Recommend an excellent 3.0 modem to replace ISP supplied version?
April 5, 2013 9:16 AM   Subscribe

I need your recommendations on the best modem for my Comcast Internet service. I'd like to stop paying the monthly rental fee and improve service. Since I'm not terribly techie, can you also confirm that a new modem would in fact improve performance over the Comcast supplied modem? Also, what wireless routers can you recommend to improve performance? I'm willing to pay for performance.
posted by glaucon to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Motorola Surfboard is sort of the standard of cable modems in a lot of places, and their DOCSIS 3.0 offering would only set you back about $75.

It may, or may not improve things, as a lot of places just swap the modems out with another used one, and if you stop paying their fee and yours goes out, you'll be ponying up the money again.

As far as wireless routers, I'm a big fan of the D-Link DIR-655. Bought it over a year ago, still very happy about it.
posted by deezil at 9:33 AM on April 5, 2013

Response by poster: Do you have any special setup for the DIR-655? I have seen people recommend a wireless router that runs Tomato. what is Tomato and why is it beneficial? I have a Mac, if that's important.
posted by glaucon at 9:47 AM on April 5, 2013

I've got a Motorola Surfboard (that I got for sub-50 bucks on sale on Amazon about a year ago), the same kind Comcast uses, and the improvement is VAST. I don't know why (I, too, am not terribly techie), but my guess is that Comcast just provides you with the same POS that 10 other people have had before you, that's been knocked off the table 8 times and kicked around by their toddler and peed on by their cat and all that.

I've saved money in the long run and I have much more consistent service. And I literally just use exactly the same piece of equipment I'd get from Comcast.
posted by phunniemee at 9:51 AM on April 5, 2013

Best answer: Tomato is an alternative firmware for the router, made not by the manufacturer but a different developer to add or take advantage of router features lost by the manufacturer's firmware. (Another good alt. firmware is DD-WRT-- neither one supports all routers, so see their respective pages for what devices are supported.)

AFAIK, you can't buy a new router running Tomato. You'd have to replace ("flash") the router firmware yourself after enduring a number of warnings that you can render the router useless. Flashing a router is a safe procedure as long as it's not interrupted.

Taking advantage of tomato, though, might require a bit more techiness on your part; while routers are designed to be pretty hands-off, tomato has lots of features for managing multiple computers in your private network, doing network traffic measurement and logging, port-management, etc., but it would require a bit of management by you to operate all of these features.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:54 AM on April 5, 2013

Best answer: Yeah; the Surfboard modem that deezil links above is very good and has served me well with Comcast cable internet.

For most general use, any highly rated (either on Amazon or Newegg) router is going to serve you well. The D-Link that deezil links to sounds great. I've been planning to get this Asus one for a while.

"Tomato" is what is called an "alternate firmware" (other versions include "DD-WRT" and "OpenWRT"). Basically, firmware is the software that your router runs and alternate firmware is software written by people other than the people who manufactured the router. In general, I would say that, unless you know you need it, you probably don't need to go through the process of installing alternate firmware. If you find a router that has one of these alternate firmwares pre-installed, that's great, but it's probably not worth your time to install it. Not that installing it is very difficult; it's just that it's probably not "worth it" to you if you don't already know why you want it.
posted by Betelgeuse at 9:56 AM on April 5, 2013

You can filter down Comcast's list of approved DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems here: . The Surfboard devices go on sale all the time and all three I've owned (one outgrown, one destroyed in a power cabling goof-up) have been solid, so that's what I've always used.

You won't likely see any performance improvement over the Comcast-supplied modem. If you're paying for a speed tier that needs DOCSIS 3 (unlikely, but depends on your market; I think the cutoff is at 30-40 Mbps), they'll have already given you a DOCSIS 3 device. If not, then you don't need one.

For routers, I generally just pick something that's friendly to tomato (my current preference) or dd-wrt. Our current Linksys E3000 is a champ. You can probably throw a rock and hit a gross that will do great.
posted by introp at 10:12 AM on April 5, 2013

I'm with Mediacom, not Comcast, but when I upgraded my service and needed a DOCSIS 3.0 modem, I bought one of these from an ebay seller for $25. It works great with internet and VOIP services. Every bit as good as the Surfboard it replaced.
posted by chazlarson at 10:32 AM on April 5, 2013

Hey, if you're still reading this: I'm moving at the end of April and we won't have Comcast anymore, and I'd be happy to sell you my DOCSIS 3.0 Motorola Surfboard (only a few months old). I'm in the Boston area but could ship it.

Send me a mefi mail if you're interested.
posted by jozxyqk at 10:41 AM on April 5, 2013

Umpteenthing the Moto Surfboard line. The combination of my Surfboard and an Apple Airport Extreme router is pretty darned bulletproof.

Caveat...If you are also going to get Comcast's phone service, I'm pretty sure you're going to be locked into using Comcast's modem.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:04 AM on April 5, 2013

Responding upthread because I suck at checking in, no I don't run any custom firmware, but this will allow for it if you want it that way.
posted by deezil at 3:55 PM on April 5, 2013

1- Buy one off of Comcast's approved list.
2- Buy a separate router.
3- I agree, Motorola is the best. I'm on my third one in like 13 years. And the last replacement was like you, I simply wanted to stop paying the rental fee.
4- You shouldn't see an improvement in service with a different cable modem, unless your current one is broken. Docsis 3 does newer stuff with bonded channels and crazy stuff like that, but I noticed no improvement.
posted by gjc at 7:11 PM on April 5, 2013

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