Setting up your home network for the first time can be a bit tedious, as well as a challenge if you don’t know what you’re doing. There are tons of variables you need to keep track of if you want a stable and fast internet, and even if you’re certain that you’ve done everything right, you might not even be enjoying the full power of the data plan you’re paying your ISP for. The truth is, getting your internet connection setup is a joint effort: while only one person is involved in making the necessary connections and configurations, there are actually a number of devices working in tandem to provide internet connection to your home. Consequently, if there’s a single link in your network chain that isn’t working properly then your whole network will suffer because of it.
Two of the most important components of your domestic network, excluding the data plan provided by your ISP, are the modem and the router.
The modem is the box your ISP gives you with the purchase of the data plan. The modem is a device that converts digital signals into analog, and vice versa, allowing the communication between computers through phone lines or through the very same cable modem. In other words, this little box is the sole entity responsible for allowing your computer to connect to the internet. A router, on the other hand, is a device that, when connected to a modem, allows network connectivity throughout a given area. With a router, a user can provide simultaneous internet access to a number of computers on the same network, while also interconnecting them and allowing the transfer of information between all the devices connected to the router.
In other words, the modem is the one that lets you connect to the internet, while the router allows you to create a network at home, where many devices can partake of the same internet connection and even share information between each other. In the case of wireless routers, the users may enjoy internet access without the need to physically plug the computer, tablet, cellphone, or other devices to the router.
Being the vital parts of your network that they are, the router and modem are responsible not only for allowing you to enjoy connecting to the internet, as we’ve been mentioning so far, but also for ensuring the proper functioning of the network, in terms of speed, connectivity, and overall stability. Consequently, if either your router or modem are not up to snuff, then your whole network will suffer as a result. So, in this case, it would really pay off to invest in good equipment, instead of sticking with the ones provided by your ISP. Although these can get the job done most of the time, they can, in rare occasions, act as a bottleneck for your network and impede you from enjoying your data plan to the fullest.
But as we said above, buying a router and modem that will allow you to enjoy your internet to its fullest extent can be a challenge, especially if you don’t know what to look for. If you’re the kind of person that’s only looking for a device that will let you enjoy the data plan you’re paying for, then you might be better off investing in a modem and router combo which, as its name implies, functions as both a modem and a router simultaneously, without the need of having to purchase two products for this purpose.
This modem router was released in 2016 and offers some of the best network speed currently available for domestic use. It uses a DOCSIS 3.0 standard and provides up to 686Mbps right out of the box. As a router, it uses 802.11AC technology to squeeze out 1900Mbps of bandwidth across its two bands. This router has been certified compatible with some of the biggest internet providers in the US, including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, and many others. Furthermore, this modem router is equipped with Wireless Power Boost which, as its name suggests, enhances the wireless signal produced by the router, which translates into increased range and stability throughout the area of coverage. The router also has 4 LAN ports, in case you have a device which requires a physical connection to it.
As we mentioned before, Arris is one of the most respected companies in the US when it comes to telecommunications. Their SURFboard line of modem routers launched into retail in 1997, and they have been among the leading routers in the market ever since. Similar to our previous entry, this product uses DOCSIS 3.0 to produce a top download speed of 343Mbps on the modem side. Meanwhile, the router doesn’t fall behind: using 802.11AC, this device is able to deliver bandwidths of up to 1600Mbps across its bands. Using Beamforming technology, this product is also capable of creating stable networks within the area of coverage, offering full and uninterrupted speed to everyone connected. This router also offers 4 ethernet ports, which can be used to connect devices which benefit from the stability offered by a physical connection, such as desktop computers or gaming consoles. The SURFboard is compatible with most major internet and cable service providers in the US.
The Nighthawk line of products is a prestigious name when it comes to standalone routers, and it’s no different when it comes to modem routers. This product also uses DOCSIS 3.0 technology and can deliver blazing fast speeds of up to 960Mbps for the modem alone. The router, on the other hand, uses an 802.11AC standard and can create networks of up to 1900Mbps of bandwidth spread across its two bands. In contrast with our previous entries, this modem router uses 24x8 channel bonding technology, which allows the user to enjoy uninterrupted internet service, even in times with higher user traffic, or even when someone in the house has a download going. The Nighthawk is equipped with an onboard 1.6GHz processor, which helps perform all of its operations, and still provides top-notch speed without causing stress on the computer or choking up due to excess traffic. It also makes use of Beamforming technology to create far-reaching wireless networks. Besides the 4 ethernet ports, this modem router also has an additional USB port, which can be used to connect a media device and stream music or video to any computer connected to the network.
This product is certified to work with most major cable and internet service providers in the US, such as Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, and so on.
The Archer by TP-Link offers all the amenities you would expect from a modem router in its price range, with the welcome addition of twin USB ports, for sharing files and media from storage devices. It uses DOCSIS 3.0 technology and can operate at up to 343Mbps on the modem side, while the router uses 802.11AC standard technology, and allows a dual-band bandwidth of up to 1750Mbps across both frequencies. This product features an easy setup assistant, which facilitates getting started with creating your home network. Furthermore, the IP-based bandwidth control allows the user to easily keep track and manage the amount of bandwidth each user has access to. Another nifty feature is the Privacy with Guest Network Access feature, which allows you to securely share your network with and grant internet access to guests.
This is one of the more basic models in this list and will serve to provide a reliable and fast internet servers to the average user. Contrary to our previous entry, this modem router uses 802.11N technology, which allows it to deliver a maximum bandwidth of 300Mbps on the router side. The modem itself uses DOCSIS 3.0 with 8 simultaneous channels for downloads and 4 for the upload which, thanks to channel bonding, translate into a 340Mbps of total download speed. Even though it isn’t the fastest modem router in our top 5, most users will be able to enjoy the full extent of their data plan with the Netgear N300. This product is certified compatible with most major US cable and internet service providers, and users that have Comcast’s XFINITY service may enjoy fast self-activation without having to call their provider.
300Mbps bandwidth modem router. Uses 802.11N technology to create a powerful yet inexpensive network for homes or small offices. Is compatible with most US internet service providers, and comes preconfigured for easy setup, with a feature that auto-detects your service settings for ease of configuration.
Wireless-N standard allows this product to create wireless networks with up to 300Mbps bandwidth, while DOCSIS 3.0 allows the modem to deliver up to 343Mbps of download speed, according to the user’s data plan. It has 4 ethernet ports to create wired connections and a single USB port for sharing and streaming media from a portable storage device.
Created for those that need to connect multiple devices to the same network without the speed suffering from lack of bandwidth. This router uses DOCSIS 3.0 to provide up to 343Mbps of download speed for the modem side, while the router can create networks of up to 1900Mbps of bandwidth across all its bands.
A more affordable version of the AC1900 mentioned above, this modem router sheds price while making a few concessions in terms of download speed and total bandwidth. While it maintains a similar download speed to our previous entry on the modem side, the wireless router can only deliver a bandwidth of up to 300Mbps, using 802.11n technology.
The big brother of the N300 mentioned in our top 5. Similar in all manners except the download speed of the modem. While the N300 could deliver only 300Mbps of speed, the N600 lives up to its name by providing, at a slightly higher price tag, 600Mbps of blazing fast download speed across a dual-band setup.
In direct contrast to regular routers, there are quite a few other things to keep in mind when browsing the market for a modem router. On one hand, we have to consider the modem components of the device while also keeping a close eye on the parts that allow it to act as a router as well. In this sense, choosing a good modem router is a bit more complex than purchasing a standard wireless router, mainly because there is a new variable to consider: DOCSIS.
In order to help you understand what to look for when browsing the market for a modem router combo, we’ve compiled a list of important terms you should know in order to make the very best decision.
The type of modem will mainly affect the connection speed you will be able to enjoy with the device in question. These mainly come in the form of DOCSIS 1.0, DOCSIS 2.0, and the more recent DOCSIS 3.0. Despite allowing the user to connect to the internet, modems are actually quite simple devices. The main difference between the different models is the standard they use to facilitate the internet connection. The aforementioned standards shed light on the number of channels available to the user for the transfer of data across the internet, as well as the maximum speed per channel.
For your convenience, we have created a table that illustrates the different standards used by most modems, as well as their specifications:
# of Channels
Speed per Channel
43Mbps Download /
43Mbps Download /
43Mbps Download /
43Mbps Download /
4 to 8 download/4 upload
43Mbps Download /
172Mbps or 344Mbps Download /
As you may have noticed, DOCSIS 3.0, the most recent standard, is by far the fastest type of modem. As a general rule of thumb, you should purchase a modem that sticks closest to the data plan provided by your Internet Service Provider. When in doubt, it’s better to invest in a DOCSIS 3.0 modem router or, if your provider has a list of recommended devices to use with their data plans, you may also want to consult that.
In practice, the standards used by a wireless router are the equivalent of the standard type used by a cable modem. By looking at the standards used by a certain router, we can discern both its generation (whether if it’s recent or an older model), as well as its speed, but more on that in a moment.
Where DOCSIS is used to describe a modem’s standards, router standards usually follow an “802.11x” format, where “x” is replaced by either b, g, n, or AC. The letter at the end of the standard is what defines the router’s generation, “b” being the oldest (and mostly obsolete by now), and AC the current leader in terms of connectivity speed. If you’re not sure what your data plan speed is, you’re better off investing in either a “g” or “AC” router, since these are usually more state of the art and are equally backward compatible with slower connections.
Besides the speed of the router, the wireless standard also sheds light on whether the device operates on a single band, or if it is capable of providing internet on multiple bands simultaneously. A “band” is the name given to the frequencies in which most wireless devices operate, specifically the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. The main advantage that dual, tri or even quad-band devices have over their single-band counterparts is that they can make use of the 5GHz band, effectively eliminating the potential interference or disruption of services caused by cluttering of the 2.4GHz band. Keep in mind that most wireless devices, including your home phone, microwave oven, and remote controls, among others, operate on the 2.4GHz, so having a completely different band on which to create your home network can really save you a world of annoyance in the long run.
For reference, all “b” and “g” routers are usually single-band, while some “n” and virtually every “AC” device can operate on two or more frequencies simultaneously. So if you’re looking for a modem router to create the very best, fast, and stable home networks, consider investing in a dual-band router.
Like we mentioned above, the generation of the router in question will also hint at the maximum speed of the network it can create. As the generations progressed, so did their top speed, and currently, the more recent wireless routers can pump maximum bandwidths of nearly 2Mbps across all their bands. As matters stand today, the slowest generation of routers is, understandably, the old “b” routers, which can achieve up to 11Mbps, which is not a whole lot, but might be enough for the average user. The “g” generations can deliver a maximum speed of 54Mbps, while the fastest routers of the previous “n” generation can crank out a top speed of 300Mbps. Meanwhile the current generation of “AC” routers can dish out varying speeds, but most of the user-grade models can reach around 1900Mbps, spread across their bands. For example, a wireless “AC” router can deliver 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band, and 1300Mbps on the 5GHz frequency.
It goes without saying that, if you’re looking for speed, you might want to invest in a modem router that uses the 802.11AC standard.
In order to safeguard your network, most routers make use of certain security protocols. Said measures are designed both to protect the flow of information within the network and to prevent would-be miscreants from connecting and leeching off of your internet. These security measures often come in the form of WEP, WPA, and WPA2 encryption protocols, which are featured in virtually every wireless router to date. Other security features offered by most routers include the ability to segment your network with various SSID, each with different parameters and security settings. This feature is important for the workplace, as it allows the system admin to have total control over the console and assign bandwidth according to the user’s needs. For instance, the Finance department of a company will seldom require more bandwidth than, say, the IT department.
In the case of standalone modems, these devices seldom feature any form to connect to it other than a single ethernet port. But since we’re talking about modem router combos, these devices need to offer the internet connectivity achieved by standard modems, while also maintaining the connectivity options of any given wireless router. For this reason, most modem routers come equipped with a number of ethernet ports so that the devices that can benefit from a physical connection may do so, while also retaining their wireless capabilities, so that anyone with the proper credentials can plug into the network through their laptops, phones, tablets, and so on.
Most new devices offer a set of features which, if not deal-breakers, can certainly ease the experience of setting up and managing your wireless network. In the past, the more user-friendly routers would offer simple step-by-step instructions to setting up your home network. Nowadays, companies are constantly innovating on new and improved ways to manage your network, including the ability to monitor your network remotely through a smartphone app, and also to adjust its parameters, security settings, configure access, and so much more via the same smartphone app.
Before we hop into our top picks for best modem router combos, it would help to understand the difference between varying types of devices so that you can make an informed decision about the products best suited to your needs and save money in the process.
As we mentioned above, a wireless router is a device which lets you share an internet connection throughout a given area, be it your house, your office, the waiting room of your business, etc. These devices require a separate modem to interpret the signal from the cable or phone line and use that very same interpretation to create a wireless network around the area of coverage. The speed, type, connectivity, and stability of the network will largely depend on the router in question as well as the proper functioning of the modem. The key point of wireless routers is that they require a separate device -a modem- in order to perform their function.
On the other hand, a modem router is a device which, as its name suggests, functions as a router and a modem at the same time. This serves both to save space on your desk, as well as eliminate the need for separate boxes in order to create a wireless network across a given area while saving on power in the process. In other words, modem routers directly interpret the signal from your phone line and broadcast it throughout the coverage area, effectively creating a wireless network.
Many purists will agree that segmenting your network into modem and router is often the best choice, especially because, in that manner, the user has more control over the network, as well as allowing the most tech-savvy users out there to install custom firmware on their routers to improve their performance. However, most users can definitely get by with the best cable modem router combos out there.
Like many other products of this type, modem routers are not exclusively manufactured by one sole company. There are many organizations vying for dominance in the router/modem market, most of which create products that allow us to enjoy blazing fast wireless internet alongside a wide slew of features aimed at improving the user’s quality of life. When it comes to domestic networks we always recommend investing in brand quality. That way you can be sure that you’re purchasing the very best devices and, should any of them malfunction before their time, you will most likely have a responsible customer support team standing by to lend assistance.
That being said, the next time you’re in the market for the best router modem combo, be sure to keep an eye out for these amazing brands.
Founded in 1993 by Dean Chang, who was also the CEO of Micronics Computers Inc., Actiontec is a company focused on developing and manufacturing solutions for domestic connectivity. Their products are meant to help people easily and swiftly connect to the internet. As the demand for fast and stable domestic internet rises, Actiontec keeps ahead of the curve with their proprietary bonded VDSL2 gateways and DSL modems, among others. Today, this company helps more than 40 million homes obtain reliable internet connectivity, and many North American internet service providers, such as Verizon, CenturyLink, Comcast, Bright House, and Cox, among others, have opted to use their products as part of their data plans, due to their reliability and ease of use.
This company gets its namesake from the Twisted-Pair Link, which is a type of electromagnetic cable. TP-Link was founded in 1996 by brothers Zhao Jianjun and Zhao Jianxing using a proprietary network card of their own creation. Today this company is a global provider of products for the creation and upkeep of computer and data networks and is also the biggest manufacturer of products for Small Office, Home Office (SOHO) networks in the Chinese market. TP-Link currently offers a wide variety of products related to wireless networks, ADSL, routers, switches, network adapters, and much more.
This is an American-based company focused on the manufacturing and sales of telecommunications equipment, such as modems, modem routers, telephone decoders, and cable TV decoders. As a manufacturer of said products, Arris has always strived to remain ahead of the competition. They were there when the first digital TV networks rolled around, and they were also there with the advent of the first broadband internet gateways. Their products are meant to facilitate the connection between the user and the content they want to view, whether from the internet or from their cable provider, in the easiest and most user-friendly manner possible.
Founded in 1996 and based in Santa Clara, California, Netgear specializes in the design and manufacturing of network systems for both domestic and industrial purposes, especially for SOHO networks. The catalog of products developed by this company revolves around network cards, switches, ADSL routers, printer servers, and components for wireless LAN networks, such as VOIP products. Netgear is completely focused on developing products that allow their users to enjoy a fast and stable internet connection at home, as well as a secure network for small to medium-sized businesses.
This company just might be the oldest candidate on this list. Founded in 1977 as Zoom Telephonics, this organization has been dedicated to producing a wide line of communications products. If you don’t quite recognize the name, it’s because they have also manufactured their products under the Hayes, and Global Village brands. The company is headquartered in Boston, while their distribution and manufacturing facilities are located in Tijuana, Mexico.
We take it back, Motorola is actually the oldest company in this list. Founded in 1928 by Paul Galvin, this American company was based in Schaumburg, Illinois, and started out as a battery replacement company that helped the transition from battery-operated radio devices to radios that used electricity to function. But when battery radios went extinct, so did the company’s livelihood, so they needed to devise another method to keep afloat. Motorola’s legacy can be traced back to the 1930’s when they developed the very first automobile radio. In 1940, just one year after the beginning of World War II, Motorola also invented the first Handie-Talkie AM portable radio, the first iteration of what is now known as the Walkie-Talkie.
It’s clear that Motorola is not new to the telecommunications business. In January of 2011, Motorola split their assets into 2 companies: Motorola Mobility (cell phones and telecommunications), and Motorola Solutions (b2b and support for government and industries). In August of the same year, Motorola Mobility was purchased by Google, a transaction which helped the company soar to new heights, creating some of the best cell phones and telecommunications equipment in the world.
This guide was created to show you the most important things to keep in mind the next time you’re browsing the market for a modem router combo. Keep in mind that, besides allowing you to enjoy your internet access throughout your home in wireless fashion, modem router combos also allow you to skip the monthly rental fee that most service providers charge you for lending their own equipment. Despite setting you back a bit in the short term, a modem router can help you save around $120 each year in rental fees which, in our books, is a really good investment.
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