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.
Best Overall: Motorola MG7700
The Motorola MG7700 pairs a 24×8 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem with an AC1900 Dual Band Wi-Fi Gigabit Router to deliver high-performance, high-speed Wi-Fi and a reliable connection perfect for your home or office. Calling the speeds “blazing fast,” our tester reported, “Everything from surfing the web to streaming video was solid within an approximate 2,000-square-foot radius.” The integrated product, which eliminates 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, it can also provide internet connection for your wired products, whether they are computers, gaming consoles, or HDTVs. However, the combo unit also means you’ll need to plug it into your ISP’s coaxial cable, which can limit where you can place it in your home since coax cables are often installed by your provider in less-than-ideal locations.
Best Splurge: NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900
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. “We tested this modem in a 2500-square-foot home, and we got reliable performance in every corner, only running into slowdowns on the farthest side of the house,” our reviewer explained. You’ll also 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. This model is compatible with Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, and more cable providers, but keep in mind that it doesn’t support bundled voice. With its DOCSIS 3.0 connectivity (meaning it has 24 channels for downstream data and eight for upstream data), it might be overkill for some customers. Still, our tester explained that while it’s a very expensive unit, “over time, this device can actually pay for itself” because you won’t have to rent a modem from your ISP. He added, “Combine that with the excellent performance and modern style, and it’s hard to find any reason not to love the Netgear Nighthawk C7000.”
Runner-Up, Best Overall: TP-Link AC1750 DOCSIS 3.0
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 offers up to 1750 Mbps Wi-Fi speeds with simultaneous 2.4 GHz (up to 450 Mbps) and 5 GHz (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. According to our 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.
Best Budget: NETGEAR DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem (CM400-1AZNAS)
Simple, affordable modems are not very difficult to find, and chances are they’ll all work about the same. This one from NETGEAR offers 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. According to our testers, it runs exactly as advertised, and they would “absolutely” recommend it to anyone looking for a cable modem on a budget. As one reviewer put it, “It works, which I think is all that should matter when it comes to a cable modem.”