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Lifewire / Bill Thomas
Modem does its job
Intuitive management portal
N300 wireless speed
The Netgear C3000 would have been a good product five years ago. But these days, the weak wireless performance and high price make it hard to recommend.
Most people already have a cable modem in their home, likely rented through an ISP. But if you buy your own modem, you can save some cash on those nasty hardware rental fees. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth if you’re going to invest.
We decided to test out the Netgear C3000 cable modem and router combo to see if this device could be a worthy replacement. And, while it’s definitely nowhere near the most powerful modem on the market, it might be the best bet for the right kind of user. But we’ll say it up front: folks paying for fast internet will likely need to look elsewhere.
The Netgear C3000 is cable modem with an 8x4 DOCSIS 3.0 rating and a slow N300 wireless speed—there isn’t much hardware to pack in here. So it’s a pretty small device, not much larger than a few Blu-Ray cases stacked on top of each other. It measures just under eight inches tall and weighs 0.78 pounds. Combined with the black plastic build, it’s a modem that won’t attract too much attention, which is honestly what we look for. You don’t want something you’ll feel encouraged to hide.
In the back you’ll find the ports, which we’ll go into a bit later, and in the front you’ll find all the status lights. They’re not too bright, but you should still be able to check the status of your network at a glance.
Setting up a cable modem can be a complicated and time consuming process. Not so with the Netgear C3000—when we set it up it was almost plug-and-play. It could be because this modem isn’t the most complex piece of hardware, but it was ready for activation seconds after we plugged it in. We connected via ethernet, launched a browser and within minutes we activated our 250 Mbps Xfinity service. We’re not sure if our experience was a fluke, but we were pleasantly surprised.
On the back of the Netgear C3000, you’ll find two Gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB 2.0, and a Coaxial input. For a modem in this price range, this is pretty much what we expected, but it would have been nice to see more Gigabit Ethernet ports.
There is also Wi-Fi, but it’s only a single antenna—that means no dual-band Wi-Fi here. You’ll be limited to 2.4 GHz and the speed is only rated at N300, which is an extremely dated standard.
This device has an N300 network rating, which means your speeds should top out at 300Mbps on a single band. But your actual network speed won’t reach that. In testing the wireless performance of the Netgear C3000, our wireless speed topped out at 54 Mbps just three feet from the modem. We pay for a 250 Mbps plan, so we were getting about 20% of our rated speed.
The range was also an issue—in short, this will not suffice if you live in a mid-sized home or bigger. Just 300 feet away, behind a wall and a staircase, our wireless speeds dipped all the way down to 15 Mbps. This doesn’t really matter if you live in a studio apartment, but for everyone else, we’d recommend combining this modem with a separate wireless router.
There is a silver lining: the wired performance is reliable. When connected this way, we consistently got our rated 250 Mbps speeds with little to no drops. We spent some time playing The Division 2 while hardwired into the Netgear C3000 and didn’t run into any lag. That’s surprising given that a 8x4 DOCSIS 3.0 modem is capable of just 343 Mbps download speeds. But Netgear delivered where it truly counts: modem performance.
The Netgear C3000 uses the same Genie backend that many of its networking products use. It’s a simple backend that’s easy to understand, laid out as a series of six tiles that will show you the status of your network at a glance. Connected devices, online status, even your network SSID are all displayed prominently. You can click any of these tiles to change their accompanying settings.
There’s also an advanced tab that power users can use, though we don’t think many people will ever need to dig through those settings.
There’s also a Netgear Genie mobile app on both Google Play and the App Store. The app gives you the same controls as the management portal, but with a much more user-friendly interface. This is what we’d recommend most people use to manage their network.
The Netgear C3000 cable modem will set you back a whopping $94.99 at retail. Considering that you can get a 8x4 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem for around $50 and an N300 wireless router for less than $20, it’s not exactly the best deal out there.
If you can find it refurbished—and you’re comfortable buying a refurbished modem—that might bring it down to a better price point. At the time of this writing, we were able to find refurbished models for around $49, which puts it in the same ballpark as a comparable standalone modem.
Unless you’re dead-set on buying an all-in-one device, buying a separate modem and router is going to be the more economical option.
In terms of competition, we looked at the TP-LINK TC-W7960S, which is almost identical spec-for-spec but more a bit more expensive. It will set you back $97 if you’re buying it full price. Fortunately, the TP-Link Modem has two more wired ports so you can have more devices hard-wired in, and you won’t have to rely so much on wireless. Either way, with so many devices these days needing wireless connections, picking up a dedicated wireless router is never a bad idea.
Only buy it if you can find it on sale.
The Netgear C3000 first hit the market more than five years ago, and it might have been worth the price of admission back then. These days, it’s hard to justify spending so much cash on a dated product. The modem gets the job done, but as soon as you rely on the built-in wireless router, you’re going to be in for a disappointment.