Can You Buy A Modem And Router In One
In order to connect to the internet, you need a modem and Wi-Fi router. Many people confuse modems and routers because internet service providers (ISP) often offer combo devices that serve both functions. Modems and routers, however, are two completely different technologies. Each device has a specific purpose, which we break down below.
can you buy a modem and router in one
Modems connect your Wi-Fi network to your ISP. They translate digital signals from your ISP so your wired or wireless devices can access the internet. Like your computer, modems use an ethernet connection to connect to your router. Typically, modems have two connection ports: one that connects to your ISP and one that connects to your Wi-Fi router. There are three types of modems:
Routers connect your devices to a modem with an ethernet cable. They create a Wi-Fi network for multiple devices to connect wirelessly and simultaneously to the internet in your home. A range of frequencies (wireless band) transmits data from your router to your devices. There are three types of routers, depending on the wireless band:
A modem connects you to a wide area network (WAN) or the internet. On the other hand, a router connects your devices to your local area network (LAN) or WiFi network, and it lets your devices communicate with each other wirelessly.
A modem is a device that receives an analog signal from your internet service provider (ISP) and translates it into a digital signal that your devices can understand and vice versa. This allows your devices to send and receive data over the internet.
Most modems only have three ports, one that connects to the internet, one that connects to a router, and one that connects to a power source. Older modems connect to the internet via telephone lines, while newer ones use cable or fiber optic connections. Modems will also have at least one Ethernet port to connect to a router or computer.
A router is a networking device that distributes (or routes) your internet connection from your modem to the devices in your network. This allows you to connect to the internet from your computer, mobile phone, smart TV, and other wired or wireless devices.
A router creates your local network and lets you manage its settings. With a router, you can enable security settings, prioritize traffic to certain devices, and more. A router also lets your devices communicate with one another over the network. For example, a router lets you change the settings of your smart home devices by using an app on your smartphone.
Most routers have several Ethernet ports that allow you to connect to your devices via an Ethernet cable. They also have one Ethernet port that needs to be connected to a modem, so it can send and receive information from the internet.
The only downside is that it might struggle in larger homes. If you want to spread your Wi-Fi connection to every corner of your house, you may be better off with a slightly more expensive model or our pick for the best mesh router, the Eero 6.
Any advanced Wi-Fi router will do a capable job of handling the speed you need for glitch-free online gaming, but not all of them come with the gaming-specific features of the ASUS ROG Rapture. It has hardware- and software-based gaming acceleration and prioritization, plenty of LAN ports, and an incredibly powerful processor.
Research methodology: Results were based on analysis of available routers compatible for AT&T internet service. Features, prices, and reviews were considered as criteria for determining the best modems for each category. Please note that speed is determined by the type of AT&T offers in your area. Check with your provider to confirm the type of internet connection you have with your plan before purchasing your own equipment.
If you have cable internet, you probably rent your modem from your internet service provider for a monthly fee on top of your internet plan. It's usually somewhere between $5 and $10 a month, though most ISPs are less than up front about how much their services cost.
Many providers allow you to buy your own modem and avoid those monthly rental fees. While there are obvious benefits to buying your own modem, there are still reasons you may prefer to rent it from your ISP. Here's all the information you need to decide for yourself.
Check your monthly bill for a rental fee; Comcast, Cox, Optimum, and Spectrum all add a charge, depending on your plan. Some providers say they provide a free modem in certain bundles, but they usually charge an extra Wi-Fi service fee if you use a modem/router combo unit (like Spectrum, pictured above).
If you are allowed the option to use your own modem, you could save between $60 and $120 per year by buying one instead of renting it from your ISP. Sure, you may pay $50-$100 upfront, but you will have recouped the cost of those fees within a year, and will then start saving $10 a month. That adds up over time. Just be sure your cable company actually stops charging you the rental fee, since they've been known to "forget" in the past(Opens in a new window).
There are some benefits to renting. You can trade it in when it becomes obsolete or if it stops working. Plus, you don't have to worry about compatibility or replacing the unit yourself if something goes wrong as your ISP can just swap it out for you. And again, if your ISP includes the cost of a modem in your package pricing, you won't save any money by purchasing your own.
If you aren't sure what you're allowed to do, check your ISP's website, or give customer service a call to see if it's possible to use your own modem. Most will list compatible modems on their website (here's how to check for Comcast(Opens in a new window), Cox(Opens in a new window), and Spectrum(Opens in a new window).)
The maximum speed of your modem is dependent on the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS), a telecommunications standard used to provide internet access over a cable modem. For years, the standard has been DOCSIS 3.0, though many ISPs now require a DOCSIS 3.1 modem if you're adding a new one to your plan.
DOCSIS 3.0's highest possible speed is 1Gbps, also known as Gigabit internet." However, DOCSIS 3.1 maxes out at a whopping 10Gbps. Most consumers won't see speeds that high right now, but in the future, they could. Some providers have offered 1Gbps plans over DOCSIS 3.0, while others now require a DOCSIS 3.1 modem. The latter is the all-around better option, so we recommend them if you're going with a gigabit plan.
DOCSIS 3.1 modems are backward compatible with DOCSIS 3.0, so even if your provider doesn't require it yet, you can use it with your plan. But they're more expensive. If your provider doesn't offer gigabit plans yet, you may not want to spring for a DOCSIS 3.1 modem, since they may end up offering gigabit speeds over fiber or another type of connection. This way you won't spend money on something you might not need in the present or near future.
If you have a slower plan and decide to go with a DOCSIS 3.0 modem, you'll want to look at one other spec: the number of downstream and upstream channels it supports. Originally, DOCSIS used one channel for downloading data and one channel for uploads. DOCSIS 3.0 enables modems to combine multiple channels to stream data, increasing the speed of both downloads and uploads.
Another factor worth considering (eventually) is DOCSIS 4.0(Opens in a new window), the newest standard that was announced in 2019. DOCSIS 4.0 promises the same 10Gbps down seen in 3.1 modems, but also 6Gbps in upstream capacity. There are currently no modems on the market that are compatible with this standard, but it's something to think about as you look to upgrade.
At PCMag, we don't rate cable modems because it's not possible to isolate modem performance from ISP speed, and we're unable to test them with every compatible ISP under the same conditions. The right cable modem for you is what's compatible with your ISP and your particular plan, and offers the best balance of price and features (not to mention a good warranty).
The best modems overall support DOCSIS 3.0 or 3.1, and are compatible with the major US cable companies, namely Spectrum, Comcast, and Cox, which is true of all the modems listed below. Most of these models cost $100 or less (excluding the DOCSIS 3.1 options), so if you're paying $10 a month to rent your modem, you'll make back your investment in less than a year.
If you have a plan that goes up to 650Mbps, you'll want to step up to something with 24 upstream and eight downstream channels like the Motorola MB7621(Opens in a new window). It comes with a two-year warranty and is compatible with most ISPs. While 24x8 supports a theoretical speed of 1Gbps, it's unlikely your ISP rates this modem for those speeds, so you'll want one of the DOCSIS 3.1 modems below.
If Motorola's MB7621 is out of stock or more expensive than the Netgear CM600(Opens in a new window), the latter is worth looking at. It uses the same 24 upstream and eight downstream channels, and is compatible with most ISPs. But it only comes with a one-year warranty, which makes it our second choice for 24x8 modems.
If you pay for Gigabit internet or higher, we recommend going with a DOCSIS 3.1 modem. This way you can fully benefit from the speeds your plan offers and avoid limiting your network's capabilities by using an older unit.
Netgear also makes its own DOCSIS 3.1 modem for gigabit customers, and it's similarly priced to the other two offerings, though it only comes with a one-year warranty and a single Ethernet port. If neither of the other two are an option, the Netgear CM1000(Opens in a new window) should do in a pinch.
To achieve a smooth transition between the connections, a dual-WAN router is required (or multi-WAN) which supports link aggregation, link fail-over and load balancing. I have explored a few options over the years that you can check here, but there are a few consumer-grade routers that support a more basic implementation as well. See the Asus RT-AC86U or the newer RT-AX86U, as well as the Synology RT2600ac. 041b061a72