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Reviewing every streaming service is what we do here at Cordcutting.com, and NBCUniversal's Peacock is not going to be an exception. Watching 30 Rock online is a tough job, but someone has got to do it — and I did, which is why I'm here now to tell you all about the good and the bad of Peacock in our Cordcutting.com Peacock review.
Peacock is one of a handful of exciting new services that have come out in the middle months of 2020. Things are changing fast, and I’ve already updated this review to add some of Peacock’s latest accomplishments — for example, the fact that it now has an app for Roku, which is one of our favorite platforms here on the site. Other things about my review aren’t changing: Just like the first time around, I found that I liked Peacock’s content, loved its price, and enjoyed using its apps.
Signing up for Peacock was easy. Using it was even easier. Peacock’s user experience is very simple and very pleasant. With that said, it is missing a few bells and whistles that I’ve grown used to from my experience with other services.
Peacock’s app opens up to a “trending” tab, which tried to get me watching something right away. The trending tab includes news, sports, sitcoms, and more — basically, whatever folks are watching.
The “browse” tab offered me a more typical streaming service experience. Here, you’ve got your “featured” content and little sub-tabs for TV shows, movies, and more specific content types like “Kids,” news, sports, and “Latino.” Rows within the tabs narrow things down a bit more and include more detailed sub-categories with actual genre information (“Comic Relief,” “Serious Cinema,” “Action & Adventure,” and so on).
It’s not the neatest sort of organization I’ve ever seen, but it will look pretty familiar to you if you’ve used streaming apps like Netflix in the past few years. It’s all about guiding you to something to watch fast, but it’s not a great way to sort content if you have something more specific in mind (if you’re in the mood for a horror movie, it can be a little tough to find that). If you happen to know exactly what you want to watch, you can use the search function. Generally, though, Peacock's menus don't feel as smooth or as intuitive as those you'd get with a Hulu subscription or a Disney Plus subscription.
There’s a third main tab that exists alongside “Trending” and “Browse,” and that’s “Channels.” This tab presents Peacock content in a way that looks a lot like live TV. The content is organized by “channels,” which are new streaming networks built on existing NBC brands. The content is auto-playing on a schedule, so surfing these “channels” feels a bit like using cable or satellite. It’s easy to find something that’s “just on.” The approach is pretty similar to what Pluto TV does. I loved it when Pluto TV did it, and I love it now. It’s a passive sort of viewing option that feels a lot more laid-back than all of the algorithmic efforts that services use to get me to start on-demand content. I don’t like being bullied into starting something new, but I really don’t mind channel-surfing and tuning into a show midstream.
Peacock was missing some features we’re used to seeing. A big one was user profiles. If you sign up for Peacock, you only get one user profile. In other words, anyone who logs into your account is sharing one profile, and their viewing habits and preferences will affect what you see. Some services, like Netflix, let us create multiple user profiles within one account, meaning that your friend or your spouse can have their own preferences and viewing history that won’t affect your recommendations. With Peacock, you might log in and be prompted to “continue watching” your husband or daughter’s favorite show, and your featured content might be full of the stuff that they were watching while you were logged out. It’s not the end of the world, but it would have been nice to get individual profiles and a more customizable experience.
Peacock is NBCUniversals’s take on the streaming service. As you’d expect, it’s chock full of NBC and Universal content. That means NBC hits like 30 Rock and Parks & Recreation, plus NBC news content, Universal movies, and even live broadcasts from NBC Sports.
Not all things NBC are on the service. Seinfeld, one of NBC’s biggest successes ever, is over on Hulu on a pricey licensing deal. Friends, another mega-hit, is on HBO Max. The Office isn’t on Peacock yet, but it will be: When the show leaves Netflix in 2021, it will head over to Peacock. (In the meantime, Peacock is getting by on little mini-clips. One of the “channels” on Peacock plays short clips from the Office. Each clip is pretty short — imagine the sorts of clips that you could watch on NBC’s website, but strung together to form a kind of Office-themed variety hour.)
Peacock is short on true original content. The NBCUniversal stuff is “original” in the sense that NBCUniversal owns it, but it’s not “original” to Peacock — for the most part, these are all shows and movies that you could have seen elsewhere in years past. Totally brand-new and Peacock-exclusive content is in pretty short supply, at least so far. To be fair, Peacock launched during a global pandemic, when shooting new and timely content is impossible to do safely. It’s easy to imagine that we might see more new stuff in 2021 or 2022 than we’re seeing in 2020.
Overall, I was pretty pleased with what I saw on Peacock — especially because the vast majority of this stuff is available on Peacock’s free tier (we’ll talk more about the prices in a moment). Some big-name shows are missing, but the overall library is really strong.
Peacock offers 4K HDR streaming. That means 4K Ultra-HD — a super-sharp type of HD that’s basically twice as good as the typical 1080p “full HD” — and high dynamic range, which basically means darker blacks and lighter whites, with more vivid colors in between. To get this fancy-pants streaming quality, though, you’ll need a paid Peacock Premium account. Free accounts top out at 1080p HD, which is still a very respectable quality. (Not all of Peacock’s content is available in 4K HDR, so some content will top out at 1080p even if you’re a Premium subscriber.)
There’s no option to drop the quality below 1080p HD in the app, but if you’re worried about data use you can toggle an option for “Wifi only playback,” meaning the videos won’t stream when you’re on a mobile network only. Unfortunately, there’s no way to download videos and play them locally — it’s streaming or nothing with Peacock.
I found Peacock to be very reliable on the streaming front. I had no issues with Peacock’s servers or connection speed. Everything stayed in HD whenever I was streaming on Wi-Fi or mobile networks.
When Peacock first came out of the game in mid-2020, it had one serious flaw: It was missing support for Roku and Fire TV, the two most popular streaming platforms on the market. Happily, that has since changed. You can now get the Peacock app for Roku.
It’s not all good news, though: Fire TV users are still left out in the cold. That leaves Peacock with less-than-stellar platform support overall, because Fire TV is second only to Roku in popularity.
You can also watch Peacock on your TV with Android TV, Apple TV, or Chromecast. If you want to watch on a different screen, just use the mobile apps (for Android and iOS) or in-browser apps. Peacock also works on some set-top boxes from select pay TV providers.
Price is a really bright spot for Peacock. This is a very affordable service that is pretty generous with its features and content.
Let’s start with the cheapest option: a free account. Peacock is free to sign up for, and free users can access a ton of great content. Not all Peacock content is free, but a surprising amount of good stuff is. Free users will see ads in their content.
If you upgrade to Peacock Premium, you’ll pay $4.99 per month. That will give you access to everything that Peacock has to offer, but you’ll still have ads in your content.
The priciest Peacock subscription option is Peacock Premium’s ad-free version. This option is $9.99 per month and includes all of the content that Peacock Premium has, without the ads in on-demand content. Keep in mind that this doesn’t get rid of all of the ads, though. The live content will still have the usual built-in ad breaks that you remember from live cable and satellite broadcasts, and Peacock will keep right on filling those spaces with ads. It’s only the on-demand content that gets affected by the ad-free upgrade.
Peacock has a free trial offer. If you sign up for Peacock Premium, you can watch for seven days for free before you have to pay. You can cancel at any time and just go back to Peacock Free, so the trial is risk-free.
Peacock isn’t perfect. It’s missing some of the quality-of-life perks that we like to see, like individual user accounts. It’s also missing some big-name NBC hits like Seinfeld and Friends.
But Peacock does have a ton of great content, a simple and engaging user experience, an awesome “TV guide”-style faux-live channel menu, genuine live news and sports content, and some really cost-effective subscription plans — including one of the best free plans we’ve seen in streaming. Plus, it’s now available on more of our favorite platforms.
Overall, Peacock is a very exciting new service. Its subscription option may not be world-beating, but its free version is fantastic. If Peacock can add support for Fire TV, it will be a real threat in the streaming wars. For now, it’s a solid streaming option for Roku, mobile, Android TV, Apple TV, and Chromecast users that other streamers should be keeping an eye on.