DIRECTV vs AT&T U-verse – Comparing Your Options

Many parts of the country now have more choices when considering who to go with for their cable or satellite provider.  These new options are coming from the former Bell operating companies, AT&T and Verizon – as they now offer U-Verse and FiOS service.  These telco TV video services are delivered over fiber and copper lines to each home. AT&T in particular continues to expand into new areas with U-Verse service, aiming to offer it to up to 33 million homes by the end of 2015.

But you might be wondering how  U-verse service stacks up with a traditional satellite provider like DIRECTV.

As with anything, there are several considerations that go into selecting a provider – and it can be difficult to make an across the board comparison.  In this article we will review some facts and figures to consider when comparing U-verse to DIRECTV.

First, let’s consider a few of the options now offered by AT&T.

U-Verse TV delivered by AT&T offers cable TV service to residential customers via their existing network. In most areas, the actual service is delivered by VDSL technology, meaning it is not fiber to the home, (FTTH or FTTP), but is sent to a “node” in the neighborhood, then delivered by your existing copper line to your house.

The service is 100% digital, as is satellite service through DIRECTV. But since it is delivered by hard line, you can expect a little more reliability overall. While satellite TV has made vast improvements in delivering signal, it still goes out occasionally during intense weather.

U-verse TV is available in four different programming package levels. They are the U-Family, U200, U300, and U450 packages.  While DIRECTV offers television programming on a stand alone basis,  AT&T has bundle package  combining the cable TV product with your choice of U-verse internet and/or a Uverse home phone line.  So while the prices quoted here for AT&T U-Verse service may seem a bit high, remember if you combine them with other  services, you will obviously get some sort of U-verse bundle discount. Every area can be different, so you will have to contact AT&T directly to get a quote on U-verse and other services combined.  If you want Spanish channels, there are Latino versions of the three higher tier packages which are $10 extra each per month.

First off,  U-verse TV service currently includes the following when you sign up for new service.  Professional installation is included of course, and also a six or twelve month discount, depending on the number of services selected.  Another U-verse promotion being offered involves a $200 Visa gift card when you sign up for a one year term. While the details seem long winded and extensive on this program, you basically have to sign up for U-verse and their high speed internet, fill out all the forms, and wait for your card in the mail. Check with AT&T for the exact details.

Now if you are just interested in the basic pricing for U-verse TV and/or internet, here is what to expect.

U-family – $101 for TV and high-speed internet, $57 for TV only. This package is the only AT&T package that does not include a HD receiver with a DVR. Package includes up to 130 channels and Video on Demand.

U200 – $116 for TV and internet, $72 for TV only. The U200 includes “up to 200 channels,” digital music channels, VOD, but no movie channels

U300 – $131 for combination TV and high speed internet, $87 for TV only. Package includes “up to 260 channels,” HD receiver, DVR, music channels, and Movie Package which has 30 premium channels of Starz, Showtime, Encore, and the Movie Channel.

U450 – $163 for combination, $119 for U-verse television only. This package includes up to 320 channels. Everything in the U300 plus all of the HBO and Cinemax channels, as well as extra regional sports networks are included here. This is the all-inclusive, all you can eat buffet package from AT&T.

As you can see, pricing on AT&T U-Verse is  higher than the promotional pricing you can receive from DIRECTV.  Here are the current prices for DIRECTV packages, which reflect a discount of $29 a month for the first year.  The only thing to evaluate further is if it is around football season.  During this time of the year you can usually get NFL Sunday Ticket for free, in addition to the regular discounts offered by DIRECTV.

How does U-verse from AT&T compare with DIRECTV in other areas?

High definition programming is something most people are looking for today. HD access on the U-verse service is $10.00, and is $20 from DIRECTV – though that is part of the “advanced receiver fee”  which also gives you DVR access.  The big difference here is in the number of HD channels available. DIRECTV offers 112 national HD channels, as well as local HD in almost all major markets. AT&T U-verse is now the leader in high definition when you strictly look at channel count, offering 145 HD networks.

Comparing DVR services is often difficult unless you can use each service for a period of time, then report back on what you like.  As far as specifications go for the U-verse digital video recorder, probably the most amazing thing is that it can record up to 4 shows at one time.  Not to be outdone, DIRECTV recently introduced their new Genie HD DVR, which can record up to five shows at a time.   Either way, you probably can’t go wrong with either company in recording all of the content that you desire.

As far as capacity, the U-verse DVR can hold up to 233 hours of SD programming, and 65 hours of HD programming, while the DIRECTV Genie goes 800 and 200 hours respectively. Advantage to Direct TV as far as DVR capacity goes. Other than that, the DVR’s have similar features such as programming menus, parental locks, and the ability to pause live TV and skip commercials on previously recorded shows.

Installation of U-verse and DIRECTV is one of those things that can go either way. Everyone has their horror story and wants to share it with the world, so individual experiences will of course vary.  U-verse complaints were widespread at first,  and AT&T has brought on board quite a few technicians in order to meet demand for the service.  The AT&T website says installation will generally take 4-6 hours, and recommends setting a morning appointment. This of course would also include setting up your high speed internet connection as well.  One thing that certainly helps for reducing this is the wireless receiver option now being offered to Uverse customers.

In general, DIRECTV installations take between 2-3 hours. Work is often done by contractors, who are paid by the job, so they may work a little faster that the phone company. Expect to spend at least a half a day at home, whether you have either company hooking up your service.

AT&T currently has a resale agreement with DIRECTV as well.  So if you call in to order U-verse and it is not currently available in your area, they will offer you satellite television service instead.  So if AT&T is already your local phone and DSL provider, you would have to shop other cable companies or DISH Network if you were wanting something other than DIRECTV satellite service.

A final consideration is the picture quality provided by these two companies. This is no doubt highest on the list of those who have HD television sets, and the question they want answered first.

Who has the better picture?  While wholly unscientific,  if you browse through a few of  the reviews you can find via Google search you will get a  general idea of what people think.   Most report that the satellite television option still offers better HD experience compared to U-verse service.


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