If you don’t own your own cable modem, chances are that you rent one from your cable internet provider. That could be a costly mistake. Buying the best cable modem will eventually cost you less money than if you rent from your IPS, and being diligent in the shopping process means you can track down a model that suits your needs far more precisely than what you’d find with a modem you rent from your provider.
Whether you’re an office manager, a serious gamer, or someone just needing a reliable internet connection for their home, there’s bound to be a modem that meets your needs on our reviews list. But if you do want to expand your search, the guide that follows can help you find the best cable modem for you.
- These are the 10 Best Cable Modems in 2020
- 1. ARRIS SURFboard Docsis 3.1 Gigabit Speed Cable Modem
- 2. NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem
- 3. TP-Link TC-7610 DOCSIS 3.0 (8×4) Cable Modem
- 4. MOTOROLA MB8600 DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem
- 5. Linksys Cox CM3008 DOCSIS Cable Mode
- 6. Cisco DPC3008 Cable Modem
- 7. ZOOM TELEPHONICS DOCSIS 3.0 343Mbps Cable Modem
- 8. D-Link DCM-301 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem
- 9. ZyXEL Cable Modem
- 10. Arris Touchstone CM8200A DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem
- Guide to Buying the Best Cable Modem
- Ethernet Ports
- Other Ports
- Download and Upload Speeds
- Modem and Router Combinations
- Compatibility With Your ISP
- IP Address Protocol
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Best Cable Modem to Buy?
- What is the Best Modem for Xfinity?
- Is it Better to Buy Your Own Modem?
- Should I Upgrade My Cable Modem?
These are the 10 Best Cable Modems in 2020
1. ARRIS SURFboard Docsis 3.1 Gigabit Speed Cable Modem
Best Cable Modem for Performance
The Arris SURFboard is one of the most prevalent lines of modems available today, and the SB8200 may very well be the best SURFboard on the market. It's on the more expensive end of our best cable modem list, but it sports an easy to use design that can have you up and running in just a few minutes along with support for the latest DOCSIS 3.1 protocol.
The performance on this cable modem is well above average. While you only get two ports, they offer blindingly fast speeds of up to 10.0 Gbps, and there's a generous 32 downstream channels and 8 upstream channels available here. This cable modem also supports link aggregation in its channels for the best level of stability available.
2. NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem
The Best Cable Modem Router Combo
If you have a dedicated voice plan through your cable internet provider, you'll get some of the best value out of the Netgear Nighthawk. This cable modem router comes with four Gigabit ethernet ports, but it also provides a generous two voice over IP ports for reliable and steady cable phone calls. That makes this cable modem an especially great choice both for small businesses and for serious gamers who want to make the most of their internet speeds.
And you don't have to worry about losing your work because of an outage either. The Nighthawk includes an optional battery backup that can provide you with up to five hours of talk time if your power isn't working. This cable modem is compatible with most operating systems, including the latest versions of Linux.
3. TP-Link TC-7610 DOCSIS 3.0 (8×4) Cable Modem
The Best Cable Modem for Value
Are you just looking for an inexpensive cable modem that will help you get the most out of a modest plan from your internet service provider? The TC-7610 by TP-Link could be the best cable modem for you. This modem is available on Amazon now for around $50-60, and it offers an incredible amount of value for what it provides. And the fact that it's compatible with most of the major internet providers means that it's a reasonable choice for just about everyone.
This cable modem only comes with a single port, so you're going to want to invest in a router if you want a Wi-Fi connection, but that port can deliver respectable download speeds of up to around 340 Mbps and upload speeds of around 140 Mbps. It also includes channel bonding for up to 8 download channels and 4 upload channels at a time.
4. MOTOROLA MB8600 DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem
The Motorola MB8600 is business-like in its demeanor and solid in its execution. This cable modem is sleek and aesthetically pleasing with all of the essential LED lights stripped down to their most basic forms, leaving you with easy analysis of any networking problems at a glance but without clutter. And it includes four distinct ethernet ports in addition to the cable port, so it's one of the best choices if you want to hook up your gaming rig or other device directly to a LAN connection.
The speeds here are phenomenal as well. Motorola boasts a maximum download speed of 6 Gbps, which is well above what you'll find from any modern ISP. It also includes a Broadcom chipset for preventing DDOS attacks and active queue management to help you maintain optimal speeds even when you have multiple devices running in your home or office simultaneously.
5. Linksys Cox CM3008 DOCSIS Cable Mode
Linksys recognizes that a modem isn't supposed to be a centerpiece, and so it makes sense that the design of their CM3008 is designed to work reliably while staying out of your way. The compact design makes it an ideal option for more crowded homes and offices, but they fit everything most users could conceivably need into that small frame.
That includes 8 bonded download and 4 bonded upload channels and an Intel Puma 5 chipset to make sure that you're making the most of what your ISP offers you. And regardless of the cable provider you use, chances are that the CM3008 is compatible with your needs. Add in the simple plug and play setup and you're left with a cable modem that you can have running at maximum capacity with no stress or struggle.
6. Cisco DPC3008 Cable Modem
For most casual users, the features and speeds needed for a modem won't be that high, and if you just want a cable modem that's cheap but still quality, we think the DPC3008 from Cisco is one of the best models available. While it's out of production, you can find it from retailers for less than $15, and it includes all the fundamentals in a body that's only slightly larger than the Linksys model above.
The specs here are pretty much standard, but that doesn't mean they aren't capable. That includes 8 downstream and 4 upstream channels as well as standard DOCSIS 3.0 technology speeds. It might not be the best choice if you're trying to get seamless 4K or video game streaming, but it's still faster than what the average consumer will likely use.
7. ZOOM TELEPHONICS DOCSIS 3.0 343Mbps Cable Modem
Zoom offers some pretty great looking designs for their cable modems, but they also understand that function and form should be tightly aligned. While the 5341 is one of the best looking modems around, it's also got the goods. It's able to be used standing up or lying down so you can arrange for a more versatile setup in your home or office, and the LED lights are clearly labeled and easy to read.
Designed according to the DOCSIS 3.0 standards, it offers respectable average download speeds while also supporting advanced networking capabilities up to IPv6. And as a way to decrease your energy spending, this cable modem also comes with a power saving energy cube.
8. D-Link DCM-301 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem
Practically any home or small business could benefit from the inclusion of a DCM-301 cable modem from D-Link. Built on the DOCSIS 3.0 protocol, it offers internet speeds that exceed what you'd find in most internet plans and can reach over 300 Mbps when making use of the eight channel bonding technology built in. And regardless of what internet provider you use, chances are that this cable modem will be compatible.
Just keep in mind that this isn't a modem router combo, and it only includes a single gigabit ethernet port, but if you already have a router and you're just looking to update your existing modem, it's one of the most cost effective models available to you. It's also built to support all the latest IPv6 protocols for more stable online connectivity.
9. ZyXEL Cable Modem
If there's a cable modem more stylish than the ZyXEL BRG35503, we haven't found it. Its curved, futuristic design will really help it stand out in your home, office, or home office without being ostentatious about it. And while you shouldn't buy a new modem based off looks alone, there are a lot of characteristics to like about this reliable cable modem.
This cable modem is compliant with DOCSIS 3.0 protocol, which doesn't put it among the faster speeds on our best cable modem list but still puts it in a respectable space. And the LED indicator lights are expressive and simple to understand. But if you have a trouble with your internet access, you don't necessarily need to get customer service on the phone. It has a power on self diagnostic mode that can help you get to the heart of the issue quicker.
10. Arris Touchstone CM8200A DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem
The Arris TM822g is an incredibly cheap modem, so it's surprising to see it come packed with so many features. Casual users will get great value for the price they pay, but the real advantage comes to administrators who really like in depth control over how their connections are set up. That includes configuration options for loop volt management and loop current as well as advanced diagnostics so that experienced IT professionals can resolve any problems easier without the need for customer service.
And while those diagnostics are the big selling point here, that's not to say that this modem isn't substantial in other regards. It combines two 96MHz wide RF tuners to support downstream channels at up to 1 GHz and also offers an optional battery to help in the case of a power outage.
Guide to Buying the Best Cable Modem
If you’re looking for the best cable modem, you don’t have to rely solely on a reviewer. Our guide breaks down the fundamentals to look for when shopping for you can expand your reach further. We’ll cover the most important specs and answer some of the questions we hear most frequently from our readers.
Is the company behind your cable modem a big deal? If you don’t plan on doing much research, it can be. Top tier names like Arris, Motorola, and D-Link have built a reputation for making some of the best cable modems around, while younger manufacturers like Zoom Telephonics have really earned a name for themselves in recent years for the quality of their cable modem designs.
If you pick a modem produced by any of these names, you can be relatively assured that you’re getting a quality product, and that’s fine if you just want to replace your existing modem or move away from renting one from your ISP. And the simple fact is, most users won’t notice much of a difference between the different modems listed. But if you’re really serious about getting the most out of your plans or shopping for your workplace, you’ll want to dive deeper than just name recognition.
If you don’t plan on buying a dedicated router and aren’t looking at combo routers with modems built in, the number of ethernet ports available are going to be incredibly important. The ports available determine how many devices you can connect to the internet, and a modem with few ports can be a huge liability in that case.
That said, we almost universally recommend investing in a router. If you have a normal online DSL connection at your home or office, a single port connected to a router will work just fine. Serious gamers or those who want their streaming interrupted can benefit from a modem with extra ports though. Connecting a device directly to the modem rather than connecting it on Wi-Fi results in a faster and more reliable online experience for that device, allowing you to prioritize the consoles, computers, or other products that you use most. But unless you have specialized needs, just stick with a single port modem and a router.
While ethernet ports and the cable port for your modem are going to be the most important outlets to look for when shopping for a modem, some models (particularly modem/router combos and those tailored towards business consumers) come with some additional features as well. The most popular is a VoIP (voice over IP) port. These allow you to make calls from a designated land line without needing a traditional phone plan. Since it’s using the internet instead of a traditional phone line, you don’t need to pay for a separate phone plan, and you can rely on the quality of your modem to get the job done.
You may also find a cable modem with USB ports. These are far more situational but can be useful in office environments. These are most often used to connect a hard drive or a thumb drive to your modem so that you can readily share information to the whole network, but they can also be used to more easily add a printer, scanner, or fax machine to your high-speed internet network.
Download and Upload Speeds
Cable modems have come a long way in terms of how well they can perform. The original dial-up modems were capable of downloading 56 kilobits a second. The best cable modems you’ll find offer a download speed of a gigabit a second, which is the equivalent to 1,000,000 kilobits. Even the most basic entry level modems will provide you with 100 Mbps, and most offer 300 Mbps or more. In other words, the download speeds of 30 years ago are a tiny fraction of what the most basic modem cable can accomplish today.
So how much power do you need? Considering that the average ISP plan offers a rate of 150 Mbps, you can be confident with practically any modem you’ll find here, but if you’re more of a power user, you’ll want to make sure that the maximum supported download speed your modem lists as at least as high as the standards for your provider. Better internet speeds will ensure better streaming and quicker downloads, and getting a modem that can outperform your plan means that you’ll be ready to go if you do decide to upgrade your plans in the near future for faster performance.
That said, just because plans give you a maximum download speed doesn’t mean that you can expect that speed from every device in your network. Devices connected to a Wi-Fi network will typically not offer the same speed as wired connections, and the speeds for each device will be lowered since that bandwidth is being shared across your entire house or office. That’s why it’s important to consider not just the maximum bandwidth you’ll use on any device but the maximum bandwidth you can expect your household to use concurrently when shopping for internet plans and modems.
If you’re looking to determine what speeds you can expect from your modem at a glance, you may want to check what DOCSIS 3.0 cable protocol is supported. DOCSIS 3.0 typically supports speeds of a little over 300 Mbps, while a DOCSIS 3.1 modem will offer a full gigabit download speed at max. Upload speeds are going to be far less important for most users, but they’re still worthy of consideration. In almost every case, the upload speed is going to clock in at about a third of the download speed.
Modem and Router Combinations
Are you fine with a plain modem, or do you need a wireless router/modem combo? The latter certainly comes with conveniences. It allows you to save space by not making use of two separate devices, and you know that you’ll be getting the best out of both the router and modem because they’re built from the same hardware. If you want Gigabit internet for online gaming, you need both a Gigabit router and an equivalent modem. A combination helps you avoid that issue.
That said, if you already have a router that you’re happy with, you should be able to find a close modem that works well for a fraction of the price.
Compatibility With Your ISP
Just because a modem has the speed, features, and functionality that you need doesn’t mean that it’s going to work with your service provider. Any ISP is going to have a list of modems that work for their network, and most manufacturers list the internet service providers and plans they’ve been certified through. If the model you find has been certified for your provider and plan, you should be good to go and be able to get the most out of your modem.
But if your favorite model hasn’t been officially listed, you may not be out of luck. That’s especially true if you’re working with a smaller provider that doesn’t have as much visibility. Certification requires a provider to test each modem manually. There are way too many models on the market to make testing them all feasible, but most should be built to the specifications of a provider. If you’re unsure, be sure to check out reviews and specs for the modem. Even if it’s not officially approved, it may still work. Just be sure to look carefully at reviews, as you may not get the peak performance you’re hoping to find from your modem. Other users can provide you with a deeper analysis.
IP Address Protocol
Whether you’re looking to upload or download data, any device connected to the internet over a Wi-Fi or physical connection is assigned an IP address. This allows it to have its own unique identity and communicate clearly with other servers and devices that make up the larger structure of the internet. The initial protocol used when internet technology was first developed is known as IPv4, and while it works just fine, there’s one major problem – we’re slowly running out of available IP addresses.
That’s where IPv6 comes in. It allows for more IP addresses to be used, and while that’s a big deal for the future of the internet, it won’t matter much to the average consumer. If you plan on having your modem for years and years to come, getting a cable modem that supports IPv6 protocol might be a smart idea, but it won’t make much of a difference to most users.
A failing modem can cut your off from your internet connection, so if you’re not technically inclined, you may want a model that offers customer support. Many models offer a one-year warranty or two-year warranty with purchase.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Cable Modem to Buy?
We love the Motorola MB8600. While it’s certainly not the cheapest modem around, it’s easily one of the most reliable. It offers incredibly fast download speeds thanks to the channel bonding built in and the inclusion of DOCSIS 3.1 protocol. And not only is it exceedingly quicker than the traditional 300 Mbps download speed modem, but it also offers pretty strong security features.
What is the Best Modem for Xfinity?
That’s a hard question to answer. While the Netgear CM500 is built to handle all the major Xfinity plans, the right choice really depends on your plan, the service in your area, and your personal needs. As long as your model is certified to work with Comcast Xfinity, you can rest easy knowing that it will work to the standards established in its description.
Is it Better to Buy Your Own Modem?
Absolutely. The best cable modem may be more expensive to buy than a month’s modem rent, but it will pay you back dividends sooner rather than later. It’s estimated that it can cost between 120 and 160 dollars to rent a modem, so even the most expensive models should save you money in less than two years. And the fact that you can pick a model that’s more suited to your needs is well worth the upfront cost for most customers.
Should I Upgrade My Cable Modem?
That really comes down to how well your current modem is working. If you currently rent, we highly suggest buying a new modem. Otherwise, check the terms of your existing plan, and then test out the speeds you’re getting from your modem using a free tool like the one that can be found at Speedtest.net.
If you’re shopping for a modem, you don’t have to look anywhere from here. Not only do we break down the most important models, but we also give you the tools to shop for your own. And if you decide that you want to upgrade your wireless internet as well, be sure to check out our guide to the best routers of 2020.