Should I upgrade my old ADSL modem?
August 24, 2021 6:02 AM   Subscribe

I have a SmartRG sr505n modem. It is seven years old. Should I upgrade to the newest model sr506ac? The thing is my electronics are mostly old. My PC is four years old, my TV is about the same, so it wouldn't be making use of the newer versions of wifi supported by the latest model. However, would the new modem have better performance and say, wider coverage?
posted by storybored to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What does your ISP support?
posted by zamboni at 6:35 AM on August 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

I would. I have (very) old tech too but when my housemate got a newer router (we had a separate modem and router instead of a combined one like yours, but the router was old) it made a huge, huge difference in speed and reach and the connection not dropping. The newer wifi standards are a lot better than what was around 7 years ago.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:15 AM on August 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Is it possible you mean the sr516ac? I don't know anything about this kind of device but that's what searching suggests you might have meant.

The model numbers suggest you would be upgrading from 802.11n to 802.11ac for WiFi. That's a significant improvement. You'll be able to use 5GHz which can be a lot faster and more reliable. There's more channels to choose from, better handling of contention with your neighbors' wifi, a higher top speed, etc. It's just an improvement all around.

If your PC and TV only do 802.11n you won't get an improvement now. You didn't mention your phone but if you bought it in the last couple of years it will already support 802.11ac.

You can upgrade your PC's wifi with a USB device. Look for something like "AC1200"; the AC means it's 802.11ac, the 1200 is a measure of speed (bigger is better). If you have a laptop these tiny adapters work pretty well and are convenient. For a non-mobile PC I like these TP-Link Archer T4U units. For some reason they've not been available new for awhile now but the refurbished ones work fine and are cheap.

Just to be clear: in the big picture, your Internet speed is mostly limited by the speed of your DSL connection. Ask your ISP but it's unlikely that upgrade will change anything. But if you're having problems with WiFi reliability or speed, that upgrade will make a difference if all your devices are doing 802.11ac.
posted by Nelson at 7:24 AM on August 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Specifically, we had also had something using 802.11n (a 2015-era TP-link WR841n), and upgraded to something with 802.11ac. And then I could use wifi in our kitchen (on my 1st-gen iphone se and *ancient* laptop) and front porch, where previously I could see the network but it wasn't really robust enough to use.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:24 AM on August 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

My ISP sent me a new router last year, as they'd noticed I was still using an old one. It's definitely made a difference in terms of reliability. I have several peripherals connected all the time - Firestick, TV, tablet, phone, printer and a TP-link signal booster in my home office. Unlike my previous router, there's no issues with stability or signal strength anymore.
posted by essexjan at 7:39 AM on August 24, 2021

Following on from Nelson’s observation that your connection to your ISP influences things way more than your DSL modem … the quality of the connection between the point where your phone line enters the house and the point where it plugs into your modem, also matters. If your modem plugs straight into your master phone socket - that is best. If if connects via internal extension cables - then try bypassing them and perform a comparative speed test. All this matters more as your ISPs advertised speed to your home, rises.
posted by rongorongo at 9:00 AM on August 24, 2021

Response by poster: @Nelson - yes indeed you are right SR516ac!
posted by storybored at 10:19 AM on August 24, 2021

If you're ISP supports SR516AC then get it. It can be used later for fiber as a gateway for later.
posted by kschang at 10:51 AM on August 24, 2021

Just want to stress since I suspect the OP doesn't know: you can buy modems that don't have an integrated router, and then hook them up to a separately-purchased router. Pros of doing so:

- Makes upgrading the modem cheaper
- Lets you choose the optimal modem feature set AND the optimal router feature set
- Allows using mesh wi-fi nodes like Eero, which are great for boosting signal/coverage


- Higher initial cost
- A bit more setup (but it's really not bad, only additional step is running a network cable from modem to router)

I should also note that you can disable the internal router even in modems that DO have an integrated router (via the admin UI), and then connect them to an external router.
posted by commander_fancypants at 5:08 PM on August 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

Ditto what commander_fancypants said, but with one caveat: the ISP will want to "manage" and/or "troubleshoot" from remote and they will require you to get a "compatible" modem, i.e. one they can control.

Yes, you can enable pass-thru (or transparent, or whatever fancy name they used) mode so the "modem" portion talks directly to the LAN port to which you can connect a separate router, but it's a PITA to setup, and the gains are often not that obvious. Beware of biting off more than you can chew here, as your ISP will likely be unable to help you if you use one of these super-custom configs.
posted by kschang at 12:46 PM on August 26, 2021

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