Keep Your Home Wired to the Web with Cable Modems
While the Wi-Fi routers have slowly started to take over households due to the fact that many new devices can work on wireless connections, there are still cable modems being used all over the world. These devices predate routers by years and are pretty much the first and most common way to connect your computer to the internet. They are quite compact and can be tucked away in the corner with just a small cord going from the device to the connected gadget. The modems are relatively inexpensive and, unlike older dial-up models, offer very high connection speeds though still working via your landline. In fact, the modem can be connected to a router via an ethernet cable to distribute the connection over WiFi if you so wish. Most of the modems you’ll find on the market are made by quite reputable companies such as Motorola, TP-Link, and NETGEAR, some of the most renowned internet techmakers.
There are a few core reasons to get a modem instead of a router. First off, if you want truly high-speed internet, a modem will be a superior choice over a WiFi router, at least for the foreseeable future. The device simply offers a better connection quality and increased throughput. Also, if your PC or laptop is an older model, it may actually be unable to connect to WiFi which leaves Ethernet as your sole option. That kind of circumstance is pretty common in offices so if you’re tired of the Internet at work lagging and bugging out, a cable modem may help you out. However, you’ll have to look for the right modem carefully as not all ISPs are compatible with all devices and, should you choose the wrong one, you’ll only get a headache instead of a high-speed internet connection.
Of course, the market is quite saturated with different models that make the choice complicated, especially if you don’t know much about the technical specs of these devices. While the pick ultimately comes down to your preferences, we did prepare a few tips to help you find the best modem for the task.
How to Choose the Best Cable Modems and What Defines the Quality
We’ll try not to bore you with technobabble or lengthy discussions on ISPs, connection standards, and other complicated subjects. Instead, let’s just quickly run down a list of features you’ll encounter and see which will be key in your choice.
|Features to consider
|This one is pretty broad: you have your 2-in-1 models, built for keeping multiple computers connected, you have WiFi enabled modems and many more. If you’re not feeling fancy, a single-port basic modem will do the job just fine!
|Since ISP choices are usually limited regardless of your area, most modems have the compatibility notes right on the box. So don’t miss the chance to double-check and make sure your device will work with the local ISP.
|Now this parameter is a techy one and we won’t go too deep into it. Let’s just quickly note that most amateur users would prefer a modem that uses the DOCSIS 3.0 as it’s simpler and more widespread. Many models also use the same standard but of an earlier version and while it’s alright as well it is, of course, a downgrade.
|That’s pretty self-explanatory. The higher the speed – the better. If you want your connection to be steady and downloads to be over before you blink – don’t hesitate to pay more for higher speed. After all, you can get rates that won’t be achievable via WiFi, a must for those that often need to download or upload large files.
|Look, your modem likely won’t be huge or anything but it makes sense to get a model that will fit snugly behind your PC or in a nook where it won’t get knocked over.
|Some models are horizontal, some are vertical, and some come with mounting apertures so you can hang the device up on the wall without drilling anything.
|You don’t have to encase your modem in steel but going from a cheap knock-off to a sturdy device that won’t get snapped in two after being bumped off the table is worth a few extra bucks.
|We’ve personally never had issues with our modems but we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – a good warranty means the manufacturer feels secure in their product and that’s a stamp of quality for sure.
So after you’ve made sure the model is compatible with your ISP and offers high enough speeds, just consult these characteristics and you should be able to make an informed choice and find the right one for your home or office.
With No Further Ado, Here Are the Best Cable Modems
|1 RJ45 Ethernet port
|Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Charter, Brighthouse, Suddenlink
|6.4 x 8.7 x 2 inches
|4 RJ45 Ethernet ports, WiFI router
|Comcast, Cox, Spectrum, and more
|680 Mbps Ethernet / 1750 Mbps WiFi
|6.3 x 9 x 1.5 inches
|1 RJ45 Ethernet port
|Comcast, Cox, Mediacom
|5.4 x 5.9 x 8.8 inches
|4 RJ45 Ethernet ports, WiFI router
|Comcast, Cox, Spectrum, Time Warner, BrightHouse, WOW, CableOne, RCN, Mediacom
|375 Mbps Ethernet / 1600 Mbps WiFi
|11 x 10.2 x 2.8 inches
|1 RJ45 Ethernet port
|Comcast, Time Warner, Charter, Cablevision, Cox
|8.78 x 7.2 x 3.82 inches
|1 RJ45 Ethernet port
|Comcast, Time Warner, Charter, Cox, Cablevision
|5.9 x 4.5 x 1.3 inches
|1 RJ45 Ethernet port
|Comcast, Time Warner, Cox
|4.9 x 2 x 6.1 inches
|1 RJ45 Ethernet port
|Comcast, Cox, Spectrum, Mediacom, Suddenlink
|6.4 x 2 x 8.7 inches
|1 RJ45 Ethernet port
|Comcast, Spectrum, Mediacom, Suddenlink
|8.18 x 5.86 x 2.87 inches
|1 RJ45 Ethernet port
|Comcast, Time Warner, and more
|5.4 x 1.5 x 6.9 inches
- The modem takes care of the setup by itself, you only need to plug it in
- It’s compatible with pretty much all major ISPs.
- The main body of the modem is protected from damage by an outer casing.
- We weren’t too impressed with the top speed level.
- The device is kind of bulky for a modem.
It’s tough to say whether the Arris SB6141 is the king of the hill in this case but it’s certainly up there. While the 343 Mbps maximum speed isn’t the highest out there, it’s pretty good even compared to modern WiFi routers. The device works on the widespread DOCSIS 3.0 standard and comes with a 2-year warranty so you know it’s reliable. The modem is encased in a plastic shell that not only keeps it from heating up when it’s on but also protects the device from being damaged in a fall. We did feel like that convenient shell left the modem looking a bit too thick and if you usually just slot your device behind the computer monitor, this one may simply not fit.
One big plus of the Arris SB6141 is how easy it is to install. You won’t need any technical know-how, just plug the modem in, hook up the cables, and you’re set! The device will automatically choose the right parameters and turn on the Internet in a couple of minutes. And you’re not gonna have any troubles with your ISP either as this modem is compatible with pretty much all major providers out there, except for Verizon.
We found a few things to like and a couple of flaws but one thing that’s going to be a universal pro is the price, which is is surprisingly low for a device of this quality. It may be due to the lack of a recognizable brand but that’s certainly not something we care about much.
If your priorities lie not in getting the fastest cable modem but one that will actually work with all ISPs and won’t get broken if a cat knocks it off the table, you may just find what you want in the Arris SB6141.
- The modem includes a built-in WiFi router.
- The manufacturer is offering an unlimited 2-year warranty.
- With 4 Ethernet ports, you can connect several devices to this one modem.
- The list of compatible ISPs is relatively modest.
- The advertised WiFi speeds on 2.4 GHz seem to be a bit overblown.
It’s always easier to choose a product if it’s got some brand reputation behind it and the same can be true for modems, which is how we initially spotted the AC1750 model from TP-LINK. However, digging deeper, we’ve found a few more points of interest as well as a couple of slight gripes.
This model immediately stood out thanks to a built-in WiFi router, which certainly expands its usefulness on top of offering pretty high connection speeds. If you have a 5 GHz connection, the modem will maintain a 1750 Mbps maximum, pretty impressive even from TP-LINK. However, the 2.4 GHz capabilities that promised a similar speed are actually around 345 Mbps at most. It shouldn’t be much of an issue as most devices use the 5 GHz standard but it did sour the impression a bit.
If you still prefer an Ethernet connection, the AC1750 offers a solid 680 Mbps. However, you should definitely read the writing on the box as this modem is compatible with major ISPs like Comcast, Spectrum, and Cox but no concrete answer is available about smaller companies. You might have to call your local provider and ask them specifically about this model.
Last but not least, the TP-LINK AC1750 has four Ethernet ports which means you could connect it to your laptop, PC, and several other devices. It’s a literal upgrade from the regular one-port models and, despite having more ports, the modem isn’t much larger than average.
In the end, while we did come for the TP-LINK brand name, we stayed for the high-speed WiFi and Ethernet access, smart design, and a solid 2-year warranty. It’s a modern top of the line modem and a great choice if you don’t mind paying a bit above the median to get a higher quality product.
- Running on the ultra-modern DOCSIS 3.1 standard.
- The upload speed alone is around 304 Mbps.
- Works with the newest Ethernet cables to guarantee connection stability.
- A few notable absences in the ISP compatibility list.
- The price is certainly quite steep.
Not every high-end device has to be an overly complicated piece of tech and the Netgear CM1000 is proof of that. This elegant and slim modem may not look like much but it bears a high-speed connection and signal stability, two things that will be key if you’re a gamer, enjoy streaming movies in HD, or simply don’t want your internet surfing to feel like it’s still 1999.
The CM1000 uses the DOCSIS 3.1 standard to guarantee a download speed of 1000 Mbps, one of the highest possible. If you set the modem up properly, it keeps upload pretty fast as well at around 300 Mbps and also fixes your connectivity settings to lower ping, a crucial feature for gamers.
We did feel a bit disappointed to see the comparatively short list of the Netgear CM1000’s ISP compatibility. Sure, it’s got the media giant Comcast on its side but Spectrum or Verizon would have been nice as well. And yeah, the price is also not exactly inviting but it is still 100% justified because this is a nextgen device and finding anything of similar quality at a lower cost is pretty much impossible.
By the way, we recommend using the Cat 6 Ethernet cables instead of the widespread Cat 5 as the former work better with the modem and will be more reliable in the long run. In fact, some users report having trouble with download speeds on the Cat 5 cables, which sometimes seem to be unable to keep up with the speedy CM1000.
If you’re ready to pay the admittedly high price, the Netgear CM1000 will take you into the future of cable internet. The device offers 1000 Mbps download speed, lowers your ping, and works on the safe and stable DOCSIS 31. Honestly, it’s the kind of modem that speaks for itself and the only important question here is: are you ready for the future?
- The WiFi coverage area is quite large.
- Those with some tech knowledge will appreciate the many advanced options in the firmware setup menu.
- A huge list of compatible ISPs ensures that the modem will work anywhere.
- Pretty large and tall, which may cause placement problems.
- The price is just a bit too high.
You might recognize Motorola as a phone manufacturer but the company is actually quite adept at making modems. And the MG7540 cable model with a built-in WiFi router is pretty much the best proof of that. While the Ethernet speed on this one is just above average at 375 Mbps, the WiFi connection guarantees a stunning 1600 Mbps. Plus, the coverage area is surprisingly wide, on par with a high-end router.
If you’re the kind of guy that likes to do all the setup manually to ensure the settings are optimal, the MG7540 has something for you too. The firmware that comes with the modem has several advanced menus that you can browse, tweaking anything that you want.
If there’s one thing we’re not too excited about in this modem it’s the design. Sure, it’s not anything bad but it’s very middling and the device is also quite big compared to other models we’ve seen.
Besides, the Motorola MG7540 is compatible with pretty much all ISPs including the lesser known ones so you can be sure the modem will work for you regardless of your internet provider choice.
Don’t let yourself be fooled by the mediocre design, the Motorola MG7540 packs quite a lot in its big body. The modem includes a surprisingly powerful WiFi router and while we wouldn’t have minded higher Ethernet speed the device is a good cable modem overall.
- ISP compatibility is pretty high on this one.
- And, actually, so is the speed.
- The company offers phone and email support should you have any issues with setup.
- Several customers have stated that the device starts to go haywire after about 1.5 years.
- Due to that, the warranty seems too short.
If you’re not looking to spend too much on a modem but still want good speed and guaranteed ISP compatibility, you might like the Netgear CM500. This model is an older one but certainly up to par with some newer modems out there, especially in terms of compatibility. The CM500 works with Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Charter, and Cablevision, which means that just a few areas of the US aren’t covered.
The CM500 isn’t likely to blow anyone away in terms of speed but the 680 Mbps maximum is certainly a respectable level. Note that the modem only has one Ethernet port so it’s used best for basic connections to the internet and not creating networks.
A big point of contention lies in the service life of the CM500. While we’ve seen plenty of satisfied customers, some have claimed that the device starts to have connection troubles after about 18 months. That may be caused by interference as the model is supposedly particularly susceptible to it. But, either way, with that kind of factor we would have preferred a 2-year warranty, just to be safe.
That said, the Netgear CM500 offers pretty good speed and any issues that may arise can be solved via the company’s support line. We definitely found a lot to like about the Netgear CM500 as a budget-friendly version of the company’s high-end models.
- The maximum upload speed of 160 Mbps is pretty good.
- The modem’s body has apertures so it doesn’t get hot while it’s on.
- This model supports IPv6, a newer and more secure connection protocol.
- We weren’t too impressed by the maximum download speed.
- The horizontal placement means the modem will take up more space on your desk.
Here’s another pretty good budget modem that would be a good choice both for office and personal use. The D-Link DCM-301 offers a 320/160 download/upload speed, which may not be enough for 4K streaming but will be more than sufficient for basic internet surfing and downloading necessary files.
Another reason why we like this cable internet modem is its use of IPv6 protocol, which guarantees a more stable and secure connection. It may not be essential for home use but would be handy for transferring work-related files that may contain sensitive information.
We also quite liked the elegant design of the modem with apertures on the top of the device. That way it doesn’t get hot even after a few continuous hours of work, extending service life. Plus, this is one of the smaller modems we’ve seen though the horizontal placement ends up taking more space than a vertical model would.
The ISP compatibility on this one is also pretty broad though there are some notable absences like Verizon, so don’t hesitate to study the full list. And if your ISP is on there, well, we don’t see that many reasons to dislike the DCM-301. It offers a pretty reasonable level of speed and adheres to the modern connection standards so you know that surfing the net will be safe with this model.
- The setup process is quite easy with a guide for beginners.
- The ports and buttons are color-coded so you’ll never mix them up.
- There are vents in the modem’s body to provide ventilation and keep the temperature down.
- The ISP compatibility is kind of low.
- You can’t put the modem on its side or the ventilation and cooling process will be interrupted.
If you don’t have much experience with devices such as cable modems or routers, you might feel intimidated by all the new terms and ports. Luckily, the Motorola MB7420 offers a simple and quite elegant solution. Every single part of this modem is color-coded so you can memorize what cable goes where and how it all works. That way you’ll never press the reset button without meaning to.
Moreover, the firmware that comes with the modem has a detailed guide for you to set everything up properly. While it may be a nuisance to the experienced user, a beginner will surely appreciate a step-by-step explanation of the features.
But convenience isn’t the only thing the MB7420 has going for it as the device offers a pretty high maximum speed of 686 Mbps, enough for comfortable streaming of movies and online gaming. Sadly, that may not be available to everyone as the ISP compatibility on this model is not as broad as it could be.
We’ll say a few more things about the MB7420’s design because it’s hard to pass by the fact that this model has vents to cool the modem while it works. However, that means you can’t put it on its side for horizontal placement as that would cause overheating.
In the end, it’s tough to find any substantial faults in the Motorola MB7420 and quite easy to see how useful it can be. It’s an accessible, affordable, and pretty well-rounded choice both for beginners and experienced users.
- Pretty much the highest speed you can get while using a cable internet modem.
- Great warranty for 2 years.
- A reasonably broad list of compatible ISPs.
- The casing on the modem is kind of bulky.
- Few ISPs will even be able to offer the kind of speed the device supports.
Tired of movies buffering when you try to stream them in actual 4K quality? You could settle for poor quality or, and we’d certainly recommend this option, you could get the Arris SB6190. This modest-looking modem supports a maximum speed of 1.4 Gbps, one of the most impressive stats we’ve seen so far. With that kind of broadband, you could stream several movies on several devices without a second of lag.
Moreover, the Arris SB6190 is compatible with a pretty wide range of ISPs so it can be used in any area of the US. Though we have to admit that few providers will even be able to offer you the kind of speed that the Arris SB6190 is capable of. If you want to get the most out of the device, we recommend coupling it with a large ISP that has good speed plans.
We wish we could praise the design of the SB6190 as much as the other features but it’s pretty average and doesn’t stand out much. The casing is a bit bulky but it’s not much of an issue since the modem is quite small overall.
But, all things considered, design isn’t the deciding factor for something like a modem and we can wholeheartedly recommend the Arris SB6190 based on speed alone. It’s a high-tech high-speed cable modem for a modern household.
- The price is shockingly low for such a high-tech model.
- With 24 downstream and 8 upstream channels, you could stream movies on one device and play games on another with no lag at all.
- The company offers 24/7 tech support for any issues.
- The device is a bit too tall, which may cause placement problems.
- Several major ISPs are not supported.
Want high-speed internet but don’t feel like stretching your budget for an expensive modem? We have a pretty good solution for you in the form of the TP-Link TC7650. This basic model from the renowned company costs far less than most of its competitors and yet it offers a whopping 1 Gbps maximum speed limit. Couple that with 24 downstream and 8 upstream channels and you can be sure that movie streams and online games won’t ever glitch out or lag. Well, provided you’ve got a good ISP, of course.
The latter, by the way, may be an issue as the modem is only supported by a few major companies with the rest either unavailable or not specified. We’d still recommend calling your ISP’s support line and making sure because this is the kind of modem that’s worth the effort.
Even if this will be your very first modem, you should have no issues with setup as it’s all automatized. And if you do have some questions, just contact the 24/7 support line to resolve them!
While we didn’t fall head over heels for the design of the TC7650, the speed definitely won us over and the price was definitely a big factor as well.
- This model is quite compact and will fit in pretty much anywhere.
- The modem supports both IPv6 and IPv4 so your connection will be stable and secure regardless of your provider.
- Pretty good warranty with full customer support.
- The casing seems a bit fragile.
- The ISP list is a bit sparse.
Not every modem needs to come from some easily recognizable brand and the Zoom 5370 is pretty good proof of that. It may not have a familiar name behind it but it offers 686 Mbps of speed with 16 downstream channels. Couple that with an affordable price and you’ve got a hidden gem.
Of course the brand name does have its advantages as that type of device is compatible with more ISPs. The Zoom 5370, sadly, can’t boast a wide compatibility list though it does have the internet giants Comcast and Time Warner on its side.
Moreover, the Zoom 5370 supports both IPv6 and IPv4 protocols for stable and safe web surfing. And, of course, it uses the DOCSIS 3.0 standard but that’s not exactly unusual for many of the better modems.
While we’ve seen modems with higher speed limits and broader compatibility lists, the Zoom 5370 is quite affordable and its maximum speed is pretty good as is. It’s a budget-friendly pick for home use.