Separate Modem/Router or Modem/Router combo gateway

When people sign up for internet service (comcast/xfinity/cox/time warner/etc) they are often offered a modem/router combo. …. usually to rent from the provider.

People also have the option to buy their own. I wanted to go through quick and break down the pros/cons of each option…..

My “usual” recommendation is going to be … just buy your own separate modem/router…. however, that doesn’t mean it’s ideal for everyone.

First off…. EITHER which way you…. I do recommend buying your own. most renting costs about $5-$10 a month…. that’s going to be $60-$120 a year. in most cases, buying your own, will cost you $60-$400 (depending on how fancy you wanna get)…. but it’s a fair bet you can get decent stuff for $100 total. that means, in 1 year (your contract period)… you’ve already saved money….

now onto some breakdowns

COST

SEPARATE

in the long run, this is cheaper. Modems don’t really need upgrading often. Routers generally don’t either… but they do break down and the wireless protocols CAN change every few years.

on average… modems in general do NOT change much. yes the DOCSIS protocols can change (as of this righting we are at DOCSIS 3.1)… but you don’t have to worry much bout that. it changes like once in 10+ years. and even then you don’t HAVE to upgrade…. but if you do… decent modems are like $40-100USD.

Routers are all over… but you can usually get a decent router for $40. though, they do require more changing, and the protocols change every 4-6 years.

the point, separate, usually allows you to upgrade what you want. when you want. one at a time.

also when you move to new locations… your modem might not be compatible with new provider…but your router will…. this way you can just change out the modem.

One last BIG note. when you rent… most internet providers have “promotional” period. meaning after a year, they jack up the prices… massively.

at that point you can call and complain, and renegotiate… but guess what? if you renting… you are at their mercy. if you OWN your own stuff… if they don’t bend over and take it the way you WANT…. you can just cancel and re-sign up. that’s free, or you can get a new provider and tell them to screw off.

COMBO

Again, at first, and for the most part… this is the same… at first. if you renting… then this is FINANCIALLY easier…. for the first year. but very quickly you will start to be in the negative. true, $10 a month isn’t a big deal… but… add netflix/spotify/book club/ porn subscriptions… and things add up. $10+$10+… you get the idea.

again… if just one year…. they both kinda same cost. (separate will be maybe $10 total more expensive… but at $100-200 spent… what’s another $10?)

PERFORMANCE

SEPARATE

Neither is “100%” better. HOWEVER, both routers and modems are mini computers… with software inside them. Routers especially, require quite a bit of cpu and power. They juggle a lot. Firewalls, security, multiple channels, bandwidth…. especially now that we have phones, watches, TVs, printers, computers, tablets… multiple devices…. all just … doing shit…. smacking that router all day errday…. even your fridge might be asking for stuff… it’s good to have that processing done in a separate, contained system… that doesn’t have to juggle anything it doesn’t need to…. basically for the same price… you’ll get a router that performs better…. USUALLY… though brands and reliability vary.

Also remember…. devices in your house use the router to talk to each other… NOT the modem. So having a beefy separate router just to multi-task… is often more stable in the long run.

Having a separate modem … same thing. As DOCSIS doesn’t change much…. it’s easier to just get a cheap modem.

Also note…. since combos tend to be more about “one device”… hence… they are intended to be more aesthetic…. that means not much in the way of antennas. You know those ugly ears routers have that are horribly hideous? Yeah… those actually extend the range A LOT…. like night and day difference. Combo devices don’t get the solid range a proper router can get.

COMBO

In general, this is gonna be the lower quality option. The modem will be fine… they are still pretty basic tools…

the router however, will usually be pretty weak. Compared to same price.

Again… no big ugly antenna…. which, I know is ugly… but… they do increase performance… a LOT.

RELIABILITY

SEPARATE

This one will generally be the better option. 2 things… means you don’t get screwed over when one breaks. You just replace that one.

COMBO

If either the modem or the router breaks…. you have to replace the whole thing.

EASE OF USE

SEPARATE

This one sucks. It’s not easier. By design, having them separate… is gonna be more complex. Unless you pay a lot for a fancy GUI router like apple ones.

COMBO

Yup. This is easier to set up and configure . You got one device. That’s it.

FEATURES

SEPARATE

This one wins. Having them separate, especially the router… usually there are way MORE features. And control. If you don’t care… then whatever. But the option is there.

COMBO

Always this is lacking. But for home basic users…. this will be just fine.

AESTHETICS

SEPARATE

This depends on your preference. 2 devices means more cables… plus most good routers have ugly antennae …. but same time… you can also choose your designs and get routers that fit whatever style you want. (Apple routers tend to be so pretty they blend right into your entertainment center)

COMBO

You get what they give you. It’s usually ugly. But… it’s easy enough to hide. (Which also affects performance… radio frequencies do get affected by walls and other surfaces)

Support/UPDATES

SEPARATE

Well, if you own your own separate ones… you basically have to deal with each company separately. This all depends on how complex and good the brands are. Generally, I’d recommend sticking with Arris/netgear/apple/Cisco…. they tend to have good customer service… but you are having to deal with each one and troubleshooting can be a headache.

Keep in mind, modems don’t really do much nor break…. and routers are easy enough to replace… and when it’s the router it’s pretty obvious (wifi don’t work? Plug modem into computer… internet still works? But wifi down? It’s your router. Modem direct connection don’t work? It’s your modem.

It’s not rocket science)

Also updates you’ll have to do yourself on each one. If you want to. For the most part… you just leave them alone and they work fine.

COMBO

If you renting… this is easiest. You take it to them, they give you new one. You keep paying $10 a month.

If you own this. Well.. it doesn’t matter which broke… you have to get new one. The only benefit is that it’s now only one company you gotta call and sit on a customer service line for 10 hours yelling at someone that doesn’t speak english.

Usually this is one update… and if you renting they often push updates automatically…. this could be good or bad. Some updates could mess your network up…. but it’s also nice sometimes to not have to do this or worry about it.

This really is more your own preference.

Personally, I think neither one is a selling point. You don’t really need to be updating your routers/modem much… and the more simple you are… the less you need to update/patch stuff.

I’d be just as annoyed having to update myself… as someone updating stuff in the middle of me using the wifi without my consent.

OVERALL

Renting a combo unit – this makes the most sense when you move every year or so, and don’t want to deal with having much setup.

Buying a Combo unit – meh. I have no idea why anyone would do this. I guess cause you wanna have it simple… and waste money… and say it’s all yours?

Renting separate – welcome to 1998. Now catch up to the rest of us. They don’t really rent modems. Unless they suckered you. In that case… come talk to me… I have a great <random thing> I wanna sell you, you gullible fool.

Buying Separate – this makes the most sense financially long term, and when you want control. This does require a bit more setup at first…. but in the long run it’s a safer option…..

In the end… it all depends on your situation…… a LOT of people find setting up a router too complex. Having the cable guy come do it… is the easiest and simplest. And sometimes that’s worth the $10 a month…… (modems are actually pretty easy… when you buy your own… you call the company and tell them the model number and MAC address.. and they do the rest on their end. — these are on the back panel of the modem). If you can manage setting up a router…. then buying is *usually* the better option. But again, all depends on your tolerance for setting up stuff like this.

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