Should You Buy or Rent Your Router? The Wrong Decision Cost Me Nearly $1K

It’s the $1,000 query: Should you purchase your individual router or lease it out of your web service supplier? 

Most ISPs cost between $10 and $15 month-to-month for gear, whilst you can usually get a modem and router for lower than $200. Purchasing your individual web gear normally pays for itself within the first yr, however it usually comes with some further complications. 

I’ve been writing concerning the web for six years, and I’ve carried round a shameful secret for all six of them: I’ve been renting my router from Xfinity the entire time. I do know — this is sort of a painter renting their brushes each month. But my rented gear has labored nice, at the same time as I’ve recognized that I’ve been paying a premium for the comfort of an ISP-provided setup. 

All this time, I’ve been paying $10 to $15 additional for the privilege of utilizing Xfinity’s modem and router gateway gadget. (Xfinity appears to extend the worth of apparatus a greenback or two yearly.) That’s principally been nice with me — my web invoice is cheap, and I’ve been OK with paying a little bit additional for the comfort. But after combing by way of my outdated payments, I arrived at a quantity that prompted me to rethink: $873. That’s how a lot I’ve spent on Xfinity’s gear charges through the years. 

With the cash I’ve spent renting Xfinity gear, I may’ve purchased essentially the most superior router CNET’s ever examined after which purchased one other one as a backup. I may’ve doubled the web pace I used to be getting. I may’ve booked a flight to Oslo. 

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As happy as I’ve been with my service, proudly owning your individual gear is sort of all the time the higher choice. You’ll usually get higher efficiency — my add speeds elevated by greater than 2,000% — and it will normally pay for itself throughout the first yr or two.  

You could be completely content material to pay a bit additional for the comfort of not having to purchase and arrange your individual gear. But if you happen to’re trying to save cash in the long term, and are comfy buying and managing your individual gear, it is a much better deal to shell out in your personal router and modem.

Here’s what I’ve realized about making the swap from rented gear to my very own, and here is how one can make an identical change as painless as doable. 

How to decide on the correct modem and router

The greatest web is the web you by no means discover, and I am unable to keep in mind the final time my connection went out or I noticed a buffering wheel in my residence. And that is all with a tool from 2017 that Xfinity describes as an “outdated Wireless Gateway with restricted speeds and performance.” 

This goes to indicate how a lot the kind of web consumer you might be has to do with what sort of gear you want. I dwell in a 750-square-foot condo, and my web wants are principally restricted to video calls and TV streaming. If you reside in a bigger residence with a number of flooring, the identical router probably will not reduce it. Similarly, actions like on-line gaming hinge on split-second reactions. If this instantaneous responsiveness is essential to you, it is most likely price investing in a gaming router that minimizes lag. 

Wi-Fi routers run the gamut from entry-level fashions just like the TP-Link AC1200 for $30 to ultra-advanced mesh techniques just like the Netgear Orbi 970 Series for over $1,700. To check every Wi-Fi router, CNET runs three pace assessments in 5 completely different rooms in our testing facility, logging outcomes for obtain pace, add pace and latency. That course of is repeated six occasions, accounting for variations in community efficiency at completely different occasions of the day.

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Ry Crist/CNET

After consulting our picks for one of the best wi-fi routers, I made a decision to go together with our finances choose: the TP-Link Archer AX21, of which my colleague and router connoisseur Ry Crist wrote, “It’s nothing fancy, however it provided close to flawless efficiency for small- to medium-size properties in our assessments, and it is a cinch to setup.” I get solely 200Mbps by way of my Xfinity plan, so the 700Mbps the TP-Link hits at shut vary is greater than sufficient juice and solely prices $75.

Do it is advisable to purchase a modem?

Depending on what kind of web you’ve gotten, it’s possible you’ll have to buy a cable modem along with your router. Some ISPs, like Spectrum, embody the modem free of charge however cost additional for a router. 

The foremost factor to search for in a modem is compatibility. Your web supplier may have a web page on their web site that lists all of the fashions that it really works with, and also you should not stray from this. You might also have a selection between DOCSIS 3.0 and three.1; the newer commonplace offers quicker speeds, however DOCSIS 3.1 modems are sometimes costlier. Other issues to think about are the modem’s pace limits — be certain they’re equal to or above your web plan — and the variety of Ethernet ports. 

Xfinity does not present a free modem, so I had to purchase one along with a Wi-Fi router. I opted for the Hitron CODA Modem — a DOCSIS 3.1 mannequin that is one of many least expensive Xfinity-compatible fashions I may discover for $100. It helps obtain speeds as much as solely 867Mbps, however that is nonetheless excess of my Xfinity plan.

How to arrange your new modem and router

Ordering the gear is the straightforward half; the ordeal of establishing third-party gear is what retains many purchasers on the hook for years. The course of is essentially the identical whether or not you are beginning service recent with a brand new supplier or swapping out outdated gear. Here’s every part you will have to do. 

1. Activate your new modem along with your ISP

The modem is the piece of apparatus that brings the web to your own home by way of a coaxial cable linked to your web supplier’s community. Before it may well work, ISPs have to tie your particular modem to your account. If you are changing outdated gear, they may also flip this off as they activate the brand new modem. ISPs do that by logging your MAC (media entry management) quantity, which could be discovered on the underside of the modem.

You can sometimes do that by way of your web supplier’s app, in a dwell chat or by calling a customer support quantity. 

2. Connect the coax cable to your modem

After your new modem’s MAC deal with is registered along with your ISP, you will be prompted to attach your modem to the cable outlet in your wall and plug it into an influence outlet. You could have to attend as much as 5 minutes, and your modem’s lights will inform you when it is receiving the web sign. Once the indicator lights are on, you are able to arrange your wi-fi router.

3. Set up your Wi-Fi router

Each Wi-Fi router has its personal setup course of, so you will wish to observe the directions offered. In the case of the TP-Link Archer AX21, that meant unplugging the facility to the modem, connecting the modem to the router’s WAN port by way of an Ethernet cable, powering on the modem after which plugging the router into an influence outlet. From there, I arrange my new community by way of the TP-Link app.

That’s the brief model. There’s much more to think about when establishing a wi-fi router, together with selecting the optimum location, establishing parental controls and defending your privateness. For my functions, although, I used to be prepared to start out testing out my new web connection. 

Speed comparability: Which setup is quickest?

I needed to see how my new modem and router would examine with my outdated gear, so I ran pace assessments earlier than and after I used to be linked: one from my desk subsequent to the router and one from the furthest nook of my condo (regrettably, the lavatory). 

My outdated modem and router returned 164/5Mbps speeds from my desk and 143/5Mbps from the lavatory — not dangerous for an web plan that advertises 200/10Mbps speeds. But the speeds with my new gear had been eye-popping: 237/118Mbps at each my desk and my lavatory. I did not simply lower your expenses by buying my very own gear — I’m really getting a major pace enhance too.

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Joe Supan / CNET

I don’t know why my new gear picked up 10 occasions the add speeds of my outdated one. I subscribe to Xfinity’s Connect More plan, which is meant to get solely 10Mbps add speeds. In 2022, Xfinity introduced that it was rising add speeds on my plan to 100Mbps — however just for prospects who pay for its $25-per-month xFi Complete gear. Apparently, I’m reaping those self same advantages with my new modem and router. My greatest guess is that the improve from a DOCSIS 3.0 to a 3.1 modem is the principle motive for the bounce in add speeds.

How to save lots of your self some complications

I finally acquired my modem and router arrange correctly, however I made loads of errors alongside the way in which. Here’s what I’d do in a different way:

  • Buy your modem and router on day one. Moving is a ache, and nobody needs to make their to-do listing even longer, however that is one job the place the additional effort pays off (almost a thousand {dollars} in my case). A technician could have to return out to your own home to arrange your web it doesn’t matter what, so it is sensible to have your modem and router able to go in case there are any points. 
  • Use your web service supplier’s listing of suitable modems. Routers aren’t tied to particular suppliers, but when you must buy your individual modem, you will have to be sure that it really works along with your ISP. Don’t reduce corners right here. I searched Amazon for a modem that mentioned it was suitable with Xfinity and ended up having to return it every week — and several other hours of cellphone calls — later. Your supplier ought to have a web page the place it lists all of the modems that it really works with — do not stray from this.
  • Pay for under the pace you want. Internet gear is pricey, and there isn’t any motive to pay for a modem licensed for two,000Mbps while you’re getting solely 200Mbps along with your plan. The similar goes for routers — you needn’t pay high greenback for a gaming router with distinctive latency if you happen to’re simply streaming TV and scrolling the web. 

The backside line

It’s no enjoyable to arrange a brand new modem and router, however is it price it? Absolutely. Not solely are my web speeds dramatically improved, however I’m paying considerably much less for them. I’m saving $15 monthly on gear, and someplace alongside the road, an Xfinity agent bumped my plan worth down for the subsequent yr. My month-to-month invoice goes from $78.54 to $50. That’s excess of I anticipated to save lots of, and my new gear can pay itself off throughout the first six months. My solely remorse is that I did not make the leap sooner. 

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