DSL Modem/Wifi router combos are a great way to simplify your network. They take out the need for having two separate products and instead combine both your router and your modem into one simple device.
DSL Combo Routers: At a Glance
Scroll below to take a more in-depth look at these routers. The links above will take you over to Amazon
Read on to find out what the advantages and disadvantages are of a DSL router, as well as a rundown of some recommended router combos on the market.
Why Use a DSL Modem Router Combo?
Advantages of a DSL Combo Router
ISPs often charge you to rent a modem from them. By buying your own modem/router you may be able to forgo the rental fee charged to you every month by your ISP.
While it may seem more expensive at first, over the course of your contract (and even past your contract - as you will be able to keep your modem after it is finished), you may find that you have been able to save some money.
As well as saving money on modem rental fees, you will potentially also be able to save money on a router. Buying a combo product means you only have to purchase one device. Which, depending on what grade router you are after, and the specific product(s) you choose, means you could save some of your hard earned cash.
Buying a combo product means that you save space and have a simpler network overall. By combining both products in one box, you are cutting a link out of your network which means there is one less thing to worry about and one less device that could go wrong.
As well as this, physically having one less device taking up space in your house means you will be able to save some space for the other products you undoubtedly have in your office.
As your modem and router are both part of the same device, you know there will be absolutely no compatibility issues (between the modem and router we mean. Remember to check with your ISP that you can use your own gear!).
This can help with everything from making the set up easier, to making troubleshooting your network a simpler process. When troubleshooting your connection, you'll only need to test the one device and/or the wires going into and out of the device.
Disadvantages of a Combo Router
Of course there are some disadvantages to owning a combined product.
If you want to buy a top of the range router with all the latest features, a DSL modem/router combo isn't going to be the way to go. Don;t get us wrong, there are some good combos on the market, just don't expect tri band and MU-MIMO for example.
DSL combo products routers just haven't kept up with the pace of router-only kit sadly.
If your device breaks you will find that you have to completely replace both the modem and the router components. However, if you own a separate router and modem you can simply replace the broken device and keep the working one.
This is the same for if you want to upgrade your network. If you decide you want a router with more advanced features you will have to either buy a new modem/router combo or buy two new separate products. Because of this, it can be worth thinking about the type of features you will want from your router in the future when buying your combo product.
What’s The Difference Between a Wireless AC and Wireless N DSL Router?
DSL modem/router combos are commonly available using both the Wireless AC and the Wireless N standard. Wireless AC is the newer of the two standards, and becoming more and more popular, while Wireless N is older but cheaper and fairly widespread.
As the newer standard, Wireless AC offers quicker theoretical data speeds than Wireless N. Wireless AC offers speeds of up to 2600Mbps (on a single band) while wireless n offers speeds of up to 450Mbps. This is quite a difference and you will likely notice a big increase in speed when using 802.11ac to transfer files on your network.
In the real world, actual speeds are, as a good rule of thumb, somewhere between 40% & 60% of the advertised theoretical total.
Channels & Beamforming
802.11ac uses the 5GHz channel, while 802.11n wifi uses both the 2.4GHz channel and the 5GHz channel. While it may seem like 802.11n wifi, therefore, has an advantage, that is not necessarily the case.
Firstly, some 802.11ac devices use beamforming to direct the wifi signal straight to your device. This can give you a stronger signal when further from your router.
While beamforming was available on 802.11n, it never really took off due to a lack of standardisation. This meant two products that supported beamforming wouldn’t necessarily work together efficiently.
On 802.11ac wifi, however, this was changed and now all beamforming supported 802.11ac devices use the same beamforming standard.
Secondly, while Wireless N routers did use the 5GHz band, 802.11ac uses the band to get much faster data transfer speeds with its newer technology. Remember that Wireless AC routers are backward compatible with Wireless N, and so will all be dual band.
Of course, as it is a newer technology 802.11ac routers are generally slightly more expensive than 802.11n routers. Having said that, as it has now been out for a few years, there are some more affordable products out there.
One thing to check before you buy an 802.11ac modem/router is that you have or plan to have products that will take advantage of the speeds on offer. Basically, if your device is only set up to use 802.11n then you will gain no advantage from the 802.11ac router.
What Is DSL Internet Anyway?
DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line. DSL works on copper phone lines using frequencies not used by phone calls.
DSL was a great leap up from the old dial-up technology , offering faster speeds by using newer and more advanced technology. Another big bonus of upgrading to DSL, was users being able to use their landline phone at the same time as connecting online. Yeah, we laughed too. How times have changed!
ADSL vs VDSL vs SDSL: Types Of DSL
There are several types of DSL, but the main 3 are:
Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) is the most commonly used DSL type around. It grew rapidly in the 2000s, as a big upgrade to dialup/ISDN.
The "asymmetrical" reference is due to the fact that upstream speeds are usually significantly slower than the downstream speeds.
Note that ADSL was upgraded to "ADSL2" and then again to "ADSL2+" over the years, with the latter being the fastest of its kind.
Very High Bit-rate Digital Subscriber Line (VDSL) is the fastest type of DSL on the market. It's also unfortunately not quite as common as the "old faithful" ADSL.
It's possible to see speeds up to 60Mbps downstream, using VDSL. This is achieved by using a configuration that lessens how far the signals need to travel.
The downside of VDSL is that it only really works well for users who are located close the the exchange. Distances further away from the exchange start resulting in signal deterioration and therefore poor reliability and speeds, compared to ADSL.
Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line (SDSL). We thought we'd give SDSL a mention, although it's beyond the scope of this article, so we'll keep it super-brief. Basically upstream and downstream speeds are the same.
SDSL is more common in business environments (businesses often require solid upstream speeds), rather than average homes.
Other DSL types include:
- HDSL (High Bit-rate DSL) - Another symmetric connection type
- ADSL Lite - Slower version of traditional ADSL
- R-ADSL (Rate Adaptive DSL) - Symmetric line, designed for businesses
DSL Routers: Acronyms & Terminology Explained
When you're researching or shopping around for a DSL router, there's a few acronyms you'll most likely keep tripping over. Here's a few of the common ones - releated to DSL wireless routers:
- ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) - Protocol used to communicate over the phone line between your modem and the ISP router (that likely site at the local exchange.)
- PPPoA (Point-to-Point Protocol over ATM) - Used with ATM to provide authentication, giving IP addresses.
- PPPoE (Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet) - Fairly similar concept to PPPoA. Arguably slightly slower.
- Ethernet - Standard that uses cables to connect networking devices, For home users, this is usually with RJ-45 jacks.
- QoS (Quality of Service) - The ability to place priority on certain traffic types, or devices (or a combination of both). Particularly useful for improving gaming, streaming and voice call quality.
- Mbps (Megabits or seconds) - Measurement of speed between two network nodes.
- Gbps (Gigabits per second) - Same as Gbps, but quicker.
- GHz (Gigahertz) - Radio frequency range. The 2.4GHz and 5GHz ranges are often used by wi-fi devices.
- SPI (Stateful Packet Inspection) - A firewall attribute, where internet traffic initiated from your internal LAN devices is saved in memory, so that the returning (trusted) traffic is allowed through. Traffic from outside your network (untrusted) would not be allowed through.
- NAT (Network Address Translation) - Translation of internal IP addresses to external IP addresses. Also acts as a firewall in its own right.
- IP (Internet Protocol) Address - Logical address that network devices use to communicate with each other.
- LAN (Local Area Network) - Network devices within your internal network. Can include your router.
- WAN (Wide Area Network) - Addresses outside your network. Internet addresses. Can also include your router.
- DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) - Automatic assignment of IP addresses. Usually provided by your router.
Well-Known DSL ISPs (Internet Service Providers)
DSL services aren't provided by all ISPs, and not all of these ISPs let you buy your own router modem to use, instead of renting.
Also note that each ISP offers different DSL services (like ADSL or VDSL).
Here is a table showing whether ADSL or VDSL is an option with the most common ISPs in the U.S.:
Yes - on the U-Verse product
Yes - but limited installations
Top 9 Best Wireless DSL Combo Routers
1. Netgear Nighthawk D7000 AC1900 Wi-Fi VDSL/ADSL Modem Router (Best For Gaming too)
- This router uses the 802.11ac standard for quick data speeds.
- Beamforming technology and three antennas for a strong signal even far from your router.
- Comes with the Netgear Genie app to allow you to easily manage your home network.
The Netgear Nighthawk series is one that frequently turns up on our 'best of' lists and this one is clearly no exception. As with the other products, this is an excellent device that offers some high-end features to make your network as quick as possible.
The D7000 is actually the DSL equivalent of the very popular R7000 Nighthawk.
It is dual-band and comes with four Ethernet ports for your cabled devices. It also has a range of features like Beamforming and three adjustable antennas that mean you should be able to get a good connection even further from the router. Like the R7000, it ships with Advanced QoS, so you can priortize your gaming traffic (and whatever else) you want over other types (and users for that mater).
It has a stylish black design that won’t look out of place wherever you choose to put it and its build quality is pretty stellar.
While it is certainly not the cheapest offering on our list, people who want a fast wireless network with some high-end features may consider the D7000 a good option.
As always, check with your ISP to see if it fits. There's a big fluctuations on what ISPs will support with regards ADSL and VDSL.
2. TP-Link Archer D7 AC1750 Wireless ADSL2+ Modem Router
- Dual band, 802.11ac wireless with Ethernet ports.
- Three antennas for increased signal.
- USB 3.0 port makes it possible to share files at high speeds across your network
The TP-Link Archer series is another regular on our lists. It also offers a load of high-end features so you can get the most from your network.
Once you have connected your cables the router is very simple to set up, which is great if you are unfamiliar with the technology involved. Along with the simple setup, you still get a ton of high-end features like USB 3.0 sharing and dual-band connectivity.
While less aggressive looking than the Nighthawk router, its smooth and shiny casing means it won’t look out of place in your office or home. It has three antennas, all of which fold down if required to give you more options on where to put it.
Its 802.11ac radio will give you fast speeds across your network and despite having many other high-end features is currently slightly cheaper than the Netgear Nighthawk router. It ticks a lot of boxes!
3. Actiontec GT784WN Wireless N ADSL Modem Router
- Supports theoretical speeds up to 300Mbps over Wireless N.
- Good security features including firewall, encryption options and parental controls.
- Automatic configuration for easy setup.
This is the first router on our list that uses the 802.11n standard. As such the speeds on offer aren’t quite as fast.
However, if you don’t plan to transfer files on your network as quickly as possible, this router should be good enough for most uses. It also has some good security features and as well as Ethernet ports if you really need a quick connection to certain devices.
We don't think its design is as impressive as some of the other routers on the list and it only has two antennas.
The main plus side is that it is much cheaper than the above two routers, which makes it perfect if you don’t need all the top end features on your network.
4. Netgear D6400 AC1600 Wi-Fi VDSL/ADSL Modem Router
- Very fast wifi speeds using the 802.11ac standard.
- Dual band and comes with Ethernet ports.
- Netgear Genie app makes managing your network easy
This is the second offering from Netgear on our list. While it is one step down from the Nighthawk, it is still an excellent router/modem that offers a ton of great features.
It is dual band, 802.11ac and has Ethernet ports which gives your network loads of connection options.
While it misses some of the really high-end features available on the Nighthawk router, it is still a fantastic feature-packed router.
5. Trendnet TEW-722BRM N300 Wireless ADSL2+ Modem Router
- Basic router for those who just want....the basics
- Uses the 802.11n wireless standard to give theoretical speeds up to 300Mbps.
- Guest wireless option.
This is certainly the budget option of the routers on our list. It isn’t as fast as some of the other products and it may not be quite as stylish, however it still offers a number of plus points.
Setup is still easy on this router and it is easy to configure once this is completed. The speeds on offer may be limited to 300Mbps (theoretical), but this will still be enough for many people especially if you are mainly planning to use the router for web surfing.
All in all, this is a decent router at a great price and will be perfect for people who just want a simple product to help them connect multiple devices to the internet without going too crazy!
6. ActionTec C1000A Wireless N VDSL2 Modem & Router (CenturyLink Only)
- Quality of Service features.
- Dual core processor for extra grunt.
- TR-069 Remote Management support available
If you have CenturyLink VDSL, you could take a look at the C1000A.
This combo has some nice little touches, including QoS options (for smoother traffic management), Port Forwarding (to allow remote access - mainly for applications) and DMZ Hosting (for access to less-sensitive devices). These are pretty advanced features, and should only be used if you know what you're doing.
This Wireless N standard offering is 2.4GHz-only, and is perfectly fine if you have a handful of wifi gear around the home that needs basic internet access.
Note that the menu layout and some of the configuration may not be for the faint-hearted. Having said that, you can run the box with the default settings. In fact CenturyLink prefer that you do!
7. Zyxel C1100Z 802.11n VDSL2 Wireless Gateway (CenturyLink Only)
- Wireless N 300Mbps Combo
- Remote Management support
- Four Ethernet ports for your wired devices
This vertical-standing VDSL (and ADSL2+) modem/router is an N300 wifi device, that lets multiple users connect wirelessly, along with 4 Ethernet users.
You can also set up basic website filtering, and again, some basic access scheduling, should you want to limit internet access.
The C1100Z also has TR-069 Remote Management support, enabling CenturyLink to remotely access the modem should you run into any difficulties. TR-069, also known as the CPE WAN (CWMP) Management Protocol, was created by the Broadband Forum, and works by allowing the modem (CPE) and ISP (ACS) to communicate with each other.
8. Netgear D6200 Modem Router AC1200 Combo
- Wireless AC - 1.2Gbps theoretical/cumulative
- USB port
- Works with major ISPs (CenturyLink, Verizon, AT&T)
And so, onto another Netgear offering. Yes, we do like them!
The D6200 is another .11ad wifi modem, tis time with cumulative theoretical speeds up to AC1200. That's 867Mbps on the AC (5GHz), and a further 300Mbps on Wireless N (2.4GHz) - yes, it is a dual band router.
Port-wise the D6200 has four gigabit Ethernet ports (and a 1Gbps WAN port). Yes, it has Ethernet WAN (should you want to go for cable, but also the phone jack offering for ADSL2+). There;s also a USB 2.0 port for centralized storage/printing, should you want to go that route.
Like the other Netgear efforts on our list, this also supports Netgear Genie and beamforming.
At time of writing, the D6200 is compatible with CenturyLink, AT&T (ADSL only!) and Verizon services.
9. ZyXEL PK5001z ADSL Modem Router (CenturyLink Only)
And last, but not least, we have another Zycel delight...
The PK5001z is DSL offering that has four 1Gbps Ethernet ports, for the cabled network nodes.
Wireless offers single band, on the 2.4GHz frequency.
Like the C1100Z above, the PK5001z supports basic web filtering, access and some port forwarding options.
Remember, that there is no one combo device that is the best for everyone - isn't this always the case?! We hope this article helped you to make a better choice anyway.
If you have any questions or comments, just add them in the section below. Thanks!