Please help me get online! What modem should I buy?
January 27, 2020 1:32 PM   Subscribe

We're moving and we're going to be taking our Comcast Xfinity internet with us. Currently we have a fiberoptic connection at our apartment (we're forced to rent the equipment from Comcast). However we're going to be switching to a more normal modem/router set-up. Please help me choose!

I already own a Nighthawk AC1900 Smart WiFi router. Is this an okay router? What other products do I need in order to get online at our new place? My understanding is that I only need a modem? Any recommendations for a reasonably-priced one? We (two people) mostly surf the net and watch Netflix - no gaming etc. We're hoping to keep the same modem for the next several years so it needs to be decent but nothing fancy, and ideally idiot-proof. If you assume I am a visitor from the Victorian era who has heard the word "internet" but isn't acquainted with the mechanics beyond the assumption of a certain level of dark magic involved, you wouldn't be too far off base...
posted by ClaireBear to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you already have a AC19000, the only thing you need is a cable modem. The Wirecutter's recommendation is fine in this case.

You connect the coax cable to this, and then put an ethernet cable between the modem and your AC1900. Either it will just work (give it a couple of minutes) or you will need to give the cable company the MAC address of the modem to activate it. This will be printed on the hardware.
posted by caek at 1:46 PM on January 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

I got a refurbished Arris SBG6782-ac from Amazon. Anything similar will work but might be overkill since you already have a router but I don't think you can find a modem only cheaper.
posted by Ferrari328 at 2:06 PM on January 27, 2020

Make sure to put it in a well ventilated location as cable modems tend to run hot.

Check to see if Comcast has a list of approved modems for use just in case but the Wirecutter recommended one should be fine. I don't like Netgear stuff but I've just had bad luck with them.
posted by selfnoise at 2:12 PM on January 27, 2020

The AC1900 is on Comcast's Approved Modems page under the heading "Best Wifi Router."
posted by davcoo at 2:15 PM on January 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have the AC1900 and I require no other devices to get online. It's a combo modem router. I just plug the Comcast coax line right into the back of it and I get that sweet, sweet wifi flow. You should have everything you need for basic Comcast cable internet already.
posted by phunniemee at 2:18 PM on January 27, 2020

Response by poster: Could anyone (including phunniemee) please comment on phunniemee's statement that the product I have is a combo modem/router? I bought it earlier this year (before I knew I was stuck with XFinity's own equipment because of the special fiberoptic situation in my apartment) on the advice of a Comcast rep who told me that it was indeed a combo modem/router. But then a technician told me that I did in fact also need to purchase a modem. So I was disappointed and am confused.
posted by ClaireBear at 2:23 PM on January 27, 2020

AFAICT, phunniemee is incorrect. There is no way to connect a coax cable to the AC1900 according to the Netgear page for this device. Such devices do exist, but the regular AC1900 is not one. There may be a combo variant available through cable companies, but if you bought an AC1900 retail, you probably don't have it.

The best way to be sure is to look at the back of your device. Is there a male coax connector next to the ports (i.e. a threaded thing that sticks out of the modem about half an inch)?
posted by caek at 2:26 PM on January 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

Pedantically, I know this is MeFi and gender is fluid, but that's a female coax connector you'll find on the back of a modem.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:42 PM on January 27, 2020 [5 favorites]

The "AC1900" is not actually a model number on it's own, but indicates the class of wifi that it provides, in the marginally useful way that tech companies do this sort of thing. ClaireBear has the "AC1900 Nighthawk Smart WiFi Router", while the one Comcast lists is the "Nighthawk AC1900 C7000 WiFi Router Cable Modem". All that the "AC1900" indicates is that the two models have the same wifi frequencies/bands available, though there are many other factors that affect the actual performance. caek is correct, the device you have cannot be used as a cable modem.
posted by yuwtze at 2:47 PM on January 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

If it helps, this is the exact product I have and the only device I have for connecting to the coax cable.
posted by phunniemee at 3:06 PM on January 27, 2020

Response by poster: Having looked at various options linked in this thread (many thanks!), it seems to me that the cheapest and best route at this juncture is to purchase this item from Amazon, in "400 Mbps max download speed" for $53 from Amazon in Very Good condition. Am I correct in thinking that that will do the trick?

(I double-checked my plan and we have "Performance", which is apparently a 100 Mbps download speed. Checking my speed, it is 117 at its max point. I assume getting a device rated for 400 Mbps will carry me through for hopefully 4-5 more years, right?)
posted by ClaireBear at 3:29 PM on January 27, 2020

You want a Netgear Nighthawk CM1100 DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem.
That's the companion cable modem for your router.

Costco has that on sale right now for $130, online and in-store.
posted by w0mbat at 5:28 PM on January 27, 2020

That is the exact modem I have, and I am also on Comcast. I was more-or-less in your same situation two years ago, and it's where I landed. I don't have much to say (positive or negative) about the modem, since I rarely even think about it -- which I guess is actually more of a positive as far as the modem is concerned.

There's an argument to be made for getting a DOCSIS 3.1 compatible modem, since that's the latest and greatest, and will have the longest lifespan, but to the best of my knowledge, it's not really necessary until you start approaching gigabit speeds, and I would expect 3.0 to continue to be supported for well over your 4-5 year time frame.

There's nothing magical about getting a 'companion' modem, as far as I'm aware -- and certainly nothing compelling in your situation. (I'm interested to be corrected if I'm wrong on this or the previous point.)
posted by yuwtze at 5:50 PM on January 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

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