Today’s modems for gaming can handle impressive speeds, reduce latency, and prioritize your devices. With new models coming out every year, it can be confusing to find the right modem that fits your budget and internet package. If you are paying for a high-speed gigabit plan, you need a modem that’s advanced enough to squeeze every bit of that speed into your devices.
We considered the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS), along with the security protocols and available Ethernet ports of the leading modems on the market. From ease of setup to Internet Service Provider (ISP) compatibility, we looked into what makes a great modem to use for intense gaming. The best modems for gaming, balancing price with speed and extra features that let you prioritize your usage to enhance your game.
— Best Overall: Netgear Nighthawk Cable Modem CM1200
— Best Budget: Netgear Cable Modem CM600
— Best Combo: Motorola MB8702
— Best for Large Homes: Netgear Orbi Whole Home Tri-band Mesh WiFi 6 System
— Best for Latency Reduction: Motorola MB8600 DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem
How We Chose the Best Modems for Gaming
We analyzed both customer experiences and reviews from expert sources that have put these modems to the test in the real world. Our research revolved around the DOCSIS, channel bonding, connectivity strength, and reliability of each modem.
DOCSIS: Most people get all the speed they need from a DOCSIS 3.0 modem. (DOCSIS stands for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification.) However, if you do heavy, graphic-intense gaming and you have a high-speed internet package, you may need a DOCSIS 3.1 modem to keep up with your package and usage. We included both on the list.
Channel Bonding: More channels leave more “highways” for information to travel on. At the very least, the modem needed to offer 16x4 channel bonding for a satisfying gaming experience.
Connectivity Strength: Unless you get a modem-router combo (which we have included on our list), you’re going to need a separate router. The modem doesn’t need a huge range, but it should provide a strong signal within close proximity for the best router connection and performance.
Reliability: This is where customer reviews and experience come into the picture. A dropped signal can turn the best game of your life into a demoralizing defeat. No. Dropped. Signals.
Best Modems for Gaming: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Netgear Nighthawk Cable Modem CM1200
Why It Made The Cut: The CM1200 leaves other modems in the dust with its two OFDM channels and four Gigabit Ethernet ports.
— Channel Bonding: 32x8, 2x2 (OFDM)
— DOCSIS: 3.1
— Ethernet Ports: Four
— Two OFDM channels
— Four 1 Gigabit Ethernet ports
— Can handle the latest internet packages for the foreseeable future
— Quality of Service (QoS) settings optimize gameplay
As one of the fastest modems for gaming, the Netgear Nighthawk Cable Modem CM1200 is impressive before it’s even out of the box. It has DOCSIS 3.1, 32 x 8 channel bonding and 2 x 2 OFDM channels, which aren’t offered on every DOCSIS 3.1 modem but are an option with the new technology. These channels transport more data packages at faster speeds to reduce latency during online gaming and streaming. This model also has four Gigabit Ethernet ports so you can connect a router, game system, and other devices that benefit from the fastest wired connection.
If you have an internet plan that can support it, the CM1200 can support multiple IP addresses, creating up to four home networks. The maximum download speed tops out at 2 Gbps, even though ISPs aren’t currently offering packages that fast. Even better, it’s easy to set up, and Netgear includes QoS (Quality of Service) settings that let you prioritize devices so you can put your gaming first in line.
As a con, this model is expensive, and if you don’t have a fast internet package, it’s not really worth the extra money.
Best Budget: Netgear Cable Modem CM600
Why It Made The Cut: The CM600 has 24x8 channel bonding, offering excellent speeds and connection for plans under 500 Mbps.
— Channel Bonding: 24x8
— DOCSIS: 3.0
— Ethernet Ports: One
— Easy to connect
— Strong signal
— Offers a few extra security features
— Only one Ethernet port
The Netgear Cable Modem CM600 was a high-speed modem when it came out several years ago. Its DOCSIS 3.0 technology has since been surpassed, but this is still an excellent router for those who have a plan under 500 Mbps. The 24x8 channel bonding keeps the data flowing with a strong signal, and it offers a few extra security features that you can access through the app under the Advanced tab. Here, you can change or add passwords and make adjustments to protect yourself from attacks.
This model also brings simplicity to modem setup. Netgear’s app walks you through the process. And while we usually like to see more than one ethernet port, the fact that this modem only has one keeps things simple, as you can use that ethernet port to connect to your router. From there, you can use the router to expand coverage area, add additional security features, or enhance control with QoS settings.
Best Combo: Motorola MB8702
Why It Made The Cut: The MB8702 has 2x2 OFDM/OFDMA, which improves page loading speeds, and the whole unit can connect with over 250 devices.
— Channel Bonding: 32x8, 2x2
— DOCSIS: 3.1
— Ethernet Ports: Four
— Advanced modem and router features
— Connects with over 250 devices
— Works for plans up to 1,000 Mbps
— 2x2 OFDM/OFDMA
— WiFi 5 router
The Motorola MB8702 packs a lot of speed and features into a single device. This router modem combo for gaming contains DOCSIS 3.1 technology with faster speeds and includes a built-in AC3200 WiFi router. The two together offer enough speed for 1,000 Mbps internet plans, but there’s room for speeds up to 3.7 Gbps once ISPs offer faster plans.
The DOCSIS 3.1 technology opens the door to two OFDM (downstream) and two OFDMA (upstream) channels to optimize moving data packets. In short, it’s fast and will be that way into the foreseeable future. The router provides some advanced features too, such as a signal boost to improve coverage area and beamforming capabilities, which send the signal in a specific direction rather than out in all directions at the same time. That targeted signaling improves the strength for, you guessed it, faster speeds.
The only thing we find odd with this modem-router combo is that it’s paired with a WiFi 5 router. While that router includes beamforming and MU-MIMO for simultaneous use by multiple devices, it will eventually be outperformed by WiFi 6 models. But, once again, it will depend on your ISP and internet package as to how soon that will happen.
Best for Large Homes: Netgear Orbi Whole Home Tri-Band Mesh WiFi 6 System
Why It Made The Cut: Easy setup, a huge coverage area, and Ethernet ports on the router and each satellite provide super fast speeds in large homes.
— Channel Bonding: 32x8
— DOCSIS: 3.1
— Ethernet Ports: Four (router), two (satellite)
— Large, expandable coverage area
— DOCSIS 3.1 and WiFi 6
— Easy setup
— Easy control through Orbi app
— Orbi Armor costs an additional fee
The Netgear Orbi Whole Home Tri-Band Mesh WiFi 6 System is a modem-router mesh powerhouse that can cover 5,000 square feet. You can also add more satellites and increase the coverage area by another 2,500 square feet per satellite. This model is incredibly similar to the Orbi RBK752, which is the router-only version, but with this model, you get a modem behind the powerful WiFi 6.
If there were internet package plans that offered it, this router modem combo for gaming can provide 4.2 Gbps. What we liked about the RBK752 was the opportunity to plug devices directly into the satellites for a fast wired connection at locations far away from the router; you get this same benefit with the CBK752. Each satellite has two Ethernet ports, so if you can’t plug your game console into the router, you can place a satellite close enough for a wired connection.
Orbi makes it super simple to set up their devices through the Orbi app, which is equally easy to navigate. From there, you can customize your settings, adjust parental controls, and set up added security features. You also get a 30-day trial of Netgear Armor, but if you like it, you have to pay a subscription fee. Keep in mind that this mesh system is pricey but could be necessary if you have a large home and a big internet package.
Best for Latency Reduction: Motorola MB8600 DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem
Why It Made The Cut: The MB8600 has a solid build, excellent speed, and AQM that reduces latency and keeps data moving.
— Channel Bonding: 32x8
— DOCSIS: 3.1
— Ethernet Ports: One open, three masked
— AQM technology improves page load speeds
— Broadcom chipset provides advanced security
— Flexible router compatibility
— Masked Ethernet ports can connect with a router
— Confusing Ethernet ports
The Motorola MB8600 DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem attacks latency issues with Advanced Queue Management (AQM). This keeps data packets moving while reducing latency in page loads and will optimize your modem for gaming. Where you’re most likely to notice a lack of latency when you’re gaming and streaming multiple channels at once, which is of course linked with its DOCSIS 3.1 technology for top speeds.
The MB8600’s Ethernet ports are both a strength and a weakness. Visibly, it only has one open Ethernet port. But, if you have a router and ISP package capable of Ethernet port bonding, the three masked Ethernet ports can be bonded to connect to a router, leaving the unmasked port free for another device. Unfortunately, very few ISPs and routers have this capability as of this writing.
A Broadcom chipset brings the latest security protocols against denial-of-service attacks, and flexible compatibility with a wide range of routers makes this a versatile, low-latency option.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Modem for Gaming
DOCSIS: DOCSIS is the standard for transferring data services. Right now, DOCSIS 3.0 is the most common, and DOCSIS 2.0 is well on its way out. DOCSIS 3.0 now faces competition from DOCSIS 3.1 and, most recently, DOCSIS 4.0.
At this point, DOCSIS 3.1 routers can handle speeds that ISPs don’t even offer, so you’re really looking to choose between a DOCSIS 3.0 and DOCSIS 3.1 modem. The one that’s right for you depends on your internet package and if you see yourself upgrading to a faster package once it’s offered by your ISP.
DOCSIS 3.0 has a maximum download speed of 1 Gbps and a maximum upload speed of 100 Mbps. DOCSIS 3.1 modems have a maximum download speed of 10 Gbps and upload speed of 2 Gbps, however, you have to have an internet package that provides that kind of speed, and most don’t. DOCSIS 3.1 modems may also have OFDM and/or OFDMA, which are additional channels that can simultaneously pass data packets, reducing latency and improving page loading speeds.
Many DOCSIS 3.0 modems provide excellent speed for packages up to 600 Mbps or lower. You can get the best speeds from a DOCSIS 3.1 modem, but you don’t necessarily need one unless you’re buying your ISPs top speed package or plan to in the near future.
Ports and Connectivity: Gig Ethernet ports are the wired connections for your devices, like a router, laptop, or game console. Modems have one, two, or four Ethernet ports. Wired connections offer the fastest speeds. However, you have to connect your modem to a router, which can provide extra ethernet ports.
Some modems will also have WiFi and voice capabilities built in. If the modem has WiFi, it can directly send the signal out to your devices wirelessly. If it doesn’t, and you want wireless connectivity, you’ll need a router that can create a wireless signal to access WiFi with your other devices.
ISP Compatibility: The modem has to be compatible with your ISP's protocol to work correctly or at all. Modem manufacturers list the ISPs with which their modems are compatible, and ISPs also list modems that are compatible with their protocols. Check with both before buying.
Q: How much does a modem for gaming cost?
Modems for gaming can cost between $60 and $400. A basic DOCSIS 3.0 modem with 16x4 channel bonding makes up the bottom of the range, which work well for smaller 300 Mbps internet packages. At the top of the range are powerful modem-router mesh systems. These models are DOCSIS 3.1 and have an expandable coverage area.
Q: How do I recycle my modem?
Stores like Best Buy often offer buy-back programs, where you can take a used modem and receive a percentage off of a new model, where they then refurbish the modem for resale. If your modem isn’t in good working order, contact a local recycling center to find the nearest e-recycling facility, or check out our guide on how to recycle electronics.
Q: What is better for gaming — modem or router?
When it comes to modem vs router for gaming, you’ll need good speeds from both to optimize your gaming. The modem translates your ISP's data into a signal that your router translates into an internet connection for your devices. You typically get more customizable features on a router for gaming, but if your modem can provide top speeds, those extra settings may not be as necessary. Try to match the speeds of the modem and router, and opt for more control like QoS to tweak when and where devices get bandwidth to keep speeds up and reduce latency.
Q: Do I need DOCSIS 3.1 for 500 Mbps?
You don’t absolutely need a DOCSIS 3.1 modem if your internet package has download speeds less than 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps). However, you will notice some noticeable benefits from a DOCSIS 3.1 modem with packages of 500 Mbps or above. For example, the speeds will be more consistent, there’s better security, and they reduce latency.
Q: What is the best modem router combo for gaming?
The Motorola MB8702 is an excellent modem router combo for gaming if you have a gigabit internet plan, and it has AQM that improves page loading times for low latency. However, if you’re in a larger space and you have a gigabit plan, the Netgear Orbi Whole Home Tri-band Mesh WiFi 6 System has a huge coverage area and is DOCSIS 3.1 with WiFi 6. Each satellite can expand coverage by 2,500 square feet, and they have two Gigabit ports for additional wired connections.
Final Thoughts on Modems for Gaming
The Netgear Nighthawk Cable Modem CM1200 offers one of the best overall modems for gaming. It’s the complete package with OFDM technology to reduce latency for high volume users. For those on a tighter budget (and smaller internet plans), the Netgear Cable Modem CM600 works beautifully for internet plans under 500 Mbps. It’s simple to use and has a powerful signal.
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.