9 Best Cable Modems | April 2017

We spent 30 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Paying your ISP to rent one of their cable modems is today's equivalent of renting a handset from the phone company. Sever the umbilical cord, save some money, and improve your internet speed with one of these cable modems. We've included some affordable models through to lightning fast options ideal for gaming and streaming HD and 4K video on a handful of devices simultaneously. Skip to the best cable modem on Amazon.
9 Best Cable Modems | April 2017
Overall Rank: 2
Best Mid-Range
Overall Rank: 1
Best High-End
Overall Rank: 9
Best Inexpensive
The Zoom Model 5345 is backward-compatible with DOCSIS 2.0 and 1.1, in addition to its 3.0 standard, allowing you to use it for an older system that might have an update just around the corner. It comes certified by CableLabs to work with nearly all ISPs based in the US.
  • up to 343 mbps downloads
  • us-based tech support
  • ventilation could be improved
Brand Zoom
Model 5345
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 3.7 / 5.0
The Motorola MB7420 has been certified by a number of leading cable service providers, including Comcast Xfinity and Time Warner Cable among others. Its Full-Band Capture digital tuner also ensures consistently fast internet speeds.
  • lightning and power surge protection
  • easy to install and to set up
  • device gets very hot
Brand Motorola
Model MB7420-10
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
The data rates coming through the Arris Surfboard SB6183 can reach up to 686 Mbps, which is a lot more than most standard and second tier internet providers even offer to their consumers. Its attractive white finish adds an element of sleek futurism to your space.
  • well-ventilated body
  • 2-year limited warranty
  • not compatible with xfinity
Brand Arris
Model SB6183
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0
The Linksys High Speed CM3024 bonds 24 downstream DOCSIS 3.0 channels to reach download speeds up to 960 Mbps. It has the ability to handle high-bandwidth rates of transfer over whatever existing cable lines you have running to your home or office.
  • intel puma 6 chipset
  • quick start guide included
  • obnoxiously bright leds
Brand Linksys
Model CM3024
Weight 2.2 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0
The Netgear CM1000 is one of the first models available that utilizes DOCSIS 3.1, an upgrade to the more common 3.0 technology that runs up to ten times faster than its predecessor. At the moment, however, it's only compatible with Comcast service.
  • 32x8 channel bonding
  • easy self-activation
  • included cable is far too slow
Model CM1000-100NAS
Weight 2.4 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0
The 2-in-1 Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 comes with an extensive troubleshooting manual that can take you step-by-step through any problems you might encounter that your ISP isn't needed to fix. It works with all the major providers, but it's especially effective with Comcast.
  • ac1900 wi-fi routing
  • easy dlna server setup
  • qr code mobile connection
Model C7000-100NAS
Weight 4.9 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0
The Netgear CM700 boasts 32x8 down/up channel bonding, as well as a gigabit Ethernet port for hardwired connections. Its built-in self-activation capabilities allow you to get up and running with your service provider in almost no time at all.
  • download speeds of up to 1400 mbps
  • compatible with macs and pcs
  • support for ipv6
Model CM700-100NAS
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0
The Arris Surfboard SBG7580AC delivers download speeds of up to 1.4 gigabytes per second from 32 bonded downstream channels, making it ideal for environments in which multiple devices require fast internet access for gaming, streaming, and more.
  • doubles as a wi-fi router
  • four 1-gigabit ethernet ports
  • two-year warranty
Brand Arris
Model SBG7580AC
Weight 2.8 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Buyer's Guide

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.

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Last updated on April 24 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.