Are you slowly seeing your money going down the drain because you’re throwing away over a hundred dollars every year on something that's not even the best DSL modem out there?
Is your modem and router rental from your ISP inadequate to handle your internet needs?
Don’t worry; you’re in the same boat as many other people.
We’ll be upfront about this. You will be making an investment for sure, but over time, your own device will pay for itself! Technologies in DSL modems don’t change rapidly, so you should be good with your modem for the next half decade or so.
8 Best DSL Modems (2021)
1. Actiontec C3000A
2. Motorola MD1600
3. Actiontec GT784
4. Netgear D7000
5. Zyxel C1100Z
6. Linksys X2000
7. Zyxel ADSL2+
8. D-Link DSL-520B
3 Types Of DSL – ADSL vs VDSL vs SDSL
Do you remember Dial-up? Well, this is the big upgrade to the old time dial-up system and it grew in popularity in the 2000’s. Abbreviated for Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line, this is the most common DSL type being used these days.
The ‘Asymmetrical’ signifies the higher downstream speeds vs upstream speeds, which is usual for ADSL.
Over the years, ADSL has seen many upgrades, from ADSL2, to the newest version being ADSL2+. The latter is the fastest version of ADSL.
Although not as commonly prevalent as ADSL, VDSL is the fastest type of DSL as of now.
VDSL stands for ‘Very High Bit-Rate Digital Subscriber Line. It is more than a mouthful, but VDSL download speeds can reach up to 60Mbps. This is possible due to a system where the distance signals have to travel is decreased to increase reliability and speed.
The only drawback to VDSL is that it is a great option for subscribers who are located in close proximity to the exchange. Distance deteriorates the signal, which leads to unreliable speeds, as compared to ADSL which is more stable over distance.
This is a more common DSL type found in businesses and commercial places. This is because the downstream and upstream speeds are the same. The internet usage for residential and businesses differ, as the latter normally require reliable upload speeds, more than the average home network.
1. Actiontec C3000A DSL Modem
Best DSL Modem (Editor's Choice)
If you have CenturyLink and are looking for the best DSL modem, you really can’t do much better than the CenturyLink Actiontec C3000A.
The C3000A is a tower design that has great ventilation. That will keep your device fairly cool and prevent overheating. The device does balance on a stand that is not incredibly sturdy, so do not set the modem somewhere it might be toppled over.
The C3000A comes with one USB 3.0 port for fast connectivity. You will also get four 10/100/1000 Ethernet LAN ports as well, so you can directly wire in whatever devices that you want to. The modem also has a customizable firewall that can help keep your DSL network as protected as possible. There is also denial of service protection as well as password attack prevention, also adding to the modem’s security.
Moving onto the C3000A’s performance, it is important to know that this is a DSL modem that has a built-in dual-band router. This will only work with DSL internet, and possibly will only work with CenturyLink, but you might want to check with your ISP if you do have another brand of DSL.
The C3000A also has QoS, so you will be able to prioritize which devices should get the priority when it comes to bandwidth. It also has Smart WiFi technology that will allow the modem to intelligently switch connected devices between the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz frequencies. It also has the latest standards from the WiFi Alliance, including the EasyConnect, EasyMesh, Agile Multiband, and WPA3.
2. Motorola MD1600 DSL Modem
Sleek, black and easy to clean – apart from being great value for money, the Motorola MD1600 absolutely knocked our Editor’s socks off.
Fastest set up process of all the DSL modem router combos we reviewed and tested, this newly 2018 released modem router combo will make the process of getting online a breeze.
Firstly, this is compatible if you are subscribed to Frontier, CenturyLink or other DSL service providers. Do not buy this if you have Bonded VDSL, bonded ADSL pr VDSL vectoring. It won’t work.
A huge space saver, this modem router combo has a variety of features to make this the top of our guide. It has 4 gigabit Ethernet ports, VPN capability, USB 2.0 port, IPv4 and IPv6 support and more.
To start off with, the set up process was super easy. All you have to do is follow the Quick Set up Guide to get it up and running. The Motorola Setup wizard more or less does everything to get your wireless internet service ready to go within minutes. You do have 2 options during set up. Go to setupmyrouter.net or follow the IP address given on the bottom of the device.
Our 2,500 sq ft house managed to get a strong signal, even in previous dead spots. We can’t boast about our DSL connection, but this modem router combo actually managed to boost our throughput. The range this device delivers is impressive. Back yard, front yard, garage – you name it, we were connected.
For people who have company over often, there is a guest WiFi that you can set up so that your private home network is never compromised.
Perhaps the only downside to the MD1600 is the config manager. We feel it could provide better stats and feature control, but we can live with the features it has. However, you have to keep in mind that we are always looking for advanced features and we like to dig around the settings. This is a great modem router combo for the average home user.
We managed to play HD online games and happily stream HD videos in another room with all our smart phones and mobile devices connected with no drops in the connection.
3. Actiontec GT784WN DSL Modem
Straight out of the box, the GT784WN is all the power you need to get all your devices wirelessly connected.
It is compatible with CenturyLink’s ADSL service and other major DSL service providers. It is a more up-to-date gadget that is supported by most major ISPs, supporting ADSL+, allowing you to enjoy higher speeds.
It has 4 Ethernet ports and a single ADSL port. It also features MIMO smart antenna and remote management control via the TR-069 support.
The set up process was simple and straightforward, taking the BlueGadgetTooth team around 10 minutes to get the modem router combo up and running. For the average Joe though, you may take a little longer to get it sorted out, you just need to pay attention to the quick install sheet.
It has a great firewall which includes SPI, that does all that you require it to do, and effortlessly keeps your devices wirelessly connected to the network.
While we faced many dropped connections with an older modem router combo, the GT784WN mostly worked like a charm.
We could connect all our devices to the Wifi and faced no problems. We did find that the connection dropped a few times, but nothing to really worry us about. Sure, it’s no state of the art gadget that can land planes in storm, but the device does what it is supposed to.
4. Netgear Nighthawk D7000 DSL Modem
Another shining star of Netgear’s Nighthawk series, this DSL modem router combo is an impressive devices that has many advanced features to make being online a simple affair. In fact, the Nighthawk series often tops many of our guides as one the best devices for online activities.
If you know anything about Netgear Nighthawk series, you’ll know that the D7000 is the DSL equivalent of the R7000, a popular Nighthawk design.
Its modern design, styled in chic black has a sturdy build and will look almost space age no matter where you decide to place it in your home.
Dual band, it also boasts of Beamforming technology, coupled with three external adjustable antennas that will provide a stable and strong signal, even if you are far away from your modem router.
It has Advanced QoS, so you can prioritize the devices on your network and has 4 Ethernet ports for any devices you want to be wired to your modem router.
Just because this modem router combo device boasts more coverage, it doesn’t mean the BlueGadgetTooth team took it at face value. But we were zapped by the huge boost in performance as well as internet speeds.
Very rarely do we come across a modem router combo that delivers as promised. In fact, we came close to attaining our ISP’s advertised speeds! This is a great router for not only the household with simple needs, but it truly starts to shine when you make it go beyond the basics. Wander into the device’s settings to tweak the features to really get the most out of it.
The set up process was simple and easy. And the best thing is that you can remotely control your network via the Genie app, to check the data usage of your network, set up parental controls for your little ones and manage to tap into it, no matter where you are.
5. Zyxel C1100Z VDSL2 Modem Router Combo
A wireless N gadget, this sleek dark coloured vertical designed modem router combo is great for a multi-device household. The Zyxel C1100Z is a great router that comes from a manufacturer with impeccable reputation for making solid internet related devices.
The black matt finish ensures that it is scratch and fingerprint free, and it is evident that thought has gone into the design of the Zyxel C1100Z.
There are multiple icons that are lit up by Leds to guide you on the status of your power, internet connectivity, Ethernet ports, Wifi signal, WAN/LAN and more.
Even though all the ports are located at the back of the device, it is not hard to access should you wish to use any of the 4 Ethernet LAN ports, USB port, phone port, Ethernet WAN port or DSL port.
The size itself boasts of a small footprint and the design is slightly tapered with a broader base, so that it will always be stable for balance.
The C1100Z’s set up process was simple and we faced no problems in getting the whole thing up and running.
The 2T x 2R powerful antennas made sure that dead spots were eliminated while delivering fast speeds and stronger signal strength at wider wireless coverage.
The modem of the C1100Z has dual Ethernet firewalls (the NAT and SPI) which act like a shield, protecting your connected devices from malware. It also supports WPA2/APA/WEP encryption for more security.
We noticed a slight boost in our internet speed, impressive for an 802.11N modem router.
6. Linksys X2000 Router With ADSL2+ Modem
Almost reminiscent of a speaker, the Linksys X2000 has gone down the alternate design route instead of sticking to conventional designs. Available in black, this modem router combo is a great entry level product.
Working with only 802.11N, this nifty gadget is also backwards compatible, and will work with previous wireless standards.
It has MIMO antenna that help broaden your coverage, WPA/ WPA2 encryption, 3 Ethernet 10/100 ports for wired connections.
The Linksys X2000 is very easy to set up, especially for a person is not well versed in technology and internet related gadgets. Perhaps what boosts this modem router combo is that all you need to get your network device configured is the login information to your ISP. The instruction manual also helps in getting the device installed.
The 802.11N wireless performance was good, but definitely not the top DSL modem available. It delivered download speeds far below of what our high performance modem router combo delivered, but the upload speeds were fairly decent. It may not have all the advanced features of a higher end model, but the performance makes up for where it lacks.
The Wifi performance was stable all throughout our testing timeframe, and perhaps what surprised us was that the file transfer tests revealed that the speeds were faster and better from being located a short distance away from the device, as compared of being glued to it.
The BlueGadgetTooth team did not face any issues with streaming HD videos. The MIMO antenna helped in allowing devices to be connected wirelessly to the network and allow the devices to browse the internet at a distance of 100 feet. That is impressive to us.
7. Zyxel P660HN-51 ADSL/ADSL2+ Modem
Compatible with most DSL service providers, the Zyxel P6600HN-51 is a good buy, delivering on performance, while saving on costs.
This black flat almost rectangular tower stands vertical, and is placed on a wider base, making it a stable design. The diagonally striped ventilation vents on the front and back allows this to run at cooler temperatures.
It has 4 switch ports and the antennas which help broadcast the wireless signal and increase the range are inbuilt and not visible.
The P6600HN-51 has a super easy peasy set up process via the wizard and automatic detection of your ISPs required DSL settings. The whole set up process took up just ten minutes of our time.
This is the second Zyxel featuring in this guide.
8. D-Link (DSL-520B) ADSL Modem Router
If cost is a huge deciding factor, and you are looking to get connected with a reliable basic modem router combo, then the DSL-520B is just the gadget for you.
This is an all no-nonsense, pure effectiveness package of internet goodness. Following a standard design, it may not be the best modem router combo available, but if all you are looking to do is get connected and have basic online activities, then you’re good to go.
This does have a firewall and NAT features in the event that you are not using another router to extend the network.
The UI, believe it or not, is all text. Forget about fancy images, icons or snazzy graphics to distract you within the admin web interface.
There are no wireless features, but it does offer telnet/ssh interfacing.
You have the option to use the set up CD, but you can also simply get connected by going via the web admin.
The results we received on speed test websites revealed we were more or less receiving what was expected. There was no significant change in terms of speed or performance.
Advantages Of A DSL Modem Router Combo
Having both your modem and router together in one device means that you will have fewer compatibility issues to deal with. (You do have to check that your modem router combo is compatible with your ISP!)
You only need to set up one device, instead of two separate ones. By having this 2-in-1 device, you eliminate the need for more things that could go wrong, while simplifying all processes – from the set-up, troubleshooting to less wire clutter around your table.
Save On Rental Fees
All ISPs charge their subscribers for any rentals. By buying your own device, you save on the monthly rental charges as dictated by your ISP.
Buying your own DSL modem & router may seem a little pricey as compared to the few dollars you dish out every month, but your device will pay for itself within your contract’s time-frame, and the best thing?
You’ll be able to keep the device once you’re done with your contract or you move. Also, getting the best DSL modem router combo ensures that you spend for only device – huge savings overall.
Advantages Of Separate Units (DSL Modem + Router)
A modem router combo tends to be a little more simplified in terms of its settings as compared to separate devices.
With a separate modem and router, you will have more access to advanced features for better security, and you will be in a better position to tweak the settings to manage your home network.
Easier To Upgrade
As router technology tends to evolve a lot faster than modems, you may find the need to upgrade your router as your household demands grow.
With separate devices, you will only have to replace your router, instead of the entire 2-in-1 device. Separate devices will have the latest upgrades like MU-MIMO technology or tri-band system.
These are the top ADSL ISPs:
These are the top VDSL ISPs:
- AT&T – only with U-Verse
- Verizon – Limited installations only
Difference Between A Wireless AC And Wireless N DSL Router
In a nutshell, Wireless AC is the newest internet standard and is fast gaining in popularity, whereas the N wireless standard is cheaper in price and more commonly found in many homes.
You can usually find both wireless standards in most modem/ router combos as there are many devices that operate on both wireless standards.
Speed: The newest wireless AC standard can deliver theoretical speeds of up to 2600Mbps/ band. Wireless Standard N only has the capacity to deliver speeds reaching 450Mbps.
Do keep in mind that these speeds are not real time speeds. Actual speeds can vary, but as a rule of thumb, they tend to be around 50% of advertised speeds. This still reveals a huge disparity between the AC and N speeds. This difference is even more evident when it comes to file transfers while using the 802.11AC on your home network.
Overall, it’s pretty clear to see that you can hugely benefit from the AC wireless standard, but as many gadgets still run on the wireless N standard, it is useful to have a dual band router.
Channels And Beamforming: The older wireless N standard uses both the 2.4GHz band and the 5GHz band, while the newer 802.11AC uses only the 5GHz band. You may think that having the N Wifi is more beneficial, being able to operate both bands, but this is not the case.
Many devices on 802.11AC have Beamforming technology that allows the wireless signal to be directed straight to your device. This is especially beneficial when your device is located further away from the router.
Beamforming technology never became popular on the 802.11N devices, even though it was available. This means that different devices that could support this technology didn’t work as efficiently together as they could have.
On the AC standard, the lack of standardization was cleared, leading to all devices using 802.11AC to be supported by Beamforming technology.
Also, even though the wireless N routers could use the 5GHz band, the newer AC standard could access better data transfer speeds, due to the technology upgrades. Keep in mind that 802.11AC routers are backwards compatible, so devices that only use the N standard can work with the router as well, meaning that it will be a dual band router.
What ISPs Provide DSL Internet
Not all ISPs provide DSL services. Also, keep in mind that not all ISPs will allow you to buy your own modem router combo instead of renting from them.
Many ISPs offer different DSL services, which are mentioned below. Here are the ISPs which offer either ADSL or VDSL options.
DSL Modems Acronyms & Abbreviations Explained
You may come across certain lingo when searching for the best DSL modem or DSL router. Here are the most popularly used/ researched acronyms.
ATM: (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) – Protocol between your DSL modem and ISP router over phone communication
DHCP: (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) – Router’s automatic assignation of IP addresses
NAT: (Network Address Translation) – This is where multiple computers can use the same IP on a single LAN
SPI: (Stateful Packet Inspection) – A firewall feature which allows returning internal traffic generated by internal LAN devices to be committed to its memory, while preventing untrustworthy traffic from outside networks to enter
PPPoA: (Point-to-Point Protocol over ATM) – Layer 2 data link protocol used with ATM to provide authentication and encryption
PPPoE: (Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet – Network protocol similar to PPPoA, although has highest overhead of common DSL delivery tactics
Gbps: (Gigabits per second) – Faster units of measurement (than Mbps) of internet speed between 2 network points
Mbps: (Megabits per second) – A certain measurement of speed between 2 network points
Ethernet: Wired standard using cables to connect devices to the network. For residential users, this is done with RJ-45 jacks
QoS: (Quality of Service) – Prioritizes certain devices or traffic types. Great for gaming, streaming HD and improving quality of voice calls
LAN: (Local Area Network) – Networking devices used in internal network, includes router
WAN: (Wide Area Network) – Internet addresses outside of internal network, can include router
No one device is perfect for everyone. In all honesty, you will probably find better modem router combos than some of the models featured in our guide.
However, we love having options addressing certain popular internet requirements.
If you are an avid gamer or tend to stream HD video regularly, you should opt for our High Performance device – the Netgear Nighthawk D7000. It makes short work of any dead spots and makes buffering a thing of the past. It offers the chance to reach the theoretical speeds of 1900Mbp. This is the best option to future proof your DSL network.
We have designs that cater to those on a tight budget, for those who have basic web activities, and of course, our Editor’s choice for the best DSL modem - the Actiontec C3000A.
True value for money, deliverance on throughput and the easy set up process make this our top pick.
Let us know which one you preferred, and shoot us any questions if you have any!