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Modem router combo vs Separate: Which is better in 2021?

Stuck between thinking of going combo or separate? First, you should understand your network’s usage and its requirements. It will help in choosing between modem router combo and separate modem and router devices.

The modem router combo, also known as a gateway, is a simpler approach toward setting the network. It is easy to set up and is managed by the service provider.

Whereas, the traditional modem and router are somewhat difficult to set up. However, once set, the users can manage and control their connection settings.

Modem router combo vs separate
My trusty modem router combo. Credits Reviews Garage media team.

I work 2 jobs in the tech industry and I personally prefer the combination device. As I use my network alone for home and work purposes. It saves time and is easy to manage. But again it depends on your usage.

However, a lot of my friends who work in the field of Computer Science prefer separate devices. It helps them in setting an environment that best supports their network needs.

Modem router combo vs Separate

Next, here is a comparison for router modem combo vs separate with an overview and a detailed comparison.

Comparison of the Pros and Cons of Combo vs Separate

Modem Router ComboSeparate Router and Modem
One-time purchase and rental options are availableHigher range of connections and flexible placement of devices
Easy and quick set up Multiple ways of connecting the devices (wired and wireless)
Updated by the ISP You can add layers of security.
WPA2 and firewalls etc. can be added for additional security.
Lesser devices save power You can troubleshoot yourself. Reset the router to fix issues.
An overall less complex experience A one-time purchase is more economical than renting and upgrading.
Modem router combo vs separate, Pros of both the connections
Router Modem ComboSeparate Modem and Router
Offer lower connection speed than the separate.More electricity consumption than the combo.
Purchased combos need to be upgraded as a whole with the new technologyThe extra cables are difficult to manage and hide from plain sight
The network coverage is limited by the placement of the deviceYou will need a wireless router or a very long cable to connect the two devices.
Renting a combo is less economical over the years.More customization opportunity means more complexity.
Lower chances of customization.The router’s speed is limited by the modem.
Cons of Combo and Separate

Modem router combo vs separate is an interesting debate each with its own pros and cons so let’s dive in more detail.

Detailed Comparison of Combined and Separate Modem Routers

The combo device is an easy to manage system but it offers lower configuration options. The separate devices can offer you a range of customization options but will be difficult to set up.

In addition, You will have to manually configure your devices in the separate modem and routers, which will take time. But the range of the devices will be higher as they are set up accordingly.

While, in the combo devices, there is no complex configuration but a lower range of device signal.

Security is a huge aspect to consider. If you transfer sensitive data over your network and wish to be the only one who can manipulate it, the combo device is not a good idea.

Why? Because the separate router and modem let you configure security layers according to your need. It means that you can add firewalls and encryptions to your network. The same is not possible in combos.

If you are short on time and cannot manage the regular maintenance and upgrading of your device, then the separate router and modem are a bad idea. You will have to manually upgrade the router while in the combo devices the ISP will send regular updates to the device.

If you are a network geek and want to learn more about networks, here’s some fun reading.

Why you should get a modem-router combo?

white split type air conditioner
Wi Fi router

Getting a modem router has its benefits. Are modem router combos good? Here is the list so you can make the decision based on your own preferences and situation:

1. Both rental and one-time purchase options

In the combo device, you have the option to buy the combo from the ISP and you can also rent it from them. This option is helpful as some people do not stay in the same place for a long time. Others may want to change their ISP.

While some people prefer to buy the device once and keep it for long and stable use. The combo devices give this option to the user.

2. Easy and quick set up

The combo devices are easy to set up. You only need to attach the designated cables in a few spots and you are good to go. This is also mentioned in the manual while ISPs are happy to help out through the installation phase.

modem router combo box
Minus the Ethernet cables, only 2 wires are required. Antennas for WIFI.

Moreover, the password is pre-set by the ISP so you can easily go online as soon as you set up your network. Of course, you can change the password whenever you like.

I prefer to change it for the extra security.

3. Updates by the Internet Service Provider – ISP

Network, Equipment, Hardware, Internet, Data, Server

The internet service providers have some control over your network but this does not always have to be a bad thing. They send software updates to the modem that are essential for its working.

Furthermore, they can send firmware and better security features automatically through the connection. Some people find it a hassle if they have to update their network devices. Combo devices are a solution for these people.

4. Power effective and economical

The router-modem combo is a single device that needs lesser electricity and can run on lower power.

Although this does not create a huge difference in the number of resources used, it is still cheaper in terms of electricity than the separate approach.

You can get combo devices for as cheap as 54 dollars on Amazon. Pricey variants with different features are also available. It depends on your preference.

5. Overall less complex experience

The combo devices serve as a simple and easy to manage solution to your network problem. This simplicity comes at the cost of the control that you will have to forfeit to the internet service provider. But it is a matter of what you are looking for in your network requirements.

Why You Should Get Modem Router Separate

Modem Router Separate
Standalone Modem at left and Router at right.

There are some strong cases for why you should keep the modem and router separate and here is the list:

1. A higher range of connections and flexible placement

The separate devices offer a higher range of connections. You can connect your wired and wireless devices according to the need of your signal strength.

It means that you can connect the streaming devices to your router while devices that need a dedicated connection like the gaming PC can connect to the modem.

Hence, in case you want to place your router closer to the system where you need a high signal strength, standard cat5 cable extenders will aid you in placement. While the combo devices need coaxial cables which are a hassle to place.

2. Multiple ways of connecting the devices

In the separate devices, there are two devices with multiple slots available for connections. It means that you can connect multiple wired and wireless devices to the modem in different ways according to your requirement.

3. Layers of security are available

You can add multiple layers of security to your connection and make it secure. In the combo, the ISP is usually dealing with the security of the network. In the separate mode, you can add layers of firewall, use WPA2 security, and other similar methods to protect your network.

4. Easy Troubleshooting

You do not have to rely on the ISP to fix the issues generating in your connection. You can easily fix them by troubleshooting yourself. Since most of the issues arise in the router the best and quickest way is to reset the router to fix the issues.

5. More economical in the longer run

In the longer run, modem technology never usually gets old. It is easily connected to the newer technology of the routers that need to be updated after some time.

Buying a combo will have you replace the entire device as you cannot separate the router from it.

On the other hand, the separate devices can easily be upgraded by changing the router to the latest technology and using the older modem.


So that was our take on who emerges the victor in Modem router combo vs separate. No one. It’s your circumstances and preferences to ultimately decide what works best for you.

How to set up and configure modem and router

Connecting a combo box is not a difficult task. You only need to connect the cables according to the manual instructions, plug in the power cable, and turn on the device.

set up and configure modem and router
Connections are required for separate modem and router.

The password and configuration are set by the ISP. Here are the steps for internet connection:

  1. For the separate devices set up and configuration, first, make sure that you have the compatible modem of your internet service provider. A different modem will likely not work.
  2. Then, connect the modem to the phone jack or the cable where you used to connect the combo device before.
  3. Then, use a cable to connect the modem and router. This is done by connecting the wire to the WAN port of the router. The other end of the cable is connected to the modem.
  4. The devices that need a dedicated connection can be connected to the modem.
  5. The devices that need streaming data like mobiles and laptops can be connected to the routers.

You can refer to the following video for a step-by-step guide to connect the cable modem and router.

Install a cable modem and router

What’s the difference between modems, routers, and gateways?

ModemsRoutersGateways
Connects devices to the internet through wires.Connects devices to the internet wirelessly.Combination device of both modem and router.

Modems

A modem can be a small piece of equipment that is capable of connecting the devices to the internet. A modem is a wired connector, unlike the router.

The modem works as a digital translator. It means that it will take the signal of information from the cables or the phone lines and then turn it into information that can be accessed by the computer.

Modems can be of three types.

DSL Modem, Cable Modem, and a Dial-up modem.

Firstly, a DSL modem can connect to a telephone line for the internet connection.

Secondly, unlike the above, the Cable modem usually connects to a cable box. It provides additional services with the ongoing cable service.

Lastly, the dial-up also connects to the phone line.

However, the difference is that the DSL modem allows the phone line to be used during connection while in dial-up it is not possible to use the phone line when the internet connection is active.

Routers

A router is a device that connects your devices wirelessly to the internet. A router can be a separate device or it can also be integrated within a modem.

Where a modem acts to connect to the wired network the router connects to the modem and provides a wireless connection to the devices that are connected to it. A router is basically the device that connects you to the internet.

Summing up the above information, you can say that when you havr internet connection, what you actually connect to, is the router.

Also Read: How to Connect Google Chromecast to Wi-Fi 

Gateways

Wi-Fi, Network, Router, Building
Internet Connection

Gateways are basically the combo or the combination devices that we have been discussing throughout the article.

A gateway is a combination of two devices, the modem, and the router.

It gives the wired functionality of the modem and the wireless functionality of the router simultaneously.

Further, gateways are usually provided by Internet Service Providers. They also manage the software systems and security of these gateways for broadband connection.

FAQs

Is it better to get a modem router combo or separate?

Users who do not bother with the details of their connection should opt for the combo device. It is an easier to set system with low configuration opportunities. Furthermore, users who wish to take more control of their system should go for separate devices which give a higher speed and range of connections.

Are modem router combos worth it?

Modem combos are available at a variety of prices. The price you are willing to pay for the combo should be determined by the services you want. If you want an easy-going and easy-to-manage network without much control over its settings, it is worth every penny.

Can I use a combo modem router as just a router?

Depends on the brand and the model number of the combo modem router. Some have a single port to connect to the phone or the ISP and ports for the LAN side (RJ45 port). They are missing the port for the WAN side to connect it to the modem. You can ask your ISP if it is possible for your combo brand.

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