The best cable modems are a vital investment to go alongside one of the best internet providers.
Many of the best internet providers (opens in new tab) may include a router with your subscription, or expect you to rent one, but they're frequently not the best models for speed or quality. Snap up one of the best cable modems and you'll gain faster speeds, a more reliable connection, and even better security.
If your home is already full of the best laptops (opens in new tab) and tablets (opens in new tab), you really deserve an internet connection that can handle their needs. Ideally, for future-proofing, you want a cable modem that is capable of at least 1 Gbps connections and uses Wi-Fi 6 (the latest version) so you can enjoy the best possible wireless connection at home.
Amongst all that snazzy smart home gadget technology and a shiny and lovely TV, it can be nice for a cable modem to look good too. Most offer a flashing light style experience but some newer ones also look pretty cool with an attractive glow. These models frequently come with smart apps that mean you can control all your internet settings via your smartphone rather than worrying about getting your hands too dirty.
Simply put, with so much of your home dependent on the internet from your TV to your lightbulbs, you need good internet to go with it. That's why we've taken a look at the best cable modems to find the right model for you. Each means that stuttering and buffering while on an important video call should be a thing of the past, and you won't have to worry about slow downloads either.
1. Motorola MB7621: Best cable modems pick
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In our tests, the Motorola MB7621 (opens in new tab) managed to keep five devices running four simultaneous bandwidth-heavy applications, with ease.
We found most of the modems we evaluated are very similar, but the Motorola MB7621 stood out. Its great performance, sleek yet practical design, labeled ports, powerful user interface, power button, helpful instructions, and included accessories make it an extremely easy-to-use and effective device.
The Motorola MB7621's 24 downstream channels can easily handle HD streaming, and its eight upstream channels give you access to the necessary speeds for gaming and cloud computing. The MB7621 has max speeds of up to 1000 Mbps, but it’s rated for internet packages advertising speeds up to 650 Mbps.
We tested the Motorola MB7621on Xfinity's 400 Mbps package, and it worked perfectly. It also has a power button, a feature missing on many modems we tested, and some useful accessories like a coaxial connection wrench, Ethernet cable and a hook-and-loop cord strap.
Aside from its robust specs and ease of use, the MB7621 is a good investment because it can cost less than renting a modem from your ISP after just nine months, and its warranty protects it against manufacturer defect for two years. It also has lightning and power surge protection and a well-ventilated exterior to protect against overheating.
2. Netgear CM600: Best high-speed cable modem(opens in new tab)
The Netgear CM600 is a high performance cable modem thanks to its 24 downstream and eight upstream channels. This is also a highly ISP compatible modem making it ideal if you think changing provider down the line is a possibility.
Performance speeds were impressive, with five devices connected at once to the 400 Mbps Xfinity connection, this handled data transfer perfectly. On the rear is an Ethernet port, reset button, coaxial connection, power input and on/off button. That power button is a big plus since the solution to any issues is usually as simple as turn the power off and on again.
The Netgear user interface is easy to access and balances both simple and more complex features well.
This modem represents a decent saving over rental. The CM600 costs about $90-$100. Xfinity charges $11 per month to rent its xFi Gateway, or $132 per year, so buying the CM600 saves you over $30 within its one-year warranty term, and it could last longer than one year.
The Netgear CM500 is a great alternative option if you want to save a few bucks on a model that doesn't perform quite as fast but is still a solid and highly compatible option.
3. Arris Surfboard SB6183: Best reliability cable modem(opens in new tab)
Unlike most cable modems, the Arris Surfboard 6183 comes in two colors, so you can choose an option that best fits your style. Either way you can expect a solid performance with a build that's made to last – backed by a two year warranty.
This modem has 16 downstream and four upstream channels making it up to the task of keeping your busy network connected to the internet. It performed as well as expected in our hands-on tests.
One feature we found particularly useful with the Arris Surfboard 6183 is its color-coded status LEDs. Its uplink and downlink icons glow different colors based on the connection quality instead of simply showing that it’s connected. Every other modem we tested included a LAN indicator on its forward-facing status panel. An Ethernet port status light replaced the LAN indicator on the SB6183, which isn’t as easily accessible for diagnostics.
4. Asus CM-16: Best looking affordable cable modem(opens in new tab)
As far as networking equipment goes, the Asus CM-16 is a good-looking device. Its compact form and subtly patterned side panels make it sleek enough to fit in with your décor but subdued enough to not stand out.
It’s a DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem with 16 upstream and four downstream channels, making it capable of handling download speeds up to 686 Mbps and upstream up to 131 Mbps. In our tests, it easily handled multiple simultaneous connections on our testing facility’s 400 Mbps internet service.
The only hiccup in the Asus CM-16’s evaluation was the outdated web user interface. Though it works, it looks like it was created decades ago and isn’t quite as user-friendly as other interfaces we encountered. Even so, the ASUS CM-16 is a good modem that can save you money compared to renting from your ISP.
5. TP-Link TC-7620: Best compatibility cable modem
The TP-Link TC-7620 might top out at 16 by four channels, as opposed to the 24 by four options at the top of this list, but it's still plenty fast. In our tests this managed an impressive 400 Mbps line with 4K video streaming, multiple consoles gaming and a laptop connected at once. Theoretical top speeds are as high as 680 Mbps.
But the real appeal of this cable modem is its ability to work across lots of providers. This is a really compatible cable modem that works across the likes of Comcast, Spectrum and Cox.
While there isn't a power button on this model, it's still easy to use with a decent online interface and easy setup. Like the other models on this list, the TP-Link TC-7620 will save you money by buying it outright rather than renting, with that saving made within the first year.
6. Linksys CM3024: Best for speed and ease
The Linksys CM3024 is another high-speed option thanks to its 24 downstream channels and 8 upstreams. That means can theoretically top out at an impressive 960 Mbps – the true speed of most Gigabit cable connections.
Our testing, on a 400 Mbps Xfinity line, found performance to be impressive with no issues at all, even when streaming and downloading large files at the same time. This is a great option for anyone on a connection that 300 Mbps or faster.
However, this is a more expensive option than many. The build quality is decent with some unobtrusive looks and usefully labelled LEDs, all helping to justify that price. There is no user interface though, as far as we could tell when testing. This is either bad, as it doesn't exist, or poor as it's near impossible to find if it does exist. That said, this was easy enough to setup so if you don't need a UI then it's fine.
How we tested cable modems
We assessed all the modems on the market and narrowed the selection down to the top ten products that cost less than renting a modem from your ISP for a year. We set up these products into our lab, hooked them up to our network and ran some hands-on tests. Our internet service is through Comcast Xfinity and has advertised speeds up to 400 Mbps, though in our testing process, we never saw speeds that slow.
We tested the each cable modem's capabilities by performing a variety of data intensive tasks. On the gaming devices, we downloaded large game files from Steam to test download speeds. We streamed Netflix in 4K using laptops, computers, smartphones (opens in new tab) and tablets. Through testing, we found that every modem we tested performed exactly as it should, so you’re safe buying any of them.
Since all the modems passed our tests, most of our ranking evaluations relied on price and features. We preferred modems with physical power buttons as opposed to modems that you have to unplug to turn off. We scored modems higher if the online interface was easy to find and use. We also preferred smaller, well-ventilated devices.
Buying a cable modem
Buying vs renting a cable modem
Replacing rented equipment can be daunting but it doesn't need to be. Modems are relatively inexpensive to buy and you can save plenty of cash on rental fees. Even better, you often end up with far superior equipment.
Before buying any cable modem, check that you need a cable modem. There are also DSL, fiber and satellite internet services which will require different hardware. You also need to make sure you purchase a modem that is supported by your ISP. All the products here are supported by most of the major cable internet companies but it's worth double checking.
Value for money
We recommend purchasing a modem that costs less than the rental fees for its warranty term. If you buy a modem with a 1-year warranty, it should cost less than a year’s worth of rental fees. All the modems we tested cost less than a year’s rent on an Xfinity modem, and many have two-year warranties. Generally, a modem should cost less than $120 at most.
If a 16 x 4 modem serves you perfectly now, but you may want to upgrade your internet package to the next level within a few years, it's worth the extra money to future-proof your purchase. Having extra speed capabilities won't negatively affect your network in any way and may even make it more efficient.
Future proof your purchase
Consider your current internet plan and whether you plan on upgrading your speed soon. Most modern cable modems will support standards offered by your ISP. It can be tempting to spend less on a weaker model but consider this an investment. Look for value for money rather than simply something that is cheap. However, we recommend buying a modem that costs less than your rental fees for its warranty term. All the modems we tested cost less than a year’s rent on an Xfinity modem, and many have two-year warranties. Generally, a modem should cost less than $120 at most.
For some people, the look of a modem is vital too. Modems are often designed to be more functional than elegant but features like a physical power button and extensive ventilation can be useful in ensuring it works well for you. Figure out where you want to place the modem and check its ventilation will work well there.
Modems vs. Routers
The devices most ISPs supply to renting customers are modem and router combination devices, so replacing your rented equipment does necessitate replacing both devices. The modem is the first point of contact between your home network and the internet. It takes the cable input signal and modulates/demodulates it into a standard Ethernet connection that your router or computer plugs into.
If you want WiFi or to connect multiple devices to the internet, you also need one of the best wireless routers (opens in new tab), which handle all the communications between your home network and the internet. You need both to create an effective and secure home network. You can buy combo devices, but these have downsides. Separate devices have the advantage of being more flexible when it comes to upgrades, and if one piece breaks, you don’t have to replace the whole system.
Finally, many modems supplied by the best Internet Providers (opens in new tab) are modem and router combination devices. If yours is, you'll also need to budget for a router alongside a modem if you use Wi-Fi or connect multiple devices to the internet.