Tuesday February 7, 2017
Comcast Xfinity Tips and Tricks
Hi, Dave from Turnstone here, sharing my experience switching (back) from Verizon FIOS to Comcast at my Wilmington home. I know that most Sussex County residents can’t get FIOS and must choose between Comcast, dialup or satellite services for their internet and TV. If you are using Comcast, or thinking about switching to Comcast, this blog post is for you. Here are the quick takeaways:
- Upgrade your equipment!
- “Blast” your speeds?
- Learn the voice remote commands
- Program the 30 second skip
- Set up direct Netflix access
- Spend the time to learn about the online capabilities – accessing your DVR and watching live TV
- Decide on the best modem/router configuration for you to save money and improve performance
I maintain a home in Wilmington for family reasons. Many years ago, Verizon laid miles of fiber optic cable in our area, promising blazing internet speeds and extreme reliability. They basically have delivered on both of those promises, and the user interface and remote were a significant upgrade from Comcast at the time. My second two-year FIOS contract recently expired and I decided to explore my options.
After evaluating the new Xfinity X1 service from Comcast and pricing out their bundles it was a no brainer to make the switch, especially since Verizon was unwilling to negotiate their price to keep me as a customer. What I learned in Wilmington prompted me to upgrade my Comcast equipment at the beach. Here is what I learned during the process:
Upgrade Your Old Equipment
If you are already a Comcast customer, make sure you have the latest equipment. The new X1 boxes are smaller and more capable than the old ones, and communicate with each other to provide a cohesive service throughout your home. Generally, the switch is free. List the model numbers of your existing boxes and call Comcast to insure you can get a free exchange to the newest equipment. Then take your old equipment to your Comcast service center for an exchange. When you set up your new equipment the system will walk you through programming the Comcast remote to control your TV’s power and volume. Hopefully you will be able to access all important functions from one remote.
“Blast” your Download Speed
With the Comcast “Blast” feature, you can get download speeds of 150 MB per second. It is not clear from the Comcast website, but you can add the faster Internet speed on an à la carte basis, even if it does not appear to be offered in the bundle that you want. In my case, I only needed 140 channels, but there was no bundle that combined 140 channels with the 150 Mbps interent. I called Comcast and their sales representative was able to add the Blast feature to my desired bundle.
Learn the Voice Remote Commands
The XFINITY remote has a microphone button. When you press it, your TV is ready to receive many commands that speed up the process of navigating through all your content. Examples:
Changing the channel: "Watch ESPN"
Searching for movies or shows: "The Walking Dead"
Browsing Xfinity On Demand: "Show me kids movies"
Setting a recording: "Record Saturday Night Live"
Finding sports teams, games and events: "When do the Orioles play?"
Getting recommendations or seeing what’s popular on TV right now: "What’s trending?"
Just today, I pressed the MICROPHONE button and said “You can’t handle the truth”. My TV instantly offered up the classic movie, A Few Good Men. How cool is that?
I also love the fact that the remote is backlit, and the illumination is motion activated. Just pick up the remote and all the buttons are illuminated, which is great when you’re watching a movie in a dark room.
There was only one thing that I missed from my FIOS remote control - the thirty-second skip button.
Program the 30 Second Skip
On my FIOS remote I could press the thirty-second skip button during playback of recorded programs and quickly skip commercials. If I pressed the button four times, it would skip forward two minutes. It’s a very handy feature. With a little online research, I found a workaround. On your XFINITY remote, press the Exit button three times and then the numbers 0030. You won’t get any feedback from your TV that the programming has changed, but you can confirm that it works by playing a recorded program and pressing the Page Up button. The program should advance by 30 seconds. If you prefer, you can make the skip a full minute by entering 0060. With this change, the XFINITY remote is the best remote I’ve ever owned.
Set up Direct Access to Netflix
if you have a Netflix account you can now access it directly through the XFINITY box. Just press the Microphone button and say “Netflix”. You will need your email address and Netflix password to set up your account the first time, but after that your credentials are stored. You can now access your Netflix programs without having to go through a separate menu. And you’ll be able to access your Netflix content on every TV in the house, not just Internet connected TVs!
Spend the time to learn about the online capabilities – accessing your DVR and watching live TV
The XFINITY system allows you to watch all your recorded content on any device with a screen. You can also watch most channels of live TV and a lot of On Demand content. It takes a little time to become familiar with the log on and navigation, but it is well worth it. Before you know it, you’ll be watching your favorite shows while you’re sitting in your doctor’s waiting room.
Decide on your Modem/Router Configuration
You don’t have to pay Comcast $10 per month to lease their combined modem and router. First, some terminology to help you understand your options. Your modem is the device that brings the Internet signal into your home. A modem does not provide you with the wireless Internet that you have become accustomed to, also known as Wi-Fi. To have Wi-Fi in your house you need a wireless router. Comcast’s leased equipment includes a modem and router that are combined into one device. This is clean and simple, but not ideal, for two reasons:
- You must pay Comcast $10 a month to lease their modem/router
- There Wi-Fi router has limited capabilities, especially in a larger house with lots of devices
I went a different route, purchasing a modem and a separate Wi-Fi “mesh” network on Amazon. The payback period on the modem is 16 months. The mesh network is an additional expense, but well worth it since I now have a very strong Wi-Fi signal throughout my home and very fast download speeds on all our connected devices including smart TVs. The details are beyond the scope of this blog, but feel free to reach out to me if you would like to learn more.
I am very pleased with the new system. If you are not using Comcast, it’s probably time to give it another look. If you are using Comcast, make sure you’re taking full advantage of the newest technology. You’ll be glad you did.