Why Own a DSL Modem?
Who on earth would want to buy one of the DSL modems when, for a monthly lease, the Internet Service Provider (ISP) will provide and maintain the equipment, sometimes for free and sometimes for a fee? If there is a fee, those who consider a purchase have probably calculated the period of time when the purchase price will equal the monthly equipment lease from an ISP: one year. Or perhaps the decision hinges on the suspicion that it might be possible to buy a better modem than the one included with a service. In either case, a modem purchaser is willing to let go of the security of leasing in order to gamble that the product will outlive the estimated break-even date.
The ISPs also sell modems, but at full retail price, so the purchaser does not benefit from the price competition of an open market, even though the ISP enjoys a volume discount at the wholesale level. Here you will find side-by-side reviews of modems available to the public from the manufacturers. We do not include products that are restricted to ISP channel sales.
Guide to DSL Cable Modems
Prior to making a purchase decision, there are three broad categories to consider: attributes (hardware and software features), ease of use, and help and support.
At the hardware level, these products are almost commodities. Each has an RJ-11 ADSL port, a Fast Ethernet port, a reset button and clusters of light-emitting diodes that display the status of the power, the Ethernet connection and the data transmission. There is also little to differentiate when it comes to software. Conformance with the ADSL/ADSL2/ADSL2+ standards specifications allows ISPs to concentrate on providing subscribers with internet service instead of wrestling with client installation and configuration. Two features that distinguish some modems from others are integrated firewalls and VPN passthrough. Some products include the ability to connect via USB port instead of Ethernet (although USB is not a compelling alternative to Ethernet).
Ease of Use
DSL modems work with PCs and Macs and any computer that supports Internet Protocol and has an Ethernet connection. Although modems often contain a setup CD for Windows users only, the setup CD is usually not required to get up and running. Industry adherence to standards supports basic auto-configuration of devices by the Internet Service Provider.
Help and Support
One useful criterion for comparison is the manufacturer warranty. One year is average but Motorola gives 90 days and ZyXEL gives two years. Given that this is a mature technology, another useful criterion is price. The range is $30 to $50. When it comes to technical specifications, the products are so similar that a purchasing decision will often come down to warranty and price.
If you are ready to own your own modem, the vendors that sell directly to the public are D-Link Corporation, Motorola Inc., NETGEAR Inc., Zoom Telephonics Inc. and ZyXEL Communications Corp. To learn more, read articles about DSL modems and check out reviews of winning products such as the D-Link DSL-2320B, the Motorola Netopia 2210 and the ZyXEL Prestige 660M.