The 8 Best Cable Modems to Buy in 2018

Setting up your home network is a cinch with these cable modems

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If you don’t consider yourself tech-savvy, networking hardware might be a bit intimidating — but cable modems are actually relatively straightforward because they only connect to one device: the Wi-Fi router, which routes your signal to your various devices, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones. To help you pick the perfect cable modem for you, we’ve compiled a list of the best available models. We also sent a few home with our thorough testers, who navigated the setup process and measured speeds.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Motorola MG7700

5

The Motorola MG7700 pairs a 24X8DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem with an AC1900 Dual Band WiFi Gigabit Router to deliver high-performance, high-speed WiFi and a reliable connection that can power all of your wireless devices in either a home or office setting. The integrated product, which eliminates annual modem rental fees, allows for 24 data channels to carry data from the Internet, while eight channels can carry data to it. With four 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet ports, the Motorola MG7700 can also provide internet connection for your wired products, whether those be computers, gaming consoles, or HDTVs. Performance and range are further enhanced thanks to AnyBeam’s beamforming technology, and Power Boost technology allows the signal to reach the legal limit, further increasing speed and range.

Additional features include a firewall and parental controls, along with guest access that allows visitors to use your network without gaining access to your personal or private information. The sleek appearance helps minimize clutter while integrating seamlessly with your décor, and its vertical design allows it to cool more quickly and extend its life.

Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best cable modem/router combos.

Best Splurge: NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900

4.9

Let’s say you’re an Internet pro. When it comes to the Web, you want the fastest Internet plan and the fastest modem to handle all those HD video steams or 4K gaming you do. If this describes you, you need to look at the NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 cable modem and router.

The NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 is a speed demon with support for the fastest Internet offerings (up to 960 Mbps) and it can handle dual-band (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) Wi-Fi speeds. On the back, you’ll find four Gigabit Ethernet ports and one USB 2.0 port, so you can plug in directly for the fastest speeds or broadcast via Wi-Fi. It’s also designed to broadcast Wi-Fi widely, so if you have a large house or apartment, you’ll be covered.

This model is compatible with Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox and more cable providers, and we’d recommend this if you have the highest Internet tier from these providers, such as the Comcast Xfinity Blast Pro, Extreme 250 or Gigabit Pro plans. However, keep in mind that this model does not support bundled voice, but if you don't need that you'll be more than impressed with this option.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: TP-Link AC1750 DOCSIS 3.0

4.9

This two-in-one device brings together a high-performance modem with a wireless AC router to build a reliable home network that will let you stream 4K to your heart’s desire. It’s a fantastic modem, so to call the TP-Link AC1750 a runner-up isn’t entirely fair. It offers up to 1750Mbps Wi-Fi speeds with simultaneous 2.4GHz (up to 450 Mbps) and 5GHz (up to 1300 Mbps) bands. It supports bonding of up to 16 downstream and four upstream channels to increase its throughput, and has six internal antennas and high-powered amplifiers to boost signal strength and reduce interference. It claims to have a hassle-free setup, but if you experience any trouble, you can call the 24/7 tech support and rest easy with a two-year warranty.

Best Budget Modem: NETGEAR DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem (CM400-1AZNAS)

NETGEAR DOCSIS 3.0 High Speed Cable Modem (CM400-100NAS)
Courtesy of Amazon.com
4.1

Simple, affordable modems are not very difficult to find, and chances are they’ll all work more or less the same. Whether you go with the $45 TP-Link TC-7610-E or the NETGEAR CM400-1AZNAS, you’re very likely to have the same networking experience. The specs are more or less identical: the latest DOCSIS 3.0 standard, which allows for up to eight downstream channels and four upstream channels; up to 340 Mbps download speeds; and a Gigabit Ethernet port for faster wired access. It also includes a stand, which allows you to store the modem in an upright position in case you’re short on space. In either case, this is a perfectly decent 340 Mbps cable modem that is unlikely to cause many problems.

Best Versatility: ARRIS SURFboard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem

ARRIS SURFboard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem
Courtesy of Amazon.com

If you plan on building out your own network, chances are you either already know a good deal about networking, or you’re in the process of learning. Either way, you probably want to get something that’s versatile — as in, it will allow you to easily switch between Internet service providers. Of course, you also want something that’s fast and reliable. Routers are one of those products categories that include pretty complex technology, but for which there are only a few key specs you need to focus on — namely, speed.

Most available cable modems meet all these demands, but the ARRIS SURFboard SB6141 probably strikes the best balance of all of them. It has something called DOCSIS 3.0 technology, which unites up to eight downstream channels and four upstream channels, allowing for data speeds of up to 343 Mbps (down) and 131 Mbps (up), depending on your ISP, connection and other factors. While there are a few types of DOCSIS cable modems, the 3.0 version is typically the best option in terms of speed.

It also comes in a variety of package speeds, colors, and options, including a modem/router combo.

Runner Up, Best Budget Modem: D-Link DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem (DCM-301)

As you’ll start to see from this list, there’s a fair amount of redundancy when it comes to cable modems. They are for the most part built the same, only varying in design and speed, depending on your individual networking setup. With that said, if you’re on the hunt for something that’s not only simple but also affordable, you’ll do just fine with a sub-$50 modem. In that range, we highly recommend the D-Link DCM-301.

Also enlisting DOCSIS 3.0, it’s up to eight times faster than a DOCSIS 2.0 system, with download speeds of up to 343 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 150 Mbps. If you combine it with a cloud router or network attached storage device, you’ve got a full-fledged home networking solution. Reviewers on Amazon especially like its small footprint, which comes as a nice relief if you’re replacing an older, bulkier unit.

Runner-Up, Best Modem/Router Combo: Motorola MG7750

The MG7750 delivers the speed you’d expect from a modern unit, plus some cool proprietary capabilities. First the modem: this DOCSIS 3.0 device gives you 16 downstream channels alongside four upstreams and a Wireless Power Boost to amplify the wireless signal to increase speed and range. The wireless router is no slouch either, offering two bands at 2.4GHz and 5GHz, plus AnyBeam technology that focuses the connection based on your wireless client so anyone trying to connect will have a reasonably customized focus for a more stable connection. The router also features a firewall and parental control features. There are four ethernet ports on the back and the indicator lights are super bright to better show when it’s working or not.

Best for High-Speed Internet: ARRIS SURFboard SB6183 DOCSIS 3.0

ARRIS SURFboard SB6183 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem
Courtesy of Amazon.com

If you’re connected a fiber-optic network, chances are you have access to gigabit speeds. For most people, 1 Gbps is more than they’ll ever require and probably not worth their money. But for hardcore online gamers or households with many clients all sucking up huge data streams — or if you simply need to have the latest tech — gigabit Internet is like an oasis in a desert of sluggish connectivity. Of course, you have to be willing to pay more to get it, both for the modem and the ISP subscription — and that’s also provided your local provider has fiber optic lines running to your home. If you meet all these criteria, the  ARRIS SURFboard SB6183 is probably the best modem you’ll find. It offers download speeds of up to 1.4 Gbps, with a less powerful option for cable speeds up to 686 Mbps. The gigabit modem will cost you a pretty penny, but if you’re making the switch to fiber it’s just something you’ll have to accept.

Best Value: NETGEAR DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem (CM500-1AZNAS)

The CM500-1AZNAS is a simple, but smart modem that can handle speeds up to 680 Mbps, which means it can handle almost any connection you throw at it. Compatible with Microsoft Windows 7, 8, 10, Vista, XP, 2000 and Mac OS, this modem can work with just about any OS. It also is compatible with most cable Internet providers, including Comcast Xfinity, Time Warner Cable, Charter, Cox and more. It does not, however, work with bundled voice services that some people still use with cable bundles.

When it comes to raw functionality, the CM500-1AZNAS can support 16 downloads and four uploads simultaneously. It can support HD and 4K video streaming, too. And all of this comes in at a price tag of less than $70. 

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent 128 hours testing three of the most popular cable modems on the market. They took them home to use in their everyday activities — browsing the Internet, watching Netflix, and playing games — to find out what the strengths and flaws really were. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these cable modems and we've outlined them here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in a Cable Modem

Speed - The speed of your modem is important, but it’s limited by the speed your data plan provides. If your data plan only serves up 100 Mbps, opting for a modem that delivers more speed than that won’t necessarily serve you. Although, there’s something to be said for future-proofing.

Channels - Channels can clue you in on how fast the modem is. Most mid-range modems have four or eight channels, although there are some 16-channel modems coming onto the market that promise blazing speeds.

Price - Given the low monthly rental costs offered by your ISP, you’ll typically end up spending less than $150 on a modem. If affordability is a top priority, a modem router combo might be a good solution.

Test Results: Motorola MG7700 (Best Overall)

5

What We Like

  • Easy to set up

  • Strong connection

  • Large range

What We Don't Like

  • Could be slightly smaller

Motorola MG7700
Motorola MG7700 combo
Motorola MG7700 modem router
Motorola MG7700

Looking to save even more money and space? Opt for a combo device that merges a modem and a router into one user-friendly, compact model. That’s exactly what the Motorola MG7700 does — making it a top choice that our testers said they would definitely recommend to family and friends. Lifewire reviewers also noticed that they had a visibly stronger connection and larger range while using the MG7700. One wrote that the device was able to accommodate her three smart TVs, multiple iPads, and five smartphones all at the same time without losing speed. “This device got connected within seconds and provided great connectivity throughout my entire house and backyard,” she said, “even in the rooms that weren’t finding Wi-Fi before.”

Test Results: Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 (Best Splurge)

4.9

What We Like

  • Easy to set up for customers of compatible providers (including Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum, and Cox)

  • Attractive design

  • DOCSIS 3.0 connectivity

What We Don't Like

  • More complex setup for customers of non-compatible providers

  • Bulky power adapter

Netgear Nighthawk AC1900
Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 modem
Netgear Nighthawk AC1900
Netgear Nighthawk AC1900
Netgear Nighthawk AC1900

Our testers reported that the NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 cable modem/router combo was sleek and able to accommodate a number of devices without any issues. One tester connected 15 devices at the same time and didn’t experience a lag. He also made a point of testing the AC1900 for speed: “I live in a one-bedroom apartment,” he wrote, “and ran speed tests around my place and got good results — all above 100 Mbps. I stay connected even when I’m outside [on] my deck.”

However, if your Internet provider isn’t compatible with this cable modem, the setup process might not be as seamless. One tester, who is a Verizon Fios customer, wrote that the setup was “more complicated than it would be for a typical cable provider.” However, once the router was set up, this reviewer found the Nighthawk AC1900 to be high-tech and reliable.

Test Results: TP-Link AC1750 DOCSIS 3.0 (Runner-Up, Best Overall)

4

What We Like

  • Slim footprint

  • DOCSIS 3.0 connectivity

  • Easy to set up

What We Don't Like

  • Not many customizable settings

According to Lifewire testers, this modem/router combo was easy to install, reliable, and consistent — plus, they noticed a boost in speed. One of our testers, who had no prior experience setting up a device like this, also said the “easy step-by-step directions with illustrations” made the process very doable for users who aren’t tech-savvy.

Test Results: NETGEAR DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem (Best Budget Modem)

4.1

What We Like

  • Small

  • DOCSIS 3.0 connectivity

  • Simple setup

What We Don't Like

  • Maxed out at 340 Mbps

The NETGEAR DOCSIS 3.0 runs exactly as advertised, and our testers would “absolutely” recommend it to a friend or family member looking for a cable modem on a budget. They also observed that it was simple to set up, and that its small size made it look unobtrusive. As one tester put it, “It works, which I think is all that should matter when it comes to a cable modem.”