Separate router vs built-in

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Lynx310650
Posts: 172
Joined: Fri Sep 15, 2017 1:33 pm

Separate router vs built-in

Post by Lynx310650 »

Recently changed/upgraded ISP for much faster internet. We couldn't get our old router configured (it was really old) so we decided to get a newer router.

But our modem itself has a built-in router. I know this is common now but it's the first time we've had a modem like this.

What would be the pros/cons of just using the built-in router? Our biggest priorities are maximizing speed and also security. We don't need much range as we live in a small 1br apt.
LeftCoastIV
Posts: 253
Joined: Wed May 01, 2019 7:19 pm

Re: Separate router vs built-in

Post by LeftCoastIV »

Where we live, the ISP (Comcast/Xfinity) will charge you $ every month to use their modem, which is silly when you can buy a good quality modem for less than $100. In our case, we bought an Arris surfboard modem. We then have a separate router, and separate mesh wifi access points. That said, I work in tech so I'm generally comfortable messing around with our home networking, and our house requires multiple wifi access points for good coverage.

Here's a summary of the role of each:

Modem = connection/conversion from the ISPs delivery mechanism for Internet, to your house
Router = assigning IP addresses, enforcing port forwarding, security features, and of course routing packets
Wifi access points = wireless connection points for devices in your home, with the data then being backhauled to your router

There's no reason these can't be on the same physical device if you prefer that and the performance and cost are acceptable to you.

In our case, we have a home networking cabinet, so the wifi access points needed to be placed outside of this cabinet, and in better locations, in order to provide coverage.

If all of this bores you, and/or is your not your area of strength, then I would suggest checking your Internet speed via https://www.speedtest.net/
If your speeds are acceptable to you, then stick with what you have.
Topic Author
Lynx310650
Posts: 172
Joined: Fri Sep 15, 2017 1:33 pm

Re: Separate router vs built-in

Post by Lynx310650 »

LeftCoastIV wrote: Mon Sep 28, 2020 5:14 pm Where we live, the ISP (Comcast/Xfinity) will charge you $ every month to use their modem, which is silly when you can buy a good quality modem for less than $100. In our case, we bought an Arris surfboard modem. We then have a separate router, and separate mesh wifi access points. That said, I work in tech so I'm generally comfortable messing around with our home networking, and our house requires multiple wifi access points for good coverage.

Here's a summary of the role of each:

Modem = connection/conversion from the ISPs delivery mechanism for Internet, to your house
Router = assigning IP addresses, enforcing port forwarding, security features, and of course routing packets
Wifi access points = wireless connection points for devices in your home, with the data then being backhauled to your router

There's no reason these can't be on the same physical device if you prefer that and the performance and cost are acceptable to you.

In our case, we have a home networking cabinet, so the wifi access points needed to be placed outside of this cabinet, and in better locations, in order to provide coverage.

If all of this bores you, and/or is your not your area of strength, then I would suggest checking your Internet speed via https://www.speedtest.net/
If your speeds are acceptable to you, then stick with what you have.
Thanks! We just default ordered a router the same day we got our modem, so I've thinking of whether to keep it or return it. Your breakdown is very helpful.

We are very happy with our speeds, so might just keep it as is.
DivesEtPauper
Posts: 39
Joined: Fri Mar 15, 2019 11:38 pm

Re: Separate router vs built-in

Post by DivesEtPauper »

To me, the pros/cons would depend on the features of each device. You should be able to read about each one and see if the options presented will meet your needs (if they're already connected, you could log into them and compare).

Personally, I prefer to have separate devices - my thinking is that if one dies, I only have to swap that device.

Having said that, I used a single modem/router for my mother-in-law. She's also in a small apartment, and doesn't have a need beyond getting online with her tablet and phone. Works fine so far for her.
bloom2708
Posts: 8381
Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2014 2:08 pm
Location: Fargo, ND

Re: Separate router vs built-in

Post by bloom2708 »

A DOCSIS 3.1 modem will use more channels. It is more efficient. Even with regular speeds.

It is always better to have a seperate modem and router matched to your speed.

Cable modem providers have lists of compatible modems. We have 1,000 MB and a Google WiFi system. Matched with a 3.1 modem with 32x 8 channels. Arris Surfboard.
"We are here to provoke thoughtfulness, not agree with you." Unknown Boglehead
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StevieG72
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Re: Separate router vs built-in

Post by StevieG72 »

My equipment was fried by a lightning strike a few months ago. I had a modem and separate router. Switched to one unit modem/router combo. Takes up less space, works fine for my small home. I still have the ability to dial in security settings to my liking. I would recommend the modem / router combo.
Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.
MDfan
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Re: Separate router vs built-in

Post by MDfan »

StevieG72 wrote: Mon Sep 28, 2020 7:41 pm My equipment was fried by a lightning strike a few months ago. I had a modem and separate router. Switched to one unit modem/router combo. Takes up less space, works fine for my small home. I still have the ability to dial in security settings to my liking. I would recommend the modem / router combo.
Our internet speeds were awful (3-story house) and I bought an Eero mesh wi-fi system. The difference has been incredible.
onourway
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Joined: Thu Dec 08, 2016 3:39 pm

Re: Separate router vs built-in

Post by onourway »

Generally the modem/router combination provided is of minimum acceptable quality. For small homes and apartments with limited needs, they might be ok, so long as you are not paying a monthly fee for them. At least you have a single point of contact for any issues, and the ISP should be motivated to get you working equipment.

For anyone who wants something a bit more advanced - better coverage, faster speeds, etc. then you’ll want separate units that are higher powered and/or expandable.
mervinj7
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Re: Separate router vs built-in

Post by mervinj7 »

Lynx310650 wrote: Mon Sep 28, 2020 5:01 pm Recently changed/upgraded ISP for much faster internet. We couldn't get our old router configured (it was really old) so we decided to get a newer router.

But our modem itself has a built-in router. I know this is common now but it's the first time we've had a modem like this.

What would be the pros/cons of just using the built-in router? Our biggest priorities are maximizing speed and also security. We don't need much range as we live in a small 1br apt.
Are you paying a monthly fee for your modem/router combo? If so, then definitely get rid of it.

Performance wise, it's almost always better to separate them but that's very much dependent on your individual circumstances (e.g house layout, max ISP speed, max device usage, latency requirements).

For example, we used a Docsis 3.0 cable modem in our living room for many years. We then use a Google WIFI router with two access points on a wireless mesh network. That was acceptable until this year. We upgraded our cable modem to a Docsis 3.1 modem to take full advantage of our 600Mbps ISP service. Then we upgraded the main router to a Nest WiFi with just one of the older Google WiFi pucks as an access point. Better than before but to improve latency the next step will be hardwire the access points together. If that's not enough, then the next network upgrade will be to an Ubiquiti system.
rockstar
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Joined: Mon Feb 03, 2020 6:51 pm

Re: Separate router vs built-in

Post by rockstar »

My setup is pretty complicated.

Cable Modem -> APU2 (gateway) -> switch -> dumb AP

I find this works for me. I run my own dedicated DNS cache on the gateway. I don't like combo setups. I can swap out any part of that setup.
Last edited by rockstar on Mon Sep 28, 2020 9:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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CardinalRule
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Joined: Sun Jan 15, 2017 11:01 am
Location: United States

Re: Separate router vs built-in

Post by CardinalRule »

We have phone service (VoIP) with our ISP, which limits our options.
carolinaman
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Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2011 9:56 am
Location: North Carolina

Re: Separate router vs built-in

Post by carolinaman »

Our ISP provided a modem/router device several years ago. We often had Internet problems and it was common place to power down/up the device to get the Internet up again. I had ISP people out many times dealing with this issue. I even asked them if the problem could be the modem/router. They said no. Finally, they swapped the combo device for separate router and modem. Problem solved!

I recently replaced the router with a Nest Mesh network with 2 access points to get better network coverage in our home. We are very pleased with that, both for coverage and performance.
teCh0010
Posts: 169
Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2011 11:20 am

Re: Separate router vs built-in

Post by teCh0010 »

The only time it is better to rent vs own your router is when Comcast manipulates the equation.

In areas where Comcast has a 1.2TB data cap you can pay 30 a month for unlimited data, or 25 a month for “Xfi complete” which includes equipment rental and unlimited data.

I’m doing that now, I’ve got their XB7 working as modem / router with WiFi shut down and running my own unifi multiple AP system. If they lift the data cap here I’ll buy a docsis 3.1 modem and ubiquiti edge router.

The first couple of weeks the XB7 was terrible, but they seem to have pushed some firmware updates and it is fine now. It has built in MOCA to extend Ethernet anywhere in your house over coax, which is convenient since I use MoCA 2.0 to backhaul my APs.
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