The 10 Best Cable Modem/Router Combos of 2020

Complete your home network with these cable modem/router combos

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown
Best Overall:
Netgear Orbi at Apple
"The clear choice for anyone looking to upgrade their modem/router setup."
"The Netgear C3700 is a sleek and affordable option that provides all the connectivity and more of a rental modem."
Best for Gigabit Internet:
Arris Surfboard SBG8300 at Amazon
"The Surfboard SBG8300 offers download speeds of up to 3.78Gbps, so you’ll be future-proofed to go well beyond even 1Gbps plans."
"This DOCSIS 3.1 modem/router combo delivers true 1Gbps internet speeds with Wi-Fi performance to match."
"A powerful 24x8 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem and AC1900 Wi-Fi router in an unobtrusive package."
"The integrated VPN secures your internet connection and allows for remote access away from home."
Best for Streaming:
Netgear C6250 at Amazon
"Compatible with most major cable providers, the C6250 is built for speed like most Netgear models."
"TP-Link's Tether app lets you quickly enable a guest network, manage parental controls, and more."
"A great little modem/router combo that provides what most users need without the extra frills."
Best for Smaller Spaces:
Netgear Nighthawk C7000 at Best Buy
"A slim and unobtrusive router with great wireless performance."

If you’ve gotten tired of paying monthly rental fees to your ISP and you’re in the market for a new router, why not get the best of both worlds with a cable modem/router combo device? 

There was a time when buying a cable/modem router combo meant that you were getting a single product that did neither thing particularly well, but times have changed, and many leading cable modem and router manufacturers have stepped up to the plate to create premium routers with full DOCSIS cable internet compatibility. In fact, some of the best and fastest DOCSIS 3.1 cable modems now include fast tri-band Wi-Fi routers or even mesh Wi-Fi systems built right in, and there are already new Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax versions on the near horizon. 

So whether you’re simply looking for a basic router that can cover a small apartment, need blazing fast speeds for gaming or streaming, or need whole-home coverage, this list of best cable modem/router combos has you covered.

Best Overall: Netgear Orbi with Built-in Cable Modem

What We Like
  • Speedy performance

  • Whole-home coverage

  • Beautiful aesthetics

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Our testing has consistently showed that the Netgear Orbi is one of the fastest, most reliable routers out on the market, making it the clear choice for anyone looking to upgrade their router for full home coverage, and the good news is that Netgear makes a version of it that includes a built-in DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem for those who want to replace their ISP's cable modem too. Able to handle large spaces, including offices or homes, the Orbi is ready to satisfy all your needs with ease, and even if you don’t need its complete 5,000 square foot coverage, it’s still well worth the price tag to get that reliable connection and excellent MU-MIMO support. Plus, you can set it up and control all of your settings through the very user-friendly mobile app app.

With the AC2200 speed rating, four Gigabit Ethernet ports on each station, and tri-band wireless that offers a dedicated 5GHz backhaul channel for maximum throughput, you’ll have no problems keeping all your devices connected at the fastest possible speeds. While it may struggle a bit with some older 2.4GHz devices due to its single SSID configuration, you can still find a way to connect everything — it may just take a bit of research. Don’t let the price tag scare you; though the Orbi will set you back a fair amount, it's well worth it. You can’t beat the fast connectivity and reliability the Netgear Orbi will bring to your home or office. 

"The Netgear Orbi is one of the fastest and most reliable wireless routers on the market today, making it absolutely worth the high price of admission." — Bill Thomas, Product Tester

Best Budget: Netgear C3700 Cable Modem Router

What We Like
  • Compact design

  • Affordable

  • Solid wired performance

What We Don't Like
  • 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

Best for Gigabit Internet: Arris Surfboard SBG8300 DOCSIS 3.1 Gigabit Cable Modem & Wi-Fi Router

What We Like
  • Fast DOCSIS 3.1 Performance

  • Easy app-based setup

  • Solid Wi-Fi performance

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • 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

Best Range: Netgear Nighthawk C7800 X4S DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem Router

What We Like
  • DOCSIS 3.1

  • Xfinity-certified

  • Easy to set up

What We Don't Like
  • Reported problems with Cox/Spectrum

  • Poor customer support

  • Expensive

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. 

Best Design: Motorola MG7700 Cable Modem and Router

What We Like
  • Simple security management

  • Easy setup

  • Unobtrusive design

What We Don't Like
  • 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

Best Security: Asus CM-32 AC2600 Wireless Cable Modem Router

What We Like
  • Good Wi-Fi range

  • Integrated VPN support

  • Apple Time Machine compatible

What We Don't Like
  • Limited firmware updates

  • Higher latency

The Asus CM-32 is a great choice for Asus fans looking to ditch their cable modem rental, since it combines an Asus AC2600 router with a DOCSIS 3.0 modem built right in. On the Wi-Fi side, you get dual-band AC2600 performance with speeds up to 1,734Mbps on the 802.11ac 5GHz channel plus 4x4 MU-MIMO support so that you can get maximum throughput even when you have multiple devices connected. An integrated VPN feature also helps to secure your internet connection and allows for remote access when you're away from home. 

The integrated cable modem works with most providers and is certified for Xfinity, Spectrum, and Cox, meaning you can get up and running quickly after buying this one and shouldn't even need to call your ISP. 32x8 channel bonding offers theoretical speeds of up to 1.3Gbps, and while many cable ISPs won't let you get this fast over DOCSIS 3.0, this still means it offers performance to spare. Unfortunately, the integrated cable modem means that you'll have to rely on your ISP rather than Asus for the latest firmware updates.

Four Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back let you hardwire in a PC or game console, plus there are two USB ports for sharing printers or external storage, and it's even compatible with Apple's Time Machine, so if you're a Mac user you can use it to back up all of your computers over Wi-Fi. On the down side, while the Wi-Fi router provides great performance on for your wireless LAN, the higher internet connection latency on the cable modem side means this may not be the best choice for gamers. 

"Since manufacturers need to get new firmware versions certified by cable providers before they can release them, purchasing an integrated cable modem and router combo means that you’ll often be at the mercy of your ISP when it comes to getting the latest firmware updates." — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer

Best for Streaming: Netgear C6250 Dual-Band AC1600 Router with DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem

What We Like
  • Fast performance

  • Easy setup

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

Best Management: TP-Link Archer CR700

What We Like
  • Fast Wi-Fi performance

  • Two USB ports for network file sharing

  • Mobile app for simple management

What We Don't Like
  • 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. 

Best for Simplicity: Arris Surfboard SBG7600AC2 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem & Wi-Fi Router

What We Like
  • Inexpensive

  • Good Wi-Fi coverage

  • Simple to set up

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

Best for Smaller Spaces: Netgear Nighthawk C7000 X4 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem Router

What We Like
  • Slim design

  • Xfinity-certified

  • Easy to set up

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks advanced features like MU-MIMO and QoS

  • Expensive

Netgear’s Nighthawk C7000 offers solid wireless performance in a surprisingly slim aesthetic that doesn't look like something out of a bad sci-fi movie, since it packs all of the antennas on the inside rather than letting them protrude in every direction. Even without the external antennas, however, it can cover 1,800 square feet at speeds of up to 1.3Gbps over the 5GHz band or 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz side.

The DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem also offers 24x8 channel bonding for internet throughput of up to 400Mbps, and it's not only compatible with all of the major cable providers, but actually certified for Xfinity by Comcast, Spectrum, and Cox, although there's no phone port so it won't work with cable-bundled voice services. Set up is also a snap thanks to Netgear's easy user interface, so you don't need to be a network engineer to get up and running, although power users who want to get into the more technical settings still can. 

Not only are the Wi-Fi speeds blazingly fast, even in a large home, but the C7000 also provides four Gigabit Ethernet ports for those times when only a wired connection will do. While it doesn't offer any advanced features like MU-MIMO or QoS, it's not a serious omission for most home users considering that the available Wi-Fi bandwidth well exceeds the maximum speed of the cable internet connection.

Final Verdict

If you're looking for a huge speed and coverage upgrade over what your ISP offers, Netgear's Orbi will cover a 5,000 square foot home, giving you all of the features of the company's leading mesh Wi-Fi system with a cable modem built right in. If you're simply looking for something more affordable to ditch your rental fees, however, Netgear's C3700 can probably pay for itself in less than a year.

About our Trusted Experts

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. 

The Ultimate Cable Modem/Router Combo Buying Guide

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.

Netgear C3700

Why Buy a Cable Modem/Router Combo? 

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. 

Cable Modem Standards

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. 

Netgear Orbi
Lifewire 

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.

Channels and Speeds

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.

Motorola MG7700

Voice Services

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. 

Speed and Throughput

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. 

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300
Lifewire / Yoona Wagener

Wireless Frequencies

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. 

Range and Coverage

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.

Wired Connectivity

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. 

Motorola MG7700

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.

Firmware Updates

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. 

Top Brands

Arris

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.

Motorola

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.

Netgear

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. 

Netgear Nighthawk C7000

Conclusion

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.