If you’re an online gamer who takes your hobby seriously, then you’ve probably long recognized how important having a good modem is, but having a solid internet connection is increasingly more important even if you prefer single player gaming. With streaming services like Stadia, Playstation Now and XBox Game Pass becoming increasingly more feasible options for playing your favorite games, you need a great modem to provide you with decent performance.
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 provided reviews for 10 of the best models on the market, we also provide you with helpful advice to shop like a pro and extend your search further.
TD;LR - 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 the flamboyance so prevalent in gadgets targeted towards gamers, and its sleek and lightweight design means it's not 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 ensured to get the fastest internet quality 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 just may come in the form of this Asus modem for gaming. It packs both a router and a modem into a single package - a decision that helps ease the fact that it costs around $200. The four Wi-Fi transmits significantly increase both the transmission range and sensitivity for quality performance whether your gaming system is wired up directly or synced up to Wi-Fi.
This is an especially 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 superbly.
3. MOTOROLA MB7220 Cable Modem
The Motorola MB7220 has been certified by all of the major internet providers, so you can trust it to work regardless of who you pay your bill to, and it 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 aspect of this modem for gaming may be the price. You can pick up this model for a retail price of less than $50.
4. ARRIS SURFboard SB6190 Docsis 3.0 Cable Modem
If you want blindingly fast internet 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 upload speed of 262 Mbps.
Most internet providers - including Spectrum, Cox, and Comcast - are supported with this modem, and it offers 32 download 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 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 gaming sessions online.
And if you're looking to create a powerhouse WiFi network, you can trust this modem to work with any router available on the market today. And getting it 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 modem for gaming can achieve a maximum speed of 6 Gbps. That's some of the fastest we've ever seen (and significantly more than all but the most avid gamers should ever need). This isn't a budget modem for gaming by any stretch of the imagination, but its features are very strong.
That 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. What that means is that you can keep your gaming PC or favorite console wired directly to this 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 plenty enough for most gaming purposes as well as 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 secret tech weapon this gaming modem carries 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 to get the advantage of multiple wired connections spread across your gaming devices while still having the advantages that come from wireless internet 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 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 rates of up to 320 Mbps via channel bonding and is compatible with most major ISPs.
It's 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 really benefits if you've already bought into the D-Link ecosystem.
Gaming Modem Buyer’s Guide
A modem, even a modem used for gaming, doesn’t necessitate that 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 streaming. But if you really want the knowledge to pick out the best modem for video gaming, there are some more complicated technical features, technology, and features to look for.
Our review list highlights some of the best modems for gaming, but keep reading if you want 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 you pick 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 much use for gaming if it can’t connect to your cable internet. Review the description for all the cable modems you’re interested in carefully.
Almost all manufacturers will list the providers that their modems support. Especially keep an eye out for whether or not your modem has been certified by a your ISP. This ensures not just that it will work, but that it will work to the highest specifications set by the manufacturer.
Download and Upload Speeds
Download and upload speed listing on a cable modem are pretty simple to understand. Download speeds tell you how much data that a modem can draw data from the internet, while upload speeds tell you how much data you can send from your router or modem over the internet. It’s the most important quality to look for when you need the best modem for online gaming. Upload speeds tend to be much smaller, typically a quarter of the listed upload standard for a modem.
That said, a faster download speed doesn’t mean much if you don’t have an internet plan that can’t keep up. To avoid wasting money on a modem that’s too expensive to 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, and as Wi-Fi becomes the more prevalent method of internet connectivity, many modems tend to come with less ethernet ports.
But if you’re trying to get the fastest online gaming 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 higher download and upload speeds for your best gaming machine.
Modem Router Combos
There’s some confusion among our readers about what the difference between routers and cable modems are, but 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 modems you to save space in your home or office and potentially save money as well. While there’s more of an 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 can’t hurt to check.
But if you really want to boost your performance for gaming, 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 out of your modem’s performance, and you have a powerful internet plan that can support it, channel bonding allows you to achieve 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 feature DOCSIS 3.1. While your initial assumption might be that there’s not a huge difference between these two versions, the opposite is actually true. While DOCSIS 3.0 supports a max download speed of 1 Gbps, DOCSIS 3.1 offers a whopping 10 Gbps.
With the average internet speed in the United States reaching only about 66 Mbps, DOCSIS 3.0 will be more than enough for most gamers, but 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 brings a significantly higher cost.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a Modem or Router Better for Gaming?
In terms of sheer speed and performance, you’re going to generally get faster speeds out of a modem than a router. Of course, that means that you 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 with competitive games, or use streaming services like Xbox Game Pass or Playstation Now, the best routers are actually 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.
Do 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 2020.If you liked our article on modems for gaming, please share and comment below what your favorite product is.