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After researching nearly 100 cable modems over the past five years, we recommend the Motorola MB7621 if you have cable internet and you want to stop paying your internet service provider a separate modem rental fee. You can recoup the cost of the modem in as little as eight months—and then start saving up to $12 each month.

The Motorola MB7621 is reliable, supports the fastest internet speeds available to the vast majority of Americans, and offers compatibility with just about every non-gigabit plan from every cable internet service provider in the US—including Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum (formerly Time Warner, Charter, and Bright House), Cox, Suddenlink, Sparklight/Cable One, and WOW—which gives you flexibility if you move or switch ISPs. The MB7621 works well for plans up to 600 megabits per second, because it’s a DOCSIS 3.0 modem that can handle 24 downstream channels and eight upstream channels. It also includes a two-year warranty.

The Netgear CM600 is a 24×8 DOCSIS 3.0 modem that supports the same performance levels as the Motorola MB7621, though it is slightly more expensive. The biggest downside is that, although the CM600 has positive reviews from owners, it comes with only a one-year warranty, whereas most modems come with a two-year warranty.

America’s average internet speeds measure around 180 Mbps, depending on which survey you pick. If your plan is in that range and you don’t intend to upgrade beyond 300 Mbps anytime soon, we recommend the Netgear CM500. The CM500 matches the ISP compatibility of the pricier CM600, but its maximum download and upload speeds are lower (300 Mbps on the CM500 versus 600 Mbps on the CM600, though Suddenlink certifies it for 500 Mbps speeds). The CM500 has a good reputation for reliability, but like the CM600 it comes with only a one-year warranty.

(We recommend 16×4 modems like the CM500 even if your plan would work with a slower modem, because ISPs are dropping support for 8×4 modems. You'd save barely any money up front and have to replace your modem years earlier, so we don't recommend it.)

If you already have a gigabit internet plan and your ISP allows you to use your own modem, the Motorola MB8600 is the best of the DOCSIS 3.1 modems that are widely available right now because of its relatively low price and its two-year warranty. You’ll need a DOCSIS 3.1 modem to guarantee gigabit speeds from most cable ISPs, and the MB8600 is also compatible with gigabit internet on networks that still use the DOCSIS 3.0 standard; for example, Sparklight/Cable One supports both DOCSIS 3.0 (32x8) and DOCSIS 3.1 modems for its GigaOne service.

Don't get a gigabit modem unless you already have gigabit service or know it's available. The added expense of the DOCSIS 3.1 modems isn’t worth it until you’re on one of these new (and pricey) plans—especially since your ISP may roll out gigabit over fiber rather than cable. And they may not even let you bring your own modem once they do roll out gigabit service.

Modem compatibility list, updated March 2021

1 Suddenlink told us that all DOCSIS 3.0 modems will work with the company’s service. But you should call Suddenlink to verify compatibility before purchasing.

Everything we recommend

Why you should trust us

Before joining Wirecutter, Joel Santo Domingo tested and has written about PCs, networking products, and personal tech at PCMag and PC Magazine for more than 17 years. Prior to writing for a living, Joel was an IT tech and sysadmin for small, medium, and large companies.

Who this is for

You should buy a cable modem if you’re currently paying a fee to rent one from your ISP. Most ISPs charge $10 a month to rent a modem—that’s $120 a year, every year, on top of what you’re already paying for internet access. (Altice and Spectrum include the modem-rental cost in their current internet plans, but if you haven’t changed your plan in a few years, you may still be paying a rental fee; give Altice or Spectrum a call to see what your current options are.) Unless you have gigabit-speed internet, you can expect to pay around $60 to $90 for a modem, which means you’ll save money in less than a year.

Many ISPs rent out modems that double as wireless routers, which means that if you replace your rental modem with one you bought, you may also need to buy a wireless router if you want Wi-Fi in your house (if you’re not sure what the difference is between a router and a cable modem, we have a guide for that.) Our favorite Wi-Fi router currently sells for less than $150, but you can find a decent one for around $100. That puts your total up-front cost as low as $160, which means it pays for itself in a year and a half. Your modem and router should last you at least a few years if not more, so even if you go for the more expensive option, you’ll still come out on top. ISP-supplied modem-router combos tend to have bare-minimum feature lists and poor Wi-Fi range, while standalone routers have added antennas for better coverage, more parental control settings, and other nice-to-have features like guest networks and VPN servers.

ISPMonthly modem-rental fees (as of March 2021)
Comcast Xfinity$14
Spectrum$5 or no charge
Cox$10 or no charge
Altice/Suddenlink$10 or $20
WOW$10 or $14
RCN$2 to $13, depending on your location
Sparklight/Cable One$10.50
Mediacom$12

(Legacy plans from Optimum, Time Warner Cable, or Charter may include a modem-rental fee depending on who your ISP was before the merger. Most current Spectrum plans do not have a separate fee. Fees current as of March 24, 2021.)

Don’t buy a cable modem if you’re on DSL or fiber; those technologies use different standards and connectors. Verizon Fios lets you buy your own modem-router combo, but you have only a single choice, and it's identical to the equipment they rent to you.

  • The Best Wi-Fi Router

    The Best Wi-Fi Router

    We’ve tested the latest Wi-Fi routers to find the best ones—from budget options to top of the line—to make your wireless network faster and more responsive.

Also don’t buy one if you use your cable provider for telephone service: The models we cover here don’t have phone ports. If you need one that does, check to see which “telephony” or eMTA modems your ISP supports, and if the company allows you to buy your own. Comcast Xfinity’s webpage has a checkbox so you can determine which approved modems are voice/telephone enabled, and Cox has a list of approved modems that are compatible with their voice services. Cable One notes that it only supports a handful of Arris modems (including the one it leases to you) for voice service on its support site, while WOW only supports its leased WOW! Advanced Modem for voice. The telephony modems you can buy are also more expensive than regular cable modems.

Most ISPs charge $10 a month to rent a modem—that’s $120 a year, every year, on top of what you’re already paying for internet access.

When to replace your old modem

You should get a new modem if yours doesn’t support DOCSIS 3.0, the most widespread iteration of the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification, which governs how cable operators deliver high-speed cable internet. If you’ve had your modem for four or five years, give the model name a quick Google search; you might still be using a modem that supports only DOCSIS 2.0, in which case it’s time to upgrade. But if you already own a DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem that supports your internet plan’s top rates, don’t buy a more powerful (and more expensive) cable modem for the sake of future-proofing.

The first two versions of DOCSIS used only one downstream channel (for downloading data) and one upstream channel (for uploading data). DOCSIS 3.0 allows modems to bond multiple channels into a single data stream, giving you 38 Mbps per channel. Since those channels can combine, you can theoretically get up to 606 Mbps with a 16-channel modem and up to 1.2 gigabit per second with a 32-channel modem.

A modem’s maximum speed, as the manufacturer lists it, doesn’t mean all that much. Most ISPs limit 16×4 modems to around 300 Mbps even though in theory they can hit 600-plus Mbps. Most currently available 24×8 or 32×8 modems max out at 600 Mbps or 1 Gbps, respectively. If you buy a 1 Gbps modem but pay for only 300 Mbps service, your download speeds are still limited to 300 Mbps. Unless you’re on a very congested network with constant slowdowns, you likely won’t notice a huge difference from added channels on slower speed tiers.

How we picked

The three cable modems we recommend standing side by side.

Nobody really reviews cable modems—it’s difficult, because you can’t know whether it’s the modem or the ISP that’s to blame for slower speeds—so the few reviews that exist aren’t very scientific. We also don’t have the capability to test multiple modems on multiple ISPs ourselves. But generally speaking, modems either work or don’t.

Instead, we started our research by considering all the DOCSIS 3.0 and DOCSIS 3.1 modems that work on the nation’s biggest ISPs—Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, Optimum and Suddenlink (both owned by Altice), Sparklight/Cable One, RCN, and WOW—and then narrowed the field to modems compatible with the most popular plans on those ISPs. (Altice and RCN don’t publish a list of approved modems, though, and with few exceptions wouldn’t verify whether any of our picks would work with their services.)

  • Compatibility: ISP compatibility is the main factor in choosing a cable modem. A modem either works with your ISP or doesn’t. The first thing to do is to check your ISP’s approved-modem list—here’s where to check for Comcast, Spectrum, Cox, Sparklight/Cable One, Mediacom (PDF), and WOW (PDF). If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where you can choose from multiple ISPs, the capability to bring your modem from one provider to another is a nice bonus.
  • Channels: Channel bonding refers to the number of downstream (for downloading) and upstream (for uploading) channels your modem can access. Modem channels appear on the box as a number, such as 16×4, 24x8, or 32×8. With DOCSIS 3.0, the more channels your modem has, the faster the speed, provided your ISP supports those channels. This means that if the ISP offers only 16 downstream channels in your area, using a 24×8 modem won’t improve performance. The right cable modem is the one with the right number of channels for your service tier. The average internet speed in the US is around 180 Mbps, and the fastest cable tier most major ISPs offer is between 100 and 1,000 Mbps (aka gigabit). If you have service ranging from 100 to 300 Mbps, a 16×4 modem will be enough. If your internet plan is over 300 Mbps, you need a 24×8 modem or better. Our top picks will work for any plan up to 600 Mbps. We don’t recommend 8×4 or 4×4 modems, because ISPs are phasing out support for those older models, even on lower-speed plans.
  • Warranty: Most modems come with a one- or two-year limited warranty that covers any catastrophic failure. A warranty is useful, because a company will typically replace a modem if it stops working due to defects. Malfunctions are not a common occurrence with modems, but since purchasing your own means you don’t get a warranty through your cable provider anymore, the warranty is good to have in case anything goes wrong.
  • Price: We found that you should expect to pay $60 to $80 for a DOCSIS 3.0 modem that works with most plans and has the features you need to get the highest speeds available to you. Modems capable of full gigabit speeds are significantly pricier at $150 to $250.
  • Heat: Read the owner reviews for almost any modem, and someone will mention that the modem gets hot. Most manufacturers list the operating temperature on modems as up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, which is pretty hot for any electronic device. To keep your modem from overheating, make sure the vents aren’t covered up and it’s in an open space. Modems might be a bit ugly, but that doesn’t mean you should hide yours away in a drawer. We’ll keep an eye out for reports of excessive heat-related problems with cable modems, and we will update our picks as needed.

After researching all the modems currently available, we landed on four contenders for 24×8 modems: the Motorola MB7621, Netgear CM600, Linksys CM3024, and TP-Link TC-7650. We also considered two popular DOCSIS 3.0 16×4 modems that were our previous top pick and runner-up, respectively, the Netgear CM500 and TP-Link TC-7620, as well as DOCSIS 3.1 models: the Arris SURFboard SB8200, Arris S33, Motorola MB8600, Motorola MB8611, Netgear CM1100, CM1200, CM2000, and Netgear CM1000.

Our pick: Motorola MB7621

Our runner-up pick for best cable modem, the Motorola MB7621.

The Motorola MB7621 is a reliable 24×8 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem that works with all the major ISPs at the time of this writing. It is compatible with the most commonly offered speed plans from Comcast Xfinity (up to 600 Mbps), Spectrum (up to 400 Mbps), Cox (Ultimate Classic), Suddenlink (up to 500 Mbps), and Sparklight/Cable One (up to 600 Mbps), as well as with WOW’s 600 Mbps plan. It’s less expensive than comparable modems like Netgear’s CM600 and it has a two-year warranty, so you can save a bit more money and have your hardware covered for longer.

A close look at the ports on the back of our Modem pick

The MB7621 is a DOCSIS 3.0 modem with 24 downstream channels and eight upstream channels. This is plenty for most internet plans up to 600 Mbps, and many ISPs require a 24×8 modem for their top non-gigabit plans, such as Spectrum’s 400 Mbps plan or Cox’s Internet Ultimate plan. Even though DOCSIS 3.1 has begun rolling out, that standard is backward compatible, so all DOCSIS 3.0 modems will work with DOCSIS 3.1 service.

Although the MB7621 has solid support from every major ISP right now, double-checking your ISP’s compatibility page before you purchase the modem is still a good idea. ISPs update their modem-compatibility lists often, and they occasionally drop support for a modem with little to no warning.

Our experience over the past few years has been trouble-free. "The best things I can say about a cable modem are that it's fast and I never need to think about it,” said editor Ben Keough. “This one checks both of those boxes."

Runner-up: Netgear CM600

Our pick for best cable modem standing on a shelf.

The Netgear CM600, another highly regarded 24×8 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem, promises the same performance levels on the same speed tiers as the MB7621—it just costs a bit more and has a shorter, one-year warranty. The Netgear CM600’s user manual (PDF) also claims compatibility with Optimum, but if you have Optimum service, you should call your local Optimum customer support number to check before you buy any modem. Owners like it; Amazon reviews are consistently positive.

Our long-term testing reinforces the modem’s positive reviews: “The set up with Optimum was pretty quick and easy” and “It’s working just fine… I haven’t had any problems” says Makula Dunbar, Wirecutter’s Associate Partnerships Manager.

While reviews suggest that the CM600 is a reliable modem, Netgear’s included one-year warranty isn’t great considering that most other modems (including the Motorola MB7621) come with a two-year warranty. Modems tend to run pretty hot—the maximum operating temperature for the CM600 is 104 degrees Fahrenheit (PDF)—so there’s always a possibility of something going wrong if, for example, you don’t place yours in a well-ventilated area.

Even though the CM600 has solid support from every major ISP right now, double-checking your ISP’s compatibility page before you purchase the modem is still a good idea. ISPs update their modem-compatibility lists often, and they occasionally drop support for a modem with little to no warning.

Budget pick: Netgear CM500

The Netgear CM500, a less expensive cable modem we recommend in our guide to the best cable modems.

A former top pick, the Netgear CM500 is still a good choice for the budget-minded internet user. It shares many of the same features as our top pick, including wide ISP approval, at a lower purchase price. The trade-off is that ISP support for the CM500 usually tops off at about 300 Mbps instead of the 600 Mbps the MB7621 and CM600 are capable of. It is compatible with Comcast Xfinity (up to 250 Mbps), Spectrum (up to 300 Mbps), Cox (Ultimate plan), Suddenlink (up to 500 Mbps), and Sparklight/Cable One (up to 300 Mbps), as well as with WOW’s 500 Mbps plan. On the plus side, you will be fine for a while, because DOCSIS 3.1 is backward-compatible with DOCSIS 3.0 modems. It’s a great pick if you don’t need your cable company’s fastest plans, or if they are unavailable where you live.

Upgrade pick: Motorola MB8600

The Motorola MB8600, a cable modem we recommend.

If you already have a gigabit-speed cable internet plan, or know your ISP offers one and lets you bring your own cable modem, the Motorola MB8600 is your best option. It’s usually less expensive than its competition, it has certifications from Sparklight/Cable One, Cox, and Xfinity, and it has a two-year warranty. Because it’s DOCSIS 3.1 certified and supports 32×8 DOCSIS 3.0 channels, it should work with other cable companies that have enabled Gigabit Ethernet on their networks, but as usual you should check with your individual provider. For example, RCN’s website goes out of its way to say that the company isn’t currently supporting the MB8600, but it also doesn’t specify an approved alternative.

You shouldn't get the MB8600, or any other gigabit modem, unless you know your ISP supports it today. Until your ISP offers gigabit service in your area, you won’t know if it’ll roll out DOCSIS 3.0, DOCSIS 3.1, or fiber to your home. The MB8600 should work for the first two situations, but it will be useless if they install fiber. For more, check out our section about DOCSIS 3.1 and gigabit internet.

The MB8600 has four Gigabit Ethernet ports on its back panel, which aren’t, as you’d expect, connected to a built-in router or switch—they can't be used to connect wired Ethernet devices. The ports are hidden behind a yellow sticker to prevent confusion, but it’s easy to pull it off for access. The four ports are a bit of future-proofing, as they can be turned on by your ISP for link/port aggregation if and when your ISP decides to support it. The ports can also be used to support two (or more) separate IP addresses from your ISP. However, this feature is only applicable if you need separate accounts in your home for business and personal or family use, coming in on the same physical coaxial cable. For example, if you already have two or more cable modems in your home, each servicing separate accounts. The MB8600 could consolidate these into a single box, but you’d still need separate routers for each network.

The Motorola MB8600 cable modem laying in its side, showing its back side, which is clearly divided by colored plastic.

DOCSIS 3.1 modems cost around twice as much as our main picks, which means they will take over a year to pay off assuming a modem rental fee of $10 a month. Don’t buy one just for the sake of future-proofing, or if you use a slower plan—DOCSIS 3.1 networks will be compatible with our DOCSIS 3.0 picks, which means that older DOCSIS 3.0 modems will continue to work just fine, albeit at lower speeds, on newer DOCSIS 3.1 networks.

You shouldn't get the MB8600, or any other gigabit modem, unless you know your ISP supports it today.

Setup and activation

Regardless of which modem you choose, you’ll need to activate it once you get it. Each ISP has a different activation process, but you’ll need to either call the company or visit a URL to activate your modem. Here’s how to activate your new modem on Comcast, Spectrum, Cox, Suddenlink, and Sparklight/Cable One. You’ll need to call WOW’s customer service line to activate your modem with that ISP.

Modem compatibility list, updated March 2021

Cable modemComcast XfinitySpectrumCoxSparklight/Cable OneWOWMediacom
Netgear CM600 (24×8)Up to 800 MbpsUp to 400 MbpsUltimate ClassicUp to 600 MbpsUp to 600 Mbpsn/a
Motorola MB7621 (24×8)Up to 800 MbpsUp to 400 MbpsUltimate ClassicUp to 300 MbpsUp to 600 Mbpsn/a
Netgear CM500 (16×4)Up to 200 MbpsUp to 400 MbpsUltimate ClassicUp to 300 MbpsUp to 600 Mbpsn/a
Motorola MB8600 (DOCSIS 3.1)Up to 800 MbpsUp to 400 MbpsGigablastUp to 1,000 MbpsUp to 1,000 MbpsUp to 1,000 Mbps
Arris SURFboard SB8200 (DOCSIS 3.1)Up to 800 Mbpsn/aGigablastUp to 1,000 MbpsUp to 1,000 MbpsUp to 1,000 Mbps
Netgear CM1000 (DOCSIS 3.1)Up to 800 MbpsUp to 1,000 MbpsGigablastUp to 1,000 MbpsUp to 1,000 MbpsUp to 1,000 Mbps
Netgear CM1100 (DOCSIS 3.1)
Up to 800 MbpsUp to 1,000 MbpsGigablastn/aUp to 1,000 MbpsUp to 1,000 Mbps
Netgear CM1200 (DOCSIS 3.1)
Up to 800 MbpsUp to 1,000 MbpsGigablastn/aUp to 1,000 MbpsUp to 1,000 Mbps
Arris S33 (DOCSIS 3.1)
Up to 1,200 MbpsUp to 1,000 MbpsGigablastn/aUp to 1,000 Mbpsn/a
Motorola MB8611 (DOCSIS 3.1)
Up to 1,200 MbpsUp to 1,000 MbpsGigablastn/aUp to 1,000 Mbpsn/a
Netgear CM2000 (DOCSIS 3.1)
Up to 1,200 MbpsUp to 1,000 MbpsGigablastUp to 1,000 MbpsUp to 1,000 MbpsUp to 1,000 Mbps

1 Suddenlink told us that all DOCSIS 3.0 modems will work with the company’s service, but you should call Suddenlink to verify compatibility before purchasing.

The competition

We considered the Linksys CM3024, but this 24×8 modem has a few strikes against it. It only has a one-year warranty and isn’t explicitly included on many cable companies’ approved modem lists. However, its most glaring drawback is that it uses the Intel Puma 6 chipset. We hesitate to recommend modems using this chipset, which The Register reports can cause latency issues (especially with online gaming). As of this writing Linksys has not released a firmware fix for the modem.

The Netgear CM1000 is a gigabit DOCSIS 3.1 modem that is a contender for our upgrade pick. It is at times more expensive and has a shorter warranty than the Motorola MB8200, but the CM1000 is a worthy alternative if the latter is unavailable. The CM1000 has only one Gigabit Ethernet port in the back, so you won’t be able to use link/port aggregation on this modem in the future.

The Arris SB8200 is another widely available DOCSIS 3.1 modem with similar specs to the Netgear CM1000 and Motorola MB8600, and is worth considering if it has a similar price as the MB8600. It has a long two-year warranty, and two Ethernet ports in the back to support connecting two routers/computers with two separate IP addresses, or for link aggregation (you’ll still need a compatible router).

The Arris SURFboard SB6190 and Netgear CM700 are the most widely supported options for plans that are faster than 300 Mbps but not DOCSIS 3.1. These 32×8 modems are significantly more expensive than the 16×4 modems and are overkill if you have a 600 Mbps or slower data plan. If you’re already on a gigabit data tier, we’d recommend that you just go ahead and buy a DOCSIS 3.1 modem. They are compatible with 32×8 DOCSIS 3.0 networks, and you’ll be all set if or when your ISP adopts DOCSIS 3.1. These particular modems also use the problematic Intel Puma 6 chipset, which can cause latency issues. While the modem makers have distributed updated firmware fixes to the ISPs, it is ultimately up to your cable company to support the modem.

The Netgear CM1100 and CM1200 modems are DOCSIS 3.1, and like the Motorola MB8600, both are rated for multi-gigabit internet plans. The CM1100 features two Ethernet ports, the same as the MB8600, while the business-oriented CM1200 has four. Multiple Ethernet ports are needed to connect multi-gig 802.11ax/Wi-Fi 6 routers that support link aggregation (multiple Ethernet cables connect the modem and router to support multi-gigabit speeds, but we don’t think most people will be using this feature anytime soon). Like the other Netgear modems, they have a one-year warranty. The CM1100 costs about the same amount as MB6800, while the CM1200 is about $50 more expensive. We’d dismiss the latter outright, as it’s made mainly for businesses, but the CM1100 could be an alternative to our upgrade pick, if it goes on sale and you don’t mind that it has a shorter one-year warranty.

The Arris S33, Motorola MB8611, and Netgear CM2000 all have 2.5 GbE (gigabit Ethernet) ports, which can connect to Wi-Fi 6 routers that support the 2.5 GbE standard. While we considered the future-proofing each modem provides, 2.5 GbE (or faster) routers and 2-gigabit internet plans are still too scarce for Wirecutter to recommend these modems. The MB8611 has a relatively small price premium of about $20 over the MB8600, but the CM2000 and S33 are $50-80 more expensive than the MB8600 at this time. We’ll reevaluate the modems when more routers can support 2.5 GbE.

In the chart above, we list which of our cable modem contenders work with which ISPs based on information from each ISP. (Optimum/Altice and Suddenlink don't provide a list of compatible modems.) Where applicable, we also include the maximum speeds that each ISP supports. We didn’t include modem-router combos, because we don’t recommend them.

What about DOCSIS 3.1 and gigabit internet?

DOCSIS 3.1, which our upgrade pick supports, is the next standard for internet cable modems and ISPs. It promises speeds of up to 10 Gbps, increased download efficiency, and better queue management for large downloads. The people behind DOCSIS say that the improved technology of the 3.1 standard will lead to better stability even at slower speeds.

We spoke with Belal Hamzeh, vice president of wireless technologies at CableLabs, the company that came up with DOCSIS, and he pointed out that a big strength of DOCSIS 3.1 lies in the upgrade process: To introduce DOCSIS 3.1, an ISP doesn’t need to upgrade its cable lines—only the hardware in its facilities. This means that more cable operators will be able to offer gigabit speeds over the next few years, and many already do.

You’ll need a DOCSIS 3.1 modem like our upgrade pick only if you’re in one of those covered areas and you have a gigabit-speed internet plan—they’re expensive right now, and you won’t see faster speeds unless you pay for one of those gigabit plans. If you are in one of those areas and want to subscribe to one of the proposed gigabit internet plans, wait to purchase a modem until you have the plan so that you know it’s compatible. DOCSIS 3.1 is backward-compatible, so if you have a DOCSIS 3.0 modem and don’t plan on upgrading to gigabit speeds, the DOCSIS 3.0 modem will continue to work with your ISP.

Right now, gigabit speed is possible on 32×8 DOCSIS 3.0 modems, but we don’t recommend buying them since they use the problematic Intel Puma 6 chipset, and it’s hard to tell whether your ISP has rolled out the fix for the chipset’s latency problems. Our DOCSIS 3.1 modem pick is 32×8 DOCSIS 3.0–compliant by specification, so get a DOCSIS 3.1 modem if you want true gigabit speeds on any cable network. Sparklight/Cable One, parts of Suddenlink’s coverage area, and some regional carriers support gigabit speeds over DOCSIS 3.0, but it’s not common.

You’ll only need a DOCSIS 3.1 modem like our upgrade pick if you have a gigabit-speed internet plan—they’re expensive right now, and you won’t see faster speeds unless you pay for one of those gigabit plans.

Note that some DOCSIS 3.1 modems advertise “up to 10 Gbps” speeds. This is the theoretical limit of the DOCSIS 3.1 standard, and they are currently unreachable. In order to do so, you would need a router with WAN port aggregation or a 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port to enable speeds above 1 Gbps, and for now, most ISPs list 1 Gbps as their top speed tier for residential customers. 2 Gbps plans exist, but coverage is limited, and the few plans we've seen are expensive.

Gigabit fiber internet plans are growing more popular, too. Fiber is generally faster than cable, especially in upload speeds, but it involves added cost for companies because it requires new cables and network architecture. That installation cost is at least partially why Google Fiber dialed back plans for its broadband rollout. Not to worry though—other providers, including AT&T Fiber, CenturyLink, Frontier, Verizon, and Windstream, are expanding their networks. Those who are looking to cut wires entirely out of the equation are starting to get excited about 5G wireless internet to the home and for mobile use. 5G uses fiber as its backbone, but uses wireless technology to deliver the service to homes and businesses.

As mentioned above, you shouldn’t buy a DOCSIS 3.1 modem right now if DOCSIS 3.1 service isn’t available in your area. Future-proofing is good in theory but difficult in practice. It might sound smart to buy the best modem available, but the interplay between the technology, your location, and the ISP means your chances of wasting money on a device that might not work in the future are higher with modems than with other types of electronics. Internet providers tend to be coy with their technology and service rollouts, so it’s difficult to tell when—or if—you’ll see a bump in the speeds they offer. For example, just because some parts of Denver have access to gigabit speeds doesn’t mean the surrounding suburbs will.

What to look forward to

We surmise new modems will feature a 2.5-gigabit Ethernet port, supporting faster speeds for Wi-Fi 6 routers and mesh networks. As stated above, this is more of a future-proofing move, as most ISP plans top out at 1-gigabit internet. We'll evaluate them as they become readily available.

Patrick Austin, David Murphy, and Thorin Klosowski contributed to previous versions of this article.

Sources

  1. About 1,165,000 Added Broadband in 1Q 2020, Leichtman Research Group, May 13, 2020

  2. Greg White, How DOCSIS 3.1 Reduces Latency with Active Queue Management, CableLabs, June 6, 2014

  3. Why It’s Important to Upgrade End of Life and Unsupported Equipment, Comcast

  4. Dan Mahoney and Greg Rafert, Broadband Competition Helps to Drive Lower Prices and Faster Download Speeds for U.S. Residential Consumers (PDF), Analysis Group, November 1, 2016

  5. Mark Bergen, Google Fiber is pulling back on its broadband rollout as pressure grows to cut costs, Recode, August 25, 2016

  6. Daniel Frankel, Cox revises gigabit rollout plan, now targeting 2020 to go footprintwide: report, FierceVideo, July 12, 2017

  7. Karl Bode, Altice Will Skip DOCSIS 3.1, Deploy Full Fiber to the Home, DSLReports, November 30, 2016

  8. Motorola Zoom/Arris Branding Name, Arris

  9. 2018 United States Speedtest Market Report, Ookla, December 12, 2018

About your guide

Joel Santo Domingo

Joel Santo Domingo is a senior staff writer covering networking and storage at Wirecutter. Previously he tested and reviewed more than a thousand PCs and tech devices for PCMag and other sites over 17 years. Joel became attracted to service journalism after answering many “What’s good?” questions while working as an IT manager and technician.

Sours: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-cable-modem/

Cable modem

Networking device

ARRISTouchstone CM820B DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem

A cable modem is a type of network bridge that provides bi-directional data communication via radio frequency channels on a hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC), radio frequency over glass (RFoG) and coaxial cable infrastructure. Cable modems are primarily used to deliver broadband Internet access in the form of cable Internet, taking advantage of the high bandwidth of a HFC and RFoG network. They are commonly deployed in the Americas, Asia, Australia, and Europe.

History[edit]

MITRE Cablenet[edit]

Internet Experiment Note (IEN) 96[1] (1979) describes an early RF cable modem system. From pages 2 and 3 of IEN 96:

The Cable-Bus System

The MITRE/Washington Cablenet system is based on a technology developed at MITRE/Bedford. Similar cable-bus systems are in operation at a number of government sites, e.g. Walter Reed Army Hospital, and the NASAJohnson Space Center, but these are all standalone, local-only networks.

The system uses standard Community Antenna Television (CATV) coaxial cable and microprocessor based Bus Interface Units (BIUs) to connect subscriber computers and terminals to the cable. ... The cable bus consists of two parallel coaxial cables, one inbound and the other outbound. The inbound cable and outbound cable are connected at one end, the headend, and electrically terminated at their other ends. This architecture takes advantage of the well developed unidirectional CATV components.[2] The topology is dendritic (i.e. branched like a tree).
...

The BIUs contain Radio Frequency (RF) modems which modulate a carrier signal to transmit digitalinformation using 1 MHz of the available bandwidth in the 24 MHz frequency range. The remainder of the 294 MHz bandwidth can be used to carry other communication channels, such as off-the-airTV, FM, closed circuit TV, or a voicetelephone system, or, other digital channels. The data rate of our test-bed system is 307.2 kbps.

IEEE 802.3b (10BROAD36)[edit]

The IEEE802 Committee defined 10BROAD36 in 802.3b-1985[3] as a 10 Mbit/sIEEE 802.3/Ethernet broadband system to run up to 3,600 metres (11,800 ft) over CATV coax network cabling. The word broadband as used in the original IEEE 802.3 specifications implied operation in frequency-division multiplexed (FDM) channel bands as opposed to digital basebandsquare-waveformmodulations (also known as line coding), which begin near zero Hz and theoretically consume infinitefrequency bandwidth. (In real-world systems, higher-order signalcomponents become indistinguishable from background noise.) In the market 10BROAD36 equipment was not developed by many vendors nor deployed in many user networks as compared to equipment for IEEE 802.3/Ethernetbaseband standards such as 10BASE5 (1983), 10BASE2 (1985), 10BASE-T (1990), etc.

IEEE 802.7[edit]

The IEEE 802 Committee also specified a broadband CATV digital networking standard in 1989 with 802.7-1989.[4] However, like 10BROAD36, 802.7-1989 saw little commercial success.

Hybrid networks[edit]

Hybrid Networks developed, demonstrated and patented the first high-speed, asymmetrical cable modem system in 1990. A key Hybrid Networks insight was that in the nascent days of the Internet, data downloading constitutes the majority of the data traffic, and this can be served adequately with a highly asymmetrical data network (i.e. a large downstream data pipe and many small upstream data pipes). This allowed CATV operators to offer high speed data services immediately without first requiring an expensive system upgrade. Also key was that it saw that the upstream and downstream communications could be on the same or different communications media using different protocols working in each direction to establish a closed loop communications system. The speeds and protocols used in each direction would be very different. The earliest systems used the public switched telephone network (PSTN) for the return path since very few cable systems were bi-directional. Later systems used CATV for the upstream as well as the downstream path. Hybrid's system architecture is used for most cable modem systems today.

LANcity[edit]

LANcity was an early pioneer in cable modems, developing a proprietary system that was widely deployed in the U.S. LANcity, which was led by the Iranian-American engineer Rouzbeh Yassini, was then acquired by Bay Networks.[5] Bay Networks was subsequently acquired by Nortel.[6] Nortel at the time had formed a joint-venture with Antec called ARRIS Interactive.[7] Because of contractual agreements with Antec involving this joint venture, Nortel spun the LANCity group out into the ARRIS Interactive joint-venture. ARRIS continues to make cable modems and CMTS equipment compliant with the DOCSIS standard.

Zenith homeworks[edit]

Zenith offered a cable modem technology using its own protocol which it introduced in 1993, being one of the first cable modem providers. The Zenith Cable Modem technology was used by several cable television systems in the United States and other countries, including Cox Communications San Diego, Knology in the Southeast United States, Ameritech's Americast service (later to be sold off to Wide Open West after the SBC / Ameritech merger), Cogeco in Hamilton Ontario and Cablevision du Nord de Québec in Val-d'Or.[8] Zenith Homeworks used BPSK (Bi-Phase Shift Keyed) modulation to achieve 500 Kbit/sec in 600 kHz, or 4 Mbit/sec in 6 MHz.[9]

Com21[edit]

Main article: Com21

Com21 was another early pioneer in cable modems, and quite successful until proprietary systems were made obsolete by the DOCSIS standardization. The Com21 system used a ComController as central bridge in CATV network head-ends, the ComPort cable modem in various models and the NMAPS management system using HP OpenView as platform. Later they also introduced a return path multiplexer to overcome noise problems when combining return path signals from multiple areas. The proprietary protocol was based on Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM). The central ComController switch was a modular system offering one downstream channel (transmitter) and one management module. The remaining slots could be used for upstream receivers (2 per card), dual Ethernet 10BaseT and later also Fast-Ethernet and ATM interfaces. The ATM interface became the most popular, as it supported the increasing bandwidth demands and also supported VLANs. Com21 developed a DOCSIS modem, but the company filed for bankruptcy in 2003 and closed. The DOCSIS CMTS assets of COM21 were acquired by ARRIS.

CDLP[edit]

CDLP was a proprietary system manufactured by Motorola. CDLP customer premises equipment (CPE) was capable of both PSTN (telephone network) and radio frequency (cable network) return paths. The PSTN-based service was considered 'one-way cable' and had many of the same drawbacks as satellite Internet service; as a result, it quickly gave way to "two-way cable." Cable modems that used the RF cable network for the return path were considered 'two-way cable', and were better able to compete with the bi-directional digital subscriber line (DSL) service. The standard is in little use now while new providers use, and existing providers having changed to the DOCSIS standard. The Motorola CDLP proprietary CyberSURFR is an example of a device that was built to the CDLP standard, capable of a peak 10 Mbit/s downstream and 1.532 Mbit/s upstream. CDLP supported a maximum downstream bandwidth of 30 Mbit/s which could be reached by using several cable modems.

The Australian ISP BigPond employed this system when it started cable modem tests in 1996. For a number of years cable Internet access was only available in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane via CDLP. This network ran parallel to the newer DOCSIS system for several years. In 2004, the CDLP network was terminated and replaced by DOCSIS.

CDLP has been also rolled out at the French cable operator Numericable before upgrading its IP broadband network using DOCSIS.

DVB/DAVIC[edit]

Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) and Digital Audio Visual Council (DAVIC) are European-formed organizations that developed some cable modem standards. However, these standards have not been as widely adopted as DOCSIS.

IEEE 802.14[edit]

In the mid-1990s the IEEE 802 committee formed a subcommittee (802.14)[10] to develop a standard for cable modem systems. IEEE 802.14 developed a draft standard, which was ATM-based. However, the 802.14 working group was disbanded when North American multi system operators (MSOs) instead backed the then-fledgling DOCSIS 1.0 specification, which generally used best efforts service and was IP-based (with extension codepoints to support ATM[11] for QoS in the future). MSOs were interested in quickly deploying service to compete for broadband Internet access customers instead of waiting on the slower, iterative, and deliberative processes of standards development committees. Albert A. Azzam was Secretary of the IEEE 802.14 Working Group,[12] and his book, High-Speed Cable Modems,[13] describes many of the proposals submitted to 802.14.

IETF[edit]

Although the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) generally does not generate complete cable modem standards, the IETF chartered Working Groups (WGs) that produced various standards related to cable modem technologies (including 802.14, DOCSIS, PacketCable, and others). In particular, the IETF WGs on IP over Cable Data Network (IPCDN)[14] and IP over Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB)[15] produced some standards applicable to cable modem systems, primarily in the areas of Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) Management Information Bases (MIBs) for cable modems and other networking equipment that operates over CATV networks.

DOCSIS[edit]

Main article: DOCSIS

In the late 1990s, a consortium of US cable operators, known as "MCNS" formed to quickly develop an open and interoperable cable modem specification. The group essentially combined technologies from the two dominant proprietary systems at the time, taking the physical layer from the MotorolaCDLP system and the MAC layer from the LANcity system. When the initial specification had been drafted, the MCNS consortium handed over control of it to CableLabs which maintained the specification, promoted it in various standards organizations (notably SCTE and ITU), developed a certification testing program for cable modem equipment, and has since drafted multiple extensions to the original specification.

While deployed DOCSIS RFI 1.0 equipment generally only supports best efforts service, the DOCSIS RFI 1.0 Interim-01 document discussed QoS extensions and mechanisms using IntServ, RSVP, RTP, and Synchronous Transfer Mode (STM) telephony (as opposed to ATM).[11]DOCSIS RFI 1.1[16] later added more robust and standardized QoS mechanisms to DOCSIS. DOCSIS 2.0 added support for S-CDMAPHY, while DOCSIS 3.0 added IPv6 support and channel bonding to allow a single cable modem to use concurrently more than one upstream channel and more than one downstream channel in parallel.

Virtually all cable modems operating in the field today are compliant with one of the DOCSIS versions. Because of the differences in the European PAL and USA's NTSC systems two main versions of DOCSIS exist, DOCSIS and EuroDOCSIS. The main differences are found in the width of RF-channels: 6 MHz for the USA and 8 MHz for Europe. A third variant of DOCSIS was developed in Japan and has seen limited deployment in that country.

Although interoperability "was the whole point of the DOCSIS project,"[17] most cable operators only approve a very restricted list of cable modems on their network,[18][19][20][21] identifying the 'allowed' modems by their brand, models, sometimes firmware version and occasionally going as far as imposing a hardware version of the modem, instead of simply allowing a supported DOCSIS version.

Multimedia over Coax Alliance[edit]

Main article: Multimedia over Coax Alliance

In 2004, the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) was established to develop industry standard for the connected home, using the existing coaxial cabling. Initially developed for in-home networking with MoCA 1.0/1.1, the MoCA standards has continued to develop with MoCA 2.0/2.1 in 2010 and MoCa 2.5 in 2016.

In 2017, Multimedia over Coax Alliance introduced MoCA Access specification, based on the MoCA 2.5 standard, suitable for addressing broadband network access in-building using coaxial cabling.[22] MoCA Access extends MoCA 2.5 in-home networking to fit operators and ISPs that are installing fiber-to-the-basement/drop point (FTTB/FTTdp) and want to use the existing coax for connection to each apartment or house."

Multimedia terminal adapter[edit]

With the development of voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony, analog telephone adapters (ATA) have been incorporated into many cable modems for providing telephone service. An embedded ATA is known as an embedded multimedia terminal adapter (E-MTA).

Many cable TV service providers also offer VoIP-based telephone service via the cable infrastructure (PacketCable). Some high-speed Internet customers may use VoIP telephony by subscribing to a third-party service, such as Vonage, MagicJack+ and NetTALK.

Network architectural functions[edit]

In network topology, a cable modem is a network bridge that conforms to IEEE 802.1D for Ethernet networking (with some modifications). The cable modem bridges Ethernet frames between a customer LAN and the coax network. Technically, it is a modem because it must modulate data to transmit it over the cable network, and it must demodulate data from the cable network to receive it.

With respect to the OSI model of network design, a cable modem is both physical layer (layer 1) device and a data link layer (layer 2) forwarder. As an IP addressable network node, cable modems support functionality at other layers.

Layer 1 is implemented in the Ethernet PHY on its LAN interface, and a DOCSIS defined cable-specific PHY on its HFC cable interface. The term cable modem refers to this cable-specific PHY. The Network Layer (Layer 3) is implemented as an IP host in that it has its own IP address used by the network operator to maintain the device. In the transport layer (layer 4) the cable modem supports UDP in association with its own IP address, and it supports filtering based on TCP and UDP port numbers to, for example, block forwarding of NetBIOS traffic out of the customer's LAN. In the Application Layer (Layer 7), the cable modem supports certain protocols that are used for management and maintenance, notably Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), SNMP, and TFTP.

Some cable modems may incorporate a router and a DHCP server to provide the LAN with IP network addressing. From a data forwarding and network topology perspective, this router functionality is typically kept distinct from the cable modem functionality (at least logically) even though the two may share a single enclosure and appear as one unit, sometimes called a residential gateway. So, the cable modem function will have its own IP address and MAC address as will the router.

Cable modem flap[edit]

Cable modems can have a problem known in industry jargon as "flap" or "flapping".[23] A modem flap is when the connection by the modem to the head-end has been dropped (gone offline) and then comes back online. The time offline or rate of flap is not typically recorded, only the incidence. While this is a common occurrence and usually unnoticed, if a modem's flap is extremely high, these disconnects can cause service to be disrupted. If there are usability problems due to flap the typical cause is a defective modem or very high amounts of traffic on the service provider's network (upstream utilization too high).[24] Types of flap include reinsertions, hits and misses, and power adjustments.[25]

Known vulnerabilities[edit]

In January 2020, a vulnerability affecting cable modems using Broadcom chipsets was disclosed and named Cable Haunt. Security researchers say that the vulnerability affects hundreds of millions of devices. Exploits are possible because of the use of default credentials in the spectrum analyzer component of the modem (mostly used for debugging purposes) accessible through a network port which is open by default in the vulnerable models.[26][27]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^IEN 96 - The MITRE Cablenet Project
  2. ^"RF Micro Devices, Inc. Whitepaper Describing Historical CATV Components"(PDF). Piedmontscte.org. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  3. ^IEEE 802.3b-1985 (10BROAD36) - Supplement to 802.3: Broadband Medium Attachment Unit and Broadband Medium Specifications, Type 10BROAD36 (Section 11)
  4. ^"IEEE SA - 802.7-1989 - Local Area Networks: IEEE Recommended Practice: Broadband Local Area Networks". Standards.ieee.org. 1990-03-09. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  5. ^staff, CNET News. "Bay Networks to acquire LANcity". CNET. Retrieved 2019-09-05.
  6. ^Marshall, Jonathan; Writer, Chronicle Staff (1998-06-16). "Telecom Giants To Merge / Bay Networks bought by Nortel for $7.2 billion". SFGate. Retrieved 2019-09-05.
  7. ^"Nortel ups stake in joint venture with Antec". CNET. Retrieved 2019-09-05.
  8. ^Sallie Hofmeister (1996-08-23). "Americast Places $1-Billion Order for Set-Top Boxes". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-28.
  9. ^Gilbert Held (2000). Network Design: Principles and Applications. Auerbach Publications. p. 765. ISBN .
  10. ^"WalkingDog.com". Archived from the original on 1996-12-26. Retrieved 2012-05-13.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) The IEEE 802.14 Working Group used WalkingDog.com as its web site.
  11. ^ abDOCSIS RFI 1.0-I01 (March 26, 1997)Archived May 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine (See section 6.2.3 for the DOCSIS ATM codepoint. See sections 6.1.2.3, 6.2.5.3, 6.4.7, 9, and 9.2.2 for DOCSIS 1.0 QoS mechanisms.)
  12. ^"IEEE 802.14 WG Officers". Archived from the original on 1997-01-29. Retrieved 2012-05-13.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  13. ^Albert A. Azzam, High-Speed Cable ModemsISBN 978-0-07-006417-1
  14. ^"Ipcdn Status Pages". Tools.ietf.org. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  15. ^"Ipdvb Status Pages". Tools.ietf.org. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  16. ^DOCSIS RFI 1.1-I01 (March 11, 1999) (See section 8 and Appendix M.)
  17. ^"DOCSIS Modem Interoperability and Certification Overview"(PDF). Stuff.mit.edu. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  18. ^"Cable". TekSavvy.com. Archived from the original on 2016-08-01. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  19. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-07-30. Retrieved 2013-06-17.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^"Unlimited Internet Plans Quebec | Cable, Fibre Optic | Acanac". Acanac.ca. Archived from the original on 2015-05-12. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  21. ^"Fast Unlimited Download High Speed Cable 75 Internet Plus Home Phone Bundle". www.worldline.ca. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
  22. ^KMCreative. "MoCA Access™". www.mocalliance.org. Retrieved 2017-10-03.
  23. ^"Flap List Troubleshooting for the Cisco CMTS"(PDF). Cisco. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  24. ^"Cable modem flapping.. - RCN | DSLReports Forums". Dslreports.com. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  25. ^"CMTS Troubleshooting and Network Management Features Configuration Guide". Cisco.com. 2016-01-27. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  26. ^"Hundreds of millions of cable modems are vulnerable to new Cable Haunt vulnerability". Zdnet.
  27. ^Goodin, Dan (2020-01-13). "Exploit that gives remote access affects ~200 million cable modems". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2020-01-15.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Sours: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cable_modem
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Best cable modems in 2021

The best cable modem probably isn't something you think about, but it should be at the front of your mind the next time you get your internet bill. If you buy your own cable modem instead of using whatever your internet service provider dropped off, you can probably save money on your internet service by eliminating a needless equipment rental fee.

Equipment rental fees may be ridiculous, but they're no joke. Some ISPs charge as much as $14 a month when you use one of their modems, and that cost can add overtime. Because the best cable modems often cost less than $70, you'll pay off what you spent on a new modem via a lower internet bill in half-a-year. From that point forward, the money you would dole out to your internet provider to rent a usually aging modem stays in your pocket. 

Here's a closer look at the best cable modems based on our testing. No matter which one you end buying, just make sure you're getting a modem that's compatible with your ISP and pick a device that delivers speeds in line with your service plan. 

What is the best cable modem?

For most people, the best cable modem is the Motorola MB7420. It works with a wide variety of internet providers, including Comcast, Spectrum and Cox, and it delivers speeds that will serve the greatest number of people (anyone whose internet plan tops out at 300 Mbps). Its two-year warranty is twice as long as the warranty for the Netgear CM500, which also performed reliably in our tests. Since the CM500 usually costs less than the MB7420, it's a worthy alternative for bargain hunters.

If your internet service features speeds topping 300 Mbps, look to Netgear's CM600, which is more dependable than its high-speed rivals.

The best cable modems you can buy right now

1. Motorola MB7420

The best cable modem you can buy

Specifications

Top Cable Providers Supported: Comcast, Spectrum, Cox

Listed Download/Upload Speeds: 686/123 Mbps

Channels: 16 down, 4 up

Size: 6.9 x 4.1 x 2 inches

Warranty: 2 years

Reasons to buy

+Two-year warranty+Reliable performance+Compatible with most internet providers

Reasons to avoid

-Not as compact as some modems

The Motorola MB7420 is the best cable modem for most homes, capable of supporting speeds available to a majority of home internet plans. The MB7420 is ideal for internet plans that top out at 300 Mbps, which covers a wide swath of our household. In testing the MB7420 at my home, I enjoyed steady connectivity, and that's with multiple people stuck inside, all trying to hit the internet at once.

The MB7420 isn't as tall as the Netgear CM500, our previous pick for the best cable modem, though some people may prefer the more compact size of the Arris Surfboard modems. At least, the MB7420 looks stylish, with rounded corners and vented sides. Its gray color should blend in well with other networking equipment.

The blue and green lights on the MB7420 are bright enough to read at a distance without turning a dark room into a laser light show at night. I also found the modem easy to set up with a coaxial connector sticking out of the modem's backside at a comfortable distance from its lone ethernet port.

There's not much separating the Motorola MB7420 from the Netgear CM500 as both performed dependably when we tested each modem. But the edge goes to Motorola because it offers a two-year warranty to Netgear's one-year of coverage. That means better protection for your investment, as the best cable modems tend to last for several yeas. The MB7420 can sometime drop out of stock at retailers, but it's frequently available from Amazon, Best Buy and B&H Photo.

2. Netgear CM500

Best alternative cable modem

Specifications

Top Cable Providers Supported: Comcast, Spectrum, Cox

Listed Download/Upload Speeds: 686/132 Mbps

Channels: 16 down, 4 up

Size: 7.3 x 4.9 x 2.4 inches

Warranty: 1 year

Reasons to buy

+Solid performance+Good compatibility+Often cheaper than comparable modems

Reasons to avoid

-One-year warrant shorter than rivals-Indicator lights are hard to see

The Netgear CM500 remains one of the best cable modems available, because it's easy to find at most retailers; you can also find it for a little less than the Motorola MB7420 most of the time, making it a good value. (Modem prices can fluctuate so keep an eye peeled for the best tech deals when shopping for a cable modem.) Anytime you can find a new CM500 for $50 or less, that's a good buy.

The Netgear CM500 works with the biggest cable providers and supports speeds of up to 300 Mbps, which should be enough for the vast majority of Internet users out there. (If you've got a high-speed plan, look for a faster modem.)

There's actually very little performance difference among the best cable modems in our testing, so it's seemingly slight distinctions that separate these devices. Opt for Netgear's CM500, and you'll get a modem that's just as capable as the Motorola MB7420 or the Arris SB6183. However, Netgear only offers a one-year warranty, compared with two years for those rival modems.

Netgear's 16 x 4 modem enjoys wide compatibility with internet-service providers, and its design makes setup a breeze. At 7.3 inches, the CM500 is a little taller than the SB6183, and I found its indicator lights difficult to see, although at night, you may appreciate the lack of a light show.
  

3. Netgear CM600

Best cable modem for high-speed service

Specifications

Top Cable Providers Supported: Comcast, Spectrum, Cox

Listed Download/Upload Speeds: 960/240 Mbps

Channels: 24 down, 8 up

Size: 8.7 x 5.3 x 2.4 inches

Warranty: 1 year

Reasons to buy

+Reliable performance+Lower price than other high-speed modems+Compatible with many ISPs

Reasons to avoid

-One-year warranty-Tall footprint

While most homes opt for internet plans that promise speeds of around 100 to 300 Mbps, some people prefer higher-speed service. If your plan promises download speeds that top 300 Mbps, you'll want a cable modem that can take advantage of that greater performance. Netgear's CM600 is the best cable modem for those higher speeds, though you'll pay a little bit more than you would for the CM500.

Netgear's modem doesn't use the same Intel Puma 6 chipset that's been blamed for latency issues with some other high-speed modems, such as the Arris Surfboard SB6190. (There's a firmware update that resolves this issue, though ISPs roll out such updates on their own schedule.) Because of that, you can expect reliable performance from the Netgear CM600 without the lags reported by users with Puma-6-powered modems.

The CM600 is a little on the tall side, but it's got a funky futuristic look. Like other Netgear modems, it has a one-year warranty.

4. Arris Surfboard SB6183

A top cable modem if you can find it

Specifications

Top Cable Providers Supported: Comcast, Spectrum, Cox

Listed Download/Upload Speeds: 686/131 Mbps

Channels: 16 down, 4 up

Size: 5.2 x 5 x 2.1 inches

Warranty: 2 years

Reasons to buy

+Dependable+Two-year warranty+Compatible with most internet providers+Visible status lights

Reasons to avoid

-Awkward placement of coaxial cable

The Arris Surfboard SB6183 was once our pick for the best cable modem thanks to its solid performance that will satisfy most home internet customers who don't pay for high-speed service, though this older modem is harder to find these days. (As of this writing, Best Buy is selling the SB6183.) If you can track down the SB6183 at a competitive price, its two-year warranty also is a big plus.

At 5.2 x 5 x 2.1 inches, the all-white SB6183 can be tucked unobtrusively next to a router, cable box and whatever other hardware you have on hand. The coaxial-cable connector is a little too close to the power connector for my taste, but you're likely to have to deal with that only when setting up the modem.

The SB6183 favors a simple row of vertical indicator lights that are easy enough to spot, though the yellow lighting can be a little hard to see if your modem's in direct sunlight. Still, it's pretty easy to glance at the SB6183 to see if there's any issue with your internet connectivity.
  

How to choose the best cable modem for you

We focus on DOCSIS 3.0 modems, though you'll also find DOCSIS 3.1 modems rolling out that are capable of delivering speeds that top 1Gbps; if you're receiving DOCSiS 3.1 service, look for a device that can take advantage of those faster speeds. If you don't get speeds greater than 1 Gbps with your internet service, you can still with a DOCSIS 3.0 device like the ones reviewed above.

We haven't tested DOCSIS 3.1 modems yet, but we can point to a few models with strong word of mouth. Netgear's CM1000 is backward-compatible with DOCSIS 3.0 for internet users who want to upgrade early. The modem has been certified by Comcast for use with its internet service. Arris bills the Surfboard SB8200 as a future-facing modem, capable of handling streaming ultra HD and high-performance gaming with its 32 download and eight upload channels. Motorola's MB8600 modem also has 32 download and eight upload channels with Active Queue Management for speeding up page loads and gaming. At around $180, DOCSIS 3.1 modems are more expensive than the DOCSIS 3.0 devices, though cable modem sales occasionally drop the price by $30 or so.

As for DOCSIS 3.0 devices, here's what to consider so that you can choose the right modem:

Compatibility: Confirm with your ISP that the modem you're looking at will work with the service you're paying for. Most DOCSIS 3.0-certified modems should work with DOCSIS-based internet service, but it always helps to confirm. Among the top ISPs, Comcast, Cox and Spectrum all offer sites for checking cable compatibility.

Price and Warranty: You don't necessarily need to get the cheapest modem, but you should consider devices that pay for themselves within a year with what you save in rental fees. A year-long warranty is the bare minimum you should accept; two years of coverage is even better. As for price, make sure to do some comparison shopping before you buy. Retailers often offer deals on modems, so you could find the model you want — or a reasonable alternative — at a lower price than you'd normally expect.

Monthly cable rental fee by internet provider

  • Comcast: $14
  • Spectrum: Included with service
  • Cox: $7-$10
  • Frontier: $10
  • Suddenlink: $10
  • Sparklight: $8
  • Wow: $14
  • Mediacomm: $11.50

A 16 x 4 cable modem delivers enough speed to effectively serve the majority of cable customers. That kind of modem typically costs $70 or less, and if you keep an eye out for deals, you might be able to find a top-rated modem for $50 to $60. Modems that support the emerging DOCSIS 3.1 standard start typically cost $180 or so.

DOCSIS 3.0 modem typeMaximum download speedCompatible service tier (Cox, Spectrum, Xfiinity)
16 x 4Up to 300 MbpsCox Internet Preferred 150, Spectrum Internet, Xfinity Performance Pro+
24 x 8Up to 600 MbpsCox Internet Ultimate 500, Spectrum Internet Ultra, Xfinity Extreme Pro+
32 x 8Up to 900 MbpsCox Gigablast, Spectrum Internet, Gig, Xfinity Extreme Pro+

• Design: There's not much to differentiate the features on cable modems, which generally sport the same set of indicator lights. You'll want one with easy-to-spot lights, though if they're too bright, they can really light up a room at night.. Also, consider the size of a modem, since a compact design blends in more easily with your other networking equipment.

• Speed: A 16 x 4 modem (that's 16 download channels and four upload ones) should do the trick for homes receiving service capped at 300 Mbps. Any faster, and you should go with a 24 x 8 or 32 x 8 modem, or a DOCSIS 3.1-compatible model if your ISP has upgraded to the new standard.

• Security: When shopping for a cable modem, check to make sure that the model you're considering isn't vulnerable to the Cable Hunt software flaw found in the Broadcom chipsets that power many popular modems. If your modem is vulnerable, make sure a software patch is available from your ISP.

Note that the modems we've reviewed just provide internet connectivity. If you also get your phone service bundled with your internet, that requires an eMTA or telephony modem — an entirely different type of device.

Best cable modem vs. best router

These days, makers of home networking gear seem to favor modem-router combinations over standalone cable modems. It may be tempting to buy one of these hybrid networking devices instead of a separate modem and router, as you can take care of two tasks with one device. We'd advise against modem-router combos, though.

First, some background: as our modem-vs.-router comparison explains, the two devices serve very different purposes. A cable modem brings internet connectivity into your home while the best routers distribute that internet connection wirelessly, so that all your devices — laptops, phones, and smart-home gadgets — can hop on the internet. If you're dissatisfied with the reach of your network, it's a router, not a modem, that you should be in the market for.

So why keep the two networking devices separate? If any part of a hybrid device fails, you're out both a modem and a router. It's also easier to upgrade individual networking devices, as routers add support for new networking features at a more rapid pace. Modems evolve more slowly, as you can see from the number of older models still available.

How we test the best cable modems

We test each cable modem on Comcast's Performance Pro home internet service. After running speed tests to make sure the modems are delivering their promised download speeds, we use the modems as part of regular networking setup to gauge dependability.

We hook up each modem we review in our reviewer's home, using it as part of our networking setup. That allows us to verify a modem's compatibility as well as to get a sense of its dependability. Since price is also an important consideration when modem shopping, we also monitor retail sites for the best deals on the modems we've tested.

In addition to using the modems in a home with multiple connected laptops, smartphones and tablets, we also evaluate the indicator lights on each modem to see that they're visible. We look at how easy the modems are to set up. And because the primary reason to get your own cable modem is to save on monthly rental fees for ISP-supplied modems, we heavily weight the length of a modem's warranty.

Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.
Sours: https://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-modems,review-2832.html
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Top 5 BEST Cable Modems of [2021]

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