential channels and none of the extra perks at all.

However, if you’re a fan of local channels, it’s very safe to say that DIRECTV NOW has local channel support.

If you’ve been a previous streaming service subscriber from another provider and wanted to have some local channels, you’ve already felt the pain of knowing that they’re unavailable in exchange for a more affordable price for the service.

Fortunately, you have DIRECTV NOW to back you up with your local feed as they are one of the only few streaming service providers to have local affiliated programs.

DIRECTV NOW covers local channels nationwide such as ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX but if you need to know if your area is affiliated to any of the four you need to ask the customer service.

UPDATE: Just recently, you can now finally get the NFL SUNDAY TICKET on any DIRECTV NOW plan on select areas including Boston, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Hartford, and Louisville but the availability will be expanding to more areas soon. Just pay a separate $55/mo.

Now onto the equipment:

Equipment

Compared to its big brother, DIRECTV, DIRECTV NOW has little to no additional hardware in the plans. We won’t call it lackluster but more on being understandable for what you’re paying for.

DVR (with over 20 hours worth of storage)

However, you still get a free DVR. Take note that it can only record SD-quality for a mere 20 hours.

You may say 20 hours is too short but for us, it’s tolerable. Beggars can’t be choosers if we’re opting for a more affordable version of DIRECTV, right?

Speaking of the said equipment, it does feel very clunky a lot of times: the remote is difficult for the DVR to connect to, multiple cases of delayed channel skipping, and some rare bugs happening.

The DVR does need a lot of improvements but it’s like DIRECTV is telling us, “Hey look, you bought the budget version of our bigger DIRECTV plans. You want a good DVR? Get the Genie HD DVR only on DIRECTV.”

DIRECTV NOW User Interface

We do like to say that the menu layout of DIRECTV NOW is way better than DIRECTV’s giant block with small texts that only ants can read. NOW’s UI is much cleaner and easier to navigate in which is amazing because it looks like a UI from Xbox One or PlayStation 4.

Not to mention you can also adjust the text sizes too which is great for people of various visions whether young or old.

Still, despite the nice adjustments and fine-tuning of the UI, the big problem here is the playback and timeline functions instead.

Sure, the controls are responsive but it can be a tad bit of nuisance to always see the timeline buttons right in front of your face, occupying most of the stuff on screen.

If you went fullscreen mode, you’ll notice this a lot more since you can’t even adjust the size. Ironically, you can adjust the general UI of DIRECT NOW, but you can’t do crap on the timeline functions.

HD Antenna (Optional)

Just because your area doesn’t have any affiliations with local channels doesn’t mean you won’t be able to watch them with DIRECTV NOW. If you need to catch up on those, you can always purchase an HD antenna–perfectly legal and will get you hooked on your favorite local channel.

Antennae may sound like they’re the works of yesteryear but trust us when we say that the HD antenna works really well with DIRECTV NOW.

You can buy one through Amazon but we highly recommend getting the ClearStream Eclipse Antenna.

The Eclipse Antenna is the easiest HD antenna to install and it has a very large radius of up to 35 miles, meaning you’ll be able to reach far receptions of local channel affiliates.

It also has an easy-grip system so you can stick to anywhere in the house. Its design isn’t tacky too, therefore it won’t look out of place for any interior design.

If you so happen to require a stronger antenna, we recommend the ClearStream 2V Antenna which you can attach either indoor or outdoor.

It also has a 60-mile radius which is highly recommendable especially if you are from a rural area with weak reception to connect to local channels supported by DIRECTV NOW.

These are all there is to it for the equipment. But how about their Customer Service?

Customer Service

As for Customer Service, it’s what you’d expect from DIRECTV: knowledgeable representatives who are easy to talk to, response times are very fast and on-site visits are quick.

It’s quite honestly one of the better tech supports out there right now. We’ve said it in our DIRECTV review and we’ll say it again:

“Apparently, DIRECTV’s customer care is as good as their network quality which is something very rare these days.

Representatives are very informative, tech support will help you out any way they can and will even send someone to your home if the self-remedy doesn’t work, and they respond calls very quickly.

Not bad at all. In fact, it’s much better than Spectrum or Xfinity, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index.”

Is DIRECTV NOW Good?

Despite the laggy DVR that has delayed actions plus a short-lived recording storage, questionable timeline functions that fill up your entire screen, and an option to get an HD antenna just so you can watch the local channels in your area, of course it’s good.

No tv service provider is perfect. In fact they’re all far from it.

But if you need a humble version of DIRECTV without having to show-off to everyone about how many channels you can accumulate, this is the one for you.

It’s affordable, it’s easy to pay, it’s got the same equivalent of DIRECTV’s quality reception. None of that hidden fees or activation fees that can be a burden to your wallet.

The starting plan may be more expensive compared to other TV service providers’ offers but at least they don’t have any trash channels at all. You’re paying quality over quantity.

You can’t call this a “poor man’s DIRECTV” though since it’s still more expensive versus other cable and streaming services but it sure is a more affordable way to purchase DIRECTV.

Let’s not forget you can still get some of the same perks from DIRECTV and even more like the NFL SUNDAY TICKET and affiliated local channels.

DIRECTV NOW may not have the Genie HD DVR with 1TB but its standard DVR with 20 hours of storage is reasonable enough to complement its 4 plans.

You won’t get to find better TV quality for a budget from $40 to $75 a month other than DIRECT NOW.

If you want our plan recommendation, we’d go big with Go Big the most as it has the best number of channels under a decent price of $65. Both Gotta Have It and Live a Little are our close second thanks to the number of exclusive channels each has.

Just Right is another tight pick thanks to its thoughtful range of hand-picked sports channels and mainstream media which is very ideal for grown-ups.

Although, it doesn’t matter what you pick among the four since they’re all good in their own rights.

PROS

  • Affordable version of DIRECTV
  • Same network quality as DIRECTV for a lower price
  • All 4 plans are ideal depending on your tv watching frequency and preferred channels
  • Top quality shows
  • Great variety of sports channels
  • Catered for a vast demographic with specific niches
  • The You Gotta Have It plan has 8 different STARZ channels included for no limited time
  • Has available local channels with numerous affiliates
  • Adjustable text sizes in the UI
  • No contracts
  • No hidden fees
  • Deliberate customer service

CONS

  • Besides the channels, there’s little to no additional equipment in the package
  • DVR can be buggy at times
  • The DVR recording 20 hours worth of storage may be too short for some users
  • While you can adjust the texts in the UI, the timeline controls are unadjustable.
  • Timeline controls will take up a lot of space on display especially if it’s on fullscreen mode
  • You may need an addition HD antenna if DIRECTV NOW doesn’t cover your area for local channels

FAQs

Will there be a free trial if I want to try DIRECTV NOW?

Yes, each DIRECTV NOW plan has a 7-day trial period for you to test out which is the best-suited subscription for you.

Can the DVR-recorded shows be able to watch on other devices besides the TV?

Yes, but such ability is still in beta. This is what DIRECTV calls True Cloud DVR. You’ll be able to watch recorded streams via any device that has the DIRECTV app installed.

Does DIRECTV NOW have On Demand?

Yes, DIRECT NOW has access to On Demand shows. However, you won’t be able to record them using the DVR.

Is DIRECTV NOW compatible with my streaming device?

DIRECTV NOW can be synced with the following streaming devices:

  • Apple TV
  • Google Chromecast
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Samsung Smart TV
  • Roku Premiere
  • Desktop computers
  • Laptops
  • Smartphones
  • Tablets

What channels does DIRECTV NOW have that DIRECTV does not have?

While DIRECTV certainly has a higher channel count than DIRECTV NOW, it certainly has some channels in which the former doesn’t.

DIRECTV NOW may not have HBO, SHOWTIME and Cinemax but it does have all eight STARZ channels available on Gotta Have It.

Live a Little also has the wonderful Hallmark Movies & Mysteries available in which DIRECTV doesn’t have.

Do AT&T subscribers get any discounts for subscribing to DIRECTV NOW?

Yes, AT&T subscribers, specifically the AT&T &More Premium users, will be able to enjoy a $15 discount on any DIRECTV NOW plan. In our AT&T review, we’ve said this about AT&T &More Premium:

“Think of &More Premium as the former &More’s bigger and better brother with more gifts for avid TV viewers as much as Santa Claus leaving gifts under the Christmas tree.

This right here is the granddaddy in AT&T’s line of cell phone plans. With every perk that can make a couch potato cry as well as adding in a nice chunk of discount for DIRECTV NOW, &More Premium is more suited for the TV geeks who want nothing more than HD streaming along with AT&T’s already formidable network quality.

We’re happy to say that AT&T offers a lot of perks for the TV fans. But for anything else, not so much.

With the already-excellent AT&T network, subscribers will have a bonus 22GB data. Once the first 22GB have been depleted, that’s when speed throttles.

You’re also given a mobile hotspot filled with 15GB of data. Once it’s depleted, the hotspot speed is limited to 128 kbps.

The biggest highlight here are the entertainment aspects: we’re talking about pure 1080p HD quality with a bunch of exclusive stuff that you can only find in the &More premium.

Besides the WatchTV app, you get to choose an additional channel for it. This includes any of the following: HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz, VRV (full of the best animated shows), Amazon Music and Pandora.

The resolution only reduces once all 22GB of data have been sucked up.

Is it a good deal then? Of course it is. But just take note this is still much more expensive than Sprint and T-Mobile’s offers however those two don’t have as many perks as AT&T’s.”

Sources

 

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Sam Churchill
Sam Churchill
Sam Churchill is the founder and editorial in chief at Daily Wireless. He has spent more than 2 decades blogging about all forms of wireless communications.

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Sam Churchill
Sam Churchill is the founder and editorial in chief at Daily Wireless. He has spent more than 2 decades blogging about all forms of wireless communications.

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