The 10 Best Cable Modems
10. Arris Surfboard SB6183
8. Motorola MB7420
6. Netgear CM1000
5. Netgear Nighthawk AC1900
4. Arris Surfboard SBG7580AC
3. Motorola MB 8600
2. Arris Surfboard SB8200
1. Netgear CM700
What Type Of Cable Modem To Buy
From a technical standpoint, there are two types of cable modems. You have older, one-way cable modems that run over standard coaxial cable networks. They only offer download speeds up to 2 Mbps and actually have no upload capacity.
Luckily this slow, one-way approach has been mostly phased out by now, and there is very little chance you'll even see this kind of cable modem for sale anymore. The newer type of cable modem is a hybrid fiber/coax modem. These run over HFC cables which are considerably faster and offer download and upload capacity.
From a consumer viewpoint, there are also two types of cable modems, both of them being hybrid fiber/coax models. Since the older one-way cable modems aren't really being sold anymore, they won't have to factor into your decision making. Your choice will come down to standard cable modems and cable modem/router combos.
A standard cable modem will give you access to the internet, but won't provide your home with any WiFi signal. If you have a standard cable modem and you want WiFi, you'll have to purchase a separate wireless router. On the other hand, a 2-in-1 cable modem/router combo gives you both internet and WiFi access from one unit.
Each of these types has their own benefits and drawbacks. 2-in-1 models are more space efficient, as you won't need to find room for two separate units, and they also allow for a cleaner looking installation since there will be less cables and you'll only be using one power outlet.
2-in-1 models also allow you to get setup and running quicker as you don't need to configure two separate devices. They are also easier to troubleshoot. If one part of the device stops working though, the entire unit needs to be replaced and combo units are more expensive than replacing just a modem or router.
Separate units allow for more control over features. For example, with a dedicated router, you can enable a dynamic DNS or prioritize your network traffic using QoS features. You can also install different router firmware if you desire. Dedicated routers generally provide slightly faster WiFi speeds as well. For the average person though, a combo unit can provide everything you need as most people won't know how or why to use these advanced features and the speed boost probably won't be noticeable.
Cable Modems Versus DSL Modems
Both cable modems and DSL modems provide always-on high speed internet access. DSL offers this via the use of a dedicated phone line, while cable modems provide internet access through the use of a shared cable television line.
In theory, a cable modem offers faster internet speeds, but in practice this isn't always true. Because cable networks are set up like shared local area networks (LAN) with many users sharing the same bandwidth, actual speeds can vary dramatically. The more users there are online at the same time, the slower your internet speed will be. You may find that you have blazing fast internet speeds late at night when people are sleeping, but in the evenings, when more people are using the internet, your downstream speeds may be cut in half.
DSL internet speeds are more consistent than cable as each user has their own dedicated line, but at the best of times, cable internet speeds outperform DSL by far. In addition to consistency, another advantage to DSL is better security. Since you aren't sharing a connection, it is harder for a hacker to access your personal network. A big disadvantage to DSL is that proximity to your internet service provider (ISP) can make a huge difference on the actual download and upload speeds you experience. Uploads are also far slower than downloads when using a DSL connection.
Internet Speeds Across America
Every year internet speeds have increased dramatically across the United States and other countries. The average household received speeds of 10 Mbps in 2011, and by 2014 that had jumped up to 31 Mbps. In 2015, the FCC redefined broadband quality internet speeds to be at a minimum of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.
Until recently, cable modem download speeds topped out around 100 Mbps, with uploads maxing out at 8 Mbps. The new DOCSIS 3.1 version has significantly increased that and allows for up to 10 Gbit/s downstream and 1 Gbit/s upstream. Currently though, these new gigabit speeds are only available to select areas of Atlanta, but will soon be offered in Miami, Nashville, and Detroit.
The average cable modem consumer using the newest technology and paying for the highest price plans can expect to theoretically be provided with speeds ranging from 150 Mbps to 250 Mbps. In practice though, most consumers will never actually experience speeds this high. Most people can expect to get 50% to 60% of their ISP's advertised speeds on a consistent basis.