Friday, January 1, 2021

Comcast Sent Me This Box. It Sucks. Here's Why You Should Get One Too

Remember how last year I left Pittsburgh and moved to Iowa and then 6 months later I moved back to Pittsburgh? Well because this year wasn’t bad enough we had to move again. But it’s all okay! Our new place is 100% better then where we spent 2020 and it’s just down the block. Not only that, when we transferred our internet service, Comcast asked me if I wanted this… thing.

Xfinity Flex is completely free and available to anyone getting Comcast just for the Internet. Targeting cord-cutters, the Flex is basically a Roku which is basically a PS4 that doesn’t play PS4 games. It’s a small box - well, it’s called a box but it’s shaped like a spaceship. You plug it into your TV with a normal HDMI cable and takes about five minutes to set up.

It comes pre-installed with a bunch of popular streaming apps including Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify. Since I watch a lot of stuff on those kinds of apps I can now get access to all of that content on my big TV in the living room. Just like with the PS4. Which I already have.

So, why did I say yes to this? The big hype surrounding the Flex was that it comes included with Peacock Premium, which means access to Peacock Originals such as Cleopatra in Space and the Saved by the Bell reboot plus Peacock exclusives like The Office and Parks & Rec.

(Oh, and they also boast over 10,000 other free shows and movies but that’s kinda overstated. It just means it comes preinstalled with Tubi which itself is free. You can get Tubi on anything though.)

What’s the catch? As far as I can tell so far: there isn’t one. It’s totally free and comes with a return label so you can send it back whenever you want. The Peacock Premium is also yours up until you return the device itself. So I’m not sure what Comcast gets out of this. You can rent movies On Demand and without doing too much research it’s safe to say they cut some sort of deal with NBC-Universal. Or maybe it’s just a simple extra incentive to get people to sign up for their Internet.

This is not a sponsored review of the Xfinity Flex. It’s not even a proper review. I don’t do negative reviews and this dumb thing sucks. The remote control is janky and slow and the box itself is ugly and doesn’t really fit with my other devices. It’s certainly not enough to sway a Verizon user - just get a Roku, it’s the same thing.

What I really want to tell you is a fun little trick I figured out that makes this whole thing totally worth it, and it involves that free Peacock Premium. It’s not like the Flex box is preloaded with a special, no-account version of the app. Instead, it has you set up a normal Peacock account and then link it to your Xfinity account. This can only be done within the Flex - but the account can be used on any device.

So, here’s what you gotta do: First, go to the Xfinity site and ask their customer service to send you a Flex. It should arrive pretty quickly. Once you got it, set it up and set up your Peacock account. You can link a preexisting Peacock account if you already have one. Confirm that the account works on a computer (or, y’know, the Roku or PS4 that you already have hooked up to your TV) and then put the Flex and all of it’s cables back into the box. Stick that box in your storage and enjoy free Peacock Premium courtesy of the most hated company in the world.

Peacock Premium is only $4.99 a month and does have a lot of free content, but as the Stream Wars rage on it’s nice to not have to pay for another service. I was never planning on paying for this thing, but The Office and Parks & Rec are two of my partner’s favorite shows and some of the Originals looked worth checking out. So getting a free account from my crappy Internet company is a pretty good way to start 2021.

Oh and you should go watch the Saved by the Bell reboot, it’s really good. 

UPDATE: As of June 26 the offer described in this post is no longer available. It is still possible to get free Peacock via an Xfinity's 1 GIG Internet service through June 25, 2025.