Moving to the NBN may require a new router, but how do you choose the best one? We've put 26 models to the test to find out which one reigns supreme.
Not all modem routers are created equal. Some offer better Internet connection speeds and drop out less than others, while others can potentially lock your port altogether leaving you without an Internet connection for up to 48 hours.
Similarly, Wi-Fi performance varies wildly from model to model with some more suited to smaller living areas, such as apartments, and others able to accommodate larger households with more simultaneous users. A router with a modem built in might be more convenient than having to run two dedicated devices but finding an all-in-one unit that doesn’t compromise in either department can be more challenging.
This is particularly true with NBN’s fibre to the node (FTTN) and fibre to the basement (FTTB) where connection speeds can vary by a much wider margin than with ADSL, depending on the modem you have connected.
Above all, Krishan is a self-confessed tech junkie and can usually be found tweaking and testing out the latest gadgets, home theatre gear, games, software and mobile applications.
Note: All modem routers listed here have a minimum of four LAN ports and wireless 802.11ac. All of the units were tested with the latest firmware available at the time of writing.
Netcomm NF8AC ($149)
We were mightily impressed with the performance of Netcomm’s NF8AC budget-priced modem router. It was one of the fastest to connect, with the unit establishing an Internet connection within four minutes. The NF8AC also achieved fast sync speeds (85/42.2) and maintained a reliable connection throughout our five-day test period without any dropouts.
The router also comes equipped with four full-speed Gigabit ports. While the NF8AC's small size and lack of external antennas mean that it was never going to deliver outstanding Wi-Fi range or speeds, it performed well enough in our testing for a sub-$150 router and should be adequate for apartments and smaller homes. The NF8AC doesn’t offer much in the way of extra bells and whistles with a dated and stripped back user interface, but it gets the job done and regular users are likely to appreciate the lack of complexity. If you want to get the most from your FTTN connection at a budget price, then the NF8AC would be our recommendation.
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D-Link DSL-2877AL ($99)
The D-Link DSL-2877AL is a budget modem router that is available at retail and also via select ISPs. We suggest steering well clear of this one. Firstly, the 2877AL struggled to maintain an Internet connection for longer than a few days without dropping out. Worse still, the router would fail to reconnect automatically, prompting us to manually power cycle the router to restore the Internet connection.
At first, we thought it might be just a faulty unit so we swapped it over for a fresh retail model, but the dropouts continued at roughly the same frequency. We also tested another unit that was provided to us by the ISP and that, too, produced similar results. Connection times were average at around ten minutes and the sync speeds (75.8Mbps down and 30.5Mbps up) that the DSL-2877AL could muster were the lowest recorded out of all of the modems tested.
Configuring the modem was a real chore thanks to the severely outdated UI of the administration section and, in our experience, it was quite buggy. For instance, configuring our external USB drive so that it can serve files over the network caused the unit to crash altogether. Interestingly, the 2877AL boasts two USB ports but no Gigabit Ethernet so what we’re left with is four 10/100Mbps LAN ports. The range and speed of the Wi-Fi weren't anything to write home about and the reliability of the signal was also inconsistent with the 2.4GHz band dropping out some days while other days the 5GHz would fall victim.
Asus DSL-AC52U ($139), DSL-AC56U ($199), DSL-AC68U ($279)
All three of Asus’ modem routers, the DSL-AC52U, the AC56U and the AC68U, run the risk of port locking unless the latest firmware is installed before connecting to an FTTN service. We experienced this first hand. In the case of the AC52U, we first tested the unit back in March using the latest firmware available at the time (version 188.8.131.52_34) and our port was immediately locked due to the firmware disabling certain settings that NBN Co requires to be enabled on their network by default. After speaking with Asus, who assured us that the latest firmware rectifies the port-locking issues, we decided to test the unit again and we are happy to report that both the DSL-AC52U and DSL-AC56U running the latest firmware (version 184.108.40.206_288) connected without issue.
With the DSL-AC68U, Asus recommends updating to the latest available firmware (version 220.127.116.11.380_7712 at the time of writing) to ensure a smooth connection with FTTN services. Note that retail units are likely to ship with outdated firmware, so you will need to first update the firmware, reset the unit back to factory settings after updating the firmware and then finally connect the RJ11 phone cable and run the Internet set-up wizard. Asus boasts a nice modern user interface to manage their modem routers.
All three models also have USB ports that support 3G/4G dongles with the ability to switch instantly between connections if one fails (and switch back again when it’s fixed) or combine multiple connections for more bandwidth. The DSL-AC68U ramps up Wi-Fi performance, adds a USB 3.0 port and throws in two CPUs that Asus claims do a better job of optimising Internet connectivity and Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, all three models handed in abysmal Internet connection speeds. The AC52U, AC56U and AC68U registered speeds of just 75.2/38.5, 75.6/38.7 and 75.7/35.6 respectively. Asus’s decision to go with a MediaTek modem chipset on all three models is likely the culprit here, resulting in speeds that are almost on par with D-Link’s 2877AL which also uses MediaTek. To Asus’ credit, they do offer a number of tools that you can use to improve sync speeds.
Enabling the stability adjustment under DSL settings, for instance, bumped up speeds to 79.2/40.1Mbps on the DSL-AC68U, which is a good result for the upload speed but the downstream speeds still lagged behind a lot of the other modem routers in this round-up. Outside of the lacklustre modem performance, Asus includes some useful features such as network protection from Trend Micro that can be set up with a few clicks to automatically block malicious sites and other spyware from any devices connected to the network. In addition, there’s a security assessment feature which essentially scans your router’s settings and gives you a summary of what settings you should enable or disable. And if you don’t feel comfortable in playing around with the settings, a single tap of the "secure" button will do it all for you. We also need to commend Asus for implementing perhaps the most detailed and easy to understand traffic analyser on a router, so you can see at a glance what online sites and services are being accessed from the devices connected to your network.
Unfortunately, we found the Wi-Fi performance on both the AC52U and the AC56U fairly unreliable. The 5GHz band frequently dropped out, prompting us to reboot the router to get it functioning again. The AC68U’s Wi-Fi, on the other hand, was rock solid and there’s enough bandwidth there to accommodate the demands of a typical household. Ultimately, we can’t recommend these three Asus models to anyone looking to get the best possible Internet connection speeds from their FTTN service.Back to top
Netcomm NF18ACV ($149)
The Netcomm NF18ACV is a fairly common modem-router offered by ISPs and the included manual makes it easy to get online with clear simple instructions on how to connect to the various different types of Internet services from ADSL to NBN's FTTN/B (VDSL) connections.
The NF18ACV took quite some time to secure a connection initially, but once we were finally connected it achieved outstanding sync speeds of 87/39.8 Mbps and the connection remained rock solid during the five day test period. Rebooting the router was also fairly painless as we were back online within four minutes.
In terms of connectivity, it boasts a healthy selection of ports for a sub-$200 modem router including VoIP support with 2x RJ11 ports onboard for connecting up to two telephones. Curiously it loses a USB 3.0 port of its predecessor, leaving a slower USB 2.0 port for media sharing.
The wireless performed almost identically to the other Netcomm models. Models with similar 1600 Mbps wireless capabilities such as the TP-Link VR600 performed better when it came to maintaining faster speeds at greater distances, but the NF18ACV should still be sufficient for small households.
ZTE H268A ($149)
For Exetel users wondering whether their ZTE H268A modem router will work with other ISPs, the answer is yes, though it isn’t the best option if you're looking to get good wireless speeds as well.
After configuring the router with our test ISP's settings, the ZTE H268A connected in a flash and maintained a solid connection throughout the five day test period. In our tests, the ZTE topped out at an okay 83.1/39.2 Mbps.
We experienced occasional dropouts with wireless performance and the range and transfer speeds over Wi-Fi were a couple of notches below other 1600 Mbps rated models.
The interface for managing the router is quite clean. However, the configuration settings use a significant amount of technical jargon, making it needlessly difficult for beginners. The feature set is also barebones with expected features such as parental controls missing entirely.
Huawei HG659 ($149)
However, unlike other ISP-specific models, the Huawei HG659 is completely locked down to the original service provider so if you're hoping to bounce between ISPs with this modem in tow, then you're out of luck.
With that disclaimer out of the way, how does the HG659 actually perform? The unit uses a Broadcom chip and, as such, achieved decent sync speeds of 84.4/41.6 Mbps. We did experience a couple of dropouts during the five day test period, but it did reconnect very quickly. The wireless speeds were average at best and we also encountered occasional dropouts.
Billion 8700AXL ($169)
The Billion 8700AXL adopts a new case design that stands upright which is refreshing from a manufacturer that has largely used the same boring rectangular chassis for years. There are three external antennas protruding from the top, making it a rather tall unit overall.
Sadly, Billion has stuck with the same dated interface it has been using for several years now. Network novices will be bewildered by the sheer volume of options filled with technical jargon. On the other hand, network-savvy users will lap up these extra options, especially the plethora of tweaks that can help to improve wireless speeds.
At least the Quick Start connection wizard makes it fairly painless to get connected to the Internet. Once configured, it took about 15 minutes to establish a connection. However, connection times were quick thereafter with the 8700AXL getting us online within four minutes from a restart and the connection remained rock solid with no dropouts during our five day test period. The 8700AXL uses a Broadcom chip and delivered sync speeds of 84.5/40.7 Mbps.
As is the case with most of the modem routers in its price range, the 8700AXL delivers a combined throughput of 1600Mbps. In practice, it delivered reliable, if unspectacular, wireless speeds. These were on the default settings mind you and we're sure more advanced users willing to invest the time should be able to extract better results in this department.
The 8700AXL has a single USB 2.0 port and while it would've been nice to see a USB 3.0 port to improve this unit's capabilities as a basic NAS/File Server, it does at least support a 3G/4G LTE USB modem via this port. This means that if your main NBN connection drops out, the router will automatically switch over to the 4G connection, a handy feature when reliability is a must. The onboard WAN port can also be used as a fifth LAN port for wired networking without any extra configuration.
Linksys X6200 ($179)
The Linksys X6200 is the only modem router on the list to use a Realtek processing chip, so we were curious to see what sort of sync speeds it would achieve on FTTN. We quickly found out why very few modem routers use Realtek, with the X6200 delivering the slowest downstream speed of 68.5Mbps, which is over a 20% reduction in speeds when compared to some of the other modem routers on the list.
The X6200 also doesn't offer much in the way of tweakable settings to increase the speeds. The upstream connection speed was in line with the average, kicking in at a respectable 37.5Mbps. The Linksys comes equipped with entry-level Wi-Fi (rated at up to theoretical speeds of 750Mbps), which we found to be fine for basic online activities like web browsing and email but certainly not suited to high bandwidth tasks such as 4K media streaming or accommodating any more than a handful of devices. At $179, the X6200 is definitely overpriced for what it delivers, especially when there are other budget-priced options like the Netcomm NF8AC or TP-Link VR600 that offer much more bang for the buck.Back to top
TP-Link VR600 ($189)
The VR600 is one of the cheapest modem routers in this round-up to use a Broadcom chip, going for around $189. It also offers 802.11ac wireless rated at 1600 Mbps which is rare at this price point. It also has a number of other features going for it such as the ability to add 3G/4G connectivity via the onboard USB port so you can use a mobile network as a backup or a primary Internet connection and the ability to manage the router via your smartphone with the dedicated TP-Link Tether app. While most modem routers force you to do the initial set-up over a wired connection, TP-Link gives you the option to go through the entire process using the smartphone app.
The process was seamless and we were up and running within five minutes. TP-Link’s connection wizard also offers a very large list of pre-configured ISPs, saving you from having to enter in your ISP’s preferred settings manually. The dedicated app allows you to manage a number of handy features of the router while on the go including parental controls so you can schedule the kids' Internet or turn it on and off from your smartphone. Regardless of whether you’re managing the VR600 via a web browser or app, the interface is nicely designed and very easy to navigate.
In terms of sync speeds, the VR600 delivered 84.3/41.4 Mbps. We noticed that the unit was dropping Internet connectivity on occasion but enabling SRA within the DSL settings fixed that issue. We’re not sure why TP-Link decided to disable SRA by default. Wi-Fi performance was comparable to the other AC1600-rated modem routers we looked at. It is good enough for a small household of four to five people but larger homes or people using more devices simultaneously will need to step up to something more capable.
It’s also worth noting that there’s no dedicated WAN port so you will need to sacrifice one of the four Gigabit Ethernet ports if you later need to connect to a different type of NBN service. All in all, we were pleasantly surprised with the $189 VR600. The only other contender in the sub-$200 range that can match it in terms of connection speeds is the Netcomm NF8AC, but the VR600 edges ahead with a richer feature set and a far superior user interface.
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TP-Link VR1600 ($219)
The TP-Link VR1600 offers similar specs to the VR600, but with added VoIP capabilities. It replaces the Huawei HG659 as TPG's default modem.
The wireless performance wasn't quite as good in the range department as the VR600, but that's unsurprising given the lack of external antennas on the VR1600. Despite being a TPG-only model, we had no issues in connecting the unit to other ISPs.
The VR1600 uses the same TP-Link user interface to manage the modem which is a good thing as it is snappy and easy to use. Essential features such as guest network, parental controls and 3G/4G backup Internet connection, all took only a few clicks to set up.
Sync speeds were strong at 85.4/41 Mbps and the connection remained rock solid during our five day test period.
Billion 8700VAX ($239)
The Billion 8700VAX is all but identical to the 8700AXL but this particular model sports 2x RJ11 phone ports for VoIP calls.
It uses the same Broadcom chipset, and it turned in identical sync speeds and wireless performance as the AXL model above.
D-Link DSL-2888A ($229) and D-Link DVA-2800 ($279)
Both the DSL-2888A and the DVA-2800 from D-Link are the only two models in the round-up to use silicon from Chinese chip maker Triductor, who has made a name for itself by racking up some impressive sync speeds that go toe-to-toe with industry giant Broadcom. So do these two Triductor-equipped modem routers deliver the goods? In a word, yes. But before we get into that, let’s take a closer look at the two units themselves.
Firstly, both the DSL-2888A (Python) and the DVA-2800 (TalkBox) come equipped with an identical feature set but the latter has phone ports for VOIP bolted on and costs roughly $50 more. Both units are still competitively priced with the Python going for around $230 and the DVA coming in at $280. The user interface uses the same modern web-based user interface as our premium modem router of choice, the Taipan (DSL-4320L), as opposed to the dated UI found on D-Link’s entry-level unit, the DSL-2877AL.
This means that getting connected for the first time was a simple four-step process and we were up and running within five minutes. Once connected, we were greeted with chart-topping speeds of 88.3 Mbps downstream from both the Python and TalkBox, which matches the top tier speeds set by the Taipan. However, it didn’t do as well in terms of upload speeds, achieving only 37.3Mbps as opposed to the Taipan’s 41.2 Mbps but this is still very respectable. Incidentally, both the Python and TalkBox achieved the same sync speeds of 88.3/37.3, which suggests the units are using identical Triductor modem chips. Boot times were also most impressive, with an active Internet connection established in under four minutes from turning the units on and the connection remained rock solid without any dropouts over the course of five days.
The AC1600 Wi-Fi performed as expected, delivering adequate range for a small house or apartment and able to cope with HD streaming on multiple devices. Streaming 4K content on a single device over Wi-Fi also worked fine but firing up multiple 4K streams was enough to choke the Wi-Fi, which is to be expected for an AC1600-rated unit. For that and other high bandwidth tasks, you’re going to need to step up to either the Taipan or Netgear’s D8500.
If you’re after the best possible Internet connection speeds with decent Wi-Fi without breaking the bank, then the $230 Python is the way to go. For those who plan on plugging in phones for VOIP, the DVA-2800 is a good option but the Fritz!Box also might be worth considering as it offers more features in this department, but it comes at the cost of slightly slower connection speeds.
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Asus DSL-AC88U ($549)
The DSL-AC88U is Asus' fastest modem router boasting a Broadcom modem chipset in addition to support for the G.fast protocol, which effectively future proofs the modem for NBN's upcoming fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) service.
As far as modem performance goes on FTTN, it turned in excellent speeds notching up sync speeds of 86.7/40.7 Mbps. The Internet connection wizard smartly detected our connection type as VDSL (FTTN) and there's a healthy smattering of pre-configured ISPs on the list which pre-populates the connection settings for you.
The AC88U uses the same Asus management interface as previous models which is a good thing as it's smartly designed and easy to use.
The AC88U's wireless credentials include theoretical data rates of up to 2167Mbps on the 5GHz band and 1000Mbps on the 2.4GHz band, or a combined concurrent bandwidth of up to 3167Mbps. You won't hit those performance levels in the real world, of course, but the AC88U performed mightily in our wireless testing and it was easily one of the fastest dual-band routers in the round-up.
However, if your home is filled with a wide family of wirelessly connected devices that regularly experiences heavy network traffic via lots of video streaming, downloading, file transfers and online gaming then a tri-band router would be a better bet.
The main issue with the AC88U is its sticker price of $549, making it tough to recommend when the more capable DSL-4320L from D-Link can be picked up for around $50 less.
Fritz!Box 7490 ($249)
The Fritz!Box 7490 packs quite a number of features for a unit that is fairly compact in size. On top of being a wireless modem router, it also acts as a DECT phone base station, answering machine, call blocker and also redirects faxes to your email. You can even access your landline from your mobile phone by using the Fritz! app for iOS or Android.
In terms of modem performance, we were impressed with how quickly we were able to get up and running with a straightforward wizard that stepped us through the connection process without issues. From boot, it took under five minutes for the modem to establish an Internet connection, which remained rock solid throughout the five days of testing. At 84.1Mbps down and 37.8Mbps, the sync speeds weren’t particularly high when compared to some of the other modems we tested.
The 7490 also lacks a dedicated WAN port which means you’ll need to sacrifice one of the four Gigabit LAN ports if you plan to connect this unit to NBN’s FTTP service later on down the road. On the upside, the Fritz Box does offer comprehensive administrative sections that show you everything you could possibly want to know about your Internet connection, including the maximum throughput being supplied by the node you’re connected to right down to the Broadcom chipset model number that the node is using. There’s a lot of information to sink your teeth into but thankfully it’s laid out in a way that is fairly easy to understand and navigate.
There are also thoughtful touches sprinkled throughout the modem router’s features set. For instance, if a device is still using Wi-Fi past the user-defined scheduled time, then it will intelligently wait until no one is using Wi-Fi before disabling. Not having external antennas, the 7490 doesn't have the best possible wireless range and there's no option to add antennae if you wish, so you're stuck with whatever performance you get straight out of the box.
The Fritz!Box supports 1300Mbps on the 5GHz AC band and 450Mbps over 2.4GHz 802.11n. The wireless performed fine within a 10-metre range of the router, but anything outside of that range resulted in dramatically reduced speeds. Still, it should be adequate enough to keep up with the demands of a small household or apartment, but the garish red and grey industrial design means that you’re going to want to hide this unit in a cupboard somewhere.
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Telstra Gateway Max 2 ($264)
The Telstra Gateway Max 2 boasts a number of features not normally found on other routers, such as onboard NFC for easy Wi-Fi pairing to Android smartphones and a physical button to turn the Wi-Fi on and off. However, you cannot set a schedule to turn the Wi-Fi on and off between certain times, so you will need to do this manually. It also has a stylish design and comes with a stand so that the router can rest upright.
Despite being available only through Telstra, the Gateway Max 2 modem will work with other ISPs with some caveats. For one, the firmware is not upgradeable on a non-Telstra connection and there is no way to upgrade it manually. Also, the modem will attempt to "phone home" every few days causing the Internet connection to drop out completely. It can take a while to reconnect after a reboot as well.
Meanwhile, we didn’t experience any dropouts while using a Telstra FTTN connection. It’s worth keeping these drawbacks in mind if you’re switching from Telstra to another ISP with the Gateway Max 2 in tow. Overall, the modem is very easy to use, but this comes at the cost of a limited suite of administration features especially when compared to other modem routers available on the market at this price point. On the upside, the Gateway Max 2 provided some of the fastest sync speeds during our testing (86.04/42.7), and it is also equipped with the most capable Wi-Fi at the sub-$300 price point.
For Telstra users, the Gateway Max 2 is an easy choice. However, if you’re coming across from Telstra and were contemplating on using your Gateway Max 2 on another ISP’s FTTN service, then the regular dropouts and the inability to update the firmware might not be worth the frustration.Back to top
Netgear D7000 ($279)
The Netgear D7000 was a real mixed bag. It handed in good sync speeds (85.78/42.06) and a stable connection, but it was painfully slow in establishing an Internet connection, generally taking up to 20 minutes to connect from booting up. We also experienced a number of issues with the unit’s Wi-Fi performance, chief among those were the regular dropouts that forced us to reboot the unit. The speed and range of the Wi-Fi were decidedly average and certainly not up to the standard of some of the other modem routers in its price bracket. What’s more, one of the four Gigabit Ethernet ports completely died during our testing.
We also found the router’s management interface quite buggy and sluggish. Setting up a Wi-Fi schedule, for instance, would end up disabling the Wi-Fi well past the scheduled hours, forcing us to use a wired connection to re-enable Wi-Fi on every occasion. We even tried another fresh retail unit to rule out the possibility of a faulty unit but the same issues persisted.
Netgear D7800 ($399)
The Netgear D7800 offers a lot of the same features as the D7000, but with much faster and farther reaching Wi-Fi. What's more, the new router now supports MU-MIMO, an increasingly popular feature that helps boost speeds for supported Wi-Fi clients in a crowded home. We’re also happy to report that we didn’t experience any of the Wi-Fi issues that were present on the D7000. On the modem front, the modem chipset was switched from a Broadcom chip to a Lantiq chip, which produced lower sync speeds (82.5Mbps/37.2Mbps). Sadly, it still uses the same sluggish web interface as previous Netgear routers.
This means that the set-up process to get connected for the first time is still excruciatingly slow. It took us over 20 minutes to get through the set-up thanks to the wizard stalling at various stages. Once connected, the D7800 maintained a rock solid connection without any drops during our test period and the connection time from a reboot was around 8 minutes, which is much improved from the D7000, but still twice as long as some of the other modem routers we tested. Unfortunately, the bloated web interface means that bouncing between different settings is far from a snappy experience and saving even the most minor of changes is accompanied by a loading screen that can take two to three minutes to get through.
If you can get past that, then the D7800 does offer some useful features such as a traffic monitor which you can set up to align with your ISP’s billing period so that you can track how much Internet data your household is using every month (handy if you suspect your ISP is getting "creative" with your recorded data usage). Parental control features are well implemented as well, giving you finite control so you can block certain sites from being accessed by each member of the household. You can have different filtering rules based on the time of day as well so you can block sites like YouTube from being accessed in the evenings during the kids' homework times.
But where the D7800's real strength lies is in its Wi-Fi performance. In our testing, the D7800 maintained a faster and more stable wireless signal and at greater distances than all of the other routers we tested at the sub-$400 price point. Our only knock against the D7800 in this department is in its inability to band together two network bands. Some other routers in this price bracket offer the very convenient option to band together both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz network bands under one network name but that’s not an option here. As such, you’re forced to run two separate network names if you want to take advantage of all the Wi-Fi performance the D7800 has to offer.
At $400, you would expect a modem router to perform in all departments, but that’s not what we get here. While we can’t really fault the D7800’s Wi-Fi performance, the low Internet speeds and connection times in addition to a sluggish UI makes the D7800 tough to recommend.
Billion 8900ax-2400 ($399)
As is the case with Draytek, the Billion 8900ax-2400 is a modem router that is geared towards technical users or for those running a SOHO (small office/home office) as opposed to the average consumer. Operating the modem router is far from a user-friendly experience, but you also get access to more advanced features and settings than you would typically find in a consumer router.
Four Gigabit Ethernet ports adorn the rear, and three of these can be used as WAN ports, a unique selling point that allows multiple broadband connections. There’s also a single USB 2.0 port, making it possible to connect a 3G/4G USB mobile modem. If any of the WAN connections fail, the router automatically switches to the USB modem, a handy feature when reliability is a must. We would’ve liked to have seen a USB 3.0 to improve this unit’s capabilities as a basic NAS/file server. If you’re connecting an FTTN service to this unit, then you can configure the WAN port and use it as a LAN port, effectively making it five Gigabit Ethernet ports in total so you can connect more devices over the faster and more reliable wired connection.
The 8900ax uses a Broadcom modem chipset and, as such, the unit handed in decent sync speeds (84.2/37.1). Connection times were fairly quick at around five minutes and the connection was rock solid throughout the course of five days of testing. Similarly, Wi-Fi was also reliable, with no dropouts discovered. However, the speed and range of the Wi-Fi was a little underwhelming for an 802.11ac router rated at 2400 Mbps. At $400, there’s better value to be had elsewhere.
D-Link DSL-4320L Taipan ($499)
D-Link’s DSL-4320L is an impressive looking modem router that actually performs as well as it looks. Upon booting up the unit, we were greeted with a connection wizard that has been streamlined down to just four simple steps, allowing us to get online in under five minutes, making it one of the quickest set-up processes we experienced. Those who’ve never set up a router before will find it a breeze to navigate as well. The user-friendly experience continues after set-up with the default landing screen of its web interface using pictorials to explain what’s going on and displaying only the information that is relevant, ensuring ordinary users won’t be overwhelmed by networking jargon.
The more advanced settings such as QoS, VPN, website filtering and static routes are all still there but are simply hidden behind a few clicks. The web-based user interface seamlessly scales to smartphones and tablets as well, so you have access to the same settings and features on the small screen without having to use a dedicated app. Crucially, the Taipan delivered one of the fastest sync speeds in the roundup, delivering a whopping 88.3Mbps down and 41.2Mbps up.
Connection times were also the quickest recorded, with the unit securing an online connection in under four minutes from booting up. Meanwhile the "smart connect" smartly merges all three network bands into one wireless network name and will automatically pair Wi-Fi devices with the clearest and fastest network at the time. Our only real qualm with the Taipan is the lack of a dedicated WAN port which means sacrificing one of the four Gigabit Ethernet ports if you move into premises that support NBN’s Fibre to the Premises connection later on down the road. At this price point, we would have liked to have seen more than four Gigabit Ethernet ports as well.
We also noticed during our testing that the unit was dropping Internet connectivity once a day. Digging into the advanced settings of the router, we discovered that SRA (Seamless Rate Adaptation) was disabled by default. NBN recommends having SRA enabled so that if the line condition drops too low, which can occur for brief periods of time on FTTN, the modem will adapt by momentarily lowering the sync speed instead of dropping the connection entirely. Sure enough, turning on SRA put an end to the dropout issue. Hopefully, D-Link releases a firmware update in the future that enables SRA by default.
Those missteps aside, the Taipan is a modem router that doesn’t compromise in either department, delivering the best Internet speeds and quickest connection time while also pushing out faster Wi-Fi to more devices and at a further range than all of the other modem routers in this round-up, barring its bigger brother the DSL-5300 and Netgear’s pricier D8500. Provided you have the cash to spare, the Taipan won’t disappoint.
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Draytek Vigor 2860vac ($599)
Like the Billion, the Draytek Vigor 2860vac is a business-focused modem router with advanced features such as the ability to run multiple broadband connections, failover support with 3G/4G and a suite of enterprise-grade security features. It can also accommodate a large number of wired devices with its six Gigabit Ethernet ports. However, to access any of these features, you’re going to need to dive into the router’s administration interface which is text-heavy and confusing at times.
It’s easy enough to set up the router for basic use but anything more advanced requires a lot of searching and digging through sub-menus. Ultimately, what makes a good modem router is its ability to deliver strong Internet connection speeds and Wi-Fi, but the Draytek was lacklustre in both departments. The connection speed of 81.2 Mbps down and 37.3 Mbps up is on the low side and the Wi-Fi, while stable, was below the mark in both range and speed when compared to consumer-grade modem routers.
D-Link DSL-5300 ($649)
D-Link's flagship modem router takes everything that made its predecessor great (namely class-leading sync speeds and wireless performance in addition to a smartly designed easy to use interface), but this time around takes things further by packing in the latest generation wireless which ramps up speeds to a whopping 5.3Gbps theoretical throughput.
This comes from having three network bands – one 2.4GHz network (1000Mb/s) and two 5GHz networks (2166Mb/s each). The improved wireless capabilities put the Cobra right in-line with Netgear's best – the D8500.
Given how well the previous model performed (DSL-4320L), we were expecting big things from the Cobra and it didn't disappoint. The DSL-5300 achieved the highest ever sync speeds in this round-up, clocking in at 89.5/42.2 Mbps.
The simple yet powerful UI that also drives the other D-Link models (barring the entry level 2877AL) makes getting things done with the modem a real breeze regardless of whether you're an advanced user or a novice. After stepping through the wizard, we were online with our service provider in under three minutes – by far the quickest connection time we've experienced thus far.
Curiously, the SRA (Seamless Rate Adaption) option was disabled by default – something we discovered after our first dropped connection. As we mentioned in our DSL-4320L review, NBN recommends having SRA enabled to help avoid dropped connections. Once we turned on SRA, we didn't experience any dropouts and the connection remained rock solid during our five day test period.
For those in FTTP or HFC areas, the Cobra has a dedicated WAN port onboard. Some routers such as D-Link's own Taipan DSL-4320L, have four LAN ports with one assignable as the WAN interface. Here we can use all four Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired networking which is appreciated. However, at this price point, we would have liked to have seen a few extra LAN ports such as what Netgear offer with the D8500.
The Cobra's class-leading specs and imposing size might seem intimidating but D-Link does an outstanding job in simplifying its management while also automating certain features wherever possible. Our favourite is Smart Connect. Simply choose a network name and password and the Cobra will automatically assign wireless devices to the optimal network band of which the Cobra has three (one 2.4GHz and two 5GHz bands).
This means you can give visitors and family members one network name and password and Smart Connect will take care of the rest. Other routers such as the Netgear D8500 offer a similar feature, but they don't cover all three bands. D-Link's network admin page has a nice pictogram telling you which network band each of your connected devices is connected to and the associated signal strength.
One caveat is that the automated nature of the network handling isn't always the best at picking the fastest channel. Specifically, we had up and down network speeds with our 2016 MacBook Pro during the test period. The issue could have potentially been rectified had there been an option to change the Wi-Fi channel number that the MacBook Pro was connected to (in our case it was the second 5GHz band). But with Smart Connect enabled that you lose those options which is a shame. However, given we had over 15 devices connected and only really had an issue with one, we're inclined to be more forgiving.
With eight external antennas and 5.3Gbps of bandwidth spread over three bands in its arsenal, wireless performance was unsurprisingly outstanding. It outclassed all of the other models in this round-up, including Netgear's D8500, delivering faster wireless speeds at a greater range.
The Cobra also provides the features we've come to expect in high-end consumer routers, such as a guest network (to provide visitors with Internet access while isolating them from your devices), a DLNA media server (one USB 3.0 port allows connection of a storage device, while a separate USB 2.0 interface supports a shared printer) and VPN support. There's also Quality of Service (QoS) traffic prioritisation complete with a drag-and-drop interface that makes it fast and easy to prioritise connected devices in your network.
If you're looking for the fastest modem-router available and you're willing to part with $650 for the privilege, then the D-Link DSL-5300 is your best bet.
Netgear D8500 ($699)
The Netgear D8500 essentially takes one of the company’s top-of-the-line routers, the R8500, and crams a modem inside. This means that you get all of the bells and whistles normally reserved for a dedicated top-tier premium router such as tri-band and MU-MIMO that essentially delivers faster speeds to more devices simultaneously without the need to buy a separate modem to handle Internet connectivity.
Unfortunately, in our testing, we found the modem portion of the unit could do with some more work when it comes to FTTN connections in Australia. The firmware that the retail unit ships with lacks modem functionality, which is a bizarre oversight when you consider that most customers would be looking to connect the D8500 to their FTTN Internet service. Updating the firmware to version 18.104.22.168, which explicitly states "supports modem mode on firmware" in the release notes, we were able to progress further with the connection wizard and secure a line sync, but we couldn’t get the modem to establish an Internet connection with the ISP.
After some back and forth with the engineers at Netgear, we stumbled across a workaround. It turns out that the D8500 doesn’t play nice with Internet connections that require a login (also known as PPPoE), which a number of ISPs require customers to enter into their modems when connecting for the first time. Specifically, the D8500 fails to establish an IP address on the network in PPPoE mode. To get around this issue, we had to initially force the D8500 into DHCP mode (ie, no login) and then change it back to PPPoE once the wizard was finished so we could enter our ISP’s login details. Finally, we were able to connect. Netgear assures me that a firmware update will be released in the near future that rectifies this issue.
Once connected, the D8500 delivered impressive speeds clocking in at 87.5Mbps down and 37.2 Mbps up. It does take double the time to connect when compared to some of the other modem routers tested, taking eight minutes to get online after a reboot. And to manage the router, you’re going to once again have to deal with Netgear’s sluggish "Genie" interface. On the plus side, the D8500 boasts six Ethernet ports, two of which support port aggregation – a rarity in the consumer-router market. This means that you can connect up to six wired clients (servers, desktop computers, game consoles, etc) with a superior Gigabit Ethernet connection or combine two of its ports to deliver a single super-fast wired connection to a compatible device like a NAS (Network Attached Storage) for faster file transfers.
The D8500 is really designed to keep up with the demands of a large family that has a very high number of active devices using Wi-Fi at the same time (think 10 or more concurrent devices). The R8500’s tri-band capabilities with MU-MIMO means it can spread a whopping 5.3Gbps of available bandwidth over three different bands to ensure all those connected devices receive the fastest possible speeds. It’s no surprise then that the R8500 delivered faster Wi-Fi speeds over a longer distance than all of the other modem routers in this round-up.
To put it to the test, we simultaneously streamed 4K content from Netflix, Stan and YouTube to four devices, uploaded a 10GB file to Google Drive from a Windows notebook while transferring a 70GB file from a 2017 MacBook Pro to our Synology NAS and the D8500 didn’t skip a beat. At $699, the D8500 is a pricey proposition and it’s not without its blemishes, including a far from ideal set-up process with FTTN services and a sluggish user interface. There are also other tri-band modem routers worth considering, such as D-Link’s Taipan DSL-4320L, which is not only a few hundred dollars cheaper but also delivered faster Internet speeds and connection times. With that said, if you have a large household that can make use of all the bandwidth that the D8500 has on offer, then this unit should be at the top of your list.
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NBN Routers: Speed test comparisons
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Compare all routers
|Brand||Model||Street Price||Features||Sync speeds (down/up Mbps)||Dropouts (tested over 5 days)||Port locking|
|TP-Link||VR1600||$219||4x Gigabit LAN, 1x WAN/LAN, 1x ADSL/VDSL, 1x USB 2.0, 2x RJ11 phone ports (VoIP), 802.11ac (1600)||85.4/41||No||No|
|Netcomm||NF17ACV||$149||4x Gigabit LAN, 1x WAN/LAN, 1x ADSL/VDSL, 2x USB 2.0, 2x RJ11 phone ports (VoIP), 802.11ac (1600)||82.5/41.7||No||No|
|Netcomm||NF18ACV||$149||4x Gigabit LAN, 1x WAN/LAN, 1x ADSL/VDSL, 2x RJ11 phone ports (VoIP), 1x USB 2.0, 802.11ac (1600)||87/39.8||No||No|
|ZTE||H268A||$149||4x Gigabit LAN, 1x WAN/LAN, 1x ADSL/VDSL, 2x RJ11 phone ports (VoIP), 1x USB 2.0, 802.11ac (1600)||83.1/39.2||No||No|
|Huawei||HG659||$149||4x Gigabit LAN, 1x WAN/LAN, 1x ADSL/VDSL, 2x RJ11 phone ports (VoIP), 2x USB 2.0, 802.11ac (1600)||84.4/41.6||Yes||No|
|Billion||8700AXL||$169||4x Gigabit LAN, 1x WAN/LAN, 1x ADSL/VDSL, 1x USB 2.0, 802.11ac (1600)||84.5/40.7||No||No|
|Billion||8700VAX||$239||4x Gigabit LAN, 1x WAN/LAN, 1x ADSL/VDSL, 2x RJ11 phone ports (VoIP), 1x USB 2.0, 802.11ac (1600)||84.5/40.7||No||No|
|Asus||DSL-AC88U||$549||4x Gigabit LAN, 1xWAN/LAN, 1x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN), G.fast, 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, 802.11ac (3100), MIMO||86.7/40.7 Mbps||No||No|
|D-Link||Cobra DSL-5300||$649||4x Gigabit LAN, 1x WAN/LAN, 1x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN), 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, 802.11ac (5300), Tri-band, MU-MIMO||89.5/42.2||No||No|
|D-Link||DSL-2877AL||$99||4x 10/100 LAN | 1x WAN | 1x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN) | 2x USB 3.0 port | 802.11ac (750)||75.8/30.5||Yes, the router would drop the Internet connection on a regular basis.||No|
|Asus||DSL-AC52U||$139||4x Gigabit ports | 1x WAN | 1 x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN) | 1x USB 2.0 | 802.11ac (750)||75.2/38.5||No drop in Internet connection but Wi-Fi dropouts were frequent, prompting us to reboot the router.||No, provided firmware version 22.214.171.124_224 or higher is loaded before connecting.|
|Netcomm||NF8AC||$149||4x Gigabit LAN | 1x WAN | 1x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN) | 802.11ac (1600) | 2x USB 3.0||85/42.2||No||no|
|Linksys||X6200||$179||4x Gigabit LAN | 1x WAN | 1x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN) | 1x USB 2.0 | 802.11ac (750)||68.5/37.5||No||No|
|TP-Link||VR600||$189||3x Gigabit LAN | 1x WAN/LAN | 1x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN) | 1x USB 2.0 | 802.11ac (1600)||84.3/41.4||No||No|
|Asus||DSL-AC56U||$199||4x Gigabit LAN | 1x WAN | 1x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN) | 2x USB 2.0 | 802.11ac (1167)||75.6/38.7||No drop in Internet connection but Wi-Fi dropouts were frequent, prompting us to reboot the router.||No, provided firmware version 126.96.36.199_224 or higher is loaded before connecting.|
|D-Link||DSL-2888A||$229||4x Gigabit LAN | 1x WAN | 1x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN) | 2x USB 3.0 | 802.11ac (1600)||88.3/37.2||No||No|
|AVM||Fritz!Box 7490||$249||4x Gigabit LAN (WAN via LAN port 1) | 1x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN) | 2x USB 3.0 | 802.11ac (1750) VOIP||84.1/37.8||No||No|
|Telstra||Technicolor TG800vac (Gateway Max 2)||$264||4x Gigabit LAN ports | 1x WAN port | 1x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN) | 2x USB 3.0 | 802.11ac (3100) | MU-MIMO NFC VOIP||86.04/42.7||Yes, every few days or so when connected to a non-Telstra ISP. No dropouts were found when connected to Telstra.||No|
|D-Link||DVA-2800||$279||4x Gigabit LAN | 1x WAN | 1x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN) | 2x USB 3.0 | VOIP | 802.11ac (1600)||88.3/37.2||No||No|
|Netgear||D7000||$279||4 Gigabit LAN ports | 1x WAN | 1x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN) | 2x USB 3.0 | 802.11ac (1900)||85.78/42.06||No drop in Internet connection over the course of five days but Wi-Fi dropouts were frequent, prompting us to reboot the router.||No|
|Asus||DSL-AC68U||$279||4x Gigabit LAN | 1x USB 3.0 | 1x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN) | 802.11ac (1900)||75.7/35.6||No||No, provided firmware version 188.8.131.52.380_7361 or higher is loaded before connecting.|
|Billion||8900ax-2400||$399||5x Gigabit LAN/WAN | 1x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN) | 1x USB 2.0 | VOIP | 802.11ac (2400)||84.2/37.1||No||No|
|Netgear||D7800||$399||4x Gigabit LAN | 1x WAN | 1x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN) | 2x USB 3.0 | 1x eSata | 802.11ac (2600)||82.5/37.2||No||No|
|D-Link||Taipan DSL-4320L||$499||4x Gigabit LAN | 1x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN) | 1x USB 3.0 | 1x USB 2.0 | 802.11ac (3200) Tri-band||88.3/41.2||No||No|
|Draytek||Vigor 2860Vac||$599||6x Gigabit LAN | 1x WAN | 1x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN) | 2x USB 2.0 | 802.11ac (1600) VOIP||81.2/36.7||No||No|
|Netgear||D8500||$699||6x Gigabit LAN | 1x WAN | 1x ADSL/VDSL (FTTN) | 1x USB 3.0 | 1x USB 2.0 | 802.11ac (5300) Tri-band MU-MIMO||87.2/37.2||No||Requires firmware update to connect to FTTN services. Workaround required for PPPoE connections.|
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