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YouTube TV Review Roundup: Promising, But Not Perfect

YouTube TV, YouTube’s answer to cable replacement services like Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now, has launched, and the early reviews are in: it’s not bad, but needs work.

Of the publications that got an early look at the new streaming service, few of them were bowled over, but most of them seem to agree that it’s a promising competitor with at least a few novel features — although maybe not enough channels just yet.

Credit: YouTube TV

(Image credit: YouTube TV)

Since the coverage is all early impressions rather than full reviews, take what you read with a grain of salt. You can also try out the service for yourself, provided that you live in one of the five cities where it’s currently available: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia or San Francisco.

CNBC

Todd Haselton took YouTube TV for a spin at CNBC, and had mixed feelings about it. While he liked the interface, he felt that 39 channels were simply too few to offer in this day and age.

The Good

“There are recommendations for TV shows to record, new movies to watch, live talk shows, upcoming sports games (and reminders) and even the latest episodes of shows like ‘The Simpsons.’”

“The quality looked great, but that sort of thing can vary depending on the time of day and demand.”

The Bad

“That's not a bad [channel] lineup, but it's slim pickings compared with similar-priced offerings from Sling TV (45+ channels), PS Vue (45+ channels) and DirecTV Now (60+ channels).”

“Even though you're paying a monthly fee, you're still going to see ads.”

CNET

YouTube TV had both positives and negatives for David Katzmaier at CNET. He thought the channel selection was lackluster, but praised its innovative DVR abilities.

The Good

“YouTube TV has some promising advantages, including a great cloud DVR and tight integration with YouTube itself.”

“Local channel availability -- the local broadcasts of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox -- is YouTube TV's biggest advantage.”

The Bad

“Until Google develops actual apps for devices like Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV -- like its competitors already have -- it feels half-baked for living-room use.”

“With its limited geographic availability, Swiss-cheese channel lineup and cast-only TV support, YouTube TV is a boy among live TV streaming men.”

Business Insider

Steve Kovach at Business Insider liked the way YouTube TV looked and controlled, but didn’t think much of its anemic channel selection or lack of options for Roku and Apple TV.

The Good

“The user interface is nice here. You swipe up and down to channel-surf, and previews start streaming as soon as you scroll through.”

“There are also a lot of shows and movies available to watch on demand.”

The Bad

“You might have trouble finding what you want to watch. There's no CNN, Discovery, HBO, TBS, Comedy Central, or a slew of other popular channels.”

“As nice as it is to stream shows to your smartphone, it'd be better to have more options besides Chromecast to watch on TV.”

Mashable

The most enthusiastic early review of YouTube TV came from Raymond Wong at Mashable. Wong loved the device’s interface and DVR capabilities, even though he couldn’t quite defend the channel selection.

The Good

“YouTube throws [cable TV’s] archaic interfaces right into the trash and replaces it all with an elegant app for iOS or Android.”

“Personally, I think the most attractive thing about YouTube TV is its unlimited cloud DVR feature.”

The Bad

“For Sling TV subscribers like me, it sucks that I'd have to give up go-to channels like CNN, Comedy Central, TBS and Adult Swim.”

“YouTube TV isn't a one-size-fits all streaming service. Whether you decide to sign up will come down to the channels and content offered.”

TechCrunch

Greg Kumparak at TechCrunch liked YouTube TV for what it offered, but questioned whether it really offers cord-cutters anything exciting over its competitors.

The Good

“[The] interface is particularly slick; as you scroll, a preview of each channel’s live feed slides into place at the top almost instantly. It feels a lot like flipping channels to see what’s on the ol’ cable box.”

“It’s got Chromecast support — and like everything that has Chromecast, it’s super simple.”

The Bad

“If you’re one of those people who ditched cable TV long ago for Netflix/Hulu/etc. and haven’t looked back, you might not be missing much here.”

“If I’m going to be planning ahead to watch something after it’s live, I’m probably turning somewhere else [other than YouTube TV’s DVR] for it.”

The Verge

The most comprehensive coverage of YouTube TV’s early days came from Ben Popper at The Verge. While he liked the interface, he wondered whether the service differentiates itself from its competitors enough.

The Good

“The experience of YouTube TV on a smartphone is impressive.”

“YouTube TV’s DVR function offers an unlimited amount of cloud storage and will save recordings for nine months at a time. This is a compelling offer when stacked up against some of the other streaming services in the market.”

The Bad

“There are plenty of big gaps in YouTube TV’s current offering. While the goal is to capture the attention of fickle youth, the service won’t carry Viacom channels like MTV or Comedy Central, at least not for the time being.”

“Like all the options in the world of streaming television, YouTube TV is a compromise.”

Wired

Davey Alba at Wired liked YouTube TV’s potential, even though it’s currently “a little wonky” in practice. She believes that the price is fair, but the service may not offer enough content for everyone.

The Good

“The service so far is fun, because television is fun.”

“YouTube TV, however, has the potential to create those very mass-media moments—think the Super Bowl or the Oscars—that brands and advertisers love.”

The Bad

“The experience is not smooth or intuitive in the vein of Netflix, with its single, comprehensive catalog of shows and movies.”

“You’ll probably find something to like on YouTube TV. What’s less clear is whether you’ll like it enough to pay $35 per month on top of all your other monthly subscriptions.”