Both AT&T and Charter have ramped up marketing lately and I've taken a quick look at all the mailers, phone bill inserts, etc. I've dutifully called each company's sales lines to make sure I understand what's what. Frankly, it's a coin flip:
Table 1: Cable vs. U-verse: A Simplistic Guide
|AT&T's U-verse||Charter Cable||Advantage|
|DVR hardware||Can record up to 4 standard def. channels. Slick user-interface (UI) on the channel guide. Easy-to-use remote. Can search programming by topic, actor, etc.||Can record up to two channels at a time. Has a 1970s-era User-interface (UI) on the channel guide. Crowded IR remote has too many buttons and no range. Channel guide has no search capability at all.||AT&T|
|HD choices||Has Food Network & NFL Network in HD. All premium channels like HBO are available in HD.||Doesn't carry the NFL Network. Offers one HD channel per premium network.||AT&T|
|Extra features||Can program DVR from a PC or mobile phone. Free login for AT&T hotspots.||None.||AT&T|
|Mobile discount||Combined billing available plus $4 a month off AT&T cellular bill.||None.||AT&T|
|Hassle factor||Looking at a half-day, roughly, for system installation.||None. Already have the service.||Charter|
|Top Internet speed||Up to 10 Mbit/s||Up to 16 Mbit/s||Charter|
|Phone service||Not available via U-verse in my area. Basic AT&T phone line, after tax, runs about $50 a month.||Easy to add to existing Charter account. Costs $30 a month for unlimited local and long-distance.||Charter|
|HD capacity||Can watch or record one HD program at a time.||Can record two HD streams at a time while watching a third.||Charter|
|Commitment||No contract.||No contract.||Even|
|Big offer||Gives $100 to $200 cash back on any order; Gives one month of TV service free.||Gives a $50 gas card when ordering two services; Intro price for top-tier TV package is $99 per month for 6 months.||Even|
|List price||$149 per month for top-tier TV and 6 Mbit/s Internet package.||$132.98 per month for top-tier TV and 5 Mbit/s Internet||Even|
|VOD choices||"Same as cable", according to customer service reps.||Hundreds of free programs and movies, in addition to a healthy selection of standard-def, paid movie choices.||Even|
|Spouse's opinion||Hates changing providers. Hates having to learn new gadgets.||Hates the remote, UI, and DVR. Loves the Internet speed.||Even|
|Source: AT&T and Charter customer service reps. Assorted direct mail pieces.|
I am curious to see how good the AT&T service really is, even though, like Charter's service, the U-verse variant offered around here lacks a whole-home DVR, which I think is a killer feature.
Also disappointing is that AT&T is selling U-verse around here absent the ability to bundle the U-verse phone service. Still, I'm tempted to try it out to see if the picture quality claims check out in a real world (old house) scenario.
What would you do if you were me? Take the poll before 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 23, and I'll let the results weigh heavily on my decision.
— Phil Harvey, The Editor, Light Reading