Which cable modem-router combo is best?
When you subscribe to an Internet service from a cable TV provider, you’ll receive a modem. This is the hardware that interprets the signal and allows uploading and downloading of data. Oftentimes, the modem will also have router hardware and technology installed with it. The router shares the Internet signal among all connected devices.
The downside is that the Internet service provider (ISP) likely will charge you a monthly fee for this hardware. To avoid this fee, purchase your own cable modem-router combination hardware, and return the rental. Our top pick is the NETGEAR Nighthawk Wi-Fi Cable Modem Router+ Voice device, which provides a consistent level of speed, so videos always look their best.
What to know before you buy a cable modem-router combo
Certain designs of modem-routers will only work with particular Internet service providers. Select an incompatible modem and the result will be a system that doesn’t work.
As an added headache, some modem hardware will claim compatibility with a certain ISP. However, it will only be partially compatible with your cable Internet provider, leaving you unable to access certain features. Be certain any hardware you select will work perfectly with your cable Internet service.
You don’t want the cable modem-router combo hardware you purchase to become a bottleneck for your system speed. But if you purchase hardware that runs at a slower speed than what your cable Internet can provide, the modem will become a choke point.
On the flip side, if you purchase a modem that can operate at a far faster speed than what your ISP can deliver, you’ll probably spend more money than you need to. But this situation is far more preferable than having a modem that’s too slow.
A cable modem-router can be a large piece of hardware. Additionally, it needs a decent amount of free space around it to allow for airflow to cool the device. So you need to ensure you have the space available for the hardware you select.
The hardware must be located near an electrical outlet because it requires a constant power source. It must be near a cable TV outlet, so you can easily connect the coaxial cable to the hardware.
What to look for in a quality cable modem-router combo
We’ve compiled a list of features that you may find helpful to have in your cable modem. These features can enhance your enjoyment of the device.
- Wi-Fi connections: Nearly all routers have the ability to allow both wired and wireless (Wi-Fi) connections. The majority of people will want to make a Wi-Fi connection, which allows smartphones and laptops to easily tap into the Internet signal.
- Wired connections: All routers will contain Ethernet ports, which allow for a wired connection. Make an Ethernet connection to a stationary unit, such as a desktop computer or to a smart TV, because Ethernet delivers faster speeds than Wi-Fi. Just be sure your hardware has enough Ethernet ports for your needs.
- Downstream and upstream channels: The number of channels in the hardware help determine the speed and efficiency of data uploads and downloads. The majority of users will want far more downstream channels than upstream channels because they download data more frequently than they upload it.
How much you can expect to spend on a cable modem-router combo
Costs for cable modem-router hardware are $60-$350. A simple combination unit with limited data-transmission speeds will be at the lower end of the price range. Modem-router hardware that can handle gigabit speeds will sport a high-end price point.
Cable modem-router combo FAQ
How do you determine compatibility with your Internet provider?
A. The modem-router hardware itself may list the services with which it’s compatible. Otherwise, check with your Internet service provider for a list of compatible hardware devices.
Will a new modem-router speed up your Internet service?
A. Possibly. If your actual Internet service’s top-end speed is not as fast as what the new router can achieve, you may not notice much improvement. Usually a new modem-router will deliver faster speeds than an older unit.
What’s the best cable modem-router combo to buy?
Top cable modem-router combo
What you’ll need to know: This unit delivers a consistent level of speed, which is extremely important for streaming video successfully.
What you’ll love: Setup is an easy process. A pair of USB ports allows for direct connection of certain mobile devices.
What you should consider: The modem generates more heat while running than users liked to see.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon
Top cable modem-router combo for the money
What you’ll need to know: This unit delivers a reliable internet signal, which is nice to find in a low-priced cable-modem router.
What you’ll love: The unit is smaller than some others, which is nice, and has a stable level of performance.
What you should consider: It doesn’t offer the power and high-end speeds of pricier units. It tends to run a little hot.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: It’s designed to support high-speed gigabit Internet connections, so it can deliver excellent results.
What you’ll love: Well-built, it should last longer than others. It has an effective airflow cooling design.
What you should consider: Made primarily to work with the Xfinity internet service, it curiously doesn’t support all Xfinity add-on services.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon
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Kyle Schurman writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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