Modem Router Combo vs. Separate? Which You Should Buy

Find out if a modem router combo is better than buying them separately.

Linksys Router and Zoom Modem Brandon Jones / TechReviewer

Last Updated: September 14, 2021

Written by Brandon Jones

Routers, modems, and modem router combos might all sound the same if you're new to setting up your cable internet. In this article I will discuss the differences between modem router combos versus a separate modem and router.

If you want to learn more about cable internet equipment, wiring, or troubleshooting, check out these articles:

What Is a Modem and Router?

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A router (TR) sends and receives data packets between your local network and the Internet. Devices like a computer or phone connect to a router to obtain internet access via an Ethernet cable (TR) or Wi-Fi.

A cable modem (TR) is a device that communicates with your Internet service provider's equipment via a coax cable (TR). It connects to your router via an Ethernet cable.

What Is a Modem Router Combo?

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A modem router combo is a combination of a router and a modem in one device. This all-in-one device works similarly to a separate modem and router, with some trade-offs and benefits.

Benefits of a Modem Router Combo

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Compact Form-Factor

Since you don't have to have two separate devices with cables going to each one and connecting each other, it'll take up less space overall compared to individual devices.

Can Be Cheaper Than Separate Devices

Individual routers and modems can cost around $100 or more each, especially for better and more advanced routers/modems. Buying a modem router combo is usually around $150 total.

Easier to Set-Up

Instead of two separate devices to connect, power, and run cables to and from, you'll only need to connect one device.

Modem router combo devices are generally easiest for beginners, including the set-up phase where you'll change settings, set passwords, and connect your devices.

Internet Service Providers Update Rented Device

If you rent a device from your internet service provider (ISP), it's usually a modem router combo. If you're renting this device, you'll receive automatic updates from your ISP, making it much easier to maintain for beginner users.

In the long run, it's typically cheaper to own a modem and router than rent one from your ISP. You will also have more flexibility with your privacy and security settings, more settings to adjust to your needs, and better connection strength.

Benefits of Buying a Separate Modem and Router

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More Flexibility and Control

Buying a standalone router can allow for more flexibility and control. You are less likely to contact your internet service provider (ISP) to fix problems and can fix your devices yourself instead. You can also adjust more settings to your needs, like privacy controls, bandwidth prioritization, and firmware updates.

Like routers made by Netgear, some come with a free app that allows you to enable parental controls to block sites or restrict access on specific devices.

Most routers also let you create guest accounts to allow friends/family to connect with a separate custom password. This can help keep your files that are shared on your network private and more secure.

Some routers let you prioritize its bandwidth and customize different internet traffic types. For example, you can prioritize your Chromecast over your computer so your Netflix show doesn't cut out or lower its quality.

Easier to Upgrade Devices

If you have both a router and modem, you can decide when to upgrade them separately. Your modem can outlive your router, so there's no need to upgrade both at once. If your router stops working, is outdated, or is no longer supported, you can buy a new router instead of both.

Ability to Adjust Router Placement

Having a separate router allows you to place it farther away from your modem. This will enable you to optimally position the router to receive the best Wi-Fi strength where you need it most.

A modem router combo restricts the flexibility of where you can place them. The coax cable that connects to your modem is limited and often thicker, making it hard to put across the room from the coax cable outlet.

Cheaper in the Long Run

While the upfront cost of buying a separate modem and router is more overall, it can be cheaper in the long run.

Renting a modem from your internet service provider (ISP) can seem cheap at first, but it becomes more costly if you add it all together.

You will also have the flexibility to upgrade your devices separately, which can reduce your long-term cost. If you have a modem router combo, you'd have to replace the entire device. If you buy them individually, you can upgrade one device if any unfixable issues arise or new features you want that come out in the future. Modems can often outlive a router, so having them combined can be limiting.

Should I Replace an Existing Modem With a Modem Router Combo?

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Unless you're having problems with your existing modem or if your speeds aren't reaching what you're paying for from your internet service provider (ISP), then there's usually no need to replace it.

With that said, if you think the benefits of a modem router combo (TR) outweigh the benefits of owning a separate modem and router (TR), then it would probably be worth it in your case.

How to Tell if My Device Is a Modem Router Combo

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Usually, you can know if your device is a modem router combo by viewing the back of the device.

Here are some ways you can know if your device is a modem router combo:

  • It has a coax cable input AND also multiple Ethernet cable ports.
  • It has a coax cable input on the back AND labels anywhere on it that says 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz.
  • The name of the device includes Modem AND either Router, Wi-Fi, or Gateway.
  • It has antennas coming out of the device (these are for improving Wi-Fi connection if it's a Wi-Fi router) AND a coax cable input on the back of the device.
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Best Cable Modem Router Combo: Motorola MG8702

  • Comes with a smart Wi-Fi app for easy set-up, guest network management, usage monitoring, parental controls, security alerts, and more.

  • Works with Comcast Xfinity, Cox Communications, and Charter Spectrum.

  • DOCSIS 3.1, which allows for faster speeds and better network stability.

  • Up to 3.2 Gb/s data transfer speeds.

  • USB 3.0 port for shared network storage.

  • Check the latest price of the Motorola MG8702 on Amazon (affiliate link).

    Motorola MG8702 Motorola MG8702 Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Runner-Up Cable Modem Router Combo: Netgear Nighthawk C7000

  • Works with Comcast Xfinity, Cox Communications, and Charter Spectrum.

  • Get up to 1800 sq ft of wireless coverage.

  • Connect up to 30 devices with speeds up to 1.9 Gb/s.

  • 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports.

  • 2 USB ports for connecting printers, storage drives, or other devices to your network.

  • Check the latest price of the Netgear Nighthawk C7000 on Amazon (affiliate link).

    Netgear Nighthawk C7000 Netgear Nighthawk C7000 Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Best DOCSIS 3.1 Modem: Motorola MB8611

  • 6 Gbps max speed.

  • 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port.

  • Lightning and power surge protection.

  • Active queue management, which can reduce internet latency.

  • DOCSIS 3.1, which allows for faster speeds and better network stability.

  • Works with Comcast Xfinity, Comcast Business, Cox Communications, and Charter Spectrum.

  • Some downsides are that it won't support future DOCSIS 4.0 service when available.

  • It does not have a built-in wireless router.

  • It does not have telephone call capability.

  • Check the latest price of the Motorola MB8611 DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem on Amazon (affiliate link).

    Motorola MB8611 Motorola MB8611 Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Best Wi-Fi Router: NETGEAR Nighthawk R7350 AC2400

  • Wi-Fi speeds up to 2.4 Gb/s.

  • Both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi bands for better flexibility.

  • USB 3.0 port for shared network storage.

  • Fast processor for improved stability.

  • Includes free "Nighthawk" app to customize settings easily.

  • Check the latest price of the Netgear Nighthawk R7350 on Amazon (affiliate link).

    Netgear Nighthawk R7350 Netgear Nighthawk R7350 Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)