Getting Started with Your New Amazon Echo

Have you recently jumped on the bandwagon and purchased an Amazon Echo? If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard a lot of great things about the device and how a lot of people simply love their Echo!

Well, I decided to see what all the hype was about and got one for myself. I have to admit, the Echo is pretty fun to use and it’s really useful if you have kids around. My kids love asking it to play music and I’ve installed several skills so that they can play math games, word games, etc.

In this article, I’m going to talk about how to quickly get your Echo setup and how to configure it so that you can get the most benefit from all of its current features. Amazon keeps adding new features to the Echo pretty much every week, so I’ll keep posting new articles when those new features make it to the device.

Setting Up an Echo

IMG_5042

When you get your Echo and unbox it, you’ll basically see three items inside: the Echo, the power adapter and some instructions. To get started, you start by plugging it into a wall outlet. While the device is booting up, you can go ahead and download the Amazon Alexa app from iTunes or the Google Play Store.

Once you download the app, go ahead and login with your Amazon account credentials.

alexa app signin

Once you have signed in, go ahead and close the app and then check your Echo. By default, once it boots up, the ring that goes around the top should light up orange. This means it’s ready to start the WiFi setup process.

alexa wifi setup

If, for some reason, the light is not orange, just press and hold the Action button for 5 seconds. The Action button is the one with just the single dot in the center. Now go to your phone and go to the WiFi settings section.

alexa wifi network

When the light is orange on the Echo, you should see an Amazon-WVM WiFi network that you can connect to. Once you connect to that network, go ahead and open the Alexa app on your device. It should automatically detect that you are trying to setup the device, but if not, tap the three horizontal lines at the top left, then tap on Settings and then tap on Set up a new device.

alexa app settings

The setup screen should appear and it will remind you to make sure that the light ring is orange before continuing.

echo setup app

If everything is properly setup, you should see a Connected to Echo message on the next screen. Tap Continue to continue the setup.

connected to echo

On the next screen, you have to choose a WiFi network to connect your Echo to. This will be the WiFi network that your Echo connects to when it is powered on. Note that you can change the WiFi network or connect to additional networks later on using the app.

select wifi network

The next screen will show you a progress bar as your Echo is prepared.

preparing echo

Once everything is setup, you should be able to start talking to the Echo! When you open the app, you’ll see the Home screen gives you a tip and then just has one card telling you to customize Alexa.

alexa app homescreen

The way the Echo works is that whenever you ask it something, it will respond via voice, but it will also create a card in the Alexa app that you will see on the home screen. For example, if you say “Alexa” and then say “What’s the weather like?“, it will tell you verbally, but it will also show the information in the app.

ask alexa question

It’s kind of a history log of everything you have said to Alexa. To activate your Echo, you have to say the word “Alexa“. You can change this in the settings later if you like, but only to “Amazon” or “Echo“. That might change in the future, though.

Customizing Alexa

The first thing you probably want to do once the Echo is up and running is to train your voice so that it better understands you. To do this, go to the app, tap on the three lines at the top left, tap on Settings and then tap on Voice Training. It’s directly below the Set up a new device option I had mentioned towards the beginning of the article.

Once you have done that, you should configure your music, news, sports, calendar and traffic. To do all of that, go to Settings again and scroll down to the section that says Account.

alexa account settings

These are all pretty easy to setup, so I won’t go into much detail. For Music & Media, you can play music from Amazon if you have Prime or Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio or TuneIn. Under Flash Briefing, you can configure a whole bunch of news programs like CNN, NPR, BBC, HuffPost, etc. Don’t go too crazy with this section though because your news briefing might end up being 40 minutes long!

Under Sports Update, just search for all your favorite teams and Alexa will give you an update on all of them when you ask. Traffic only allows you to enter a start and ending destination for now, so it is only good for people who commute everyday on the same route, i.e. home to work. Under Calendar, you can log into your Google Calendar and then use Alexa to add events to your calendar.

So what exactly do you say to activate all of these functions? Well, there are two ways to learn the commands. You can tap on the three lines at the top left and then tap on Things to Try or you can read all the commands online.

The other built-in features of Alexa are Timers & Alarms and Shopping & To-do lists. To set a timer, all you have to say is “Alexa, set a timer for x minutes.” For an alarm, just say “Alexa, set an alarm for 4 o’clock in the evening.” You can also say AM or PM if you like.

For the lists, just say “Alexa, add x to my shopping list” or “Alexa, add your-phrase to my to-do list.” Alexa, can also answer various questions like simple math or conversions. For facts, the device seems to rely on Wikipedia, so that’s either a good or bad thing, depending on who you ask. You can ask it things like “Who is the president of X country?” or “What is the capital of X state” or even something like “Name all of the continents”.

Alexa Skills

The real power of Alexa, though, comes in the form of skills. If you tap on the three lines and then Skills, you’ll get a list of all the ways you can enhance the Echo. These are basically little apps written for the Echo by various companies or individuals.

echo alexa skills

There are a bunch of skills, but currently most of them are silly or useless. However, the list is getting better by the day and some are really good. For my kids, I use Baby Animals, Spelling Bee, Human Body Quiz, Mental Math, and Dinosaur Facts. I really like the Mental Math skill for my five-year old daughter.

For myself, I use the Capital One skill, This Day in History and Random World Facts. I also have the TP-LINK Kasa and SmartThings skills enabled so I can control my switches, etc. via Alexa. In a future post, I’ll write instructions on how to setup your Smart Home devices with Alexa.

At this point, that’s pretty much all you can do with your Alexa, which is exciting because it’s only now becoming popular. Lots more skills are going to be written and Amazon is adding a lot of new features to the device. The cool thing is that everything is upgraded in the cloud, so the device gets smarter and better without any need for a hardware upgrade. If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

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Review – iClever Portable Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 Speaker

Looking for a quality Bluetooth speaker that sounds good, supports the latest tech and isn’t super expensive? Well, the team over at iClever sent me several of their gadgets to test out and the one I’m probably most impressed with is the Bluetooth wireless speaker.

It should be noted that I have been given a review unit by iClever, but this is not a sponsored post nor have I been paid to write it. I will list out the pluses and minuses of the device and give my general opinion based on my own usage.

The exact model I am reviewing is the iClever Bluetooth IC-BTS02 speaker. If you own one of these and have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Now let’s review it!

iclever bluetooth speaker

Size & Design

The first thing that struck me about the speaker was the size. It’s a tiny little speaker that fits easily into your hand. It was also small enough to fit into my jacket pocket, which was convenient when I took it for walks in the forest with my kids. The exact size is 2.75 inches tall by 2.5 inches (length & width).

bluetooth speaker size

For review purposes, the size will make it very easy to take with you anywhere. The other big plus is that it looks really nice. It’s all black with a blue band through the center. The sides have some kind of glossy surface, which makes it a bit shiny.

The only problem with the glossy sides is that your fingerprints remain on the unit and you will need to constantly clean it if you have oily or clammy hands. The speaker is on the top of the unit, so all the sound comes out from there.

On the front of the unit is one button, which controls Bluetooth and phone calls. If we flip the unit over, you’ll see the rest of the controls. You have three buttons to control music and volume.

speaker bottom

In addition, you have an On/Off switch, which helps save battery life. In terms of weight, the unit is definitely less than a pound. According to the documentation, it’s close to 9 ounces. The only other small issue I noticed in terms of design is that the bottom uses a rubber material, which collects a lot of dust and dirt. Luckily, you can just take a wet paper towel and wipe it to clean it off.

Functionality & Ease of Use

So what can this little speaker do? Well, it’s main function is to connect to any device that supports Bluetooth and act as an external speaker. When I got the speaker, I wanted to see if I could set it up without having to read the instructions.

That’s usually my test on how intuitive a company makes their products. After flipping the switch to On, I figured I would have to press and hold the button on the front to enter pairing mode. Thankfully, that’s exactly how it works. The button will begin to flash and then you can go to your tablet/smartphone/device and connect to the speaker.

iphone bluetooth

Above, I connected the speaker to my iPhone 6S Plus by simply tapping on it. The nice thing about the speaker is that you don’t need to type in any password or anything else to connect via Bluetooth. Once connected, audio from your device will now come through the speaker.

Depending on your device and what level of Bluetooth it supports, all audio may be routed through the device. For example, when using my Nexus 6 and iPhone 6S Plus, every sound generated on the phone was piped through to the speaker. This included all audio from any app that I used, phone calls, FaceTime calls, music, etc.

In addition, on any kind of call, you have to talk to the speaker and not your phone. The speaker has a built-in mic and the speaker on the phone would deactivate automatically when connected to the Bluetooth speaker. This actually works out well because you can listen and talk directly to the speaker rather than having to talk into your phone and listen via the speaker.

I was able to leave my phone on my desk and walk around the house with the speaker while on a phone call. Obviously, you can just do that with your phone too, but this speaker is definitely louder than a phone speaker. The only downside here is that you have to keep the speaker within about 2 feet of your face, otherwise no one can hear you clearly.

In terms of specs, the speaker supports Bluetooth version 4.0, A2Dp, AVRCP, HFE and HFP. It’s also worth noting that you can only connect one device to the speaker at a time. Once connected to a device, it will automatically reconnect to that device when you turn the speaker back on.

If you do not use the speaker for a certain amount of time (15 minutes), it will automatically power off, which is definitely a required feature for a device of this type. However, this only occurs when the device is on, but not paired with any other device. If you leave it on and it remains paired to your phone, etc., then it seems to remain on and the battery will run out much faster.

speaker controls

Luckily, the buttons on the bottom are also designed intuitively. For example, if you are listening to music and you press the next song button, it will load the next song. However, that button is also the increase volume button. Well, I tried holding down the button instead of just pressing it and sure enough, I started hearing beeps and the volume getting louder.

In terms of the battery, which is a 500mAh lithium-polymer battery, the device lasts a surprisingly long time. I wasn’t able to test it from full charge to dead while continuously playing music, but the device lasted for several days on one charge with a few hours of usage per day. It should be noted that I always turned the device off manually when I was not using it.

In terms of charging, the battery takes several hours to charge, which is to be expected. The speaker comes with a USB to micro-USB cable, which you can connect to your computer for charging. You can also just purchase a power adapter if you want to charge it faster from a wall outlet.

Other useful features include the Line-in or AUX port on the back. If you have a music player or want audio piped from a device that doesn’t support Bluetooth, but has a 3.5 mm audio jack, then this feature comes in really handy.

Sound Quality

Lastly, but not to be forgotten, is the sound quality! Obviously, when you’re spending $25 for something, it’s not going to blow you away like a Bose speaker would, but it’s also not costing you a fortune.

The speaker has a 5W driver, which delivers pretty decent sound for such a tiny little device. I was quite impressed with the quality of the sound overall. According to the manual, the frequency range is 90Hz to 18Khz, which sounds about accurate.

Depending on what kind of music you listen to, the sound quality will vary. For example, music with a lot of highs sounds excellent, but music with more mids doesn’t sound as good. The bass is good, but obviously with any speaker of this size, you’ll get some of that “muddied” sound.

Outside of that issue, the speaker is VERY loud. I blasted this thing at full volume on the speaker and on my phone and I literally had to step away because it was hurting my ears. The sound was also not as distorted as I thought it would be at such a high volume.

Conclusion

Overall, I would give this Bluetooth speaker a 9 out of 10 when comparing it to other similarly-priced speakers. The size, build-quality, sound-quality, sleek design and features make it one of the best portable speakers for this price.

I’ve only used the speaker for about 3 weeks, so I will update this post if I run into any issues later on. For example, one person wrote on Amazon that the battery stopped holding a charge after several months. It could have been a defective unit because I didn’t read any other similar reviews, but I’ll check the claim out myself too. Enjoy!

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2 Ways to Add More Storage to Your iPhone or iPad

It’s truly pathetic that Apple still sells iPhones and iPads starting with only 16GB of storage. This is a device that can take 4K video, but will literally run out of space in a few minutes if you try! Obviously, the best thing to do is get a higher capacity device, but some people simply aren’t willing to spend the extra $100 or $200 for the increased space and I can understand why.

Since there is no real way to add storage to an iPhone or iPad physically, you have to rely on all kinds of hacks. There are basically two reasons I could think of to add more storage to a device: to clear space off your device so you can install more apps, etc. or to load a bunch of music, movies, and documents that you can access quickly without needing an Internet connection.

In this article, I’ll talk about the different solutions that are currently available for this really unnecessary problem caused by Apple. Unfortunately, none of the solutions are ideal and you have to be really careful when picking a product.

tablet data

If you thought the limited space was the only jab from Apple, they also screw you over if you purchase movies from iTunes. If you try to play a movie you bought from iTunes from an external drive, it will give you an error because of DRM protection. So all iTunes movies and TV shows have to be stored locally on your iPhone or iPad in order to play or have to be streamed using the Videos app. If you were reading this article in the hopes that iTunes content could be offloaded, then nothing here will help you.

However, if you have a lot of music (even from iTunes) or your own downloaded/ripped movies and TV shows, then the devices below will help. Just note that you might have to convert the video into iPhone or iPad format first. Also, if you are an avid photographer and want quick access to your DSLR photos for viewing on your iPhone or iPad without taking up any space on your device, these products will work for you.

I also don’t mention cloud services here because I think most people already know about that, but maybe don’t want to pay the monthly fee for the storage. If you are interested in cloud storage, check out my article comparing the different cloud storage providers and also how you can use the cloud to share data between all your different devices.

Wireless Hard Drives

A wireless hard drive is basically a portable hard drive with a wireless card and battery built-in. They all have their own WiFi networks and you can connect pretty much any device you want to them. Once connected, you can transfer data both ways and can stream content from the hard drive to your Apple device.

Some of the wireless hard drives have SD card slots, so you can simply plug in the card from a DLSR camera and it’ll copy all the data to the drive. You can then view that content on your smartphone, tablet, computer or TV easily over the network.

When purchasing a wireless hard drive, you just have to be careful to buy one that allows you to access the Internet while connected to the drive at the same time. It’s a royal pain having to disconnect from your wireless network, connect to the drive and not have any Internet access in the meantime. Make sure the device has WiFi pass-through. I’ll make a note of it in my recommendations below.

Seagate Wireless Plus and Wireless Mobile

seagate wireless drives

These devices are supposed to last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours and they support WiFi pass-through, though people have complained the connection is slower than being directly connected to WiFi. Prices range from $79 to $149, depending on what model and how much storage space you want.

Overall, they seem to do a very good job of streaming content to your devices. These drives lack an SD card slot, so if you want to transfer pictures from a DSLR, you’d have to download all the pics to a computer first and then connect the drive to your computer via USB.

RAVPower File Hub Plus

ravpower filehub

For only $40, you get a whopping amount of features from this little device. The reason it is so cheap is because it doesn’t have any internal storage. It has a SD (SD, SDHC, SDXC) card slot and a USB 3.0 port. You can connect drives up to 4 TB in size or use an SD card up to 256 GB in size.

In addition, up to 5 devices can connect at the same time and you can transfer data between connected devices. On top of that, you can connect it to a wired network and turn it into a WiFi hotspot or connect it to a wireless network and turn it into a wireless extender. The RAVPower File Hub is a very good choice if you have your own SD card or USB hard drives.

There are other major players that have wireless hard drives, but I won’t go into too much detail here. You can check them out below.

WD My Passport Wireless – Includes SD card slot

LaCie Fuel Wireless Drive

SanDisk Connect Wireless Drive

 Flash Drives with Lightning Connector

If you aren’t happy with the fact that you need a battery-powered hard drive to expand your storage, then you might want to consider a flash drive with a lightning connector. You’ll lose a lot of the streaming, media hub, router/extender functions that you get with wireless hard drives, but it’s a lot smaller and easier to carry around.

Unfortunately, there isn’t any perfect product yet in this category. Some are cheaper, but require recharging. Some work great, but have odd designs that make using your phone difficult. Other downsides include only having USB 2.0 ports, rather than 3.0 and having no way to charge your iPhone or iPad while the drive is connected. Some of the devices also tend to drain your battery a lot faster. Hopefully, we’ll have more options in the future, but as of right now, here are the best products.

Leef iBridge Mobile Memory

leef ibridge

Depending on the size you purchase, the Leef iBridge can cost anywhere from $59 to $399! Overall, though, it is currently the best lightning flash drive on the market. You can store all your music, movies, and files on the device and use the accompanying app to access everything. You can also transfer photos and videos from your camera roll onto the device. The device also only consumes power when it is being used. Overall, it’s gotten pretty good reviews on Amazon.

SanDisk iXpand

sandisk iexpand

The SanDisk iXpand is another decent device, but it has to be charged in order to use. Since it has its own battery, though, it doesn’t use any power from the iPhone or iPad.

It also fits a bit oddly into the iPhone/iPad, which is a little annoying. The app is also not as good as the Leef app, but hopefully that will improve over time. Otherwise, it functions properly for its intended purpose. This one is the best choice if you want to password-protect the data using SanDisk SecureAccess.

The last option is the Hyper iStick, but it’s more expensive and doesn’t work as well as either the SanDisk or Leef iBridge, so I don’t really recommend it.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a couple of ways to go about virtually increasing the storage for your iPhone or iPad, but they all come with various caveats. The main one being you can’t store any iTunes-purchased content on the drives and play it from there.

Also, in terms of transferring content off an iPhone or iPad, you can really only access the Camera Roll. This is due to the way Apple restricts access to the file system and it’s not anyone else’s fault. Hopefully, this article gives you a clear understand of what can and cannot be done to expand device storage. If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

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Use a Smartphone as a Remote for Your TV, Set-Top Box or Console

If there’s one thing I hate using nowadays, it’s the ancient remote control. You’d think it would be obsolete by now, but it still lives on and won’t go away anytime soon. Thankfully, if you have a device that is fairly new (a couple of years old), then you can use your smartphone to control it.

I’m talking about controlling HDTVs, streaming set-top boxes, cable boxes, game consoles and the likes. I’m simply too lazy and cheap to configure and purchase a universal remote. It works for some people, but I’ve never been able to get any universal remote to control everything, meaning I still need several remotes.

I also tried purchasing an adapter that plugs into my phone, which can control multiple IR devices, but all of them were flaky and couldn’t control all my devices. Finally, I just decided that I’m going to download an app for every device I have and control things that way. Surprisingly, this has worked out well.

In this article, I’m going to talk about the different apps you can use to control all of your different devices. Some apps are definitely better than others, but all pretty much have the same basic remote functionality.

Control HDTVs via Smartphone

hdtv

If you have a cable TV box, you probably don’t use your HDTV remote other than to switch the input. If you have a smart technician come out to your house when getting cable installed, they might even be able to configure that on the cable TV remote.

Luckily, most major TV manufacturers have remote control apps for their HDTVs, which makes it easy to control the volume, change the channel and switch inputs. One major exception is Vizio. They have a SmartCast app, but it only works with a SmartCast HDTV, which they are starting to sell in 2016. It’s ridiculous they don’t have an app for controlling all of their other TVs.

Still, there are many third-party developers who have written apps to control TVs that don’t have official apps from the OEMs. I’m going to list out the different apps for some of the major brands. If you have a different TV, just search the app store for the manufacturer of your TV.

Sony Apps:

Official Sony App – Google Play, Official Sony App – iTunes

Remote for Sony TV – Google Play, Sonymote – iTunes

Samsung Apps:

Google Play: Remote for Samsung TV, Samsung Remote Control (IR)

iTunes: myTifi for Samsung, SamRemote, Remotie

Vizio Apps:

Google Play: VizRemote, Remote Control for Vizio

iTunes: Official Vizio SmartCast App

LG Apps:

Official LG App – Google Play

Official LG App – iTunes, Smartify Remote

Panasonic Apps:

Google Play: Official Panasonic TV Remote App, Panasonic TV Remote 2 App

iTunes: Official Panasonic TV Remote 2 App

Control Set-Top and Cable Boxes via Smartphone

Apps for your TV are great, but you probably spend most of your time using a remote for a streaming set-top box or for a cable box. Luckily, official apps for these devices are vastly better than the TV apps we just mentioned.

Let’s start off with set-top boxes like the Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Nvidia Shield Android TV and Chromecast. These five are pretty much the best set-top boxes currently on the market.

Apple TV

apple tv

If you own the Apple TV, you’ll have to control it using an iPhone or iPad because Apple doesn’t have a remote app for Android. The Remote by Apple app will let you navigate around menus and input text on your Apple TV. If you have the 4th generation Apple TV running tvOS, it won’t let you control the volume or use Siri. It also can’t act like a game controller like the actual Siri remote.

Roku

roku 4

If you have a Roku, you’ve got more options when it comes to controlling your Roku player. The app is available on pretty much all platforms. What I like about the Roku app is that you can use your voice to search for content. It also has a Play on Roku feature that lets you view your photos and videos from your smartphone on your TV.

Roku App – Google Play

Roku App – iTunes

Roku App – Windows Store

Amazon Fire TV

amazon fire tv

The Fire TV app is a basic app that has been done very well. It’s rated fairly high in both the Google Play and iTunes App stores. You can use your voice to search using this app also. Other than that, it lets you control your Fire TV using your smartphone.

Amazon Fire TV Remote App – Google Play

Amazon Fire TV Remote App – iTunes

Nvidia Shield Android TV

nvidia shield android tv

The Nvidia Shield is a pretty cool device because it’s way more powerful than all the other set-top boxes and it comes with a full-fledged controller for gaming. Anyway, you can also purchase a remote for it separately if you like. Luckily, the Android TV Remote Control app will allow you to control some basic functions on the Nvidia Shield Android TV. There is no iOS version of this app.

Chromecast

chromecast

The Chromecast doesn’t even come with a controller of any kind. It literally can only be controlled using your smartphone! Nonetheless, they do have a Google Cast app, but it really doesn’t do all that much. With a Chromecast, you basically open apps that are Chromecast-enabled, which means you just tap an icon and it’ll stream the content from that app to your Chromecast.

Google Cast – Google Play

Google Cast – iTunes

If you are a cable TV subscriber, then you are also in luck. Pretty much every cable network has their own app, which allows you to not only watch content on your phone, but also control your cable TV box from your phone.

directv remote

The features vary wildly depending on which TV provider you have. For example, I have DIRECTV and the app is excellent. You can quickly see your recordings and tap them to play on your TV. You can also browse the guide and tap on a show or channel to start watching it on the TV. Here are the links to the most popular TV provider apps.

DIRECTV Phone App

XFINITY TV Remote App

Time Warner Cable TV App

Verizon FIOS Mobile App

Dish Network Anywhere App

Cox Communications Contour 2 App

All of the apps have a lot of other features beyond just using the app as a remote. You can manage DVR recordings, purchase on demand movies, etc.

Control Game Consoles via Smartphone

game consoles

Lastly, you can download dedicated apps for the PlayStation and Xbox consoles to not only control them, but view your messages, stats, game progress, etc. The PlayStation app is vastly inferior to the Xbox SmartGlass app, which just works so much better, looks so much better and is just generally better.

You can literally use the PlayStation app to navigate around menus on your console and that’s about it. You can do a lot more stuff with the Xbox app.

PlayStation App

Xbox SmartGlass App

So if you are sick of using so many different remotes to control your gadgets, check out all the above-mentioned apps, which makes things a little bit easier, especially for your friend or family member who can’t even figure out which remote turns on the TV! Enjoy!

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Upgrade to FIOS Quantum Gateway Router for Faster LAN Speeds

If you are a Verizon FIOS customer, like myself, your setup and router may be slowing down your LAN speeds significantly. So what do I mean by LAN speed? Well, there is Internet speed and then there is LAN or Local Area Network speed.

Your Internet speed can easily be checked by visiting a site like SpeedTest.net and making sure the results match the speed you’re signed up for with FIOS. It’s worth noting that you should only perform a speed test using a computer connected via Ethernet cable since that will be the fastest.

In my home, I have 100/100 with FIOS and I easily get that Internet speed on my computers. The problem was not my Internet speed, buy my local transfer speeds on my home network. When trying to transfer some data between different computers on my network, the speed maxed out at around 11.5 MB/s. That’s megabytes per second.

For a 100 Mbps (that’s megabits per second) network, 11.5 MB/s is a very good speed. However, all of my equipment was gigabit enabled, meaning I should get closer to 1000 Mbps in transfer speeds. That means around 125 MB/s. So as you can see, my current speed of 11.5 is less than one tenth the maximum speed for gigabit Ethernet.

Cause of Slower Speed

So what exactly is causing me to get only a 100 Mbps transfer rate? Two reasons: coax cabling in my home and MoCA version. My house was pre-wired with coax cabling instead of Ethernet cabling and that makes a significant difference. You will never get the max LAN speed possible or anywhere close to it when using coax cabling.

However, even if you are stuck with coax, you can dramatically increase your speed by making sure all your devices are using MoCA 2.0 rather than MoCA 1.0 or 1.1. MoCA 1.0 maxes out at 12.5 MB/s and 1.1 maxes out at 21.875 MB/s. If this is confusing, make sure to read my previous post on understanding network transfer speeds.

So even though my router and computer had gigabit ports, the wiring in my house and the MoCA version on my router was causing the speed to max out at 12.5 MB/s. By default, Verizon installs the Actiontec MI424WR router for new customers, even though it’s not the best router they have.

actiontec mi424wr

This router is either red or black and grey like the image shown above. Overall, it’s a great router and will give you excellent Internet speeds all the way up to 100 Mbps up and 100 Mbps down. The downside is that it only supports MoCA 1.1 and therefore maxes out at 21.875 MB/s on your LAN network.

So why does this make a difference? Well, if you have your own media server at home, streaming movies from your computer or NAS to an HDTV or game console will be much slower and result in your videos pausing every couple of seconds. I also backup my computers to my NAS and the slower transfer speed increases the backup time by hours, which is unacceptable for me.

Fix Slow LAN Speed

So how can you go about fixing this problem? Well, the easiest way if you are forced to use coax cabling is to upgrade your router to the new Quantum Gateway router offered by Verizon. You can either rent it for $10 a month or buy it outright for $199.

The best way to get the Quantum Gateway router for free is to simply upgrade your Internet speed by one plan and they will usually give you the router for free. I was at 75/75 and upgraded to 100/100 and asked if they could throw in the router too for free, which they did.

If they tell you that increasing to that speed won’t qualify you, then just ask to be upgraded to something higher and then reduce your speed after they upgrade your router. For example, if you are at 25/25 and they say they can’t give you the new router if you upgrade to 50/50, just say you want to upgrade to 75/75. They will give you the new router for free and then you simply go online and reduce your speed to 50/50 two days later. A Verizon representative told me this trick!

g1100 fios router

If you can’t get the router that way, go to Amazon and you can get it for $142.50, saving you some money. You can also try on eBay and possibly score a better deal there. The one I got and the one pictured above is the G1100 gateway router.

The router has several advantages over the Actiontec router in terms of wireless features, but for me, the biggest draw was the MoCA 2.0 support. Once you have this router installed, how do you get MoCA 2.0 speeds on your other devices?

Well, since my house is connected via coax everywhere, I had to buy some MoCA 2.0 adapters. The one I purchased was from Actiontec. It’s a MoCA 2.0 Coax to Ethernet adapter and it’s pretty expensive.

actiontec moca 2 adapter

I connected this adapter to the coax in my wall and connected the Ethernet out to a switch, which was connected to all my other devices like computers, etc. So what kind of speed improvement did I see? Well, baseline MoCA 2.0 can give you speeds up to 400 Mbps, which translates into about 50 MB/s. In my own tests, the speed increased to about 53 MB/s. This was almost five times faster than my previous speed!

There is also an enhanced MoCA 2.0 speed, which gives you a throughput up to 800 Mbps, but it has to be a bonded coax connection. There is a bonded MoCA adapter like the one shown above from Actiontec, but the G1100 router only supports MoCA 2.0 not bonded MoCA 2.0, so you can’t get those higher speeds.

Even Faster Speeds?

So can you get even faster speeds than the 50 MB/s I mentioned above? Yes, but it requires a lot more work. Basically, you have to switch your Verizon ONT from coax to Ethernet and then get some Ethernet ports installed in your house.

I’m going to write a future post on how do to this as that is currently what I’m doing in my own house and it’s not as complicated as it may seem. Once you switch the ONT to Ethernet and get an Ethernet port near your devices, you can get transfer speeds up to 90+ MB/s, which is about as close to the theoretical 125 MB/s as you can get. If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

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