For those who don’t know, cable modems are basically the devices that are responsible for allowing your computer, as well as other devices to connect, and communicate to the internet through the Ethernet cable. Some cable modems also act as access points, you can wirelessly connect your devices, and use the internet as you like.
Cable modems are usually supplied by your internet service provider. However, in most cases, these cable modems are just barely good enough as compared to the internet they are providing.
One other thing that sucks is that ISPs charge you for these cable modems every month. While this rate is not fixed, most ISPs charge you from $5 to $10 every month. It means that after one year, you would have paid almost 120 bucks for a device which isn't even yours.
In these cases, the best way out is to make sure that you buy your own cable modem. According to Eric Geier of PCWorld: "...Buying your own [modem] is definitely a moneysaver long-term."
Now buying a cable modem shouldn’t be all that difficult, simply go to your nearest computer store, and pick the one that fits your budget, or simply order it online. However, we only wish it was that easier. You see, much like wireless routers, cable modems are technical too, so in order to find the best one, you have to know what you’re looking for.
But before going further, let me clear one thing. Don't BUY a cable modem if you're having another type of internet connection such as DSL. As you know that cable modems use coaxial cable -- the same cable that is used with TVs -- to fetch information. To do that same thing for DSL, there are DSL modems. These modems use copper wiring of Telephone lines for internet access. And also don't buy it if you're planning to use your cable provider for telephone services. It's because these cables modems don't have telephone port.
There are still many people who argue in the favor of the ISP-owned cable modems. Here in this video you'll find some basic arguments about why you may want to not buy your own cable modem.
So you want to dumb your rented modem and get a new of your won, right? In order to make sure your purchasing experience doesn’t lead you into buying the wrong modem, below are some of the things you should be considering when buying a cable modem.
ISP Compatibility with the Cable Modem
Normally, pretty much every single cable modem that is available in the market should work with the internet service provider you have, however, there are some cases of special cable modems in which the modem fails to work for one reason or another.
It’s either too advanced, or too old for the internet speed it has to provide. Before you make the purchase, making sure that the modem you have your eyes set on is supported or not normally is the best way out.
However, if you are someone who isn’t well-versed with these technicalities, the best way would be to ask your internet service provider, or even some networking enthusiast friend. To make things easier for their consumers, many ISPs such as TimeWarner and Comcast have released their respective lists of supported cable modems.
Which version of DOCSIS your ISP supports?
DOCSIS stands for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification.
Besides being a fancy acronym, DOCSIS is an international standard which is used to transfer data via cable TV (CATV) systems. It was first standardized in 1997. Below is some basic information about different versions of this standard and their respective speeds.
- DOCSIS 1.x - 38Mbps Downstream, 9Mbps Upstream.
- DOCSIS 2.0 - 38Mbps Downstream, 27Mbps upstream.
- DOCSIS 3.0 - 152Mbps Downstream, 108Mbps Upstream
- DOCSIS 3.1 - 10,000 Mbps Downstream, 1000 Mbps Upstream.
As you can see, the latest DOCSIS 3.1 is ridiculously fast - at least theoretically. But having a DOCSIS 3.1 modem or even 3.0 modem, doesn't guarantee a faster internet. It's because there is a 2-way process. To give you premium experience, your ISP also has to support these latest standards, and until recently most ISPs in the world have barely made it to DOCSIS 3.0 . To know which version of DOCSIS your ISP supports, you should simply contact them.
Is the Modem Fast Enough?
A common misconception is that the cable modem has nothing to do with the speed of your internet, and while we wish it were true, it’s simply not. The better, high end cable modem will always provide the maximum amount of speed that is possible on the network package you have selected.
Most internet connections in the modern day and age are quite fast in all honesty, in such cases, making sure, that the modem is not some old model that you are picking up from a clearance sale, is the best possible way out.
With that said, do keep in mind that we are NOT asking you to splurge large amount of money on just a modem, just keep in mind that some pretty good options are available even for the budget oriented users.
Even if your connection is not as fast as some of the others you have witnessed, it is always a better idea to get a cable modem that is actually faster because it will help you in the future should you decide to upgrade.
Look into a Modem/Router Configuration
Sometimes, there might be a case when your ISP have provided you not with a single modem, but with a modem/router combination - also called a Gateway. The fact that the modem/router configuration has had a bad reputation for the past couple of years doesn’t seem justifiable. Yes, we know that some entry level combinations are pretty bad and don’t even provide half the performance you’d normally expect, but do keep in mind that there are some high end options available as well to make things better.
So if you're going to replace your ISP-provided gateway, then there are two options for you. Either you can buy a new gateway or you can opt for single modem and router, and connect them together. When buying a new cable modem, you can try and make sure whether or not you want a cable/router configuration. The advantage of having this combination is that if you are living in a place that requires WiFi signals as well, you won’t be needing to buy a separate router just to provide those signals.
There are a handful of cable/router modem configurations available in the market, just make sure that you’re doing the proper amount of research before you go ahead and buy a modem/router configuration.
In case you're manually trying to connect a single router and a modem. Here is a video that can help you setting up a WiFi router with your cable modem.
Number of Ethernet Ports
Once everything is said and then, the last thing you really want to do is basically make sure that you’re checking the number of Ethernet ports that are available on the back of the modem. Now the most common amount is 4. However, some smaller ones have lesser, and some bigger ones have more amount of ports.
These ports are there to provide wired connections, and are often best only for computer since modern laptops, and even some modern computers already have the WiFi module built in. However, an important thing to note here is that if you are someone who’s into online gaming, then it would be better to stick to the Ethernet connection instead of wireless connection.
The reason why we advise you to stick to a wired connection for the online gaming is because latency (also known as ping in the gaming terminology) will actually be a lot better than what you’d be experiencing on the wireless connection regardless of how fast it is.
With that being said, here are some of the current cable modems we have tried so far and here are our thoughts about them.
Netgear N600 C3700
We all love Netgear because of how consistent the company has been over the years, their amazing range of wireless routers continues to impress us, and today, we are looking at the Netgear N600 C3700 cable modem router. It means that you can use it both as a cable modem and as a WiFi router.
Right out of the box, you’re welcomed with the traditional looks of a Netgear product, the C3700 comes in black, and looks great while doing so. However, looks never won us over as we are more INCLINED towards the performance side of things.
Now, the good thing here is that the performance on this cable modem happens to be one of the best we have tested; you are getting an excellent throughput through the 5 gigahertz band, in addition to that, we also found out that the upload and download speed happens to be blazing fast (provided your internet is fast enough). In addition to that, you will be getting one of the best interfaces that allow you to setup the modem relatively easily.
Last but not the least, the cable modem is supported by majority of cable service providers, so you should know that there won’t be any compatibility issues to begin with.
However, not all things will be good with this cable modem, the performance on the 2.4 gigahertz band is not that impressive. The modem itself is expensive, and there are not a lot of granular controls available.
At last, remember I told you guys that this is a cable modem/router combo? Well according to Samara Lynn of PCMag: "...You can use the C3700 as both an excellent cable modem and a perfectly fine wireless router, provided you aren't streaming high-definition video among multiple devices or doing a lot of online gaming."
Excellent performance on the 5 gigahertz band.
Solid design language and build quality.
Really easy to setup.
Comes with support for almost all the major network providers.
- Can also act as a wireless router.
Arris Surfboard SB6141
Not a lot of people know but Arris is a company that works in conjunction with Motorola, and that is one of the reasons why people normally get confused when looking at this modem because it’s known as both Arris Surfboard, and Arris Motorola. Now that the confusion’s out of the way, let’s take a look at it.
Now the first thing you’ll notice about this cable modem is just how small it is, and while that’s a good thing, you’ll also notice that the number of ports is fairly not enough. You’re only getting 1 cable port, 1 Ethernet port, and one power port. Apart from that, there’s nothing on the back.
Needless to say, this cable modem is built for people who have just 1 device to power. However, we’re more concerned by the performance on this little device here. But just in case you want you more ports, there are many network switches to this problem. All you need is a good network switch and connect with your modem.
Going into bit of details, you should know that this modem has a total of 8 downstream channels, and 4 upstream channels, so judging by theory, it means that the maximum download speed should be around 343 Mbps, and the upload speed should be around 131 Mbps.
However, do keep in mind that these speeds are only theoretical because most people don’t even have an internet connection that fast.
Another big advantage this cable modem comes with is that the compatibility issues are almost next to known, which means that this modem can run on pretty much any network provider you choose without really creating any issues.
With so much to offer, is there anything that’s not available in this modem? Well, this may sound odd, but there’s no reset or power button on the modem, meaning you’ll have to do it through the web interface. However, that's not a pretty deal. Some people, like Brian Westover, rate this one as the best cable modem out there.
- Excellent price to performance ratio
- Small form factor
- Large compatibility with almost all the network providers
The next up, we are going to look at Zoom 5345, now a lot of people, including us, haven’t heard about this company, but the reason why this cable modem made it to our list is simple, it comes in an impressive 8x4 configuration, which means that there are a total of 8 downstream channels, and 4 upstream channels.
So, now that we know that this cable modem is capable of some pretty high download and upload streams, we are going to see whether or not it actually is capable of performing.
During our testing, we found the modem to be pretty solid in terms of performance, and the reason why this is surprising to us is because we never really heard of this company before. Luckily, the downloading and uploading speeds remained consistent throughout.
Overall, not much bad things exist about this modem, and considering how it’s really, really cheap. It’s hard to make a proper negative judgement towards it. So, in simpler terms, if it was a $100 cable modem, finding flaws would have been easier, but considering how it’s suitable for budget minded people, it’s actually worth every penny spent on it
- Amazing price to performance ratio
- Good download and upload speeds.
- Simple and easy to use
- Supports majority of networks.
Apart from creating some cable modems in conjunction with Arris, Motorola has done a pretty good job when working alone. The cable modem at hand is the MB7220 by Motorola, and in our experience, one of the best modems supporting the much loved and wanted 8x4 configuration.
Considering how we have talked about the 8x4 configuration time and again, we don’t really need to talk about it anymore, but do keep in mind that there are chances that this modem is actually faster than the internet connection you are running. Yes, you’ve heard it right.
However, is it really good in actual speed tests? Well, the shorter answer is yes. The modem provides exceptionally well, and didn’t manage to drop the connection for the entire week we tested it. The overall unboxing experience was relatively straightforward.
The installation process was even easier, and it took somewhat 10 minutes to fully get this modem up and running. Motorola provides enough instructions within the packaging, and if you’re someone who’s having difficulties, you can call your ISP and get it sorted out.
Speaking of ISPs, a lot of people raise concern about the support, and the good thing about this modem is that it comes with support for almost all the major ISPs. Things couldn’t get any better.
Overall, the Motorola MB7220 is a pretty good cable modem, and while it isn’t laced with most advanced features, what it has will be enough for most users.
- Easy to setup.
- Fast download and upload speeds thanks to the 8x4 configuration.
- Good build quality.
- Support for a wide range of network providers.
Arris SURFboard SB6183
Believe it or not, Arris has quite a lot of amazing modems under their ensemble, and right now, we are looking at the SB6183. The SB6183 is all about simplicity, and it’s built for people who are only concerned about connecting 1 device, as it only comes with 1 ethernet port.
Regardless of that, there’s no point in judging this modem by the amount of Ethernet port available on it, the main thing you’re looking for is the performance, as well as the compatibility, something that we consider really, really important.
Well, the good thing is that this modem happens to be compatible with almost all the network providers that are available in the market right now. The overall process of setting it up is rather simple, and pretty straightforward.
Overall, the performance side of things didn’t really give us any issues, the SB6183 is fast enough to support almost all the network speeds out there, and won’t really bottleneck in the first place. For those wondering, this supports and even better 16x4 configuration, meaning that your download and upload speeds will be super-fast.
The only real issue we faced with this cable modem is that it got hot for some odd reason, and while that didn’t really create any issues, it’s still concerning.
- 16x4 configuration grants top tier speeds.
- Small, and pleasing to look at.
- Easy to configure.
- Compatible with most of the service providers.
Netgear has amassed quite a reputation for themselves when it comes to creating routers or modems, the company is easily one of the leading manufacturers, and judging from all the past experiences that we have had with this company, there’s not much to complain.
The cable modem, at which we are looking right now, is the Netgear CM500, and while the name sounds very uninteresting and boring, the fact that this is a really great cable modem can’t be denied. Yes, we’ve personally tested the modem in order to find the best possible results.
The modem looks good in the traditional black design by Netgear, and offers the super-fast 16x4 configuration, needless to say, you shouldn’t be surprised to know that this modem can take care of some serious internet speeds.
Configuring it is as easy as ever thanks to Netgear’s intuitive and easy to use interface, we didn’t encounter any weird issues. The one thing that we really, really love about this modem is the consistency that we get with the speeds, the modem just didn’t slow down, or disconnect.
However, just like there are good things, we did encounter some issues too, while trying to scour the web interface, we didn’t find a single page telling us the performance stats, an issue also pointed out by Lyle smith from StorageReview.
- Great throughput.
- Easy to install.
- Nicely designed.
- Great price.
As we are almost getting done with the list, we are looking at some of the high end cable modems, and what we have here is the Linksys CM3024. Generally, Linksys is the brand that I have used several times, I’ve used their USB dongles, their wireless routers, as well as their low-end cable modems.
So, when I first laid my eyes on the cable modem, I was really looking forward to see how it performs, after all, it’s the only modem we have tested so far that supports the ridiculously fast 24x8 configuration, meaning that this cable modem has an effective 24 channel of downstream, something that is way too much even for the fastest networks.
However, good things don’t just end there. We have a lot of good features like the looks, and the fact that you can easily setup the modem in less than 10 minutes. The only tricky part that you’ll have to go through will be registering the device with your cable provider, but considering how this modem supports majority of cable providers, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Overall, we have absolutely no complaints with the Linksys CM3024, the cable modem provides ridiculously powerful hardware, rather attractive design, and really easy setup. Alex Hernandez also called this cable modem to be "more than sufficient for most users".
- Extremely fast throughput.
- Well thought design.
- Solid build quality.
- Amazing compatibility.
- Really, really easy to setup.
Every time Netgear bring something new into the market, we are generally excited because we have been reviewing and using their products for ages now. Their routers are some of the finest we have seen, and used. As for today, we’re not looking at a router, but a cable modem from the Netgear named the CM600.
While the naming scheme maybe confusing considering how many products by the CM600 name are available in the market, the modem is actually really, really good. It follows a very simple design language that has been a staple with Netgear in the past, and while it may seem a bit too old fashioned to some, we actually really like it.
Performance side of things remained as impressive as always, the modem comes with a 24x8 configuration, meaning that you will be getting a maximum downstream of 960 Mbps, but do keep in mind that having an internet so fast is not really that easy.
We can only say that as far as our internet was concerned, the performance remained amazing and consistent with the download and upload speeds being as consistent, and maxed out as our internet actually offered.
The setting up procedure is a breeze, and there are no complicated things to look out for, Netgear’s done a fantastic job in designing this modem, and everything feels right.
Overall, there’s no denying that Netgear has done a great job at creating this modem, and even though it’s way ahead of its time, it still offers a lot of features with enough future proofing to keep everyone happy for the foreseeable future.
- Excellent throughput.
- Amazing build quality.
- Easy to use, intuitive setup.
- Compatible with almost all the ISPs.
TP-Link’s TC-7610-E caters to both the enthusiasts, as well as some of the budget oriented users that are in the market by quite a large number. The modem isn’t too powerful, and certainly isn’t too weak.
Needless to say, we are taking a notch down with this one, and looking at something that isn’t breaking the speed barriers, though it is still holding a solid spot for itself, and making the identity it deserves so much.
The cable modem comes with the speed of 8x4, and while it’s not the fastest around the world, it’s certainly not bad considering how you can still get a pretty respectable amount of download speed even with the 8 downstream channels. It’s quite impressive considering how much you’re paying for this modem.
The design of the router is really nice, and looks quite minimalistic while maintaining the overall style language as well. While you may think that you are paying more and getting less, it’s actually not the case at all as this modem is worth every single dime you’ll be spending on it.
The performance side of things remains beautiful as ever, something we already stated. The modem worked gracefully with the internet we have, and didn’t suffer any slowdowns or whatsoever, and in addition to that the whole process of setting it up is really, really easy.
Another good thing is that the cable modem is compatible with majority of cable providers, and registering your device is as easy as possible, completely eliminating the need for complicated procedures.
Generally, TP-Link is a company associated with providing mid-range products, however, that isn’t the case at all since this is nowhere near mid-range, especially when you look at the performance numbers that are actually topping the speeds some users don’t even have.
Overall, the TP-Link TC-7610-E is the perfect cable modem for anyone looking to keep things under the check, however, the higher price tag may trigger some people into making a different decision, but other than that, pretty much everything falls in the right place.
- Great looks and build quality.
- Solid performance.
- Fairly easy installation.
- Compatible with majority of cable providers.
We are finally on the last product on our list before we head into the conclusion, and right now, we have the ever so amazing Motorola MB7420 cable modem, now this is one of our favourite modems just because of the amount of stuff it gives you for the price you’re paying for it.
It costs relatively cheap, and offers a lot, the bonding on this modem happens to be 16x4, meaning that even if you have a really, really fast internet connection, you won’t be having any issues to begin with. However, bonding isn’t the only good thing about this modem. The modem has borrowed a lot of its design from some of the sleeker Motorola phones.
However, here, designs don’t really win us until they are being offered by solid performers, and that’s exactly what the Motorola MB7420 is; the modem is fast, easy to setup, and once it’s up and running, you won’t be facing any sort of issues with the performance, or the consistency of the speeds that you’re getting.
We already stated that this one happens to be a 16x4 bonded modem, and can provide speeds that are really, really high, and in some cases, the modem won’t even utilize its full power mainly because of how people normally don’t have, the internet that fast, in the first place.
Overall, we’d say that we ‘re pretty well pleased with the Motorola MB7420. It’s small, compact, easy to use, supports majority of cable providers, and can keep us happy with the faster downloading, and uploading speeds.
We normally go hard on whatever we are reviewing, but there are times that some products manage to slip past us without being noticed; this one happens to be one of them. However, they slip not because we’re careless, but because we don’t really find any issues in them.
- Built-in lightening and power-surge protection.
- Easy configuration.
- 16 downsteam channels, but you can also choose the ones with lowest traffic.
- Its full-band tuner works with most ISPs, but not with every ISP.
Often times, when writing a roundup like this, waiting for a conclusion can be crucial, some people hate it because there are too many good products, and some people love it because somewhere halfway through the roundup, they have found the winner.
Apparently, we found ourselves in a bit of both situations, and only when we were almost done with our roundup, we found the winner. In all honesty, choosing the best cable modem wasn’t easy, it’s not about the amount of bonding channels, or how good the material is, the best modem in our opinion is something that’s stable enough, and has enough features to keep everyone pleased.
In our opinion, that modem would be the Netgear CM600; this wasn’t an easy decision because this modem was being pitted against the Linksys CM3024, and while both cable modems are excellent with even better support for the cable services. The reason why CM600 won in this case is because it provided the most amount of features from all the modems available on the list. Also, keep in mind, that these were the best cable modems in our experience and in our tests. Your choice may happen to be different than us.