With the aim of covering over 60% of the country by 2020, NBN Co is rolling out its broadband service to an average of about 250,000 premises each month.
Once connected, customers can enjoy blazing-fast speeds of up to 100Mbps for gaming, streaming their favourite shows and movies, or just plain ol’ ‘net surfing, especially on the faster fibre to the node/basement (FTTN/FTTB) or fibre to the distribution point/curb (FTTdp/FTTC) connections.
The faster speeds of FTTN or FTTdp connections will require a router that can process a lot more data at a faster rate, which a lot of traditional ADSL routers may not be able handle.
If you get hooked up to a fibre to the premises (FTTP) connection, then your old ADSL router should do the trick, as long as it has a gigabit Ethernet WAN port (which most current DSL routers have), but you still need to make sure it can support the increase in speed.
For anyone on a hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) connection, this would use your original cable internet setup, so your old cable modem router might suffice. On the other hand, fixed wireless and satellite NBN connections will have their own equipment installed, with internet accessible via 4G.
So if you’re planning on making the switch to the national broadband service and you know you’ll be hooked up to a fast FTTN/FTTB or FTTdp connection, we’ve rounded up some of the best modem routers you can get to set up your home network.
D-Link Cobra AC5300 DSL-5300
D-Link’s ginormous space-crab routers have finally got a modem attachment.
Just as with Netgear’s Nighthawk D8500, D-Link’s new Cobra router puts a lie to the notion that DSL modem routers lag a generation behind the best broadband routers. This is a router with the lot, including the fastest wireless available in consumer routers.
It is, as noted in the intro, enormous. Like D-Link’s top-end broadband routers, the Cobra has a large footprint and a unique design. Eight antennas circle the central pyramid, allowing the router to generate two independent 4X4 MU-MIMO AC networks, each capable of 2137mbps.
And the wireless was fast. Tested using a 3X3 MIMO client device, it was the fastest modem router we’ve tested, likely being limited more by the Ethernet connection at short range than by the limits of the WiFi.
There’s a lot of power under the hood as well. It’s driven by a quad-core 1.8GHz processor – most routers have dual cores in the 1-1.4GHz range.
Unfortunately, the firmware doesn’t make the best use of this power. D-Link’s firmware is perfectly solid these days – accessible with easy-to-use mobile apps – but it doesn’t have the features you’d find in an Asus or DrayTek router.
It would have been nice if it supported D-Link’s own Whole Home Wi-Fi roaming technology, but it doesn’t. It does have some limited VPN support and solid parental controls, however.
This is a very expensive router, and you’re paying a big premium for high-end wireless. If you’re prepared to pay that, however, there’s no wireless router more powerful.
DrayTek Vigor2760n Delight
DrayTek has a large array of DSL modem routers, from the minimalist Vigor120 up to VoIP/VPN/SIM slot toting corporate routers. The Vigor2760n sits in the middle of that range, offering DrayTek’s corporate-friendly firmware on a device that’s relatively affordable.
We’ve looked at the vanilla Vigor2760, which lacks any wireless at all as well the Vigor2760n which has 300mbps 802.11n support. Both routers have is full access to DrayTek’s powerful firmware. This firmware boasts a suite of tools not normally available on consumer routers.
You’ll find some very comprehensive VPN tools available on the platform, with up to two simultaneous tunnels supported. It will support USB LTE modems attached to the USB port, with load balancing and failover as options. It has content filtering options as well as advanced session and bandwidth limits (perfect for preventing you from going over your 3G volume budget). There’s LAN segmentation, sophisticated QoS and SNMP management support and quite a bit more.
It’s not a router for the neophyte, however. There are few guides and wizards, no easy mobile setup tool and very little explanation of what everything means. Most people can probably get the basics up and running, but if you want a deeper dive then you’ll need some know-how.
Still, if you can get over that hurdle, this is an affordable modem router with a lot of business-friendly capabilities. The wireless on the 2860n is not particularly powerful, but if you’re looking at an external wireless solution, it’s certainly a product to keep in mind.
TP-Link Archer VR2800
The new TP-Link Archer VR2800 is a router with excellent specs without going nuts as well as a solid set of tools and features.
While it doesn’t have the tri-band fanciness of the Netgear Nighthawk, it still offers 4X4 MU-MIMO wireless, enough to support even a large household of streamers and downloaders. It delivered when it came to our test results, too, maintaining surprisingly high speeds at range.
It also makes good use of its twin USB 3.0 ports, with support for both USB storage and 3G/LTE modems. The latter can be configured as a failover or even load balanced with the DSL services, ensuring that even if the DSL network goes down you’ll always have internet access.
It can be set up using a standard web UI or TP-Link’s Tether mobile app. While the web UI still isn’t up to the standard of Asus or Linksys, the mobile app has continued to improve and is now the best way to get the router up and running. It gives you access to most of the router’s major features, including internet setup, wireless and time-based parental controls.
Although it’s a relatively vanilla product, we actually really love the balance that TP-link has struck with these mid-to-high end consumer routers. It’s not loaded down with stuff that most people probably wouldn’t use, but it has very capable hardware and some very useful features like 3G and VPN support.
ASUS DSL-AC68U AC1900 Dual-Band ADSL/VDSL Gigabit Wi-Fi modem router
Even though it’s been kicking around for a few years now, the DSL-AC68U remains ASUS’ most advanced ADSL product.
A big part of that comes from the ASUS WRT firmware, which is the best in the business.
Based on open-source OpenWRT firmware, ASUS has modified it to be both easy to use and very capable. It supports VPNs out of the box, both client and server.
The router can work with ADSL, VDSL and fibre, and is especially great in bandwidth-hungry households. It can support up to 1,900Mbps, perfect for 4K streaming and gaming.
It has per-user traffic monitoring, capable time-based parental controls and support for using a USB LTE modem as a primary or secondary WAN (with failover and load balancing).
It also plugs into ASUS’ AiCloud service, allowing you access to the content of a drive attached to its USB 3.0 port remotely.
For all its capabilities, it manages to be straightforward to set up and use, with an attractive mobile app to get it configured quickly. The mobile app even allows access to some of the more advanced capabilities, although if you want to really get down in the weeds with VPNs and the like, you’ll need to log onto a main admin console.
D-Link DSL-4320L Taipan AC3200 Ultra-Wi-Fi modem router
With the Taipan AC3200, D-Link has added what it calls ‘Whole Home Wi-Fi’, a kind of mesh-lite networking technology. D-Link routers and range extenders marked with this label can form a mesh-like network with proper roaming and a single shared SSID – meaning you can move around your house, between access points and routers, without losing the connection or having to reconnect to a second network.
To meet speed demands, the Taipan depends on its 1GHz dual-core processor and its tri-band technology.
If you’re connected to the NBN, or will soon upgrade to the national broadband service, this will suit you well, but bear in mind there is no phone or VoIP support.
The updated firmware from D-Link is very good, and boasts some advanced capabilities like VPN support, OpenDNS-based parental controls and remote access to attached USB storage. The mobile apps are accessible as well.
AVM Fritz!Box 7490
Like the ASUS DSL-AC68U, the German-made AVM Fritz!Box 7490 may not be up to the latest Wave 2 wireless spec, but it’s still excellent. When it comes to telephony, there’s none better.
It’s one of a handful of extant routers that still supports integrated voice over IP. There’s a PSTN failover port in case of outages, a port for regular analogue phones and an integrated DECT base station, so you can sync cordless handsets directly.
There are multiple voicemail boxes, cloud-saved contact lists, alarms, automated wake-up calls and more. There’s even a mobile app that lets you make voice calls on your mobile phone using the VoIP service.
AVM’s firmware is great as well. It supports VPNs and a lot of advanced features.
You can assign one of the LAN ports as a WAN port, and there are capable access control and monitoring rules in place.
When it comes to an NBN connection, just plug it in and you’ll be all set.
Netgear Nighthawk D8500 tri-band Wi-Fi VDSL/ADSL modem router
Usually DSL routers tend to lag a generation behind broadband routers when it comes to integrated tech. With the D8500, Netgear makes an exception to that rule. This is a modem router with all the mod cons, right up to top of the line wireless support.
Although it’s rather more compact than most other AC5300 routers thanks to the use of four internal antennas, it is indeed a full tri-band 4X4 MU-MIMO wireless solution, which is about as good as you can get in a consumer product. And if that weren’t enough connectivity, Netgear has thrown in six Ethernet ports on top of the usual four, as well as a physical WAN port so that it can function as a broadband router.
Netgear’s firmware is another high point for the router. It fully supports configuration from a mobile or a web interface, and it boasts some of the best family features to be found in a router. Its uses OpenDNS for site filtering – which any router can use – but Netgear bakes it right into the firmware and mobile app. You can actually configure exemptions in the mobile app, so you can still enjoy your adult fare while the kids are protected.
There are other really useful features built in as well. The ability to remotely access USB shares over the internet. Remote router management. A set of PC tools that will automatically back up to USB hard drives attached to the router. Excellent media serving tools. Netgear continues to add great features to its firmware, and has managed keep it easy to use.
As you’d expect, however, this is not a cheap modem router. But given its advanced tech and excellent features, $600 is not an insane a price to pay.
TP-Link Archer VR2600
TP-Link has struck an excellent balance with its new VR2600 modem router. It has premium wireless without going overboard like the Netgear Nighthawk (mentioned above), a nice suite of ports, capabilities and apps, and an ever-improving setup process that makes getting it up and running easier than ever.
It’s one of the few VDSL modem routers with support for MU-MIMO Wi-Fi baked in, and a 4×4 antenna array gives it plenty of bandwidth to work with.
Its peak physical rate is 1,766Mbps, which is plenty to serve high-definition media streams to four or more devices simultaneously.
It also has an Ethernet WAN port built in, and it makes good use of its twin USB 3.0 ports, with smooth DLNA streaming and support for USB LTE modems – with load balancing or failover to the LTE network.
It has time-based parental controls and can, of course, be set up with openDNS for blacklist-based controls.
One of the biggest areas of improvement for the TP-Link has been its mobile apps. In particular, the TP-Link Tether app gives you access to all of the router’s most important features, including parental controls, 3G/4G and security.
Overall, we think TP-Link is onto a winner here, with a great set of features without going nuts and completely NBN-ready.
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