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ByDanika Miller Internet & Entertainment Writer

Danika is currently covering the internet and entertainment beat. Her previous work lives in random corners of the internet and fiction anthologies hidden in university libraries.

Spectrum Review

Everything about Spectrum’s service will appeal to the nomad. Not only does Spectrum’s service come without contracts, the company will also help you leave your current provider’s contract. And if you aren’t thrilled by its service and cancel within 30 days, you can get your money back. Though its television packages come with a fair amount of fees, there are some perks to bundling services that balance it out. Be warned: Spectrum’s customer service ratings are a bit lackluster, although customers in the West region expressed higher satisfaction. Regardless, we recommend you investigate all the TV providers that services your address, and compare them for what you value most.

The Claim

On Charter Spectrum’s website (where the company is branded as just “Spectrum”), you’ll find a bold, if vague, promise — “Sign up today to enjoy the best in-home entertainment.” To the customer, that would mean an impressive channel lineup and advanced entertainment technology.

Is it true?

When comparing Spectrum’s TV service with competitors, we wouldn’t quite say it has the “best in-home entertainment.” One the one hand, its channel packages don’t leave anything out, so you’ll be able to subscribe to your favorite networks and every premium channel. But Spectrum doesn’t offer enticing exclusives either. DIRECTV, on the other hand, has an entire DIRECTV-exclusive sports package called the NFL Sunday Ticket — it includes a channel dedicated to fantasy football, a feature that lets you recap games commercial-free, and even airs out-of-market games. We couldn’t find a similarly exclusive entertainment offering with Spectrum.

Entertainment technology also plays a factor in offering the best. Unfortunately, Spectrum doesn’t disclose any details about its DVR system. Competitors boast DVR systems that integrate apps like Netflix, can record up to sixteen shows at once, and store 300 hours of content. If you choose Spectrum, its DVR might get the job done, but don’t expect to be wowed.

Product Overview

Best for

Leaving another provider, temporary service

Not for

Flexible packages, customer services

Features

Price Starting at $45
Standout features Bundling perks, no contracts, 30-day money-back guarantee, widespread availability
Number of states serviced 46
Contract length None
J.D. Power Rating 2/5
ACSI Rating 59/100
# of channel packages 3
Fees HD Box- $7.50/mo, DVR $5/mo, Broadcast Fee $12/mo, WiFi Router $5/mo, Self Installation $10, Professional Installation $50

No contracts and a 30-day money-back guarantee

Spectrum’s most standout feature is its money-back guarantee and lack of contracts. Anyone who isn’t satisfied with their Spectrum service can cancel without penalties or termination fees. And if you cancel within 30-days of signing up for the service, you’ll get your money back.

All of Spectrum's plans come without contracts too, making it ideal for any kind of temporary living situation. Whether you’re a college student, in the military, or just plan to move soon — TV service without the obligation of a contract is a nice luxury.

And if you’re stuck in a contract with another provider, Spectrum will help cover the termination fees with a contract buyout of up to $500. There’s one catch, however: You have to install a qualifying Triple Play or Double Play package to receive the contract buyout.

Bundling perks

Spectrum’s Triple Play deal is packed full of promotional perks. If you’re in need of multiple services (internet, TV, and phone), Spectrum will appeal to you. It comes without any data caps on the internet service and a free modem — enabling you to stream, browse, and download without worry.

Those internet speeds start fairly high at 30 Mbps, often with the upgrade to increase as fast as 300 Mbps. Cox Communications, for comparison, starts its internet plans at 10 Mbps.

Spectrum’s channel packages also begin at generous amounts, with 125-plus channels. And popular premium channels like HBO, CINEMAX, and Showtime are included in middle-tier channel packages. Most providers throw in premium channels only at the highest tier package.

Spectrum cautions that its products and pricing will vary depending on your address. In most locations, you can choose the internet speed and channel package number you’d like to build into a bundle. In other areas, you may only have one internet speed option to pair with a few different channel packages.

Widespread availability

With availability in 46 states, there’s a good chance you can choose Spectrum’s service no matter where you live. This widespread availability is a rather impressive feat for cable TV service, nearly matching the nationwide reach of satellite TV. Spectrum’s reach can likely be credited to the merger between Charter Communications and Time Warner in 2016.

Possible Drawbacks

Spotty customer service

In our research, we found Spectrum had pretty spotty customer satisfaction rating. J.D. Power rated the company pretty poorly in most metrics (Overall Satisfaction, Performance & Reliability, Cost of Service, Programming, Communication, Billing, Customer Service). Of particular note, Spectrum came dead last in overall satisfaction in the South, North Central, and East regions. However, those in the West might have better luck, as Spectrum beat out Comcast and CenturyLink with an overall score of 3/5, including a 4/5 for customer service.

Consumer Reports readers rated Spectrum similarly dismally, while the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) found its service about average (scoring 59/100). Overall, these results suggest the caliber of customer service you receive really depend on where you live in the country — and customers in the West region are more likely to have better customer service.

Fees add up quickly

Spectrum’s list of fees is fairly extensive. For each TV you wish to equip with cable service, you’ll need to pay $7.50 every month for the HD box, and then $5 every month for DVR service. Every TV package comes with a $12 monthly Broadcast Fee too. And if you’d like WiFi with your internet, you have to pay $5 per month for the router. If you only equip two TVs with the cable service, you’re looking at $40+ in monthly fees. And when it comes time to install your service, you'll need to pay $50 for professional installation, unless can do it yourself (and even then, there's a $5 fee).

The Competition

  Charter Spectrum Comcast Xfinity DIRECTV
States serviced 46 40 50
ACSI Rating 59/100 57/100 66/100
Contract length None 12 or 24 months 24 months
No contract option
Free installation
Free receiver/DVR

Spectrum vs. Xfinity

Xfinity excels at offering customers options. There are six different channel packages to choose from (double the options offered by Spectrum), and three different contract lengths. You’ll be able to build a more flexible bundle with Comcast’s range of packages. Despite its poor public perception, Comcast is generally rated better for customer satisfaction than Spectrum. Where Spectrum beats out Comcast is with its unique contract buyout and money-back guarantee.

Spectrum vs. DIRECTV

DIRECTV is known for its exclusive sports programming and advanced DVR system called the Genie. If you’re a sports fanatic or entertainment junky, you’ll find more value with DIRECTV. The company also excels at customer service, often topping the charts ahead of every other provider. But if you’re looking to pair your TV package with internet service, DIRECTV doesn’t make it easy. AT&T internet has pretty limited availability, so DIRECTV may pair you up with a partner provider like CenturyLink, HughesNet, or Mediacom. Spectrum outshines DIRECTV here, with speedy and reliable internet packages.

Spectrum FAQ

Is Charter the same as Spectrum?

Yes. When Charter Communications and Time Warner merged in 2016, the company rebranded its united services as Spectrum.

The Bottom Line

Customers who find that Spectrum serves their address should absolutely investigate their local offerings. Be aware that its customer service varies by location, so you may want to inquire with neighbors who may have the Spectrum service already. The company will appeal to those who need TV service temporarily or prefer the freedom that comes with no contracts. You’ll find the best value when bundling, but its internet-only plans are uniquely speedy. To compare more options, check out our full review of the best TV providers.

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