Updated Jan 2020. All broadband modem routers/hubs are not the same – in terms of capabilities and performance. Below we provide our recommendations on how to get the most from your broadband connection. We list products that are known to work well. If you are currently using an old device provided by your broadband provider, you could get improved performance by changing provider or upgrading your service and getting a newly supplied device. Even then, broadband users could improve their broadband performance yet further by replacing devices supplied by a broadband provider with third-party, best-in-class devices, as described below.
First decide on the capabilities you require
When people refer to a ‘router’ or ‘hub’ they may, in fact, be referring to many different things, from a basic router at one extreme (that doesn’t incorporate a modem, Ethernet switch or WiFi capability) to an all-in-one device that incorporates a modem, router, Ethernet switch and WiFi capability. Before choosing the best device(s) for your particular circumstances, it is important to identify the functionality you require. Here are the main components to consider:
- Modem. A broadband modem connects directly to your phone line (or FTTP/cable connection). It decodes the electronic signals coming into your home or office from your broadband provider. It also transmits data from your electronic devices (e.g. laptops) back to your broadband provider. The modem has to be compatible with your broadband service (for example, modems for FTTP are generally different to cable modems or modems for FTTC fibre broadband). You can purchase a standalone modem or a modem that is integrated with other capabilities. Not all modems are the same. For example, with basic ADSL broadband, you can purchase modems that provide advanced functionality to maximise your broadband speed (e.g. with SNR tweaking). With FTTC fibre broadband, not all modems support advanced features such as G.INP and vectoring, meaning speeds could be significantly reduced.
- Router. A router essentially connects the modem to all the devices within your home network and manages these, often simultaneous, connections. A typical home now has many Internet-connected devices that can be operating simultaneously. Routers differ significantly in terms of their capabilities and performance. For example, some routers can offer sophisticated security capabilities. Others can offer advanced quality of service mechanisms that can dramatically improve the experience of users (e.g. online gamers). In general, routers with more processing power (e.g. CPU and memory) can deliver better throughputs and reduced latency (delays).
- Ethernet switching. Ethernet switching allows you to connect several devices via Ethernet to your network. Try to find devices that offer a sufficient number of Ethernet ports to meet your needs, as we strongly recommend that you connect as many devices as possible with an Ethernet cable rather than a WiFi connection. If your device has an insufficient number of Ethernet ports, a cheap option is to add a separate Ethernet switch.
- WiFi capabilities. There is a huge variation of products on offers. At one extreme, WiFi can be built into an ‘all in one’ hub (for example, supplied by a broadband provider) while it is possible to purchase standalone so-called WiFi Access Points. There are many WiFi standards and WiFi capabilities can vary dramatically between WiFi devices. For example, a sophisticated WiFi access point may incorporate relatively large external antennas and implement sophisticated processing to boost wireless range and performance. While the simplicity of a single WiFi device may appeal, we strongly recommend that you consider having multiple WiFi devices in your home to provide consistent performance. While manufacturers may try to tempt you with the latest box and claim huge WiFi speeds and range, you may get better performance with multiple, cheaper WiFi devices.
As you can probably gather, it can be challenging to determine the best product(s) to purchase. To make life easier, we’ve chosen product combinations that we have found to work well.
Our recommendation for both ADSL and fibre broadband lines – the Billion 8800NL R2 combined with the Synology RT2600ac
The single-box solutions provided by ISPs combine several functions:
- modem (receiving and decoding the broadband signal from the telephone wires)
- wireless access point.
While this approach keeps costs down for ISPs, you can achieve superior performance by separating out these functions into separate best-in-class devices.
Set to operate in modem-only (“bridge”) mode, the Billion 8800NL R2 provides a robust connection with both conventional broadband (ADSL) and fibre broadband. With conventional broadband, it incorporates SNR tweaking enabling you to maximise broadband speeds. With fibre broadband, it incorporates the latest G.INP enhancement to maximise speeds.
The Billion 8800NL R2 is an updated version of the original 8800NL, with added external antennas (although these are not needed when operating as a modem). Read our original review of the Billion 8800NL.
Using the Billion 8800NL R2 as a modem allows you to choose from a huge range of wireless routers to connect to it. The wireless router can be separated away from the modem (and connected to the modem via an Ethernet cable). As the modem has to be located close to the BT mastersocket, using a separate WiFi router gives you the flexibility to optimally locate the wireless router to give the best wireless coverage.
We recommend partnering the Billion 8800NL R2 with the latest Synology RT2600ac wireless router, which has received superb reviews due to a combination of:
- excellent wireless range and performance
- effective quality of service management
- a simple graphical user interface.
We’ve been testing the Synology RT2600ac with the Billion 8800NL R2 for many months and performance and reliability are outstanding. We have published a review of the Synology RT2600ac, which you can read by clicking on the following link:
The Billion 8800NL R2 used standalone is a cheaper alternative, with SNR tweaking (ADSL), fibre broadband compatibility (VDSL2) and G.INP capability (VDSL2)
If you want a cheap solution that performs well, and you are not concerned about the ultimate in wireless capability, we recommend the 8800NL R2 operating standalone in wireless router mode.
It combines a modem (for both conventional ADSL broadband and VDSL2 fibre broadband), routing and relatively basic 2.4 GHz wireless capability. It also offers quality of service management. You can read our original review of the Billion 8800NL by clicking on the following link:
You have the option of combining the Billion 8800NL R2 with any wireless router or using it as a standalone device. You are future proofed with this device since:
- you can initially operate it in standalone wireless router mode and upgrade to a better wireless router when you wish
- you can use it with conventional ADSL broadband, knowing that it will work perfectly with fibre broadband if you upgrade to fibre broadband in the future.
We love the 8800NL R2 (and the original 8800NL) because of the excellent modem. For conventional broadband users, it offers target SNR margin adjustment capability and extremely robust performance on challenging lines to squeeze the very highest speeds from a conventional broadband service. With fibre broadband connections, the 8800NL R2 works very well with the latest G.INP feature to squeeze a few more megabits per second on a connection. It provides extensive line statistics allowing you to diagnose any issues. It also works perfectly with BT’s TV service (which uses multicast).
The Billion 8900AX-2400 is an excellent choice if you want an all-in-one solution
If you would rather have a single box that incorporates modem, router and wireless WiFi capability then the Billion 8900AX-2400 is an excellent choice.
It incorporates a robust modem for both conventional ADSL broadband and (VDSL) fibre broadband. You are able to tweak the SNR margin on challenging ADSL lines to extract the very highest speeds possible. It also fully supports G.INP to deliver higher speeds with fibre broadband too.
Compared with the cheaper Billion 8800NL R2, discussed above, the Billion 8900AX-2400 has substantially enhanced wireless capabilities. It features four external antennas and Multiple-User MIMO technology to maximise WiFi range and speeds, particularly in multi-device households.
Our previous recommendation for broadband modem router was the Billion 7800DXL. It remains an excellent unit but does not incorporate a VDSL2 fibre broadband modem. If you are not concerned about upgrading to fibre broadband, it is a very good choice.
Please do read our most popular guides and pages to get the most from your broadband connection:
New! Get a free modem, save money and improve speeds by changing your broadband provider through our Broadband Deals page.
Our Increase Broadband Speed Guide provides proven tips on maximising your broadband speed.
Your WiFi could be preventing you from getting the fastest speed possible from your broadband connection. Use our WiFi Optimisation Guide to set up your WiFi for maximum performance.