Many of today’s internet users only know the cable modem as that extra device that sits behind the router, plugged into the wall. This begs the question, “why do we need that again?” Well, that modem helps manage all incoming and outgoing data via a cable connection… and it may also be costing you a lot more money than it needs to.
Many of the large internet service providers — Comcast, Cox, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, etc. — charge you a monthly fee for using the modem they intially gave you with your internet service. This often works out to around $100 per year — money you don’t need to spend if you return the modem and buy one of your own. Not sure where to start shopping for the right modem? Then it’s a good thing we made this list highlighting the best around!
Netgear N600 C3700 ($109)
“Wait, I need to worry about a modem and a router? That’s annoying!” If you had this thought, this is the modem for you. The device functions as both a router and modem, which is a handy solution for simple setups. The router is also an N600 dual-band model, which means it’s suitable for most home situations. The modem, meanwhile, is guaranteed to work with most providers, including Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, and others.
Netgear’s device also sports the latest 8×4 channel bonding under the DOCSIS 3.0 standard, which is worth a closer look for those unfamiliar. This little comparison describes the number of downstream channels in relation to the number of upstream channels. If there are more downstream channels, your downloading tends to be faster on average. The eight downstream channels here are equal to a top speed of around 343 Mbps. The 8×4 setup is affordable and also very common in modern modems — all of the modems we picked on this list start with the 8×4 feature, for example.
However, if you have an impressive, high-speed internet service with speeds that go far beyond the norm, it’s probably better to use a brand-specific router or choose one with a better configuration (24×8, for example) to match your potential. These high-speed modems may not be necessary for the average household, sure, but they can be very valuable for businesses, multi-family residences, and other, similar situations.
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Arris Surfboard SB6141 ($69)
The Arris Surfboard line encompasses some of the most popular personal modems in existence, many of which function as viable replacements for rental models. When people are looking for a router, they often find that a Surfboard meets all their needs. This particular version allows you to pick between 4×4 and 8×4 configuration, although our pricing reflects the 8×4 pick. The device features 2GB Ethernet ports, and the router is compatible with common providers such as Comcast, Cox, Charter, Time Warner, and others. It’s not compatible with Verizon FiOS or AT&T’s U-verse, however, which are high-speed solutions that require more unique, brand-centric products. Keep in mind that this router also comes with wireless router capabilities if you prefer, although this will significantly increase the price.
Zoom 5345 ($50)
Are you looking for a basic but dependable modem at a reasonable price? This Zoom model is worth your attention. There are no options for adding router capabilities, and there is no way to increase download speeds beyond the customary 8×4 configuration, but this modem isn’t about adding a bunch of extra features. It’s just a compact, no-frills product that boasts compatibility with most American service providers. Whether you have a wired or wireless router — or prefer to plug your modem directly into your computer — this model should work well with nearly any setup. The modem also includes a 2-year warranty, which is nice to see with a device that needs to be constantly on for your Wi-Fi network to work.
Netgear Nighthawk CM400 ($50)
If you’ve been waiting impatiently for a more robust modem, one that’s capable of much higher speeds, here’s the model that you want. The baseline model of this modem maxes out at 340 Mbps, but there are other options that allow you to achieve speeds of 960 Mbps, assuming you subscribe to an excellent internet service and want to capitalize on it. There are also options to add wireless router capabilities for any of the configuration speeds, which lets you mix and match as you please. Keep in mind, however, that the final price may exceed $200 if you want absolutely everything. Also, note that while the modem is compatible with many common providers, it doesn’t work with cable-bundled voice services. This could be a problem for a VoIP-focused small businesses.
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Motorola MB7220 ($70)
Motorola has recently given its older modem a full upgrade, which allows it to achieve quicker speeds than previous models. In addition to the an 8×4, 343 Mbps configuration, this model also provides a full-band capture digital tuner, meaning it can easily manage different types of data content. The latter feature comes in handy for today’s busy household, where bandwidth is often split between video games, movies, email, websites, and other types of media content. Motorola’s device also comes with a 2-year warranty at no additional cost, and the company claims that the modem’s power surge circuits have been ruggedized for even greater protection.
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D-Link DCM-301 ($60)
At first glance, nothing seems to set this modem apart from other options, including Motorola’s aforementioned model. But there are a few important differences worth noting. First, given the absence of a 2-year warranty and the full-band capture digital tuner, this model is a bit less expensive. More importantly, however, is that it’s naturally compatible with other D-Link products, which makes it a smart choice if you already have a D-Link router, webcam, or network storage device.
TP-Link TC7610E ($45)
If you’re looking for a modem that won’t eat into your wallet, this TP-Link model is a good place to start. While it does include an 8×4, 343 Mbps configuration, it lacks other bells and whistles that would otherwise drive up the price. However, you can opt for an upgraded model if you want higher download speeds and better performance, so long as you don’t mind paying more. Just keep the option for “frustration free” packaging — it actually lowers the price.
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