Best Cable Modems 2020

These are the modems you’ll want to look at when you’re ready to ditch the monthly rental fee on your internet bill.
  • Best for Most

    NETGEAR CM600

    Price: $89.44
    Download speeds: 400 Mbps
  • Best for Speed

    MOTOROLA DOCSIS 3.1

    Price: $169.98
    Download speeds: 1,000 Mbps
  • Best Router Combo

    ARRIS SURFboard SBG6900AC

    Price: $109.97
    Download speeds: 300 Mbps
  • Best for Budgets

    TP-Link DOCSIS 3.0

    Price: $41.79
    Download speeds: 300 Mbps
  • Best for Gaming

    NETGEAR Nighthawk C7000

    Price: $189.65
    Download speeds: 400*& Mbps
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There are plenty of ways to get lightning-fast internet these days, like satellite and fiber. But cable is still the fastest (in most locations) and often the cheapest option available. You just have to make sure you’ve got a modem that’s up to the task.

Your cable internet company will probably try to convince you to rent a second-rate modem for $10 (or more) a month. But for many people, it makes more sense to buy a modem outright. You’ll get a better device, and it’ll be cheaper in the long run.

This cable modem review will lay out the best models for different kinds of users. But first, let’s go over a few things to consider when buying a modem:

  • Modem vs. router: A modem connects to the Ethernet cable that comes from your wall. A router is a device that connects the modem to other devices, either through Ethernet cables or through Wi-Fi networks. Sometimes modems and routers and built into a single device.
  • Compatibility: All of the modems listed here are compatible with most major cable companies, but you should always check with your individual provider to make sure that the modem you want is approved.
  • Speed: Internet speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). Cable modems are rated by how many Mbps they can handle. Sometimes modems are also rated by their “channels,” which describe how fast information can be downloaded and uploaded through the device.

NETGEAR CM600: Best for most

Netgear CM600 router - Our pick for best for most

Check out this fast, reliable, and affordable modem from your favorite 1990s Silicon Valley hardware company.

NETGEAR is one of the most well-known names in the modem/router industry, which makes sense given that it’s been around since 1996 (way back when AOL was sending all those free trial internet CDs to your house).

The CM600 is the company’s simple, mid-grade modem that’s a fantastic mix of speed, reliability, and affordability. It uses DOCSIS 3.0 technology, is compatible with every major cable provider, and boasts some impressive user reviews.

Here’s a deeper dive into the CM600’s specs.

NETGEAR CM600 details
Price*$89.44
Download speeds400+ Mbps
Channels24 x 8
Modem technologyDOCSIS 3.0
Warranty length1 year
More infoView on Amazon

*Price effective 10/10/19.

Why we like NETGEAR CM600

Picking a good modem is kind of like picking a good car. You don’t necessarily want to spring for the expensive sports car that has all the fancy gadgets. Instead, you want a car that’s actually affordable and practical for your everyday life.

Well, the NETGEAR CM600 is like the Toyota Camry of cable modems. It’s reliable, great for small or mid-sized families, and it won’t break the bank.

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What does “24 x 8 channels” mean?
It’s complicated, but basically, the higher that number, the faster your internet connection will be.

The first number (in this case, 24) is the number of “downstream” channels you have, or how fast your ISP can send information to you. The second number (in this case, 8) is the number of “upstream” channels, or how fast you can send information back to your ISP.

So basically, 24 x 8 means you have a solid peak download speed and a pretty standard download speed. Make sure you’re getting a modem with enough channels to match your needs!

Running on DOCSIS 3.0 technology and sporting 24 x 8 channels, the CM600 can handle download speeds up to 960 Mbps (though it’s best used with cable internet speeds of 400 Mbps or lower). This should be plenty of power for most people, considering the fact that the average American household’s internet speed is around 33.88 Mbps.1

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What is DOCSIS 3.0 vs. DOCSIS 3.1?
DOCSIS stands for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification. Basically, it’s just a fancy way of describing the technology that makes internet access possible on existing cable networks that were originally built for TV service.

The 3.0 in DOCSIS 3.0 just means it’s the third version of the DOCSIS technology. While DOCSIS 3.0 is the most commonly used form of the technology, it’s not the newest or most advanced.

DOCSIS 3.1 allows for much faster cable internet speeds, and is beginning to be used in household modems. There is even a DOCSIS 4.0 that has been developed, although it’s not in any commercially available household modems.

But the thing that really makes NETGEAR’s CM600 cable internet modem special is its compatibility. Whether you’ve got Xfinity’s Blast! Pro plan, Cox Internet Ultimate, or some other cable internet plan, this device will work for you.

Pros

  • Compatible with all major cable providers
  • Fast enough for most households
  • Relatively affordable

Cons

  • Not optimal for super-fast internet connections

Who is the NETGEAR CM600 best for?

  • Small-to-mid-sized families: Most families will probably want an internet plan in the 100–300 Mbps range (enough to stream/game/download from 5+ devices at once). This modem has the power and reliability to keep everyone connected at those speeds.
  • Urban professionals: You want a modem that’ll optimize your speeds even during those peak use hours (when everyone in your apartment is online at once). This modem will keep all of your awesome gadgets connected without interruption.
  • Gamers: While the most hardcore gamers should look into the Nighthawk C7000 (read about it below), this modem will work great for those who just like to unwind with a little PS4 after work.

The CM600 is just one model in NETGEAR’s CM cable modem series, which includes slower (and cheaper) modems like the CM400, and some faster (and pricier) modems like the CM1200. And if you’re looking for a cable modem with phone line connection, you can get the CM500V.

Motorola DOCSIS 3.1 - Our pick for best speed

MOTOROLA DOCSIS 3.1: Best high-speed cable modem

Live life in the fast lane (or just binge The Walking Dead) with this next-generation modem.

The next generation of super-fast cable internet speed has arrived, and super-fast modems along with it. This reliable Motorola DOCSIS 3.1 modem will keep you connected at gigabit speeds, whether you’re running a small business or a big family.

Here’s a deep dive into the best high-speed cable modem on the market.

Motorola DOCSIS 3.1 details
Price*$169.98
Download speeds1,000+ Mbps
ChannelsUses OFDM subcarriers (or 32 x 8 when using DOCSIS 3.0)
Modem technologyDOCSIS 3.1 (also DOCSIS 3.0 equipped)
Warranty length2 years
More infoView on Amazon

*Price effective 10/10/19.

Why we like the Motorola DOCSIS 3.1

If we had to say what we liked about this modem in a single word, it would be this: speed. If we had two words we’d say: so fast. If we had three—you get the idea.

The Motorola DOCSIS 3.1 supports Ethernet bonding to reach download speeds up to 6 Gbps. (That’s fast enough to download a two-hour HD movie in about four seconds!) But most folks will probably just use it with standard gigabit speed internet (which is still ludicrously fast).

Gamers will be happy to hear that this modem is also equipped with active queue management (AQM), which limits internet latency. That means faster loading of webpages, clearer video conferencing, and less lag in Fortnite.

The Motorola DOCSIS 3.1 is made for speed, but it can still work with a slower connection.

This cable modem also has DOCSIS 3.0 technology built in, which means that it can work with slower internet connections, all the way down to 1 Mbps. If you want to buy a modem for your 50 Mbps internet now, and think you might upgrade to gigabit speed internet in the future, the Motorola DOCSIS 3.1 could be a great investment.

Speaking of investments, this modem comes with a two-year warranty. (That’s twice as long as NETGEAR’s warranties!) We love a long warranty like this, given the finicky nature of internet hardware.

When it comes to compatibility, the Motorola DOCSIS 3.1 isn’t as universally supported as the NETGEAR CM600, but it does work with nearly every major cable company, from Xfinity to CableOne. The notable exception is RCN. (RCN customers who want DOCSIS 3.1 technology can check out the NETGEAR CM1000.)

Pros

  • Ultra-fast speeds
  • 2-year warranty
  • Decent compatibility

Cons

  • Pricier than slower models

Who is the Motorola DOCSIS 3.1 best for?

  • Small businesses: Do you need to upload a huge file for a client? Do your customers expect lightning-fast Wi-Fi even during peak business hours? Do you need exceptional speed for your legal research database? The Motorola DOCSIS 3.1 will get you what you need.
  • Big families: A gigabit internet connection run through the Motorola DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem will be more than enough speed for Brady Bunch–sized families (or even Big Love–sized ones).
  • Shared houses and apartment buildings: The Motorola DOCSIS 3.1 can help you stay on good terms with your roommates by keeping the internet flowing fast and steady.
ARRIS SURFboard - Our pick for best modem and router combination

ARRIS SURFboard SBG6900AC: Best modem-and-router combo

Take the cable out of your cable internet with a built-in Wi-Fi connection.

These days, “What’s your Wi-Fi password?” is often the first question people ask when they walk through the door. So it makes sense that many cable modems are sold with a built-in Wi-Fi router.

The ARRIS SURFboard SBG6900AC is a cable modem and Wi-Fi router combo with a superb mix of speed, reliability, and affordability. We aren’t the only ones who think it’s great. With almost 25,000 user reviews, this machine still has a 4-star rating on Amazon!2

ARRIS SURFboard SBG6900AC details
Price*$109.97
Download speeds300+ Mbps
Channels16 x 4
Modem technologyDOCSIS 3.0
Warranty length2 years
More infoView on Amazon

*Price effective 10/10/19.

Why we like the ARRIS SURFboard SBG6900AC

Being able to plug in a single device to get both internet connectivity and Wi-Fi networking is awesome. Having that single device work well and last for years is even better.

The ARRIS SURFboard SBG6900AC is known for its overall reliability, and it has a two-year warranty to back it up in case something does go wrong.

Besides being reliable, this modem/router is decently fast. It uses DOCSIS 3.0 technology (like most modems) and has 16 x 4 channels. It also comes with four gigabit Ethernet ports, so you can hook it up to your Xbox or computer directly for an even speedier connection.

Pros

  • Modem/Wi-Fi router in one
  • Affordable
  • Very reliable

Cons

  • Doesn’t work with the fastest internet plans

Who is ARRIS SURFboard SBG6900AC best for?

  • Small-to-medium-sized families: If your family usually has three or four different mobile devices connected to the internet at once, the ARRIS SURFboard is the perfect device to keep everyone streaming.
  • Dorm rooms: The ARRIS SURFboard is cheap, simple, and durable. It’s practically designed for college dorm rooms.
  • AirBnB rentals: Your guests are going to want Wi-Fi, but you don’t necessarily want to give them your personal Wi-Fi password. The ARRIS SURFboard is a cheap and simple way to set up an independent internet network for your rental.

TP-Link DOCSIS 3.0: Best for budgets

TP-Link DOCSIS 3.0 - Our pick for best budget router

This modem will pay for itself after just a few months of skipping those rental fees.

If you’re thinking “Who needs the best when you can get good enough for half the price?” then this is the modem for you.

The TP-Link DOCSIS 3.0 modem has the same speeds and uses basically the same technology as more expensive brands, all without breaking the bank. It’s the perfect match for your cheap-but-fast cable internet plan.

Let’s take a closer look at this economical little machine.

TP-Link DOCSIS 3.0 details
Price*$41.79
Download speeds300+ Mbps
Channels16 x 4
Modem technologyDOCSIS 3.0
Warranty length2 years
More infoView on Amazon

*Price effective 10/10/19.

Why we like the TP-Link DOCSIS 3.0

Sure, the TP-Link DOCSIS 3.0 is cheap, but that’s not the only thing we like about it.

This modem can handle internet connections up to 300 Mbps (which is way more than most people need), comes with a two-year warranty, and is compatible with almost every major cable company.

The only complaint we really have about the TP-Link DOCSIS 3.0 is one that’s common to cheaper modems: poor heat dissipation. That basically means the modem has problems with overheating, which can cause components to shut down, interrupting your connection.

Pros

  • Cheap price
  • 2-year warranty
  • Good compatibility

Cons

  • Can overheat

Who is the TP-Link DOCSIS 3.0 best for?

  • College students: It can be hard to choose the perfect modem when you haven’t even chosen your major, so maybe just settle for the cheap and decent TP-Link DOCSIS 3.0.
  • Small families: This modem is great for families that only have a few devices connected at once and can live with potential outages due to overheating.
  • Anyone who wants to save money: Seriously, this is a really good deal for a modem with this much speed.

If you dig the price tag on the TP-Link DOCSIS 3.0, but want something with a built-in Wi-Fi router, you’re in luck. The TP-Link Archer CR500 cable modem and Wi-Fi router sell for just about $50 more on Amazon.

NETGEAR Nighthawk C7000 - Our pick for best modem for gaming

NETGEAR Nighthawk C7000: Best for gaming

Don’t let your modem be the weakest link in your gaming setup.

So you’re signed up for one of the best internet plans for gaming, but your modem’s high latency is totally messing up your kill-death ratio. It’s time for an upgrade.

The NETGEAR Nighthawk C7000 is a deluxe modem and Wi-Fi router combo that will give you the kind of powerful, seamless connection that you need for modern gaming.

NETGEAR Nighthawk C7000 details
Price*$189.65
Download speeds400+ Mbps
Channels24 x 8
Modem technologyDOCSIS 3.0
Warranty length1 year
More infoView on Amazon

*Price effective 10/10/19.

Why we like the NETGEAR Nighthawk C7000

The C7000 isn’t the fastest cable modem and Wi-Fi router in NETGEAR’s Nighthawk line (that distinction goes to the C7800), but the C7000 costs less than $200, and its download speed of 400+ Mbps is more than enough to support even the most advanced games.

For the fastest connection, you’ll want to plug your device directly into the Nighthawk modem using one of its four gigabit Ethernet ports (it also sports two USB ports). But don’t write off this modem’s built-in Wi-Fi router.

If you want to have multiple gaming devices connected at once (LAN party, anyone?), it’s much easier to use a Wi-Fi network than to run cables through multiple rooms. With this modem, you’ll get network coverage for 1,800 square feet without losing virtually any speed.

Sure, the Nighthawk C7000 isn’t the cheapest electronic purchase you’ll make this year. But it is compatible with almost every major cable internet company, including Xfinity, Cox, and Spectrum.

Pros

  • Fast speeds
  • Tons of ports
  • Modem/Wi-Fi router in one

Cons

  • A bit pricey

Who is the NETGEAR Nighthawk best for?

  • Gamers of all stripes: This modem will keep you connected as you wreak mayhem all across the Borderlands or quest through the new Iceborne expansion without any pesky lag or latency issues.
  • Renters with a ton of roommates: Got a house full of people who all love to stream and game the night away? Then you’ll need a better connection than most.

Recap: The best cable modems

When you’re ready to ditch the modem rental and invest in some quality hardware, these devices are a great place to start. Of course, even the best modem can’t fix a bad internet plan. So make sure you’re using one of the best cable internet providers before you purchase anything.

Best for most: When it comes to overall value, no cable modem can beat the NETGEAR CM600. It’s got the speed and reliability that most families want and it won’t use up all of your Christmas bonus.

Best for speed: The MOTOROLA DOCSIS 3.1 is the Maserati GranTurismo (or at least the Ford Mustang) of cable modems. It’s fast. Very fast.

Best modem/Wi-Fi router combo: You can ditch the cables and connect every device in the house to the ARRIS SURFboard’s wireless network. It’s pretty sweet, and if you don’t believe us just check out the Amazon reviews.

Best for budgets: The TP-Link DOCSIS 3.0 is good enough for most people, and it’s about half the price of compatible modems.

Best for gaming: If you spend more time streaming to Twitch than you do streaming Netflix, then you should probably get your hands on the NETGEAR Nighthawk C7000.

These are our picks, but we want to know what you think. Do you love your NETGEAR modem? Do you have a complaint about your ARRIS device? Tell us (and other readers) all about in the comments section!

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Sources

  1. Speedtest, “United States
  2. Amazon, “Customer Reviews