Can you have two routers in one house?

You are decluttering the electronics bin and remember that old router that you forgot to recycle.  You begin to wonder…

Electronics resale value falls notoriously fast and it often makes more sense to repurpose or recycle equipment versus selling.

Does this old router have any use?  Is there any reason to have two routers on the same home network?

In this article, we detail the reasons two routers may improve your home network and provide some tips on making sure your two routers play nice.

What do routers do? laptop wired to router

Obviously, your router “routes” internet traffic.  What else?

Routers request and receive content from the Internet

When you use your internet browser to Google questions that led you to this article, your router sent a request out and received an answer back from the Internet, which the router then forwarded to your specific device (laptop, tablet, phone, etc).

This is the core functionality of any router and the reason for its’ name, however routers generally serve many other needs within a network that are less known and happen behind the scenes.

Routers can listen for requests and provide configuration information for your network

A router usually acts as a DHCP server. Since other devices on your network such as laptops, printers, tablets, Smart TV’s, etc don’t generally have a network configuration when they first boot up, they rely on the DHCP server for their configuration (IP address, Gateway, DNS, etc).

Routers can function as wireless access points

With the right security settings in place, your router can safely function as a wireless access point.  Relating to security, the real muscle of a firewall in today’s world is no longer handled by your operating system but by your router.  (But go ahead and keep updating your operating system!)

Routers can extend your network’s physical size

For wired devices, your routers can also “switch” it up and act as a four-port switch, thus extending the number of devices that can be physically plugged into your network.

Why might one network need two routers?

router with lan cableIn short, to improve network range (to include the man cave), bolster coverage (to fix those dead zones upstairs), ensure reliability (you never know when the router is going belly up), and increase size (more ports in the storm).

How can you ensure your two routers will improve your network?

Multiple routers can make a network “two” crowded.  Basically, you still need to think of one router as the “one in charge” and any functionality that leads to and from the outside world must go through just that router.

Choosing one of the routers to be the liaison to the outside world provides a starting point for the ways your routers should be configured the same and how they need to be different.

What functionality do you want to make sure not to duplicate?

You need to look out for WAN (wide area network) versus LAN (local area network) port connections (how the routers access the outside world), DHCP configuration (making sure both routers aren’t handing out conflicting information to devices on your network), and the routers’ channels (ensuring your routers do not talk over one another on your own network).

Most importantly, do not connect the second router via the WAN porttwo router diagram

The WAN port (sometimes called the “Internet” port) is reserved to access the outside world.  If you connect your second router on the WAN port, duplicate routing occurs because your network is now divided by a firewall and each device that connects to your new network is NAT’d twice (once by each router).

Instead, you should connect the routers together via any of the LAN ports (numbering does not matter).  Remember, only one of your routers accesses the outside world. Refer to the diagram above.

DHCP configuration

Your home network is a bit like The Highlander – there can be only one!  With two routers, you want to disable DHCP server abilities on the second router to avoid IP address conflicts.

Otherwise, devices on your network may acquire their IP address from the router that does not have access to the outside world or the device may not be known by the primary router. This would lead to that device being disconnected from the Internet.

Make sure your routers do not use the same channel

This is especially important if your two routers are in close proximity (within fifty feet or so).  Channel duplication will cause interference and degrade the Wi-Fi performance of devices.

If your routers use 2.4 GHz, use a non-overlapping channel – see this article for help with choosing the best Wi-Fi channel.

Remember that frequencies matter

Consider whether the routers use 5 GHz versus 2.4 GHz wireless frequencies.  This impacts the range and bandwidth of routers.  A 5GHz router will provide faster data rates at a shorter distance while 2.4 GHz routers may improve coverage for farther distances at slower speeds

How should your routers be configured the same?

 

router status lights

Under most circumstances, you will want your routers to have the same SSID (bonus points if it makes your neighbors laugh), the same security and encryption (WPA2) protocols, and the same key/password.

These configurations will ensure that your Wi-Fi devices can automatically connect to your network and will roam to your second router when you go out of the range of your primary Wi-Fi network.

Should you ever have different SSIDs on the same network?

You can use different SSIDs and keys/passwords for each router if you like.  This creates a second wireless network with a different name.

This configuration does not enhance security, unless your router allows you to map each SSID to a different network connection using VLAN tagging.  When a device connects to an SSID, traffic is passed to the associated VLAN which has its own security settings.

This is an advanced topic, but can be simple to set up if your router supports “guest network” functionality. Using this feature, guest traffic can be isolated from the rest of the network or limited in the services (and speeds) it has access to.

Wrapping up

In conclusion, there are several reasons having two routers on your home network may be an improvement.

Remember one router is in charge and does all the talking to the outside world, but as far as your network’s name, the routers should usually be in agreement.  Plus, you can tell all your friends that you have a new tech upcycling hobby!

Which security option is best for a wireless router?

Wi-Fi security is paramount – without it, there are many things that someone could do on your wireless network – things that range from minor or barely noticeable all the way up to flat out illegal – and everything in between.

A case for security

arm coming through computer screen

Honestly, most people that are looking for Wi-Fi networks with no security or weak security are simply looking for free internet access. These people just want to check their email, surf the web, or download something without paying for internet access.

They don’t really have any hostile intent for your network.

However, there are also more sinister people looking to gain access to a wireless network for unsavory uses, such as:

  • To steal your data – perhaps they can get your credit card number or tax information to use it for fraud, or maybe they want to steal photos or other personally identifiable information and use it to blackmail or otherwise expose you
  • To invade your privacy, search for risque photos, or access sensitive financial information
  • To download or upload illegal content online without being traced back to them – things like copyrighted material, illegal software, or child pornography
  • To hack or attack other systems without being traced
  • To download or upload large amounts of data without it slowing down their own internet connection

Ultimately, it comes down to this – someone is using something of yours without paying for it and without your permission. Is that really something you are okay with?

You could be liablemasked computer hacker

Furthermore, if the perpetrator does something illegal online using your internet connection, the authorities can investigate the source IP address. This will lead them to your ISP – upon which they can subpoena your ISP to provide the associated subscriber’s name and address.

Guess whose door they will come knocking on next? Yours.

The scary part is, it could be the guy next door, someone parked in the street, or a neighbor down the road. It is very difficult to physically locate the person.

Isn’t it easier to just set up ample security from the start to ensure that you are keeping all potential unwanted guests out?

Security Methods

iphone wifi encryption selection

There are several different modes and methods you can use to secure your wireless network. The easiest, most common, and most effective solution is to enable the proper type of security and encryption protocols on your router.

This will not only prevent someone from joining your network who doesn’t have the password, it will also prevent anyone in the area from eavesdropping on what you are doing online.

The main security protocols are:

  • Open/None (AKA, no security)
  • WEP (weak security, very easily cracked)
  • WPA (better, but still weak)
  • WPA2 (best for home use)
  • WPA Enterprise (ok, for business)
  • WPA2 Enterprise (best, for business)

Can you use the Enterprise versions at home?

I can see why you would want to – the enterprise versions of each protocol renew/update their keys at a set interval, whereas their non-enterprise counterparts simply use a pre-shared key. This key update makes the enterprise versions rock-solid secure, since the key is always changing.

A typical user would not want to attempt using an Enterprise protocol at home due to the advanced knowledge required to set it up. Additionally it requires setting up a dedicated server to make everything operational.

The vanilla WPA2 protocol is enough for most users and is much easier to set up and manage.

The best security option

For home users, WPA2 is currently the best choice. If your router gives you the choice of using TKIP or AES with WPA2, choose AES.

 

wireless security signAdditional security settings

Utilizing WPA2 on your router with a strong passhrase provides plenty of security for most users. If you are extra paranoid, you can also employ some additional security methods.

Here are some additional security settings that can optionally be enabled to enhance security on your wireless network. These features are not as robust or as easy to implement as enabling WiFi security/encryption – they are intended merely to be supplements to the security of your network.

Basically, you should not enable these options without security/encryption and expect your network to be secure.

Disable SSID broadcast:

 

With the SSID broadcast disabled on your router, people won’t be able to see your Wi-Fi network, or they will only see an “unnamed network” in their list of available Wi-Fi networks. Connecting to a network with SSID broadcast disabled is more difficult – you will have to manually define your SSID in your computer’s network settings before it will connect.

Fewer people will notice your network, but advanced users can still easily find your network using the right tools. Simply disabling the SSID broadcast also does nothing to protect your privacy as information is transmitted through the air – you need security/encryption for that.

If you are connected to an Open Wi-Fi network (one that does not use encryption), anyone that knows what they are doing can intercept your traffic and view what you are doing online without you knowing it.

MAC address filtering:

 

Like disabling the SSID broadcast, utilizing MAC address filtering will also do nothing to protect your information from eavsdroppers.

It will, however, make it more difficult for an unauthorized user to access your network. MAC filtering works like a whitelist – where only MAC addresses that are defined on the list can communicate on the network.

That said, advanced users can ‘sniff’ for a valid/authorized MAC that is currently in-use on the network, and then spoof their MAC to use an authorized one.

Enabling MAC filtering also makes managing your own wireless network very cumbersome – any time you want to connect a new device to your wireless network, you first have to log in to your router and add the new device’s MAC address to the whitelist.

Best Wireless Access Point for Home

One of the best  ways to improve your  Wi-Fi’s coverage, speed (throughput), and reliability, is to add a wireless access point (AP) to your home network.

What is a wireless access point anyway?

Simply put, a wireless access point is a device that connects to your wired network and makes your network available wirelessly. It consists of a network port and one or more Wi-Fi radios that are used to serve wireless devices.

Think of a wireless access point as having a second router in your home that can be used in order to extend the coverage of your wireless network. In fact, all wireless routers include an access point – it just happens to be built into the router, so it isn’t called an access point in that case.

A wireless router is like a swiss army knife – it performs several core functions within your network. Not only does it route traffic (thus the name “router”), it also acts as a firewall, a switch, an access point, a DHCP server, and sometimes a modem.

An access point only serves one purpose – to provide wireless connectivity to devices on your network. You can’t get online with just an access point – you need a router as well.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of using an access point versus a wireless router?

hands typing on keyboard

Benefits

Using wireless access point(s) gives you the ability to distribute one or more AP’s throughout your home, which serves to increase the range and signal quality of your wireless network. This in turn makes your wireless network run faster and more reliably.

Speaking of reliability – as with many things in life, devices that are designed to accomplish just one task generally perform that task better than a device that is designed to accomplish many different tasks. This principle also applies to wireless routers versus an access point – the old adage “Jack of all trades and master of none” definitely applies here.

Since access points are designed only to efficiently and reliably connect wireless devices to the wired network, they generally do the job of serving wireless clients better than a router does.

Another benefit of access points is that they can be placed strategically – such as ceiling mounted or installed inside of a network jack gang box.

Drawbacks

Wireless access points are enterprise-grade networking equipment and are not generally marketed toward consumers. Thus, they usually require a bit more technical ability and knowledge of computer networking than a consumer-grade wireless router would.

Access points also require additional wiring work. This is both a pro and a con. Since the AP is usually placed in a strategic area to provide the best coverage, it usually requires running an Ethernet cable from the desired placement location back to wherever your router is.

This can be a lot of work, depending on the construction and layout of your home, and the proximity of the AP to your router. The amount of work also depends on how accessible of a crawlspace or attic your home has, whether or not you own or rent (which means you can’t drill into walls, floors, and ceilings), and the degree to which you wish to hide the wiring versus simply running it in plain sight along the baseboard or ceiling.

Another drawback of using a wireless access point, is price. Since using an AP also requires a router, you must buy an AP and a router, plus additional cabling. In some cases, you also need to buy a switch or firewall as well, depending on your needs and the capabilities of your current router.

The time required to run wiring (or pay labor costs to have someone else do it) should also be considered.

What is the best wireless access point for home?

Some of the best wireless AP’s on the market right now, are the UniFi product line from Ubiquiti. They are extremely popular, and for good reason – they strike an excellent balance of performance, features, ease of use, and reliability – all at an excellent price point. We recommend the UniFi AC LR (Long Range) and Lite models:

About Ubiquiti

Ubiquiti Networks has been around since 2005. They are well known among wireless internet service providers for making quality gear that is easy to manage.

They were originally known for making outdoor, long range fixed wireless equipment that allowed for high speed connections between buildings over long distances. Over time, their product lines have expanded and they have moved into other technologies of computer networking such as switches, routers, and access points.

 

The UniFi Solution

The Ubiquiti UniFi wireless solution consists of several different pieces of technology that can be put together in a customized fashion to build a very robust and feature-rich network solution. We are only reviewing their access points here, but we wanted to make our readers aware that there are several other add-on’s to the UniFi solution that will add features and visibility into your network if you wish to explore that.

The main components in the UniFi solution are the access points, the security gateway, the switches, and the controller (Cloud Key). Most components are optional – you can piece things together however you’d like, using only a single component (like an AP) if you like, or using them all together.

Access Points

The access points serve to connect wireless devices to the wired network and are the main topic of this article.

UniFi Security Gateway

The UniFi Security Gateway (USG) serves as a router and firewall. This is not your typical wireless router that you purchase at Amazon – it only performs a subset of the duties that a typical consumer-grade router does, which is just routing and firewall duties.

It also generally does a much better job of handling these duties than a typical wireless router, which is expected to handle everything. Is it any wonder that most people have to reboot their wireless router regularly?

UniFi Switch

UniFi Switches are Ethernet switches that expand the port capacity of your network and allow you to plug all of your wired devices into your network reliably and at high speed. They also serve as the connection point for the AP’s.

UniFi Controller

The UniFi Controller brings everything together. It is used to configure everything initially or to make changes down the road. It also provides a ton of reporting and security features.

The Controller can be ran on a computer or server in your home, or you can opt for the Cloud Key, which runs the controller software on a self-contained micro device that you simply plug into your network.

What is ‘Prosumer’ gear? A disclaimer:

wireless network layout

By now you are probably saying “OK hold on, this sounds complicated”. You are right.

We wanted to stop here and issue a disclaimer for anyone considering purchasing the UniFi solution.

The UniFi solution is considered “Prosumer Equipment”: it is professional-level equipment that is also suitable for savvy consumers.

This equipment is designed for professional use – it is intended to be used in enterprise environments, where the requirements for speed, security, and reliability are stricter than a residential environment. That’s what makes this equipment so desirable – it is professional grade.

There are, however, tons of people using UniFi gear in their homes. It works very well for home use… as long as you can manage installing it and getting everything up and running.

Anyone purchasing UniFi equipment should be somewhat savvy with computer networking. You should also be willing and prepared to Google for help, read forums, watch YouTube videos, and have some patience during the process. If this is you – we say go for it.

If this scares the daylights out of you – perhaps the UniFi solution isn’t for you. Or, perhaps you should consider hiring someone to install and configure it for you if it’s something you really want installed in your home.

It can, after all, be installed and configured very quickly by someone who knows what they’re doing.

Different types of AP’s

There are dozens of different UniFi AP’s SKU’s, however we are narrowing it down here to the UniFi AP AC line, which supports the newest 802.11AC wireless standard. We aren’t discussing any of the older Wireless B/G/N products here.

The four main types of UniFi AC access points are HD, Pro, LR, and Lite. You can explore more about these models here: https://www.ubnt.com/unifi/unifi-ac/

Since we are looking for the best wireless access point for home, I won’t discuss the HD and Pro models here. Those models are generally geared at larger and more dense deployments than anyone would need in their home, such as a large office, church, or stadium.

The two models that the team here at Infravio recommends are the LR and Lite version. Dare I say, these models are slightly aimed at home users, even though they are enterprise-grade.

UniFi AP AC LRUniFi AC LR AP antenna

The LR model contains most of the features common to any of the AP’s in the UniFi AC line, however is is designed to go longer distances.

It contains an antenna design that allows it to reach further into the corners of your home and yard, all from a single AP. This antenna allows it to not only transmit data further distances, but it also allows for receipt of data from a longer distance – something that a simple high-powered AP can’t accomplish alone.

Ubiquiti Networks UniFi AC LR AP Enterprise Wi-Fi System (UAP-AC-LR)
  • Long-Range, Symmetrical Links for Distant Clients
  • 24V Passive PoE
  • (1) 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • 175.7 x 43.2 mm

UniFi AP AC Lite

The Lite model also contains most of the features of the other UniFi AP’s, however it is smaller and more compact than the other models. It is also generally the lowest-priced option of the line, making it an excellent option for home users.

Ubiquiti Networks UniFi AP AC Lite, Dual-Band 24V passive PoE, UAP-AC-LITE (24V passive PoE Indoor, 2.4GHz/5GHz, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 1x 10/100/1000)
  • UAP-AC-LITE UniFi AP AC LITE 802.11ac Gigabit Dual-Radio PoE
  • The UniFi AC Lite AP features the latest Wi-Fi 802.11ac technology in a refined industrial design and is ideal for cost-effective deployment of high‑performance wireless networks.
  • Dual-Radio performance, gigabit speeds, the UniFi AC Lite AP delivers 5x the performance of the first-generation UniFi AP while still maintaining Ubiquiti disruptive pricing strategy.
  • Sleek, Ultra-Compact Design, uniFi AC Lite AP features a cleaner design in a reduced footprinthalf the size compared to the standard UniFi AP.
  • Scalable Enterprise Wi-Fi Management, UniFi Controller v4 software is a powerful, enterprise wireless software engine ideal for high-density client deployments requiring low latency and high uptime performance. With its software-based capabilities, the UniFi virtual control plane allows for unlimited scalability under one centralized controller. Remotely access the UniFi Controller to upgrade deployed UniFi APs while in the field.

Pros and Cons

Note: These apply to both the LR and Lite models unless otherwise noted, as they are very similar.

Pros:

  • Excellent coverage from a single access point (especially the LR model)
  • Wireless connections are reliable
  • Great price point
  • Plays nice with other UniFi AP’s (even if they are not the same model)
  • Powered over Ethernet for simplicity – no need to run separate power, just a single Ethernet cable

Cons:

  • Requires controller software (or Cloud Key) to setup initially – needs to be running regularly if you want to see data/reports or any time you wish to make changes
  • AP only – still requires a router to get online
  • Advanced setup requires some networking knowledge and persistance
  • Older UniFi AP units don’t support standard POE – make sure you get a newer one or use the included AC power brick
  • Ceiling mount can be difficult to install
  • Many people report difficultly getting good support from Ubiquiti

Performance all around

Both the LR and Lite versions bring speed and stability to your Wi-Fi network – something that I think most users are looking for. Additionally, they both support advanced features such as band steering and airtime fairness, which help ensure an enjoyable experience.

Your choice

Most people will be happy with the LR or Lite. It’s up to you to choose which one you prefer. If you are needing to cover a greater area, perhaps the LR model is the best choice. If you are more price sensitive and wanting something with a smaller footprint, perhaps you should consider the Lite model.

If you are needing to cover a really large area, you should consider installing multiple AP’s. That is one of the benefits of using AP’s instead of a single wireless router – you can grow your network over time, adding AP’s as your need for a larger coverage area increases.

 

 

Best Router and Modem Combo

woman working on laptop

 

For most people, their cable modem and router are two separate devices, however this isn’t always the case. You can also get integrated “combo” devices, which feature a cable modem and a router in the same box.

Before we go any further – a brief note: In this article, we are referring to router and cable modem combos, not router and DSL modem combos. We will cover DSL modem combos in a future piece.

2-in-1cable modem plus router

So why would anyone want a router and cable modem combo in the first place?

Pros:

  • Saves Space
  • Uses less electricity
  • Simpler: Only one device to manage, only one IP address to remember
  • Many combo devices are very robust and feature the same features as their standalone counterparts, such as DOCSIS 3.x support on the cable modem side and 802.11 AC Wi-Fi on the router side – so you aren’t necessarily giving anything up by going with a combo device
  • Saves you money on your cable bill – no more needing to pay monthly for a modem rental
  • Fewer cables, less mess

Cons:

  • They are typically expensive since they are effectively two devices in one
  • If it fails, you either have to buy another combo device (expensive) or ditch the combo and buy a separate router and modem (two devices, also expensive)
  • Doesn’t always provide all of the features that a separate cable modem and router setup would provide – especially on the router side

 

What is the difference between a router and a modem?


Duties of a router:

A router performs many functions, however the primary purpose for a router in the home is to share your internet access among all of the people and devices in your home. Without a router, you would only be able to connect one computer at a time to your internet connection.

The router further enables sharing of your internet connection through the integrated switch ports and built-in wireless radios. Most home routers have an integrated 4 port switch for wired devices, as well as a built in wireless access point for Wi-Fi devices.

The router also enhances the security of your internal network within your home through technologies such as firewalling, packet inspection, and network address translation.

Duties of a modem:

The word “modem” originates from two words (modulator-demodulator) shortened and crammed together. Modems basically allow a provider to convert digital data into a waveform for transmission over a wire, with a set of modems on each end converting digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital again.

Many people are familiar with dial-up modems, which were primarily used in the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s to send data over voice-grade telephone lines. Today, cable modems function in a similar manner, sending modulated RF data over coaxial wiring.

The modem is what enables your internet service provider to actually deliver service to your home. Ultimately, a router is an optional accessory, since your internet service will function without one – however a modem is always required.

netgear router modem combo

A note from a Nerd:

Personally, I am not a fan of combo devices as they tend to be a “Jack of all trades and master of none”. I like having a lot of choices when it comes to my cable modem and router.

If I am selecting a combo device, my choices are much more limited because of the much smaller selection of them available on the market. However, I am an advanced/power user. For the typical user, these devices are an excellent choice.

That being said, here is our pick:

 

NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 (24x8) DOCSIS 3.0 WiFi Cable Modem Router Combo (C7000) Certified for Xfinity from Comcast, Spectrum, Cox, & more

 

NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 (24x8) DOCSIS 3.0 WiFi Cable Modem Router Combo (C7000) Certified for Xfinity from Comcast, Spectrum, Cox, & more

What we like about it:

  • Supports DOCSIS 3.0 – This thing absolutely screams and supports data transfer speeds up to approximately 1 Gigabit per second
  • The wired ports are all 10/100/1000 “Gigabit” ports
  • Simple to install (some of the installation is dependant on your Internet Service Provider, so results may vary)
  • Supports dual bands – it can be configured to operate on both the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz spectrums
  • Excellent Wi-Fi coverage for small to medium size homes (up to ~2500 square feet)
  • Includes a USB port for network storage or network printing
  • The management web interface is consistent with other Netgear routers – if you have owned a different Netgear router in the past, you will likely be familiar with this one right out of the gate

What we dislike about it:

  • As with any cable modem swap, your Internet Service Provider may have to send a tech out to install it – however, most ISP’s can make the change remotely, and Comcast even lets you make the change on their website
  • The management interface is somewhat clunky and slow – this will only affect you when you are actually making changes to the router, not during regular internet use
  • One year warranty is a bit short – we would have liked to have seen a three year warranty

NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 (24x8) DOCSIS 3.0 WiFi Cable Modem Router Combo (C7000) Certified for Xfinity from Comcast, Spectrum, Cox, & more
  • Compatible with Xfinity from Comcast, Spectrum, Cox, CableONE & more. Not compatible with Cable bundled voice services;Dimensions: 9.66 x 8.31 x 1.7 inches
  • Three-in-one DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem + AC1900 WiFi Router+ 4 Gigabit Wired Switch
  • Up to 960Mbps modem speed and Dual-Band AC1900 (2.4GHz & 5GHz) WiFi speed. 24x8 channel bonding/ Approved for plans up to 500 Mbps
  • System requirements: Microsoft Windows 7, 8, Vista, XP, 2000, Mac OS, UNIX, or Linux, Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0, Firefox 2.0, Safari 1.4, or Google Chrome 11.0 browsers or higher. DOCSIS 3.0 unleashes 24x faster download speeds than DOCSIS 2.0
  • Ideal for streaming 4K HD videos, faster downloads, and high-speed online gaming.WiFi Technology:802.11ac Dual Band Gigabit

What is the best WiFi Router for Comcast?

What is the best Wi-Fi router for Comcast?
Top Pick
NETGEAR R6700 Nighthawk AC1750 Dual Band Smart WiFi Router, Gigabit Ethernet (R6700)
Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 MU-MIMO Dual-Band WiFi Router for Home (Fast Wireless WiFi Router, Gigabit Wireless Router)
Amazing Router, but Pricey!
ASUS Dual-Band Gigabit WiFi Gaming Router (AC3100) with MU-MIMO, supporting AiProtection network security by Trend Micro, AiMesh for Mesh WiFi system, and WTFast game Accelerator (RT-AC88U)
NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 AD7200 802.11ac/ad Quad-Stream WiFi Router, 1.7GHz Quad-core Processor, Plex Media Server, Compatible with Amazon Alexa (R9000)
Gigabit Capable (for connections over 100M)
Range
WiFi Standard
802.11AC
802.11AC
802.11AC
802.11AD
Speed Rating
AC1750
AC1900
AC3100
AD7200
CPU Cores
2
2
2
4
Number of antennas
3 (external)
3 (external)
4 (external)
4 (external)
Prime Status
Top Pick
NETGEAR R6700 Nighthawk AC1750 Dual Band Smart WiFi Router, Gigabit Ethernet (R6700)
Router
Gigabit Capable (for connections over 100M)
Range
WiFi Standard
802.11AC
Speed Rating
AC1750
CPU Cores
2
Number of antennas
3 (external)
Prime Status
Linksys Max-Stream AC1900 MU-MIMO Dual-Band WiFi Router for Home (Fast Wireless WiFi Router, Gigabit Wireless Router)
Gigabit Capable (for connections over 100M)
Range
WiFi Standard
802.11AC
Speed Rating
AC1900
CPU Cores
2
Number of antennas
3 (external)
Prime Status
Amazing Router, but Pricey!
ASUS Dual-Band Gigabit WiFi Gaming Router (AC3100) with MU-MIMO, supporting AiProtection network security by Trend Micro, AiMesh for Mesh WiFi system, and WTFast game Accelerator (RT-AC88U)
Router
Gigabit Capable (for connections over 100M)
Range
WiFi Standard
802.11AC
Speed Rating
AC3100
CPU Cores
2
Number of antennas
4 (external)
Prime Status
NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 AD7200 802.11ac/ad Quad-Stream WiFi Router, 1.7GHz Quad-core Processor, Plex Media Server, Compatible with Amazon Alexa (R9000)
Router
Gigabit Capable (for connections over 100M)
Range
WiFi Standard
802.11AD
Speed Rating
AD7200
CPU Cores
4
Number of antennas
4 (external)
Prime Status
comcast xfinity logo

I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say this:

Finding a good Wi-Fi router is hard.

I mean, there are so many different brands, models, technologies, and standards to think about, it’s enough to make your head spin.

On top of that, few things are as frustrating as when technology doesn’t work right. You can never really be sure how a router is going to work until you buy one and plug it in at your home.

In this article, we’ll go in depth to review our pick for the best router for Comcast, and explain why we think it’s the best choice for you to spend your hard-earned dough on.

Do you really need a router?

It’s important to recognize that you may not need a router. Comcast may be providing you with a router already.

At a bare minimum, you need a cable modem. This is the box that the coaxial cable plugs in to and it will have an RJ-45 network connection as well, which feeds your router. This connection looks like a phone plug, only it is about twice as wide.

Some of the equipment provided by Comcast is just a cable modem, and some of is a combo device, featuring a router and a cable modem in the same device. How to tell?

back side of a cable modem
The back side of a typical cable modem – notice the single Ethernet jack at the top.
The back side of a typical cable modem + router – notice the quantity and variety of ports.

Locate the cable modem/router in your home. If it only has a coaxial connector plus a single network plug, it is likely just a modem. If it has a coaxial connector plus multiple network plugs, USB ports, antennas, or Wi-Fi symbols or branding, it is a combo device.

Comcast-provided equipment

Unfortunately, Comcast’s standard equipment provided at installation seems to vary widely depending on where you live and when you signed up, so it can be difficult to guess what equipment they provided to you. I recommend looking at your monthly bill to see if you are paying a lease fee for equipment. This will likely show a description of what the equipment is such as “modem” or “router with integrated modem”.

A word on equipment lease fees

If you are renting or leasing equipment monthly from Comcast and aren’t planning to move to an area without a cable internet option. you should consider buying your modem and/or router, instead of leasing it.

This can result in significant cost savings over time and has the bonus convenience of not needing to return anything to Comcast when you eventually disconnect service.

If all you have is a cable modem, you will generally be able to only get online on one computer at a time, and you will not have Wi-Fi. Of course, there are ways around this, but most people prefer to just buy a good ole Wi-Fi router so that they can share their Internet connection with all of the devices in their home and also have Wi-Fi.

Even if you determine that Comcast is already providing a router to you, you may still wish to buy a router so you can make your own choice on the best equipment and not be locked into what they think you should have.

Most frequently, a modem/router combo is installed – which spares the customer from having to provide a router if they don’t want to. We generally don’t like modem/router combos, since they are typically a “jack of all trades and master of none”.

If your cable modem also has router functionality, and you are planning to buy your own Wi-Fi router, I strongly suggest configuring your modem for “briged mode”.

This effectively disables the built in router functionality so that your new preferred router can perform those duties. It is best to avoid connecting routers back-to-back after all, to prevent configuration and performance issues associated with double NAT.

So what is the best router? Our recommendation is the NETGEAR R6700 Nighthawk AC1750 Dual Band Smart WiFi Router, Gigabit Ethernet (R6700):

NETGEAR R6700 Nighthawk AC1750 Dual Band Smart WiFi Router, Gigabit Ethernet (R6700)

We like that it is a Tri-band router that supports the newest wireless standard, 802.11AC. It has the capability to handle the speeds that you can get from Comcast.

With Comcast, in some areas, you can get Gigabit service (and beyond) via fiber, but the majority of consumers are still on their cable network with service being delivered via the DOCSIS standard on traditional Coax cable. Speeds available to these customers usually top out around 300Mbps currently, which is still smoking fast!

Many routers that are more than a couple of years old will still have a Fast Ethernet WAN port on them, meaning that they top out at 100Mbps. You wouldn’t want to use this type of router with a 300Mbps service for obvious reasons – you simply won’t get anywhere near the speeds you are paying for, since your service will only be running at 1/3 of its potential.

The R6700 has a gigabit WAN port and is built to actually provide a Gigabit worth of actual throughput. Not all routers can make this claim.

The wireless radio on the R6700 can also support full Gigabit – under the right environmental conditions, of course (which applies to all routers, regardless of brand).

What else?

NETGEAR R6700 Nighthawk AC1750 Dual Band Smart WiFi Router, Gigabit Ethernet (R6700)

A few other things we really liked about this router: It supports several additional features that you may or may not want to take advantage of, including Quality of Service (QoS). QoS can prevent bandwidth hogs (such as large downloads) from ruining the experience of any real time applications such as VOIP calls or video streaming that is going on at the same time.

After all, no one likes it when their Netflix stops to buffer. This router can prioritize streaming traffic so that the large download doesn’t affect anyone else in the house, for example.

The router also has excellent range for larger homes, has parental controls to help keep your kids safe online, and supports all of the current common WiFi security standards. It is also very reliable and doesn’t need to be rebooted frequently.

Additionally, it sports four wired Gigabit Ethernet ports as well as a USB 3.0 port – which can be connected to an external hardrive and then used as a NAS device to share files over the network.

You can also connect a printer to the USB port, granting the ability to print over the network. This is especially handy if your printer doesn’t already have network capability.

Again, any recent router should work fine with Comcast, but the Netgear R6700 is our choice based on the features, performance, reliability, and price.

NETGEAR R6700 Nighthawk AC1750 Dual Band Smart WiFi Router, Gigabit Ethernet (R6700)
  • AC1750 WiFi-450+1300 Mbps speeds
  • 1GHz Dual Core Processor
  • Ideal for homes with 12 or more WiFi devices
  • Advanced features for lag-free gaming
  • Prioritized bandwidth for gaming, streaming videos, or music.System requirements:Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0, Firefox 2.0, Safari 1.4, or Google Chrome 11.0 browsers or higher

How to get WiFi at home without a router

Are you looking to have Wi-Fi in your home, but you don’t have a router? This may sound strange, but it is possible using the mobile hotspot feature on your computer. Many of the newer and more popular computer operating systems support this feature (for free).

wifi logo

Not the mobile hotspot that you’re used to

This method of sharing an internet connection is frequently referred to as ‘mobile hotspot’, however this setup differs from most people’s definition of mobile hotspot – which is the process of enabling a feature on their smartphone so that they can tether a computer to the phone for internet access through the phone’s mobile data connection.

Using a smartphone’s hotspot permanently will get expensive very quickly – since you will likely blow through your mobile data allotment in short order. This type of hotspot also requires that the phone has adequate mobile data reception – if your signal is too weak, you won’t be able to even turn on the mobile hotspot functionality on your phone.

The solution we are discussing here uses a computer to act as a router in order to share an internet connection. The internet connection you are sharing could be a Cable or DSL service of your own, or perhaps a neighbor’s Wi-Fi that they are granting you access to.

Why no router?

There are multiple reasons why someone would want to go without a router.

The most common reason is that someone has recently moved and doesn’t yet have a router because they either didn’t buy one yet or because their old router is packed away somewhere and they can’t find it.

Or, perhaps they were leasing their last router from their ISP – in this case, they would have had to return it when they disconnected service at their last house/apartment.

Also, people that are traveling frequently can benefit from hotspot functionality on their laptop. Frequently, while traveling, you will run into internet access services that only allow one device online at a time.

Want to get online with both your laptop and your tablet? In this case, you may have to pay again to get the second device online as well. This type of service is not uncommon and is typically found in airports, cruise ships, and some hotels.

A Mobile hotspot on your computer can alleviate the need for these additional charges and allow you to only pay one access fee for all of your devices.

Pros and Cons to going router-less

Pros

  • Saves money up front – No router to purchase
  • Slightly lower power consumption due to the lack of a router (this only applies in cases where you leave your computer running all the time anyway)
  • It’s an easy fix when you’re in a bind and don’t have a router
  • Excellent for travelers

Cons

  • More complex – Traffic is going to be double NAT’ed in some cases, which can also impact performance
  • Worse performance – Depending on the speed of your computer and the other tasks that are running, your computer may not be able to route packets as quickly as a regular router can
  • Worse coverage – Most computers lack an external wireless antenna, and the ones that do have one are quite small. A router can easily cover a larger area than a computer can
  • Must keep the computer on all the time – That’s right, if you shutdown or reboot your computer, other people in the house that are using your Wi-Fi network will be disconnected
  • Difficult to expand wireless coverage – adding additional access points to your network to increase the range won’t work in some cases because the wired Ethernet adapter on your computer is likely already being used to connect to your Cable/DSL modem
  • Limited to 8 devices (Windows 10) – Windows caps the amount of devices that you can share with at 8 total

It’s only temporary (usually)

There’s no reason why you couldn’t rely on this set up permanently, however, most people will only use it temporarily – such as when they are on travel or if they just moved in to a new place.

A router isn’t THAT expensive and the benefits of using a traditional setup versus a mobile hotspot are many.

Getting Started

Difficulty: Medium
Time Required: 10 Minutes

Prerequisites

  • A computer with an Operating System that supports mobile hotspot functionality (Windows 10, MacOS)
  • The computer must have a wireless adapter (any modern laptop will have a wireless adapter built in, and some desktops have them too)
  • An internet connection to share – either your own Cable/DSL type service, or a nearby Wi-Fi network that you have access to (Windows 10 only – MacOS can’t be connected to WiFi and share via WiFi at the same time like Windows 10 can)

Optional

If you are wishing to share your own Cable/DSL service, your computer will also need to have a wired network adapter for connection to your Cable/DSL modem. If you are sharing a nearby Wi-Fi network, a wired adapter is unnecessary.

Windows or Mac?

See the mobile hotspot procedure for Windows 10 below, or jump ahead to the instructions for MacOS.

Windows 10 Procedure

  • Click on the ‘Start’ Button and click on the ‘Settings’ icon:

start menu settings button

  • Click on ‘Network and Internet’:network and internet settings
  • On the menu on the left, click on ‘Mobile hotspot’

network settings mobile hotspot

You will see a drop down box that says ‘Share my Internet connection from’. If you have multiple connections to the internet, such as a Wi-Fi connection to someone else’s network plus a wired connection to your Cable/DSL modem, you will see them listed here.

  • Choose the connection that you want to share.
  • If desired, you can change the network name and password by clicking the ‘Edit’ button. Your password needs to be at least eight characters long.

Alternatively, you can keep the randomly generated name and password that is already shown on the settings screen.

mobile hotspot settings

  • Lastly, move the slider at the top of the screen that says ‘Share my Internet connection with other devices’ to ‘On’. Your computer is now acting as a router.

You should now see your shared wireless network available on other devices in your home and you should be able to connect to that network using the password shown on the mobile hotspot configuration screen.

You will also see a count of the number of devices that are connected to your shared wireless network:

mobile hotspot devices connected

Remember: If you turn off or reboot your computer, you will cut off anyone else that is using your hotspot.

MacOS Procedure

Note: With MacOS, you can create a mobile hotspot just like in Windows 10, except you can typically only share a wired Ethernet connection. This is due to the fact that Windows 10 allows you to connect to a Wi-Fi network and then share that same network on the same wireless adapter.

MacOS does not support this functionality, so you are generally limited to sharing an internet connection that comes in through the computer’s wired Ethernet port, unless you happen to have two wireless adapters. However, many people want to share their Cable/DSL service through their computer, so this functionality on the Mac is still definitely worth mentioning.

  • Click on the ‘Apple’ menu and then click on ‘System Preferences’:

mac apple menu

  • Locate the ‘Sharing’ option and click on it:

mac system preferences

  • Select ‘Internet Sharing’ on the left side:

mac sharing

  • On the ‘Share your connection from’ drop-down, choose ‘Ethernet’
  • In the ‘To computers using’ box, chose your Wi-Fi adapter (the screenshot doesn’t show a wireless adapter since my Mac doesn’t have one, but your computer should)
  • Click the ‘Wi-Fi Options’ button at the bottom to configure your hotspot. You can chose a name for your network as well as select a channel:

mac wifi settings

We recommend selecting ‘WPA2 Personal’ from the ‘Security’ box and then pick a secure password. If you don’t set a security mode, the network will be created as an open network, which will allow anyone to connect to it. Bad idea.

  • Lastly, check the checkbox next to ‘Internet Sharing’ on the left to enable the hotspot. ‘Internet Sharing’ will show as ‘ON’ and have a green dot next to it once it has successfully been enabled.

You should now be able to see the Wi-Fi network on other devices and connect to it to access the internet.

Remember: If you turn off or reboot your computer, you will cut off anyone else that is using your hotspot.