When you sign up with an internet service provider (ISP), they usually send you a modem and a router. And that’s great, right? That way you don’t have to buy your own!
But there are lots of good reasons you should replace the router sent to you by Xfinity, AT&T, BT, or Sky. From saving money to making sure Netflix gets streaming priority, there are a lot of advantages to buying your own router.
1. Lower Cost
Most ISPs will happily give you a router, but charge you rent on it. The Xfinity gateway that serves as both a modem and a router is $10 per month.
Even if renting a modem only costs a few bucks a month, you can make up the cost in a year. If you have to buy a modem, too, it might take two years, but you’ll eventually be saving money. Plus you’ll be getting all the other benefits below.
It requires some upfront investment, but it will save you money. Even without everything else below, that’s worth doing.
2. Better Wi-Fi
While some ISP-provided routers provide great performance, it’s tough to know what you’re going to get. If you get the latest and greatest from Xfinity, you’re actually getting a good router. But if they don’t send you the latest gateway, or you’re using another provider, you could see performance gains from using your own router.
For example, Time Warner Cable was busted for sending its customers outdated equipment after promising “blazing fast” internet. Your best bet is to check the specs of the router that your ISP sent you and compare them to the speed of the plan you’re paying for. If the router can’t move as much data, you’ll benefit from a better device.
Some routers are also made to provide better Wi-Fi in difficult places. The Amplifi HD system, for example, uses high-density mesh points throughout your house to eliminate dead spots. If you live in a house with lots of signal-stopping walls, something like this can provide a speed boost. Features like tri-band Wi-Fi can also keep speeds up when you’re using multiple devices.
3. More Parental Controls
Modern routers have great options for parental controls. And putting those controls in place at the router, instead of on individual devices or apps, makes them more effective. While some ISP routers support parental controls, you’re not likely to get as many options as you are if you buy your own.
Netgear routers, for example, come with a free app that let you adjust the control settings directly from your phone. And you can set up specific times where some sites are blocked but others are allowed. That’s a lot of useful customization for your parental controls.
4. Easier Access with Guest Networks
The ability to create guest networks is built into most routers. With a click, you can let guests get Wi-Fi access with a simple password (instead of the more secure one you use on your standard network). They can work with older devices. And they keep guests away from your secure private network.
You can even turn them back off when they’re not in use, increasing your security. Guest networks don’t let users see what else is attached to the network, access other devices, and sometimes keep guests from even seeing each other.
Guest networks provide a lot of convenience and added security, but not all ISP routers support them.
5. Bandwidth Prioritization
Quality of service (QoS) lets you choose apps or devices that get priority bandwidth. You could use these settings to make sure that Netflix on your Roku gets priority for streaming, for example. Or for your PS4 to make sure your downloads and multiplayer go at maximum speed.
Some routers also give you more advanced capabilities related to QoS so you can customize how it treats different types of traffic. If you’re using a lot of devices at the same time, you can ensure that your router is making the right decisions on data transmission.
You’ll probably need to do some research to find how to best configure QoS, but if you do it well, you can significantly improve the quality of your Wi-Fi.
6. Third-Party Firmware
You probably don’t give a lot of thought to your router’s firmware. It’s there, and it works, so why mess with it? But if you want to get the best performance from your router, you can upgrade or even change the firmware. Installing DD-WRT, for example, can open up more options than your standard firmware. More options means more customization, which means you might see better speeds.
Tomato and OpenWRT are two other popular options, and there are numerous others that might suit your needs. But you almost certainly won’t be able to choose your own firmware on an ISP-provided router. In fact, even upgrading your router to the latest firmware could be more difficult if your ISP insists on pushing the updates out late.
A Few Router Recommendations
Now that you understand why you should buy your own router, you might be wondering what you should buy. There are many things to take into consideration, but we can provide a few suggestions here.
For Awesome Performance: Netgear Nighthawk
The Nighthawk has a reputation for great Wi-Fi performance. Incredibly high bandwidth (almost certainly more than your internet connection can provide), tri-band Wi-Fi to eliminate interference, a powerful processor, and gigabit ethernet all make this one monster of a router. It doesn’t come cheap, but if you need the absolute maximum performance, it’s tough to beat.
For the Average Home: Linksys AC1750
It doesn’t provide the blazing fast speeds or tri-band capabilities of the Nighthawk, but this Linksys router packs external antennas for better reception and four gigabit ethernet ports for wired connections. For most households, you’ll have enough power to support multiple devices without suffering from interference or lack of bandwidth. And with a reasonable price tag, it’ll pay for itself within a couple years.
For a Great Deal: D-Link AC1200
AC1200 is plenty fast for most uses, dual-band minimizes interference, Gigabit Ethernet is super-fast for wired connections, and it has built-in parental controls. For being a very affordable router, this option from D-Link is a solid choice.
Your ISP Is Giving You a Bum Deal
Even if your ISP’s router is a really good one, you’re still paying rent for it. And if you can get one that’ll give you the same performance or better while saving money, why wouldn’t you?
It takes a bit of effort to get everything set up, but in the long run, buying your own router is definitely worth it. While you’re at it, you should buy your own modem, too.
Have you bought your own router, or do you use your ISP’s? Which router do you have? Do you like it? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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