If you’re renting a modem from your internet service provider (ISP), buying is an option that can save you hundreds of dollars over a device’s lifetime. We spent over 40 hours researching the best available modems in several categories. After evaluating each on specs, features and price, we’ve distilled the best buying options for basic modems, high-speed modems, future proof modems, modem and router combos and DSL modems.
Best Cable Modem
Best Cable Modem: Arris SB6141
The Arris SB6141 is our pick for the Best Cable Modem for its combination of compatibility, user-friendliness and price. It’s a great option if your internet plan has download speeds lower than 50Mbps and you want to make the switch from renting to buying to save some money. It is compatible with nine of 10 of the largest cable internet providers, so it’s a sound investment even if you plan to change service providers.
Best High-Speed Modem
Best High-Speed Modem: Motorola MB7420
The Motorola MB7420 is the best choice for those with internet plans advertising speeds higher than 50Mbps. It offers 16 upstream channels and download speeds up to 686 Mbps. Additionally, the MB7420’s full-band tuner identifies which channels are most efficient and directs more work through them, so you get consistently fast speeds across multiple connections.
Best Future-Proof Cable Modem
Best Future-Proof Cable Modem: Arris SB8200
The SB8200 is our pick for the best future-proof modem because it allows you to take full advantage of your internet speeds now and in the future. With ISPs like Comcast and Cox rolling out faster internet speeds, the Arris SB8200 is DOCSIS 3.1 standard ready while also being backwards compatible with the current DOCSIS 3.0 standard. This model has 32 available downstream channels, eight upstream channels and two Gigabit Ethernet ports.
Best Cable Modem & Router Combo
Best Cable Modem & Router Combo: Motorola MG7550
Most internet providers lease out modem and router combo devices, so the Motorola MG7550 is a great replacement product if you need both. With 16 downstream channels capable of downloading at 686 Mbps, four upstream channels capable of 123 Mbps uploads, a 3x3 gigabit router and four Gigabit Ethernet ports, the MG7550 is definitely up to the task of keeping a small or medium-sized home or office connected.
Best for DSL
Best for DSL: Netgear DM200
The Netgear DM200 is our top pick for DSL modems because of its price, high speeds and user-friendliness. It works with major DSL providers and is compatible with both ADSL and VDSL standards (including more recent standards like ADSL2+ and VDSL2). This coffee cup-sized modem offers download speeds up to 200 Mbps.
The Netgear AC1600 is our top pick for a DSL modem and router combo for its flexibility. It is also compatible with both ADSL and VDSL standards for high-speed connections. Plus, should you switch to cable internet in the future, the AC1600 can still function as a router so you’d only have to switch to a cable-compatible modem.
Why Buy a modem?
The monthly rental fees you pay on a modem supplied by your ISP can quickly add up. Some companies charge around $120 annually, which means most of the options on our list would start saving you money after less than a year. Plus, choosing your own modem for your own specific internet needs allows you to get the most out of your internet plan, often performing better than rental equipment.
Cable vs. DSL
Not all modems work for all types of internet services. Cable internet will not work with DSL modems, and vice versa, because cable and DSL internet use different delivery methods. DSL uses landline phone infrastructure, so if your internet provider is also your landline phone provider, you probably have DSL and will need the proper type of modem.
Should I Buy a Modem & Router Combo?
A modem and router combo can be a cost-effective investment if you’re looking for a lower-cost, more compact replacement for a rental modem. However, be aware that they don’t give you much control over your router placement, and if one part breaks, you have to replace both. We usually recommend keeping the devices separate for those reasons.
Contributing Reviewer: Rebecca Armstrong