If you’re an online gamer who takes your hobby seriously, then you’ve probably long since recognized the importance of having a good modem, with solid internet connections becoming increasingly more important even if you prefer single-player gaming. Although streaming services like Stadia, Playstation Now and Xbox Game Pass are becoming increasingly more feasible options for playing your favorite games on a budget, you’ll still need a great modem to provide you with decent performance.
When shopping for a modem, there are a number of key factors to keep in mind. Naturally, you should first and foremost consider the features and capabilities that most matter to you. Beyond this, factors such as the download and upload speeds offered by your internet service provider, the space you’re working with, and your ideal budget should each play a role in your purchasing decisions.
Fortunately, HotRate has your back. We’ve put together this guide to direct you through the process of shopping for the best modem for gaming. While we’ve curated reviews for 10 of the best models on the market, we will also provide some helpful advice to help you shop like a pro and extend your search further.
TL;DR - 10 Best Modems for Gaming:
- NETGEAR Nighthawk Cable Modem CM1200
- Asus DOCSIS 3.0 Modem Router Combo
- MOTOROLA MB7220 Cable Modem
- ARRIS SURFboard SB6190 Docsis 3.0 Cable Modem
- NETGEAR Cable Modem CM1000
- MOTOROLA MB8600 DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem
- ARRIS SURFboard SB8200 DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem
- Linksys CM3024 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem
- TP-Link 16×4 AC1750 Wi-Fi Cable Modem Router
- D-Link DOCSIS 3.0 (DCM-301) Cable Modem
1. NETGEAR Nighthawk Cable Modem CM1200
If you want a modem for gaming that you can trust to work regardless of your internet provider, the Netgear Nighthawk is up to the task. We've already praised the Netgear Nighthawk router in our guide to the best gaming routers of 2020, but their companion modem is an equally impressive piece of equipment. The design is aesthetically slick without so much of the flamboyance so prevalent in gadgets targeted towards gamers, and its sleek and lightweight design means it isn't going to crowd your gaming desk.
This gaming modem also makes use of link aggregation that combines two 1G ports into a single 2G port, so your preferred computer or gaming console will be sure to get the fastest internet speeds available in your home.
2. Asus DOCSIS 3.0 Modem Router Combo
If you don't want both a modem and router crowding up space in your home, the best solution may just come in the form of this Asus modem for gaming. It packs both a router and a modem into a single unit - a decision that helps to cushion the fact that it costs around $200. The four Wi-Fi transmitters significantly increase both the transmission range and sensitivity to ensure quality performance whether your gaming system is wired up directly or synced up to Wi-Fi.
This is a particularly great choice for gamers with more than one system due to the presence of MU-MIMO technology. It also comes completely configured so you can just plug it in and trust the Wi-Fi network to work its magic.
3. MOTOROLA MB7220 Cable Modem
The Motorola MB7220 has been certified by all major internet providers, so you can trust it to work regardless of who you pay your bill to. It also features a compact and attractive design that will blend into the environment while still providing you with the power and performance you deserve. And for those with less technical knowledge, this modem can be set up and ready to go in a matter of just a few minutes.
Then there's the full-band capture digital tuner that makes sure you get reliable speeds in any circumstance. But the best feature of this gaming modem may be the price, ready for you to pick up at a retail price of less than $50.
4. ARRIS SURFboard SB6190 Docsis 3.0 Cable Modem
If you want blindingly fast internet speeds and have a good router on hand, the Arris SURFboard is one of the best choices available to you. While it only offers one ethernet port, this modem for gaming can deliver a one-gigabit connection that can provide you with a download speed of up to 1.4 Gbps and an upload speed of 262 Mbps.
Most internet providers - including Spectrum, Cox, and Comcast - are supported with this modem, and it offers 32 download channels and 8 upload channels for a better level of connectivity and speed that's perfect for the most serious of gamers.
5. NETGEAR Cable Modem CM1000
The Netgear CM1000 is compatible with most major providers and has been certified by both Cox and Comcast Xfinity to ensure that it meets the standards of all of their plans. This modem for gaming is best used for internet plans of up to one gigabit, and unlike many high-speed modems, making it ideal for everything from watching 4K videos to engaging in high-intensity online gaming sessions.
And if you're looking to create a powerhouse Wi-Fi network, you can trust this modem to work with any router available on the market today. And getting set up can be accomplished in less than five minutes since all you have to do is plug your computer into the ethernet port for configuration.
6. MOTOROLA MB8600 DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem
The transfer speeds on the Motorola MB8600 are truly phenomenal. This gaming modem can achieve a maximum speed of 6 Gbps, one of the fastest we've ever seen (and significantly faster than all but the most avid gamers should ever need). This isn't a budget modem by any stretch of the imagination, but its features are very impressive.
This modem includes A Broadcom chipset for extensive protection against denial of service attacks and support for the latest DOCSIS 3.0 protocol. This modem for gaming is compatible with any router you can imagine and works with most IPS', including Spectrum, Cox, and Comcast Xfinity.
7. ARRIS SURFboard SB8200 DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem
In terms of both aesthetics and internal design, the SURFboard SB8200 is functionally the same as the aforementioned SurfBOARD we reviewed with but one noticeable difference. It includes a second ethernet port, which means is that you can keep your gaming PC or favorite console wired directly to the modem for the best speeds around and still have space to maintain a reasonably fast Wi-Fi network for all of your other devices.
But where this modem for gaming really excels is in its transfer speeds. Using the latest DOCSIS 3.1 technology, the SB8200 can achieve faster speeds of 10 Gbps, just so long as your ISP plan is capable of keeping pace.
8. Linksys CM3024 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem
With a maximum download speed of 300 Mbps, the Linksys CM3024 isn't the fastest modem on our list, but it will be more than enough for most gaming purposes, simultaneous HD streaming, and web surfing. And you don't need to be a technical whiz to make this gaming modem work. Just plug it in and you should be ready to go.
But the trick up this gaming modem's sleeve is the Puma 6 chipset - an inclusion that provides for some of the best consistency and performance in terms of high-speed performance on both the downstream and upstream channels.
9. TP-Link 16×4 AC1750 Wi-Fi Cable Modem Router
The AC1750 from TP-Link combines a modem and router into a single package, and that's a great choice if you want the advantage of multiple wired connections spread across your gaming devices while still having the advantages that come from wireless connections for your more casual devices. This modem supports simultaneous 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands and offers download speeds of almost 2 Gbps.
The channel bonding options here are also incredibly flexible, giving you access to a total of 16 downstream channels and 4 upstream channels. It makes use of six powerful internal antennas and a dual-core processor for powerful performance without interruption.
10. D-Link DOCSIS 3.0 (DCM-301) Cable Modem
Unlike most modems on our list, this D-Link modem sits horizontally. It's an interesting design choice, and while this probably isn't the modem to look for if you have Google Fiber, it's a more than adequate choice for most gamers. It supports download speeds of up to 320 Mbps via channel bonding and is compatible with most major ISPs.
This is not a model that's likely to wow you, but it's a reliable workhorse that you can pick up for a decent price. This is a DOCSIS 3.0 modem that could really benefit you if you've already bought into the D-Link ecosystem.
Gaming Modem Buyer’s Guide
Even a modem used for gaming doesn’t necessitate too many specs to worry about. Speed should obviously be your top priority, as a faster modem can provide you with a more meaningful gaming experience, particularly for gamers who want a device they can use for cloud streaming. But if you really want to know how to pick out the best modem for video gaming, there are some more complicated technical features, hardware, and features to look for.
Our review list highlights some of the best modems for gaming, but keep reading if you want to gain a more comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the technology that goes into a modem for gaming.
The very first thing you should consider before picking out a modem for gaming is whether or not it offers support for your cable internet service provider. Even the best modem isn’t going to be of much use for gaming if it can’t connect to your cable internet. Be sure to carefully review the description for any of the cable modems you’re interested in.
Almost all manufacturers will list the providers that their modems support. Keep an eye out for whether or not your modem has been certified by your ISP. This ensures both that it will work and that it will do so to the highest specifications set by the manufacturer.
Download and Upload Speeds
Download and upload speed listings on a cable modem are pretty simple to understand. Download speeds tell you how much data that a modem can draw from the internet, while upload speeds tell you how much data you can send from your router or modem over the internet. Upload speeds tend to be much smaller, typically a quarter of the listed upload standard for a modem. These are the most important qualities to look for when looking for the best modem for online gaming.
That said, a faster download speed doesn’t mean much without an internet plan that can suitably keep up. To avoid wasting money on a modem that may be too expensive for your needs, find a product that matches or exceeds the maximum download rate that your internet plan offers. If you plan on keeping your modem for a long time, you may want to aim a little higher so that you’re future-proofed in case you upgrade to a different plan later.
Number of Ethernet Ports
The goal of a cable modem is primarily to serve as the source for your internet connection rather than as a means to direct the internet directly to your devices. As Wi-Fi becomes the more prevalent method of internet connectivity, many modems tend to come with fewer ethernet ports.
But if you’re trying to get the fastest online gaming speeds possible, you may want to consider a modem that comes with more than one ethernet connection. A wired internet signal is almost always going to be faster and more stable than a wireless signal. Just keep in mind that hooking up multiple devices directly to your modem can be logistically difficult.
One of the best choices is to invest in a high-speed modem that includes two ports. This will allow you to hook up both a router and your primary gaming rig to the modem at the same time, giving you access to wireless connectivity for your everyday devices and ensuring higher download and upload speeds for your best gaming machine.
There’s some confusion among our readers over the difference between routers and cable modems, but in short, these products serve different purposes. A modem connects directly to your cable line and serves as a hub for your internet, while a router plugs directly into your modem and transmits the connection into a wireless signal. A router usually also comes with extra ports so you can hook up many more devices at the same time.
A modem-router combo combines the best of both worlds into a single device. Routers with in-built modems allow you to save space in your home or office, and could potentially save money too. While there’s a larger upfront cost, you don’t have to worry about hardware issues when connecting a separate cable modem and router. Whether or not a combo device is the right choice will largely depend on whether or not you already have the best router for your needs.
Upstream and Downstream Channels and Channel Bonding
When data flows through your modem, it’s not as if it’s passing through a single tube. Instead, different pieces of data are delivered through multiple channels. This allows for more efficient delivery of information since it allows for multiple pieces of data to be delivered simultaneously. Knowing the maximum download and upload speeds of your modem is more important than knowing how many upstream and downstream channels it possesses, but it also can’t hurt to check.
If you really want to boost your gaming performance, that’s where channel bonding comes in. Also known as ethernet bonding, channel bonding allows you to combine together two separate channels, essentially allowing you to double your output. If you really want to make the most of your modem’s performance, and you have a powerful enough internet plan to support it, channel bonding allows you to achieve up to double the performance.
DOCSIS stands for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification – the protocol that allows your provider to deliver internet to your modem over cable connections. Most modems support DOCSIS 3.0 protocol, but the best tend to feature DOCSIS 3.1. While your initial assumption might be that there’s not a huge difference between these two versions, this is far from the truth. While DOCSIS 3.0 supports a maximum download speed of 1 Gbps, DOCSIS 3.1 offers a whopping 10 Gbps.
With the average internet speed in the United States only reaching about 66 Mbps, DOCSIS 3.0 will be more than enough for most gamers. However, if you want to prepare yourself for the latest and fastest download speeds, it may be worth the money to invest in a DOCSIS 3.1 model. Just keep in mind that this added technology carries with it a significantly higher cost.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a Modem or Router Better for Gaming?
In terms of sheer speed and performance, you’re generally going to get faster speeds from a modem than from a router. Of course, that also means that you will need to hook up your gaming devices directly to your modem, but if you want fast download speeds for streaming games or playing MMOs or competitive games, finding a way to connect your favorite compatible devices can be well worth the effort.
Is it Better to Buy Your Own Modem?
Without a doubt. While buying a modem may mean paying more of an upfront cost, it will quickly make up for the money you spend on rental fees. A modem rental can cost you as much as $120 a year depending on the offer you get from your cable internet provider. And buying your own modem as opposed to keeping a rental means that you can get a fast, high-speed model built for your particular gaming needs, rather than worrying about whether the model your ISP provides supports your needs.
Are Gaming Routers Worth It?
If you regularly play MMOs, engage in competitive games, or use streaming services like Xbox Game Pass or Playstation Now, the best routers are going to be those built with online gaming in mind. They offer some of the most impressive power around and tend to come with specialized features designed specifically for gaming.
Does a Modem Affect Internet Speed?
Absolutely. Every modem is listed with a maximum limit for upload and download speed. If the internet connection speeds offered by your ISP exceed the capabilities of your modem, you won’t get the most out of your plan. That’s why it’s important to review what you’re paying for through your ISP and find a modem that matches it in terms of performance.
If you want a modem that can supercharge your online gaming experience, we’re here to help. Our guide covers everything you need to know, whether you intend to pick up a model from our reviews or cast your net wider. And if you want to pair your gaming modem with a router, be sure to check out our guide to the top routers of 2021.If you liked our article on modems for gaming, please share and comment below what your favorite product is.