Having fast internet is awesome, but is renting the modem your only choice? Think about a recurring fee of $7-$12 per month (amounting up to $120 per year) versus a one time purchase price between $50-$150. Can you see the savings? That’s why we’ll help you find the best modem router combo for your needs.
Still, many people don’t buy a modem router combo for themselves. And this is because manufacturers don’t make that buying decision easy. The features of modem router combos are often described too technically that one cannot make sense of them at all. Well, not anymore. We’ve researched everything you need to know when choosing the best modem router combo and put the essence into this article. In simple language.
So, let’s jump right in…
Best Modem Router Combo 2017: 6 Models Compared
- ARRIS SURFboard
- TP-Link N300
- Netgear NightHawk AC1900
- TP-Link Archer C7
- Netgear N300
- Actiontec 300
What to Look For In The Best Modem Router Combo
Are you looking for the best modem router combo? Then you’ll need to decide which of the following aspects are the most important for you: Features, Performance, Compatibility, and Price. Let’s break them down.
In our Features section we will look at the different designs available and how fast they run. Basically, a compact design allows the modem router combo to easily blend-in with your current equipment. No more messy cables and odd mismatched shapes in your living room. Usually, the design is what people consider most important in choosing their best modem router combo, as this goes hand in hand with the modem router combo’s features.
Initially, you’ll want to know if your unit is DOCSIS 3.0 compatible. This was the latest standard for achieving faster speed. Also, you’ll need to know the speed your unit can generate (we will cover that aspect for each of the 6 modem router combos later). Regarding speed, it is vital for you to know this: models that claim faster speeds only really speed up data from one computer hard drive to another on your network. Your internet connection speed is set by your service provider. If you get any speed issues, it’s probably the service coming into your house. Especially if it’s Time Warner, since they usually have to run a new line into your house. So, it’s best to contact your service provider and let them know what you’re experiencing.
Now, let’s talk about Channels. 8×4, refers to the “lanes of traffic” comparison you may have heard with routers. The concept is very similar to that. More channels mean a higher chance to receive the speed promised by your internet service provider. More “lanes” prevent you from being slowed down by others during peak hours (like your neighbors, for example).
Furthermore, each additional channel enables your ISP to transfer more data to you. Most modems on the market are either 4×4 or 8×4, but some also allow for 16×4. In short, try to aim for 8×4 modems for now. In a couple of years, more ISPs will likely start using 16×4 as well. Once you start to see more of those modems emerge, then you could consider those.
When it comes to performance, there are 2 things you need to focus on.
First: get the 8 downstream and 4 upstream channels, as these will give you more speed.
Second: choose between Wireless-AC and Wireless-N technologies. The AC technology is superior, but not always necessary. The wireless AC technology represents networking standards designed to support bandwidth-intensive activities better. These activities include multiple high-definition video streaming, as they require higher speed. At Very High Throughput* (VHT), the new 802.11 AC standard can achieve a speed of up to 1.3 Gigabit per second. This is because it takes advantage of advanced modulation techniques that allow the technology to cram more bits of data into every transmission. (*Throughput is the average rate of successful data transfer over a network Channel. The higher the Throughput the faster your internet speed.)
We suggest that you choose AC only if you own a production studio, for example, and need extremely high speeds of up to 1.3 Gigabit. If you do not need multiple streams of Full HD content, the wireless N technology has you covered. For everyday business and family needs, the N technologies are perfect.
A quick tip for maximizing your internet speed: make sure your wireless devices are compatible to your router. This means connecting AC with AC and N with N. For example, if a smartphone that is N-compatible is connected to a Router that has AC-technology, this will only get 450Mbps of speed. If a smartphone that is AC-compatible is connected to the same Router, then it can get up to 1.3 Gbps. That is a significant difference, don’t you think? So, that lead us to…
Compatibility is a major thing to focus on. You absolutely want your modem router combo to be compatible with your internet service provider. Otherwise, you won’t be able to use their service.
We already mentioned that playing it smart means getting the best modem router combo. This way you know what you’re getting into beforehand. It will save you the headache of the trial and error of testing which different modems and routers work together.
In our best modem router combo reviews, you can also learn about which Cable Internet Providers are compatible with your set up. To let you know, major network providers like Cox Premier or Comcast suggest devices that improve the speed of their services. That would be the Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 combo, number 3 on our list. If you’re a Comcast Customer you’ll be interested if your setup is compatible with the xFinity play package. We’ve covered all this and more in our article, so read on.
The price tag was the last area we researched, and we found out that it is cheaper to get a modem router combo than to rent the modem from the cable company. That being said, you will still want the best value your money can buy, and we totally get that. In each section of our article, we pay special attention to this issue. The rule of thumb would be to get a modem that costs less than your yearly cable rental. Most of the modem router combos on our list have a 1-year warranty and fall within this price range. So you actually get 2 devices for the price of one!
And now, on to the good stuff…
1. ARRIS SURFboard Cable Modem/Wi-Fi Router
The ARRIS SURFboard SBG6400 is the latest model in the line, following the SBG121. The previous model only has speeds of up to 172 Mbps download and up to 131 Mbps upload, while the ARRIS SURFboard gives you speeds of up to 343 Mbps for the download and 131 Mbps for the upload. That’s double the download speed.
Also, the ARRIS SURFboard is DOCSIS 3.0 compatible and features a 2-port Gigabit Ethernet Router. This enables flexible, high-speed, wired connectivity for 2 devices. Hard-wired (ethernet) is always going to be much faster than wireless.
Finally, we especially liked the ease of use. The ARRIS SURFboard comes with a wi-fi wizard that will help you configure the wireless settings from A to Z. So, if you’re not a techie, this modem router combo will help you set itself up.
The ARRIS SURFboard SBG6400 offers great performance as an all-in-one product. What you get is:
- DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem
- 802.11N Wi-Fi
- 2-Port Gigabit Ethernet Router (which is lower than the standard 4)
The ARRIS SURFboard definitely delivers the promised speed. The Wireless N technology is not as fast as the AC, but for home purposes, it’s more than enough. People were happy to use this unit even 2 years after the purchase. That’s lasting quality, we say!
The ARRIS SURFboard is compatible with Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Mediacom and most small regional cable providers. It will NOT work on AT&T, and UVerse network. Note: with Comcast, the only issue is getting the provider to recognize the new router. Their tech support will tell you that you need a reboot after configuring the ARRIS SURFboard. After that, it will come right up.
The price of the ARRIS SURFboard SBG6580 falls in the mid-level for routers. It is very budget friendly especially for the value it provides. You could also go for the combo package that offers the same modem and an improved N600 router. The different “N” metrics tell you the maximum speed (300Mbps-600Mbps) a router can provide. And with the ARRIS SURFboard, you can can upgrade from N300 to N600 for a fraction of the cost. A nice plus at the end: the ARRIS SURFboard comes with a 2-year warranty.
2. TP-Link N300 Wireless Wi-Fi Cable Modem Router
Like the ARRIS, the TP-Link N300 offers up to 343Mbps download and 143Mbps upload speeds. It also offers 4 ethernet cable outputs – 2 more than the ARRIS above – to connect 4 different devices simultaneously, and all these at an astonishingly low price. The TP-Link also features channel bonding of 8×4, the expected standard for speed these days. The more channels you’ve got, the better your odds for fast internet.
A nice bonus feature of the TP-Link is the ability to set up a Guest Network Access, which is a secure Wi-Fi connection you can create for visitors at your place. As for the speed, if the TP-Link N300 is placed in a central location of your home, it can reach transmission rates of up to 300Mbps. Yes, that means that you’ll be able to play games, stream, and download at Wi-Fi speeds up to 300Mbps. This is exceptional for router modem combos. If you’re aiming for maximum bandwidth, we recommend you go with the TP-Link N300.
When it comes to performance the N router can support 10 devices in your home with no problem. Of course, though, this will vary according to your demands on the TP-Link in terms of bandwidth and the connection speed of each device. While 10 devices using web browsers would work absolutely fine – all of them trying to stream high-definition video would not go well. The only issue buyers mentioned was about complications when trying to connect an XBOX or a game console to the TP-Link. Most often, the solution was simply to connect those devices to the guest network and keep operating them through that.
The TP-Link N300 modem router combo is compatible with cable internet plans up to 150Mbps. It is also certified for Comcast XFINITY, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Charter, Spectrum, and AT&T. It’s especially recommended for Comcast Xfinity Internet Extreme, TWC, and Cablevision Internet Service. You will get the best results when it comes to speed and performance with these providers.
The TP-Link modem router combo offers better performance than its ARRIS competitor – and also does so for a better price. Essentially, you’ll pay a little less AND get a little more. So this is a great modem router combo all in all. Most people recommend it highly for home or small business use. And TP-Link’s 2-year warranty makes this into a risk-free purchase.
3. Netgear Nighthawk AC1900
Aside from its awesome name, the NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 modem router combo offers some awesome features as well.
The Nighthawk boasts a 1GHz Dual Core Processor and AC1900 Wi-Fi. The 1900 mark stands for 600+1300 Mbps Speed. Making it ideal for the fastest internet speed service plans.
It can support incredible internet speeds up to 1.4Gbps. Keep in mind it will only go as fast as your subscription plan. Don’t ask for 1300 Mbps when your service provider only offers 150, for example.
The Nighthawk AC1900 also offers 32 downstream & 8 upstream channels. Great for streaming HD videos, faster downloading, and high-speed online gaming.
When it comes to performance, the Nighthawk AC1900 is just the boost you need. The Nighthawk includes advanced features for lag-free gaming. It also provides you with prioritized bandwidth for streaming music or videos with ease.
There are two more things our team found impressive with the Nighthawk. First is that it will let you access and manage your network remotely using your mobile device (through NETGEAR genie, a smartphone app). And second, it will let you access your USB disk anytime, anywhere. You can even remotely share your photos to social media, or transfer them, from your router-attached USB storage device.
You’ll be able to use the Nighthawk with the XFINITY package from Comcast. It is also compatible with Time Warner Cable, Charter, Bright House Networks, and more. It provides self-activation for XFINITY customers. You can get connected without a service call.
This is where things get a bit serious. The price point of the Nighthawk might be a huge drawback for certain people. It is around 3 times higher than the ARRIS and the TP LINK models, but should still be considered if you want the best modem router combo in terms of speed. The fancy remote functions sound great and work great as well.
However, we weren’t that impressed with the 90 days of phone support. Companies should offer support for as long as the warranty lasts. This is becoming the acceptable standard for NETGEAR and TP Link. Also, the Nighthawk offers just a 1-year hardware warranty. This is much less compared to 2 years for the mid-level modem router combos.
4. TP-Link Archer C7 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router
The TP-Link Archer C7 Dual Band offers 1.75Gbps of speed total, which includes 450Mbps at 2.4GHz and 1300Mbps at 5GHz. The primary difference between the 2.4 GHz and 5GHz wireless frequencies is the range. “Dual Band” means that when you go to connect to a wireless network, you’ll see two signals coming from this router. You can choose with signal you want to connect to.
The 2.4 GHz band connection is slower and likely more congested with most of your neighbors. The 5 GHz band is much less congested. This is due to the need for both a 5 GHz capable router as well as a 5 GHz capable wireless card in your computer or device. Not everyone has both. The 5 GHz band is much faster (double for most), but with shorter range.
The dual 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands also allow for more devices to be connected to your home network simultaneously. This Router-only option supports 802.11 AC, the next generation of Wi-Fi. If you want to stay current, make sure your devices are AC compatible. Most new smartphones and tablets are.
The Archer comes with dual USB ports to share files and media. You can also connect a printer and use it with the devices connected to your network. Just plug in your USB and share the fun with friends and family.
Three external dual band antennas each creates a separate signal. You can focus the signals in different directions to make sure the strong Wi-Fi signal reaches all areas of your home. This way, you can keep all your devices connected from any room in the house.
As for the speed, well, it’s blazing fast. People that pay for 50MBps report getting up to 58MBps with this router. With the Archer C7 you’ll be able to play games online, stream movies, download files, and share media. A powerful processor (CPU) manages each Wi-Fi band, every connection, and all the router’s hardware and software.
The Archer offers a customizable QoS (Quality of Experience). This function lets you assign bandwidth to the devices you use most. This way you keep them running at peak performance. If you love watching Amazon Prime on your smart TV or game console, you can give more bandwidth there so that your favorite shows load quickly.
The Archer will work great with Comcast Xfinity Internet Extreme 150, TWC 100M, Cox Cable Premier, and Brighthouse 100. It also works with other major cable operators including Charter, Cablevision, WoW, and more.
Do not let the low price of the Archer C7 fool you into thinking it’s an entry level or low-end model. From our research and digging through hundreds of real user reviews, it performs well beyond its price point.
Expensive routers ($300+) tend to be buggy and drop connections. They simply have too many features and are way too complex. They providing functionalities no one really needs, or none of your connected devices support anyway.
The New York Times has named the Archer C7: “The Best Router for Most People.” It comes with a 2 year warranty and 24/7 support.
5. NETGEAR N300 Cable Modem Router
The NETGEAR N300 supports DOCSIS 3.0, giving you up to 8 times faster cable Internet speeds than 2.0. What you get is a modem and a router in one compact design. Its 8×4 channel bonding enables up to 340 Mbps download speeds and up to 1 Gigabit of wired speed. This means faster downloads, internet gaming, and HD streaming.
It also has the Guest Network Access feature, like the TP-Link above. You can set that up with or without a guest password (different from your real password). Making it secure prevents neighbors from connecting and using your internet for free.
Some people reported issues connecting their devices to the NETGEAR N300. This is due to the “VPN Pass-through” issue. There’s a simple “patch” that’s available on the Netgear support page and it’s easy to use. Once you install the patch, everything works perfectly. If you’re not very tech savvy, you might have some difficulty with it, but it’ll be manageable once you figure it out.
The WiFi works well enough, but if you have a very large house or space, you might want to purchase a range extender. For an extra $20, you will get the coverage you need. The NETGEAR N300 is your go-to solution for medium-sized homes.
This Modem Router bundle is Compatible with major U.S. Cable Internet Providers. Including XFINITY from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Cablevision, Bright House Networks, & more. It is not compatible with Cable Bundled Voice Services.
When it comes to price the NETGEAR N300 falls right between the TP-Link N300 and the ARRIS SURFboard. It has similar features but we noticed the other two are lacking the dual band option.
Take note that there have been reported issues with this product’s warranty. If it breaks and you need to return it after 5 months, it will be difficult. Amazon has a 30-day return policy so you obviously cannot return it through there.
Curiously, NETGEAR voids the warranty when this product is sold through Amazon. Nowadays, it’s normal to buy a piece of equipment, like an external hard drive, through a 3rd party. If it fails, either the store where you purchased the product covers it, or they pass you on to the original manufacturer. The original manufacturer’s warranty usually supersedes the store’s warranty. NETGEAR does not back their products that are sold through Amazon. This is a major disadvantage. It is unacceptable for a company to not warranty a product for at least a year.
6. Actiontec 300 ADSL Modem Router
The Actiontec 300 modem router combo offers wireless N technology allowing you to surf the Internet at speeds up to 300 Mbps. This is up to 6x faster than previous generations’ top speeds. The Actiontec was made for people with an ADSL internet provider (you’d only have that if you were very close to the ISP’s office).
This combo comes with a MIMO Smart Antenna which extends the range of your wireless signal. It also gets rid of those pesky “dead” spots in your wireless coverage. So, if your computer is far away from your router, this model has you covered.
People have been struggling with loss of signal on their previous modem router combos, usually, the ones AT&T provided. After much frustration, people that choose the Actiontec and are very happy with it. No one experienced any loss of signal on any device.
A lot of AT&T customers struggle with installation. If you’re an existing AT&T customer all you have to do is sign-in with the email and password they gave you initially.
The Actiontec modem router combo is compatible with major DSL service providers. This includes Qwest, Verizon (excluding FIOS), AT&T (excluding U-verse), and others.
The Actiontec does not work with major cable systems such as Comcast, Cablevision, Infinity, Cox, and Charter. It supports CenturyLink but not their VDSL.
(If you wish to learn more about the difference between Cable and ADSL providers read this article.)
For a budget price, the Actiontec 300 modem router combo seems to do everything you might need, including streaming HD movies flawlessly. Also, their customer service is highly praised. The Actiontec modem router combo is the most affordable item on our list. It also comes with a 1-year warranty.
Best of the Best
The Netgear N300 offers a mid-level price with a high-end performance and therefore is out Best Modem Router Combo overall. The built-in modem gives it a boost when it comes to speed and functionality. The NETGEAR N300 comes at a friendly price and is sure to be loved by passionate gamers and movie lovers.
To recap: The NETGEAR N300 provides you with 340 Mbps download and 300 Mbps upload speeds, and an additional whopping 1 Gigabit of wired speed. This means faster downloading, internet gaming, and HD streaming. Also worth noting is the ability to switch between 2GHz and 5 GHz channels. It doesn’t come closer to guaranteeing a reliable internet connection.
This modem router combo will maximize the speed out of your provider. Compatible with major U.S. Cable Internet Providers. Including XFINITY from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Cablevision, Bright House Networks, & more. Giving you an incredible freedom of choice. Just imagine being able to get top speeds from your provider. It’s easy with this set-up.
Best Bang for the Buck
The Actiontec 300 provides great value for your money. That’s why we award it with the “Best Modem Router Combo for Your Buck” title. This compact package will allow you to surf the net at speeds up to 300 Mbps. Even though this is the most low-cost model in our list, it is super fast. Heavy on the specs but light on your wallet, awesome! Who said you can’t buy great products at a great price?
The Actiontec was made for people with an ADSL internet provider. You’ll be able to access the services of Qwest, Verizon (excluding FIOS), AT&T (excluding U-verse), and others.
ADSL is actually the preferred way for most people. It allows more data transfer over the copper telephone lines compared to traditional modem lines. Although there is a catch: Subscribers must be in close geographical locations to the Internet exchange point. Otherwise the ADSL signal will become weaker with distance through the copper cables transmitting it. Typically, the ideal distance must be within a radius of 2 to 2.5 miles. Not the most convenient, but also not the fault of this modem router combo. Anyway, you’ll get its full performance even if you’re too far away from the exchange point for ADSL. Definitely the best modem router combo in terms of price / performance ratio.
Questions or Comments?
So we’ve given you the “Best of the Best ” and the “Best Bang for the Buck” modem router combo – along with 5 other very good options. If there are still any questions lingering in your head: don’t hesitate to comment below.
We’re also always grateful for people sharing their experiences with any of the products we mentioned. So let us hear from you!
Your Best Patrols team!