I’m going to be honest from the top — my parents use Comcast’s internet service, and I helped them find a reasonably priced router/modem combo to buy so they wouldn’t have to rent either from Comcast. We were far from being the only ones to spurn Comcast’s leased equipment. The company has been seeing a lot of their customers shop elsewhere, and now they’re trying to do something about it with Xfinity xFi. Following in the footsteps of mesh router systems like Luma and Eero, Xfinity xFi is a new router system that improves Wi-Fi range and performance in the home while introducing a suite of home internet management tools, finally making Comcast’s offerings more competitive.
Like the Luma router system that we reviewed recently, xFi is a mesh router system. Instead of having a single wireless router for the home, the central unit can connect to other units placed throughout the home, preventing dead zones while still only giving you one Wi-Fi network to connect to (older range extenders would each have their own network IDs). The whole thing isn’t too shabby, hardware-wise — it’s an 8×8 MIMO system with a max speed of 9 Gbps, which far exceeds any of the internet speeds Comcast offers, anyway. Point is, the router will definitely ensure that you’re getting the most out of your internet service.
Like we mentioned, there are a lot of other products on the market that do this. But, xFi isn’t quite an also-ran. For one, the central unit is both a router and a modem, which makes xFi the only mesh network router with a built-in modem that we know of. It’s also an easier way for Comcast internet subscribers to get started with their service — instead of waiting out one of those dreaded eight-hour service windows, Comcast has made xFi easy enough for anyone to install. The xFi central unit only needs to be plugged in to the home cable outlet — scanning the QR code on the unit will help the app configure the network, which you can then name and set a new password for.
The same goes for any satellite units. Comcast has partnered with Plume, a company that makes range extenders that optimize the internet traffic that flows through them while routing that traffic to the central router. In other words, it’ll make sure streaming video and gaming gets the faster speeds, while less intense tasks that don’t need that kind of speed get bumped down.
Comcast has added a simple dashboard (app or web) for router controls, too. These will be handy for parents — from here, it will be possible to monitor all of the devices connected to the network and assign them to profiles for each person in the family. Parents will also be able to set bedtimes for individual profiles, which will cut off the kids’ devices from the internet at a set time. There are also usage limits and preset web filters, although we’ve been told that those web filters cannot yet be customized. The network can also auto-detect if a device connected to the network has been infected with malware, then quarantine that device — hugely important if you’re worried about smart home gadgets becoming spy devices for hackers.
Diagnostic tools have been added to lessen the frustration of internet outages or spotty coverage. The xFi system can do a diagnostic scan to figure out exactly where the problem is — if it’s the fault of Comcast’s service, the router, one of the satellite units, or your device. And, if you’re really in need of advanced features, simplified port forwarding is possible using that dashboard, too.
If you’re already a Comcast customer, there’s a good chance you’ve already known about this — Comcast has already made the upgrade available to 10 million of its over 23 million customers, and the company plans to get to 15 million by the end of the year. The good news for those customers is that Comcast isn’t positioning this as a premium service — getting xFi costs the same as Comcast’s regular per month equipment leasing charges, and if you’re already renting a router and modem from them, you can upgrade to xFi for no extra charge.