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If you're tired of paying rental fees to your cable provider and looking for something better than the relatively basic equipment they offer, then perhaps its time to get a cable modem and wireless router in one package from among the best cable modem/router combos.
The beauty of this approach is that you'll not only save money in the long run, but you can get a much better device in the process. On the cable modem side, you can get a nice performance boost even on your existing internet plan, and if you're willing to spend a bit more you can make sure you're also ready for the future of gigabit internet with a modem that supports the latest DOCSIS 3.1 standards with speeds of up to 10Gbps.
More importantly, though, you'll also get a great Wi-Fi router in the package, which can offer better coverage and faster speeds, and save you the hassle of having to manage and configure two separate devices. The best cable modem/router combos even offer advanced mesh Wi-Fi systems and routers that support the latest Wi-Fi 6 technology, so whether you're in a small apartment or a large sprawling home you can find a combo device that's just right for your needs.
In fact, if you're looking to invest for the future you can not only get some pretty impressive modem/router combos, but the advantage of having everything in one box is that as speeds move beyond 1Gbps you won't need to worry about jumping through hoops to try and get an ultra-high-speed connection between your cable modem and your wireless router using only Gigabit Ethernet ports.
So read on for the best cable modem/router combos that will deliver the range, speed, and performance you need.
Simple security management
Combo unit limits placement locations
Not ideal for larger homes
When it comes to cable modems, Motorola is one of the most reliable names in the business, and the MG7700 combines its solid DOCSIS 3.0 24x8 channel cable modem technology with an AC1900 Dual-Band Wi-Fi router, giving you high-speed Wi-Fi access to the internet in a small and unobtrusive package.
Our testing demonstrates that the MG7700 can handle cable services with speeds of up to 1Gbps and also includes four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, so you can hardwire your PC or gaming console into it if the 802.11ac speeds aren't cutting it for you. On the other hand, it doesn't include a telephone jack, so you wont be able to connect any phone services to the router, which could be a problem if your bundle includes voice. However if you’re ready to stop paying a monthly rental fee on what's most likely a less up-to-date modem, the MG7700 is easily worth the price.
"We found that it delivered outstanding speeds, maxing out our 100Mbps Spectrum plan when hard-wired via the LAN ports." — Don Reisinger, Product Tester
Solid wired performance
Antiquated wireless standard
If you’re getting tired of paying a monthly fee for your modem but don't want to spend a lot of money on a replacement, Netgear offers a sleek and affordable option in its C3700. Offering all the connectivity of a rental modem and more, it's perfect for a small home thanks to its two Gigabit Ethernet ports and dual antennas.
While it offers dual-band Wi-Fi support (2.4GHz and 5GHz), it's important to keep in mind that it's only an 802.11n router, so you won't get blazing fast Wi-Fi speeds, but it's still far more than enough for a couple of users to stream Netflix in full 4K. We think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the performance offered by the wired connection, however, which performs well even with more than a dozen devices connected to your network, as our testing showed. Setting it up is also a breeze—just unplug your old modem and plug everything into the C3700 and you're ready to go.
"At under $100, this modem can probably pay for itself in under a year while still providing the speeds we expect from our service." — Bill Thomas, Product Tester
Fast DOCSIS 3.1 Performance
Easy app-based setup
Solid Wi-Fi performance
No USB ports
If you’re looking at getting true gigabit internet speeds from your cable ISP, you’re going to need a DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem to pull it off, and venerable cable modem maker Arris has you covered with its Surfboard SBG8300, which offers 2x2 OFDM DOCSIS 3.1 channels for download speeds of up to 3.78Gbps, so you’ll be future-proofed to go well beyond even 1Gbps plans.
Like most DOCSIS 3.1 modems, the SBG8300 also supports the more common DOCSIS 3.0 standard, with 32x8 channel support for maximum throughput, meaning that you can invest for the future without having to jump up to a higher speed plan right away.
The SBG8300 also provides Wi-Fi performance to match, with dual-band 2,350Mbps speeds across both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, plus four Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back so you can hardwire in at gigabit speeds as well. Like Arris’ other modems and modem/router combos, it’s also trivially easy to get up and running thanks to the Arris Surfboard Manager app and the fact that it’s already been certified by cable modem providers like Xfinity and Cox for easy installation.
"While some DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems advertise speeds of 1Gbps or higher, most cable internet providers will only give you up to 600Mbps over this standard. To get the fastest possible speeds, you'll need to invest in a DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem." — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer
Advanced Wi-Fi 6 Support
2.5Gbps Ethernet Port
Not compatible with cable bundled voice services
If you’re looking for the ultimate in future-proof cable modem and router technology, Netgear’s Nighthawk CAX80 has you covered—it’s the first modem/router combo that combines the newest and fastest DOCSIS 3.1 cable standards along with advanced 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 support, giving you the most advanced technology available in both the modem and the router.
With DOCSIS 3.1 support, the CAX80 is ready to give you full Gigabit speeds from your cable ISP and even beyond, with two downstream and two upstream OFDM channels that will offer you download speeds of up to 3.78Gbps. This is well more than any cable ISP offers right now, but DOCSIS 3.1 is also the only way to guarantee Gigabit speeds from your cable provider, and there’s also backward compatibility with DOCSIS 3.1, with full-speed 32x8 channel support, so you’re good to go even if your ISP doesn’t offer DOCSIS 3.1 yet.
To make sure that you’re ready to take advantage of these speeds, the CAX80 also features a 2.5Gbps Ethernet port that can be used to connect a single PC or gaming rig for the ultimate in performance, or better yet a downstream hub or switch to share that bandwidth across multiple devices. There’s also support for 802.3ad link aggregation so you can combine two of the four Gigabit Ethernet ports into a single 2Gbps link, and of course the high-speed 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 performance will ensure that your wireless devices are also getting maximum throughput, even on the busiest home networks.
While the CAX80 doesn’t come cheap, when you consider that it could very well be the only cable modem/router combo you ever need to buy it could well be worth the higher price of admission, especially when you add in what you’ll be saving on rental fees.
Easy to set up
Reported problems with Cox/Spectrum
Poor customer support
If you're looking to take your network performance up to a whole new level, Netgear's Nighthawk C7800 is worth a closer look. It's one of the first modem/router combos to include a built-in DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem, so it not only works with all of the major cable providers right out of the box, including Xfinity by Comcast, Cox, and Spectrum, but supports the kind of broadband speeds that were once the exclusive domain of fibre connections, with download performance up to 1Gbps.
The beamforming four-antenna array also delivers AC3200 Wi-Fi speeds of up to 3.2Gbps across 3,000 square feet of living space—1Gbps on the 2.4GHz band and 2.2Gbps in the higher 5GHz range. If the wireless speeds aren't fast enough, four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports let you hardwire in your gaming console or PC directly, and there are two USB 3.0 ports to hook up printers or external hard drives, plus built-in DLNA support to stream your media directly to your smart TV or game console.
Good Wi-Fi coverage
Simple to set up
Limited advanced features
Arris may not be a well-known name in routers, but they’ve been making cable modems from almost the beginning, and the Surfboard SBG7600AC2 is the company’s latest DOCSIS 3.0 modem/router model, with 32x8 channel support that Arris promises can deliver download speeds as high as 1.2Gbps, and thanks to Arris mobile Surfboard Manager app you can be up and running in no time at all without needing any advanced networking expertise.
On the Wi-Fi side, the SBG7600AC2 offers dual-band AC2350 speeds across both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands with enough range for a small-to-medium-sized home, so it's more than adequate for streaming Netflix and even gaming for single users and small families, and there are also four Gigabit Ethernet ports if Wi-Fi congestion is a problem.
Built-in support for XFINITY Voice
Two voice ports
Only works with Comcast XFINITY
If you’re also using your cable ISP for your voice telephone service, your options for replacing your rental cable modem will be a bit more limited, as you’ll need to make sure it also has a voice gateway built in. Fortunately, Motorola’s MT7711 offers all of the great features of the company’s other cable modem/routers while also supporting Comcast XFINITY voice service.
With support for 24 upstream and 8 downstream DOCSIS 3.0 channels, along with AC1900 Wi-Fi performance, this router is no slouch either. It supports cable internet speeds of up to 400Mbps, while also providing two XFINITY Voice compatible phone ports, and on the router side the dual-band Wi-Fi offers both 2.4GHz and 5GHz coverage, plus beamforming to help focus and boost your wireless signals for better range and performance and four Gigabit Ethernet ports around back.
The MT7711 is also incredibly easy to get up and running with Comcast XFINITY, since it’s designed specifically for Comcast’s internet service, offering a Quick Start that will let you register it with your account and have it up and running in minutes with a minimum of fuss, and there’s also an optional battery backup module you can add to make sure your telephone service stays up if there’s ever a power outage.
Limited to just 2 ethernet ports
If there’s one thing that’s a must for internet connections, it’s the ability to keep up with streaming; the last thing anyone wants is for Netflix or Hulu to stop mid-episode. And when you’re relying on your internet service provider’s rental modem, that could be a serious concern. So, when you’re ready to drop the rental, it’s time to check out the Netgear C6250.
Compatible with most major cable providers—except Verizon, AT&T, CenturyLink, DSL providers, DirecTV, DISH, and any bundled voice service—the C6250 is built for speed like most Netgear models. Working with plans up to 300 Mpbs, it will give you up to 1500 square feet of wireless coverage for 25 devices.
Perfect for an apartment, office, or even a large home, and every device will be connected and ready for streaming without any lag or buffering. Plus, it comes equipped with two Gigabit Ethernet ports and one USB port for any wired needs you may have. It also boasts great durability.
Fast Wi-Fi performance
Two USB ports for network file sharing
Mobile app for simple management
No support for voice services
Middling file transfer speeds
TP-Link is known for making some pretty affordable and reliable Wi-Fi routers, so fans of their products will appreciate the Archer CR700, which takes their AC1750 dual-band Wi-Fi technology and pairs it with a 16x8 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem, all in one slim package.
Thanks to 16 downstream channels, the CR700 is suitable for some of the fastest cable internet plans typically available, up to 680Mbps, with a dual-core CPU and dedicated modem processor able to handle both your cable internet traffic and your Wi-Fi connections, offering up to 1.3Gbps of throughtput for 5GHz 802.11ac devices. The six internal beamforming antennas also ensure that you can get stronger Wi-Fi signals in more distant corners of your house.
The CR700 is also easy to set up for most major cable ISPs, requiring only a web self-activation or phone call, as it's certified by most of them, and it can also be managed through TP-Link's Tether app for your iPhone or Android device, which lets you quickly enable a guest network when you need it as well as managing parental controls and scheduling access times.
Motorola's MG7700 is a reliable workhorse that pairs a high-performance DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem with a router that should easily meet the needs of most households. If you're looking to stay ahead of the technology curve, however, then Netgear's CAX80 will give you the best of both worlds in a 10Gbps-capable DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem and an advanced 802.1ax Wi-Fi 6 router that will guarantee you're ready for the future of high-speed internet.
Jesse Hollington is a freelance writer with over 10 years of experience writing about technology and three decades of experience in information technology and networking. He's installed, tested, and configured just about every type and brand of router, firewall, wireless access point, and network extender in places ranging from single-family dwellings to office buildings. university campuses, and even coast-to-coast wide-area network (WAN) deployments.
Bill Thomas is a Denver-based freelance writer who covers technology, music, film, and gaming. They began writing for Lifewire in January 2018, but you can also find their work on TechRadar. Bill has also worked as an editor at Future.
Don Reisinger is a full-time freelance writer based in New York City. He has been covering technology, video games, sports, and entertainment for more than 12 years. His worked has appeared in Fortune, PCMag, CNET, eWEEK, Slashgear, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and more.
A good cable modem/router combo unit can ensure that you not only get the fastest internet speeds from your cable provider but also offer the kind of Wi-Fi performance and range that you need to meet the streaming and gaming needs of even the busiest homes.
Combining the cable modem and the router in a single device gives you one less piece of equipment to worry about managing, and many can offer even tighter integration with your cable service as well as improved security and performance since you don't have to worry about whether your router will actually talk to your cable modem properly, which can especially be a challenge if your still relying on the cable modem that your ISP provides.
Although many cable ISPs now offer cable modems with built-in routers, they often focus too much on the cable modem side and not enough on the router side, resulting in solutions that may be okay for casual surfing in an apartment or small bungalow, but are seriously underpowered for anybody looking for fast performance or expansive coverage.
If the cable modem/router combo that you're renting from your ISP isn't meeting your needs in terms of Wi-Fi range or performance you'll end up needing a standalone router anyway, and if you're going to go down that road you can just as easily purchase a router that already includes a cable modem for about the same amount of money and lose the monthly rental fee in the process.
In addition to saving money, you'll also end up with an integrated solution that's far easier than trying to figure out how to bypass the router that you ISP has already provided you with. Some ISP-supplied modem/router combos don't even let you fully disable their router features, which can make it even more of a hassle to add your own standalone router into the mix. A cable modem/router combo means that you only have to manage and configure a single device and there you won't have to worry about any potential compatibility issues.
Since a cable modem/router will replace your actual cable modem, you'll want to pay attention to the actual cable standards it supports to make sure that it’s compatible with your provider and that you’re getting the maximum performance from your internet service plan.
All cable modems use an international telecommunications standard known as DOCSIS, however there are several versions of the standard, each supporting faster speeds and better security features. At this point, the very leading edge standard is DOCSIS 3.1, which can provide a theoretical maximum throughput of 10Gbps.
Although you won't find any ISPs that offer anywhere near those kinds of speeds yet, purchasing a DOCSIS 3.1 compatible cable modem/router combo can be a great future-proofing investment to ensure you'll be ready for faster speeds when they do come. All newer DOCSIS standards are compatible with older ones, so you'll have no problem using a DOCSIS 3.1 modem even if your cable ISP only supports DOCSIS 3.0 right now.
It's also worth mentioning that although DOCSIS 3.0 technically supports speeds of up to 1Gbps, very few cable ISPs offer much better than 630Mbps on DOCSIS 3.0, so if you want to take advantage of the newer 1Gbps plans, you'll likely need a DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem anyway.
The downside of course is that DOCSIS 3.1 modems are still fairly expensive, so unless you're already on a really high-speed internet plan, you'll have to weigh the additional expense against when you'll actually expect to be getting faster internet speeds.
Note that while you may still find cheaper modems around that use older DOCSIS standards, these days DOCSIS 3.0 should be considered the bare minimum, as it not only offers better performance but fixes a number of security problems that plagued the older standards.
The DOCSIS standard used by your cable modem determines the maximum performance that's possible, however not all cable modems will take advantage of the full capacity. This is especially true of DOCSIS 3.1 cable modems, since there's no point in building modems to support 10Gbps internet plans that aren't likely to be available anytime soon.
The actual performance of a cable modem is determined by the number of channels that it supports, and this is usually expressed as the number of download channels by the number of upload channels. So, for example, a "32x8" DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem would offer 32 download channels and 8 upload channels.
Each channel offers a fixed speed according to the DOCSIS standard that's being used. For DOCSIS 3.0, each download channel is 43Mbps and each upload channel is 31Mbps, and these are simply additive, so a 4x2 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem will offer download speeds of 172Mbps (43Mbps X 4 channels) and upload speeds of 62Mbps (31Mbps X 2 channels). On the other end of the spectrum, a 32x8 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem, which is the fastest currently available, will give you download speeds of 1,376Mbps and upload speeds of 248Mbps, assuming your ISP supports that many DOCSIS 3.0 channels, although we noted earlier, most don't.
If you're considering a DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem/router combo, don't be scared by the lower number of channels, however. DOCSIS 3.1 channels are much faster than DOCSIS 3.0 channels, with each one offering 1.89Gbps download speeds or 0.94Gbps upload speeds. So even a 1x1 DOCSIS 3.1 modem can run circles around a 32x8 DOCSIS 3.0 modem, although when running in DOCSIS 3.0 mode, it naturally still has to use the slower channels, so you'll often see the DOCSIS 3.0 channels listed as well, although it's pretty rare to find a DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem that doesn't support at least 24x8 DOCSIS 3.0 channels.
If you subscribe to voice telephony services through your cable ISP, this can make your situation a bit more challenging, since you'll need to find a cable modem/router combo that can act as a voice gateway. These are considerably less common.
Don't despair if you can't find one, however, as you might be able to continue using your ISP-provided rental modem strictly as your voice gateway alongside a better cable modem/router combo for your actual internet access. Unfortunately, this means you'll still have to keep paying for your rental modem, but you'll get all of the other advantages of an integrated cable/modem router combo.
If you find yourself in this situation, however, we recommend checking with your ISP before purchasing a new cable modem/router combo, as not all ISPs allow you to use two cable modems on the same service. On the other hand, some ISPs can also offer you a more inexpensive rental modem that acts only as a voice gateway.
As we explained earlier, the performance you get from the cable modem side of a modem/router combo will be determined by the DOCSIS standard and number of channels it supports, as well as by your actual internet plan, of course.
However, when buying a modem/router combo, you also need to consider the router side of the equation, since you'll want to make sure that you can get the maximum speeds that your ISP and cable modem are offering you. Unless you have a fairly basic internet plan, this means you'll want support for relatively modern Wi-Fi standards.
On the Wi-Fi side, a cable modem/router combo works the same as any other wireless router, meaning you'll be choosing from the same Wi-Fi standards and frequencies, such as 802.11n and 802.11ac, which have recently been redesignated as Wi-Fi 4 and Wi-Fi 5, respectively, in order to make it easier for consumers to understand the relationship between them.
As the new numbering system implies, Wi-Fi 5 is better than Wi-Fi 4, and it's the fastest standard that's in widespread use right now. Most Wi-Fi 5 routers will have a speed rating that begins with AC and represents the maximum total throughput in Mbps. So an AC1900 router will offer you 1,900Mbps, or 1.9Gbps, an AC3000 can do 3Gbps, and so forth. Similarly, older Wi-Fi 4 routers offer similar ratings, starting with the letter N instead. You may also have heard of the Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax, but while there are a few standalone routers out that offer support for this leading-edge standard, Wi-Fi 6 cable modem/router combos are still just emerging. Nonetheless, while it's nice to invest in technology for the future, it will be a while before you're likely to need Wi-Fi 6 in your home, or really even be able to fully take advantage of it.
Keep in mind, however, that these ratings represent the maximum total throughput for all of the devices on your network, which is the reason that these higher numbers are so important. You may not think you need an AC1900 router if you only have a 200Mbps internet connection, but remember that if you have a dozen devices using your Wi-Fi at the same time, they're all sharing that bandwidth.
The other thing that's important to understand is that Wi-Fi 5 routers are almost always at least dual-band routers. This means that they operate on two separate frequency bands—2.4GHz and 5GHz. This generally allows for better performance by placing your fastest devices on a higher frequency band that's less prone to congestion and interference.
The 2.4GHz band is the most common Wi-Fi frequency, and it's been used for over 20 years. Almost every Wi-Fi device on the planet supports 2.4GHz as a minimum standard, and this is the only frequency that most older devices and inexpensive internet-of-things devices support.
However, since the 2.4GHz frequency range is also used for a lot of other things, including cordless phones, walkie-talkies, garage door openers, and baby monitors, it's a pretty crowded place. It's also subject to interference from things like microwave ovens. Hence the architects of Wi-Fi decided to begin using the 5GHz frequency range in order to avoid these problems, and as an added bonus, higher frequencies also offer faster throughput. Wi-Fi 4 devices could optionally use the 5GHz band, while Wi-Fi 5 devices use it exclusively when operating in 802.11ac mode, although all Wi-Fi devices are backward compatible with older standards, so a Wi-Fi 5 device can still fall back to using the 2.4GHz band when a strong enough 5GHz signal isn't available, although you'll get slower performance.
In addition to dual-band routers, you can also find tri-band routers, which can be a boon if you have a really busy home with a lot of Wi-Fi 5 devices. As the name implies, a tri-band router offers a third band, in the form of a second 5GHz band, to help separate your high-performance devices to reduce congestion. Keep in mind, though, that this is a second 5GHz channel, so it will do absolutely nothing for your 2.4GHz devices. The additional 5GHz band won't double your performance for a single Wi-Fi 5 device either, as it can only use one band at a time. Tri-band routers are about improving performance by reducing congestion, so they're really only necessary if you have a lot of high-speed Wi-Fi 5 devices on your network.
It's also important to note that the AC speed ratings on dual-band and tri-band routers refer to the total speeds across all of the bands, which means that you'll definitely never see the maximum throughput from a single device. For example, a dual-band AC1900 router often provides 1.3Gbps on the 5GHz band and 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz side, and an AC5400 tri-band router will divvy that up even further, perhaps offering 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and splitting the rest between the two 5GHz channels. This is why tri-band routers have higher speed ratings.
You'll want to get a cable modem/router combo that can provide solid Wi-Fi coverage throughout your entire home, but if you only live in an apartment or small bungalow, don't buy more than you need—unless you think you'll be moving into a bigger home soon, of course.
Even the most basic Wi-Fi routers will cover an apartment or smaller home without any serious challenges, but if you live in a larger home, you'll want to pick something up that offers external antennas with beamforming support, or maybe even look into a mesh Wi-Fi system.
Bear in mind that there's more to getting good coverage than just raw distance, as you'll want to make sure that your router can still offer good performance at the periphery of its range. Some routers have performance that drops off faster as you move farther away from the router, and this is even more common on the 5GHz channel, which offers less range and penetrates solid objects more poorly than 2.4GHz does, meaning that your Wi-FI 5 devices may be forced to switch back to the slower standards as they lose 5GHz coverage. Just because you can get a signal at the opposite end of your home doesn't mean that you'll be getting a fast signal.
Just because you have a wireless router doesn't mean you necessarily want to be giving up on wired connectivity, especially if you have a fast cable ISP connection. If you or one of the members of your household is into online gaming, you'll definitely want room to wire in for the best performance, since unless you have a gaming-centric router, the latency over Wi-Fi will make it unsuitable for playing fast-paced games online.
So make sure that your router has enough Ethernet ports for the devices you'll want to plug in, and if you have an internet plan that offers speeds above 100Mbps, you'll want to get one with Gigabit Ethernet ports to take maximum advantage of your plan.
One of the potential disadvantages of cable modem/router combos is that the firmware for the router is often tied to the modem firmware, which means you can't update one side without updating the other. This often means that important firmware updates can be delayed while manufacturers wait for the big cable ISPs to certify them to make sure they're compatible with their networks.
In most cases this usually isn't a big deal, unless of course you're dealing with a security vulnerability or a serious bug that needs to be patched, in which case you may find that you'll be waiting longer for an update than you would be if you simply had a standalone router.
While you may never have heard the name among router brands, when it comes to cable modems Arris is actually one of the oldest names in the business, with a wide array of small and unobtrusive cable modems. While Arris' cable modem/router combos are fairly spartan on the router side, they're really easy to setup and provide decent coverage for smaller spaces.
Like Arris, Motorola is a household name in cable modems, and has logically extended into offer units with built-in Wi-Fi routers as well. However, Motorola brings its strong background in radio technology to product some surprisingly solid Wi-Fi routers, especially considering that they don't sprout large antenna arrays.
Approaching the cable modem/router family from the other side is Netgear, one of the most venerable names in Wi-Fi routers. The company offers quite a collection of both wallet-friendly and higher-end premium routers, even including a version of its top-rated Netgear Orbi that also packs in a cable modem.
Opting for a cable modem/router combo no longer means that you need to compromise on either the cable modem or the router, as more companies begin packing in leading-edge DOCSIS cable modem technology into some of the very same premium routers that you can buy in standalone form.
So if you're looking to stop paying to rent your cable modem, and you're in the market for a new Wi-Fi router as well, a cable modem/router combo can be a great way to kill two birds with one stone. You'll have one less device to manage, fewer compatibility issues to worry about, and less wiring to fuss with. Unless you have really specialized needs, a cable modem/router combo can be a win all around.