A DSL modem may not be the fastest way to access the internet but it is far more superior to a dial-up connection – both in terms of speed and usability. And a quick search for the fastest and best DSL modem in 2020 brings up quite a few DSL modems… but here’s the thing – not all of those DSL modems will work for you and some may not be a DSL modem at all!
To save you the trouble, here’s your buyer’s guide to the best DSL modems that you can buy in 2020.
- 1. Most Value-For-Money: MOTOROLA MD1600 VDSL2/ADSL2+
- 2. Fastest DSL Modem Router: NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900
- 3. Another Top DSL Modem: NETGEAR DM200-100NAS
- 4. The Final Netgear (I promise): Netgear N600
- 5. Fast and Feature Rich: TRENDnet TEW816 DRM
- 6. Budget King: TP-Link TD-8616 ADSL2+ Modem
- 7. Certified CenturyLink: CenturyLink Technicolor C2000T Wireless 802.11N ADSL2+ VDSL
- 8. Certified CenturyLink at a Budget: ZyXEL C3000Z Modem
- 9. The Simplest: D-Link DSL-520B
- 10. CenturyLink ZyXEL PK5001z
- What is ADSL, ADSL2+, VDSL, and VDSL2?
- Ensuring Your DSL Modem is Compatible with Your ISP
- How To Buy a DSL Modem? (Buying Criteria)
- Great build quality
- Great price
- Compatible with multiple ISPs
- Built-in router
- Absolutely none for the price
On the number 1 spot, we have a product from a legendary brand that’s a little less known these days – Motorola. The MD1600 has a solid build quality and provides almost everything that you could need at nearly half the price of some rivals.
The best DSL modem is actually a modem and router combo with a powerful and reliable router built-in. The modem is also compatible with quite a few internet service providers including CenturyLink, Frontier, Windstream, TDS Telecom, and Fairpoint. You also get 4 LAN ports, built-in VPN capabilities, and a great layout.
Verdict: The Motorola MD1600, a well-built modem that offers great performance at a very affordable price.
- Highly compatible
- Feature loaded
- Modem + router combo
- Might be too technical for some
The Nighthawk series is no stranger to our previous buyer guides and regularly makes the list of top 10 modems – that theme continues here and the only reason it hasn’t beaten the Motorola to the top of the list is the price. It’s expensive but let’s see what you are getting for all that money.
The Nighthawk DSL modem is one of the few DSL modems that is compatible with most of the major internet service providers (ISPs) including CenturyLink (excluding VDSL), AT&T (excluding U-verse), Verizon (excluding FiOS), and Frontier (excluding Fiber).
It’s also one of the few best DSL modems that have Alexa support but if I am completely honest, I am not sure why you would need Alexa for your DSL modem. Still, if you wanted it, you have it. The Nighthawk DSL modem also sports a very sleek design. Perhaps the only other major problem apart from the price is that the features and technical options might be too much for some people. If you want a plug-and-play DSL modem, there are better options.
Verdict: This Nighthawk VDSL/ADSL modem has quite a lot of features and functionality along with exceptional range and build quality. And while some people will be able to justify the price for all these goodies, the average DSL modem user likely won’t. And for that reason, the Nighthawk DSL modem is second on our best DSL modem list. But of course, if money isn’t an issue and you only want the most performance out of your DSL modem – get this modem and you won’t regret it.
- Supports AT&T (excluding U-Verse)
- Affordable Price
- Lots of Great Features
- Similarly priced to the Nighthawk DSL modem
- Does not have a built-in wireless router
One Netgear followed by another Netgear product (don’t blame me, Netgear makes good DSL modems) but the DM200-100NAS is a little different from the Nighthawk DSL modem. For one, it’s newer and less expensive than the Nighthawk. But the DM200-100NAS is still not as powerful as the Nighthawk.
Verdict: The DM200-100NAS is a great little modem and the predecessor to one of the best DSL modems available on the market. It offers fantastic value and support for a number of major ISPs.
- Tons of features
- Great connectivity
- Built-in wireless router
- Does not have VDSL support
Wow, three Netgear products in one top 10 list? Netgear is a roll today! But seriously, Netgear makes some very good DSL modems and the N600 is one of those. It is supported by ISPs like AT&T (not U-Verse), Verizon, Quest, & CenturyLink (excluding VDSL) and has a quick setup feature (CD-less) so it’s basically plug-n-play.
Speaking of play, the N600 has a lot of features that you can play around with. Some features include parental controls, guest network access, DLNA media server, ReadyShare USB, and the Netgear Genie mobile app for managing the network from your phone.
Verdict: What really sets the Netgear N600 apart from other best DSL modems in the sheer number of features. If you’re someone who likes the flexibility and options when setting up your modem, this is the one.
- Great price!
- Feature-rich DSL Modem
- VDSL2 and ADSL2+ compatibility
- Built-in wireless router
- Does not work with CenturyLink right out of the box
The TRENDnet modem is probably not the most well-known DSL modem out there but it’s certainly one of the best. The TEW816 DRM is compatible with VDSL2 and ADLS2+ and most of the major ISPs that support these technologies. That said the modem isn’t certified by some of these ISPs like some of the more expensive modems out there. TRENDnet also says that this modem won’t work with CenturyLink but it will if you set it up right.
In terms of features, this modem gets you high-speed internet thanks to the AC750 wireless router built-in, parental control, and USB ports.
Verdict: Great value for money if you’re looking for a fast and best DSL modem that has a ton of features – this is for you.
- Very inexpensive!
- Lightning Protection
- Not the fastest (by a long shot)
- Only compatible with ADSL2+ connections
- Does not have a built-in router
The TP-Link TD-8616 is a very inexpensive modem from a trusted brand. It supports ADSL2+ connections, has a built-in firewall, supports 8 PVCs, has 6KV lightning protection for those of you living in thunderstorm prone areas, and most importantly, comes with everything you would need to get started already in the box.
Verdict: The TP-Link TD-8616 makes our list for best DSL modems but we know it isn’t for everyone but the low cost and ease of usage make it perfect for people who just want to replace their dying or old rental DSL modem with a brand new one from a great company.
- Certified to work with CenturyLink
- Compatible with both ADSL2+ and VDSL connections
- Modem-router combo
- Not a lot of features
Looking for the best DSL modem that’s guaranteed to work with CenturyLink? How about the Technicolor C200T DSL modem? It’s a bit on the pricier side of CenturyLink only modems but it is compatible with ADSL2+ and VDSL which you might not find in lower price ranges.
It’s relatively simple to get up and you should have better internet speed, range, and reliability in 5 to 10 minutes. The speed upgrade would be especially visible if you’re switching from a rental DSL modem.
In terms of features… Well, there aren’t many to speak of. You get all of the basic features for speed and security but that’s about it. However, the lack of features will be a theme on all DSL modems that support only one ISP.
Verdict: One of the better certified CenturyLink modems with great range and speed. Though the price might be harder to digest if you consider other options on the list as well.
- Certified CenturyLink Modem
- Relatively inexpensive
- Built-in wireless router
- Not a lot of features
The ZyXEL C300Z modem is a certified router for CenturyLink DSL connections which means if you have a CenturyLink DSL connection, this modem will work for you very easily. There’s not much to the ZyXEL modem in terms of features but you get all of the essentials including dual-channel and WPA2-AES security. In terms of build quality, it’s solid. It’s a simple modem that works without any hassles.
Editor’s Note: CenturyLink has another modem called C3000A and the only major difference between the C3000A and the C3000Z (reviewed here) is that the former is built by ActionTec (denoted by the A in the name) and the latter is built by ZyXEL (denoted by the Z) in the end. Both ActionTec and ZyXEL make great DSL modems for CenturyLink and they’re almost identical in price and performance.
- Hard to beat this price
- Firewall Protection & QoS
- Can’t complain at this price point
- You’ll need a separate router for wireless connections (WiFi)
The D-Link DSL-520B is the cheapest DSL modem on our best DSL modem list by some margin but it’s not bad. Sure, you’re not going to get the feature list of the Nighthawk but you’re a lot, lot less. What you do get however is good build quality, a well-known brand name for peace of mind, built-in firewall protection & QoS, and an easy installation process.
Verdict: D-Link is a household name when it comes to routers and modems and this DSL modem is perfect for any household that has an ADSL+ connection and is ready to ditch their rental modem with a better one.
- WPA2/WPA/WEP security
- Good speed
- Not too expensive
- Not the best range
- Does not have a built-in wireless router
We’re going to round off this list of the best DSL modems with another certified CenturyLink DSL modem and guess what? This too is from ZyXEL (told you they make a lot of modems).
The ZyXEL PK5001z is a mid-range DSL modem with 300Mbps, physical WPS button, and dual Ethernet firewalls (NAT and SPI). Like I said earlier, certified modems with support for only one ISP are usually not the best equipped but at least they are guaranteed to work with your DSL connection.
Verdict: The ZyXEL PK5001z is a certified CenturyLink modem and works well enough for everyday usage although by spending a little more money, you can get a better modem with greater speeds and range.
What is ADSL, ADSL2+, VDSL, and VDSL2?
Throughout this article, I’ve used terms ADSL, ADSL2+, VDSL, and VDSL2 along with connections to differentiate modems and compatibility. Well, what exactly is this jargon?
ADSL or Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line is a type of DSL connection that sends internet data through the unused frequencies on the same copper wire as your telephone line. This means that you don’t need any new cables to your internet connection – if you have telephones services, you can have the internet too with ADSL.
ADSL is also relatively cheap and offers downloads speeds of up to 24 Mbps.
ADSL2+ is the newer iteration of ADSL technology. It offers faster upload and download speeds than the traditional.
VDSL stands for Very-high-bitrate Digital Subscriber Line and it is a far superior connection when compared to ADSL. VDSL2 is the latest version of VDSL and uses even more efficient data transmission for faster speeds.
The most common type of DSL connection is still the ADSL since it’s more affordable and is fast enough for general web browsing, emails, and video streaming. However, VDSL2 is quickly becoming the more popular choice thanks to its faster speeds.
Ensuring Your DSL Modem is Compatible with Your ISP
As you can imagine, an ADSL connection will not work with a VDSL modem and vice versa. In fact, an ADSL2+ connection will only work with an ADSL2+ modem and a VDSL2 connection will only work with a VDSL2 modem.
Right now the process of getting the best DSL modem might seem too complicated but believe me, it’s not.
The first thing you have to do if you’re confused about your connection is to call your internet service provider (ISP) and find out what kind of DSL connection you have. While you’re on the call, you can also ask your ISP for a list of compatible DSL modems.
Otherwise, you can use the best DSL modem list above to choose the best DSL modem for you (you can always go with a DSL modem with a certified tag).
How To Buy a DSL Modem? (Buying Criteria)
Now that you’ve got the compatibility part nailed down, time to take a look at the other buying criteria that you must take into consideration when buying a new DSL modem.
While the brand is no guarantee of quality or compatibility, it is generally a good indicator of the former. Companies like Netgear, Motorola, and D-Link are well-known and generally a safe bet. Even lesser-known brands like ZyXEL have been producing DSL modems for a long time and have been tested by thousands of people and reviewers.
Certain brands will also give you better warranty coverage as well as better customer service in case you ever encounter a problem. The cost of all this is that modems from better-known brands are usually more expensive.
Build quality should be an important factor in your purchase decision because the better built your modem is, the longer it lasts (and better holds up against drops). But it’s usually impossible hard to assess the quality of a product from online images and spec sheet – so I’ve done it for you and in this buyer’s guide, better-built modems are given a priority over ones that aren’t.
Connectivity means more than just compatibility. Sure you can figure out if your DSL modem will be compatible with your DSL connection at home over a phone call or through the internet but it’s much harder to judge how your DSL modem would connect and stay connected. This means I’ve taken into consideration things like reliability, range, and internet speed when making this comparison, and points were awarded to the best DSL modems accordingly.
Perhaps In any other buyer’s guide, features would’ve been a lot more important but in this guide, not so much. DSL modems are simple modems that have one main job – connect a computer to the internet even when the telephone is being used and most users with a DSL connection want that job done perfectly and other features are less important. That said, I haven’t ignored features completely and a well-equipped DSL modem is awarded more points.
Of course, a majority of the people in the market for a new DSL modem are replacing their old rental DSL modem which means the price is a major factor. Therefore, more affordable DSL modems were given more points than the expensive ones.
So there you have it – your best DSL modem buying guide for 2020 with the fastest, most affordable, and most value-for-money DSL modems that you can buy. Let me know which one is best for you below!
Related: If your looking for a Cable modem instead check out the best cable modems here.