Internet providers typically provide cable modems for a monthly fee, but buying one of your own can save money and take advantage of your internet package’s speeds. The differences between modems are generally small, but the subtle differences can affect the price and performance.

However, there are a few circumstances, such as if you regularly game or have a gigabit internet package, where you might want to spend a little more for a boost in performance and features. We’ve put together a list of the best cable modems, from those that are great for general use to a modem-router combo that reduces clutter.

Best Overall: Motorola MB7420
Best Speed: Netgear Nighthawk CM2000
Best for Gaming: Motorola MB8611
Best Modem-Router Combo: Motorola MG7700 Modem WiFi Router Combo
Best Budget: Arris Surfboard SB6183

How We Picked the Best Cable Modems

Modems are a basic necessity for home internet, and the subtle differences between models can affect your internet speeds. To make sure we found the best models, we considered the following:

— DOCSIS Standard: We considered both DOCSIS 3.0 and 3.1 standard modems because not everyone has or needs a high-speed internet package. At this point in time, DOCSIS 3.1 is really only needed if you’re topping out your ISP's speed offerings with a gigabit package. However, we wanted to include reliable models for both those who do and don’t need a high-speed modem. 

— Performance History: We looked into the performance history of the models on our list., and modems show their true colors within a month or two of installation. While there’s always a lemon or two among any modem model, we chose modems that showed consistent reliability and durability. These models allow users to take advantage of the internet package for which they paid and should last anywhere from four to seven years based on usage and environmental conditions.

— Warranty: Warranties protect your investment, and the longer they are the better. A longer warranty can also add to the upfront value of the modem. Keep in mind that you’ll need to register the modem and probably keep a proof of purchase to use a warranty.

Best Cable Modems: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Motorola MB7420

Reliable and Efficient. Motorola

Why It Made The Cut: The MB7420 offers speeds that fit most household internet plans and includes a two-year warranty, making it an excellent overall cable modem.

Specs:  

Dimensions: 6.9 inches tall x 4.1 inches deep x 2 inches deep
Channels: 16 x 4
DOCSIS Standard: 3.0
Listed Speed: 686 Mbps

Pros:

— Compatible with most major ISPs
— GigE Ethernet port
— Two-year warranty
— Sleek, stylish design

Cons: 

— Larger than some other modems
— Occasional poor customer service

The Motorola MB7420 isn’t as flashy as more expensive modems, but it makes up for it in practicality and performance. It offers speeds up to 686 Mbps on download and 123 Mbps on upload. The average internet user’s internet package, which is typically a 300 Mbps plan, easily falls in that range, making this a great pick for a home with several streaming devices and a lightly used game console.

Motorola’s two-year warranty gives this modem a big step above the average one-year warranty. Most people keep their modems for at least four years and often much longer. That extra coverage is a security blanket for the first couple of crucial years. However, Motorola’s modems also have a record of good durability, so expect the MB7420 to last well beyond that two-year warranty period.

Modems, in general, aren’t difficult to install, but this one gets high marks from users for the ease of installation. The GigE Ethernet port provides your internet package’s top speeds for a connected internet-capable device. 

This model also has a simple but sleek and stylish design but doesn’t call attention to itself. While some modems' power indicator lights could put on their own laser light show, this Motorola’s lights are bright enough to see without causing distraction (or blindness). It’s a little bit bigger than some of the Arris Surfboard modems, but overall, it doesn't call attention to itself or eat up an unwarranted amount of space. Lastly, Motorola occasionally has long wait times if you need customer support.

Best Speed: Netgear Nighthawk CM2000

Top Performance. Netgear

Why It Made The Cut: The CM2000 provides top-of-the-line performance and speeds for gigabit internet plans to make it the best cable modem for speed.

Specs: 

Dimensions: 9.92 inches high x 4.7 inches wide x 8.7 inches deep
Channels: 32 x 8
DOCSIS Standard: 3.1
Listed Speed: 2 Gbps

Pros:

— Fast speeds, thanks to DOCSIS 3.1 standard
— 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port
— Backward compatible

Cons: 

— Expensive
— One-year warranty

The Netgear Nighthawk CM2000 has the latest DOCSIS 3.1 standard, offering some of the best speeds available (as long as you have an equally fast router). This multi-gigabit router, which means it can offer speeds over 1 Gbps, has a 2.5-Gbps Ethernet port to keep those speeds up when transferring the signal to a compatible device. 

Don’t worry if most of your devices, including your router, aren’t DOCSIS 3.1 because the CM2000 is backward-compatible. And, while we love it for the speedy delivery, the 3.1 standard will make sure your modem can keep up with internet advances for the foreseeable future. 

The downsides of the CM2000 have to be the one-year warranty, which you can extend for a fee, and the price. When your warranty isn’t bad, it’s just not as helpful as Motorola’s two-year warranty. Plus, this model is expensive for a modem, but if you’re paying for the fastest internet package your provider offers, it’s probably worth it.

Best for Gaming: Motorola MB8611

Simple Speed and Power. Motorola

Why It Made The Cut: This modem’s channels, DOCSIS 3.1 standard, and 2.5-gigabit Ethernet port give gamers the speed to immerse themselves in their gaming landscape.

Specs:  

Dimensions: 7.25 inches long x 7.88 inches high x 2.25 inches wide
Channels: 32 x 8
DOCSIS Standard: 3.1
Listed Speed: 2.5 Gbps

Pros:

— 2.5-gigabit Ethernet port
— Low latency
— Impressive performance for the price
— Two-year warranty

Cons: 

— Long wait times for customer support

The Motorola MB8611 has the solid design and build that Motorola is known for because of the DOCSIS 3.1 standard. That opens up multi-gig internet, which offers speeds over 1 Gbps. A 2.5-gigabit Ethernet port fully transfers those speeds to internet-capable devices.

This model’s processor reduces latency times, which means faster response times, less blurring, and overall better play. The MB8611 can deliver top speeds during heavy gaming and simultaneous streaming use. (Of course, you need a router that can also deliver those top speeds.) It also comes with Motorola’s two-year warranty and costs less (though still pricey) than some of the competitors in the DOCSIS 3.1 category. 

However, when users have had issues with the MB8611, Motorola’s customer support may leave you on hold for hours. It’s also important to note that while the MB8611 comes with a two-year warranty, you have to register the product and hang onto your proof of purchase to activate the warranty.

Best Modem-Router Combo: Motorola MG7700 Modem WiFi Router Combo

Power Combo. Motorola

Why It Made The Cut: This modem router combo supports plans up to 650 Mbps, saving space and money while delivering targeted high speeds. 

Specs:  

Dimensions: 8.6 inches high by 9.1 inches deep by 2.6 inches wide
Channels: 24 x 8
DOCSIS Standard: 3.0
Listed Speed: 1,000 Mbps

Pros:

— Two-year warranty
— Built-in AC1900 WiFi gigabit router
— Direct connection to the router
— Beamforming capabilities

Cons: 

— Customer service issues

The Motorola MG7700 Modem WiFi Router Combo combines the power of a DOCSIS 3.0 modem with a built-in AC1900 WiFi router that disperses the signal around the home. This cable modem and WiFi router combo can handle top theoretical speeds of 1,000 Mbps, but in practice, Motorola recommends using it for internet packages that top out at 650 Mbps. That makes this modem-router a good pick for the vast majority of homes, even those who have several streaming devices running at once or do heavy gaming. 

The built-in cable router adds beamforming capabilities to strengthen the signal to specific devices. (Beamforming allows you to direct the signal to a location rather than dispersing it in all directions to maintain signal strength.) It also has Power Boost that extends the range of the signal. However, keep in mind that the location of the modem and construction of the home determines the square footage the modem and router can cover. 

This model comes with Motorola’s two-year warranty, which requires device registration to activate. Be aware that Motorola can have some customer service issues with long wait times if you do have a problem with the MG7700.

Best Budget: Arris Surfboard SB6183

Compact Reliability. Arris

Why It Made The Cut: This solid router offers reliable speed and connection as long as you don’t require high-speed service.

Specs: 

Dimensions: 5 inches high x 5 inches long by 2.1 inches wide
Channels: 16 x 4
DOCSIS Standard: 3.0
Listed Speed: 1,000 Mbps

Pros

— Small footprint
— Two-year warranty
— High compatibility
— Visible but not overpowering indicator lights

Cons 

— Sometimes hard to find

The Arris Surfboard SB6183 has been among top-rated cable modems for some time and still offers premium performance as long as you aren’t paying for a high-speed internet package. It has a small 5-inch-by-5 inch-by-2.1-inch footprint, making it easy to tuck out of sight. The indicator lights are easy to see but aren’t overpoweringly bright, which is helpful if it’s in a room where you like to game or watch TV in the dark.

Arris offers a two-year warranty that makes the low price even more attractive. This brand’s models have proven themselves reliable over the years, but if you do have trouble, that warranty provides support to get things up and running on the quick.

While the listed speed is 1,000 Mbps, real-world performance hovers around 686 Mbps, making it a great option if you’ve got a 300 Mbps internet package. This internet modem has been around long enough that it’s compatible with almost all major ISPs. However, at the same time, because it’s been on the market a while, it can be hard to find, so it’s best to snag this Surfboard modem when you find it.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Cable Modem

ISP Compatibility

Your modem has to be compatible with your internet service provider (ISP) protocols to work properly. Each ISP offers a list of compatible modems on their website so you can cross-reference the modem before buying. You may have to log in to your account to access the list. Modem manufacturers also include a list of compatible ISPs. 

Internet Package

As technology continues to march forward, internet speeds get faster. However, not everyone has or needs a gigabit plan or a high-speed modem. Match the modem’s speed capabilities to your internet package speeds. The best modem for you is one that can handle speeds slightly higher than that of the internet package. You also have to consider that the modem’s listed speeds are measured under ideal lab conditions. In the real world, the download and upload speeds will be slightly lower. 

Price and Warranty

While there are modems that cost well over $300, most people don’t require the speeds or extra features included with those models. A standard household with a few streaming devices and a lightly used game console can easily get by with a modem that costs around $100 and delivers speeds enough for a 300 Mbps internet package. However, if you have a high-speed internet package, you’ll need an internet modem and router that deliver multi-gig speeds. Models that come with a two-year warranty give you a cushion if there are any defects or manufacturing issues.

Speed

Homes with an internet package that tops out around 300 Mbps can get the speed they need from a 16 x 4 modem, which has 16 downloaded channels and four upload channels. These models will most likely have the DOCSIS 3.0 standard, which has a maximum download speed of 1 Gbps and maximum upload speeds of 100 Mbps. 

If your internet package is high speed, look for a DOCSIS 3.1 model that’s 24 x 8 or 32 x 8. The DOCSIS 3.1 standard can handle download speeds of 10 Gbps and upload speeds of 2 Gbps.

There is currently a DOCSIS 4.0 standard (formerly known as DOCSIS 3.1 full duplex), but very few ISPs offer it, and even fewer modems are compatible. This technology offers 10 Gbps downstream speeds and 6 Gbps upstream speeds. At this point in time, a model with the DOCSIS 4.0 standard doesn’t make much sense until all of the corresponding technology — ISP protocols, routers, internet-capable devices — are also compatible.

If you’re looking for a modem that will be compatible with new devices coming out over the next few years, a DOCSIS 3.1 is the best future-proof option.

FAQs

Q. How much does a cable modem cost?

Cable modems can cost anywhere from $50 to $450 or more. DOCSIS 3.0 models fall in the $50-$150 range. The more advanced DOCSIS 3.1 standard modems tend to cost between $150 to $250. Modems that cost over $250 are typically high-speed DOCSIS 3.1 standard modems with additional features like enhanced security features or a built-in router with beamforming.

Q. Can you recycle a cable modem?

Contact your local recycling center and ask if they accept WiFi cable modems. Some facilities are not equipped to recycle electronic equipment that may have hazardous materials like lead or mercury. Another option are stores like Best Buy and Staples that accept and recycle old modems. They may refurbish them and resell them for a reduced price. If the modem still works, you can donate it to a charity or secondhand store Learn more in our guide on how to recycle electronics.

Q. Does a better cable modem make a difference? 

A better cable modem can make a difference, but whether or not it will benefit you depends on a few factors. If your ISP’s network technology has updated but you’re still using an old modem, a new modem offers better performance and speeds. For example, around 2011 most ISPs updated from DOCSIS 2.0 to DOCSIS 3.0, making DOCSIS 2.0 outdated and unable to keep up with new internet packages. A better cable modem can also help your speeds if you upgrade your internet package. 

Q. How long does a cable modem last? 

Cable modems typically last four to seven years. You may need to replace yours sooner if you change ISPs or upgrade your internet plan.

Q. How do I know if my cable modem needs to be replaced?

Modems eventually wear out as they accumulate dust, suffer damage from heat buildup, and withstand power surges and outages. The modem may eventually suffer catastrophic damage from which there is no restarting or repairing it. You may also need to replace your modem if you change ISPs, upgrade your internet package, or you need features that your modem doesn’t have.

Final Thoughts

A modem is the kind of device you want to plug in and forget about. You can do that with the Motorola MB7420 if you have an internet package of 300 Mbps or lower. It also comes with a two-year warranty. If you’re on a tighter budget and you’ve got limited space, the Arris Surfboard SB6183 has been a top contender for quite a while. This small modem sinks into the background while providing excellent speeds for internet packages of 300 Mbps or lower. For those who need a high-speed modem, the Netgear Nighthawk CM2000 can keep up with the fastest internet packages with speed to spare.

This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.


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