Philo TV review summary:
Philo is the only skinny bundle to include DVR storage and is one of the cheapest streaming options:
- One plan for $25/mo., no contract required
- 70+ channels included, but no sports or local channels
- Three simultaneous streams
- Unlimited cloud DVR storage that deletes after 30 days included
- Works with Android TV, Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku and Google Chromecast
What we like about Philo
Half the price of most live TV streaming services
Unlimited DVR storage
Three simultaneous streams
Things to consider
No sports or local channels
No popular news channels
Frustrating mobile app
When it comes to live TV streaming services, there are two distinct flavors. Some aim to save you money and others replicate cable TV packages, charging you money for a lot of channels you don’t watch.
Philo is firmly in the “saving you money” camp. At only $25/mo., it’s less than half the price of most live TV streaming services and cable companies. But to get to that low price point, you’ll have to make some sacrifices: no sports, no local stations and only one news channel — essentially all the TV that necessitates live viewing.
But if you don’t really care about sports, Philo TV plus a TV antenna provides a ton of value for the price.
Philo has 70+ channels in total, including Discovery Channel, A&E and History. Because it skips out on the most expensive channels to carry, it can afford to build an impressively well-rounded channel lineup. In fact, it has more total channels than the $55/mo. plan from Sling TV.
Visit Philo for a full list of the included channels, plus info on add-on packages.
Popular channels include:
- Comedy Central
- Food Network
Missing channels include:
- Cartoon Network
- FOX News
- Fox Sports 1
- FOX News
- NBC Sports Network
- NFL Network
ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS and The CW are all available for free, whether it’s through a TV antenna or the streaming service Locast.org, which streams local channels for free in multiple cities across the country.
Others, like HBO, SHOWTIME and Cinemax are rarely included in the base plans of live TV streaming services. If you want these, you’ll always have to pay extra, and you can still subscribe to them separately from Philo.
That said, Philo is still missing a ton of channels. To take advantage of its low price, you’ll have to make plenty of sacrifices.
Solid user experience
To gauge what it felt like to use Philo, we tested it out for about a week on an Amazon Fire TV Stick, a Roku Streaming Stick and a Google Chrome browser on a MacBook Pro. While it doesn’t necessarily push the envelope, we enjoyed Philo’s easy-to-navigate interface.
As soon as you enter the app, the home screen real estate is primarily given over to “trending” live programs. Click down a bit, and you’ll find personalized recommendations for Philo’s live and on-demand programming.
After a few days of testing, we found ourselves wishing this personalization applied to the live TV channels, too. Instead of showing us what’s “trending live,” we would have liked to see the channels that we actually watch. If we’re constantly going to Animal Planet, why not put it right on the home screen instead of making us go through the guide?
We also wish Philo allowed you to keep watching TV while you channel-surf. If you want to see what else is on, you have to leave your current program, go to the guide and do your searching from there.
One thing we did love? When you’re browsing titles, you can hold down the “OK” button on your remote to bring up a short description of the title. It sounds like a small detail, but we enjoyed being able to get more information about what was playing without actually changing the channel.
Aside from that, using Philo felt pretty neutral. It didn’t wow us like YouTube TV. The guide is one of the more basic we’ve encountered, but it was easy to do the things that matter.
We had no problem finding what we were looking for, saving shows to the DVR or browsing Philo’s on-demand library. And ultimately, when it comes to TV streaming, we’d prefer boring and functional to cutting-edge and glitchy.
Philo streams its live TV in 720p and its on-demand content in 1080p. This is still HD, but it’s likely less than you’d get through a cable TV provider. That said, every live TV streaming service currently streams in 720p, so this isn’t necessarily a negative for Philo. We found the video quality to look pretty sharp and detailed in our testing.
Philo’s mobile app uses a similar design to its streaming device apps, with one exception: Instead of a traditional TV guide showing multiple time slots for each channel, the app only shows the program currently playing. Aside from that, our experience with the mobile app was smooth, with no notable performance or navigation issues.
It also has one extremely annoying quirk. When you click on a live show to watch, Philo takes you to the beginning of the program instead of where it is in real-time. If you try to fast-forward to the present, you’ll likely get stuck watching commercials before you can jump ahead.
DVR and simultaneous streams
Out of the skinny bundles, Philo’s extra perks are by far the best. It’s the only one to include cloud DVR storage for free, and it also allows for streaming on up to three devices at one time. If you live in a family that wages war over the remote, Philo is worth the price of admission for this alone.
Philo TV FAQs
Which streaming devices are supported by Philo TV?
Philo is compatible with Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Apple TV and Android TVs version 5.0 or higher. That’s a much shorter list than most live TV streaming services.
What internet speed do I need for Philo TV?
Philo recommends a minimum of 3 Mbps download speeds for SD quality, 7 Mbps for HD and 13 Mbps for HD streaming if other devices are connected to the network. Keep in mind, the more devices connected at once, the higher speeds you’ll need for reliable streaming. Not sure what you’re currently getting? Use our speed test below to find out.
Can you fast-forward through commercials on Philo TV?
Unfortunately, you’ll have to sit through commercials on Philo. Live TV streaming services operate just like traditional cable or satellite TV providers, which means dealing with advertisers. That said, if you save shows to Philo’s cloud DVR, you can fast forward — just not during live TV.
Will Philo TV save me money?
If you’re currently paying for cable or satellite TV, Philo will almost certainly save you money. However, it might not be as much as you think. Because providers usually offer generous discounts for bundling internet and TV service, live TV streaming services are at a disadvantage.
Is Philo TV worth it?
It depends on what kind of cord-cutter you are. If you don’t care about live sports, there’s no reason to pay for cable or a live TV streaming service for more than $25/mo.
But sports aside, Philo is still best reserved for hardcore cord-cutters. It doesn’t come with ABC, CBS, Fox or NBC, so you’ll probably want to supplement it with a TV antenna or Locast.org.
Locals aside, Sling Blue ($40/mo.) both have better channel lineups than Philo ($25/mo.). Where Philo closes that gap is with its unlimited DVR storage and three simultaneous streams.
Written by:Joe Supan
Principal Writer, Broadband Content
Joe is a senior writer for CNET covering home technology and broadband. Prior to joining CNET, Joe led MYMOVE’s moving coverage and reported on broadband policy, the digital divide, and privacy issues for the br… Read more
Edited by:Robin Layton
Editor, Broadband Content
FeaturedWhat you need to stream TV: A beginner’s guide Joe Supan — 9 min read
FeaturedMoving? What’s better — Switch to streaming services or bundle TV and internet? Joe Supan — 5 min read
FeaturedCould 4K streaming video and gaming quickly eat up your data limits? Joe Supan — 4 min read
Friday, February 16, 2024The best hardware firewalls for your home Wi-Fi in 2024
Camryn Smith — 6 min read
Tuesday, February 13, 2024How to share your Wi-Fi password on an iPhone
Camryn Smith — 4 min read
Thursday, February 8, 2024How to stop targeted ads on Facebook and Google
Robin Layton — 7 min read