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Which modem is best?

You can’t have a home Wi-Fi network without a reliable modem. This is why most ISPs (internet service providers) give you one. The catch is, the modem isn’t free; you’re paying for it each and every month — and you don’t stop paying, even after it’s paid off.

If you’d like to lower your monthly bill by a few dollars, you can purchase your own modem. A top choice, the NETGEAR CM500 Cable Modem, which is compatible with Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, CableONE and more

What to know before you buy a modem


When shopping for a cable modem, the single most important factor you need to consider — and it may take a little research — is being certain that the model you’re considering will work with the ISP (internet service provider) you have. Be sure to check both ways; your modem lists your ISP as being compatible, and your ISP lists your modem as being compatible.

DOCIS version

The next item to consider is the DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) version. DOCSIS 3.0 should be sufficient for most homeowners, as its highest speed is 1Gbps (gigabits per second). However, if you want the cutting edge, DOCSIS 3.1 can handle up to 10Gbps.


It’s important to understand that a modem just brings a wired signal into your home so you can connect to the internet. It doesn’t broadcast a Wi-Fi signal so your wireless devices can connect. If you want to do that, you need to either purchase a separate Wi-Fi router or purchase a unit that features both a modem and a router.

Digital service

If you still happen to have a house phone, chances are you’re getting service through your ISP. If this is the case, be careful about selecting a modem, because not all modems support digital voice service.

How much you can expect to spend on a modem

For individuals looking to purchase a basic DOCSIS 3.0 modem, you can spend $50-$100. However, a DOCSIS 3.1 modem may run you $100-$150. If you want extras such as a built-in router and maybe a USB port, you could be looking at $200-$300 or more.

Best modem FAQ

What is a cable modem?

A. A cable modem (modulator-demodulator) is a device that translates an analog signal from a coaxial cable into a digital signal that a computer can understand. It can also take the digital signal from your computer and translate it into an analog signal that can be sent out of your home via a cable. Without a cable modem, you can’t connect to the internet.

Do you need a router if you have a modem?

A. Maybe. Some modems have a built-in router so you can broadcast WiFi, but others need to be connected to a separate WiFi router to broadcast a WiFi signal throughout your home.

What’s the best modems to buy?

Top modem

NETGEAR CM500 Cable Modem

NETGEAR CM500 Cable Modem

What you need to know: This model is a DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem that enables quick download and HD video streaming.

What you’ll love: It’s compatible with Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, CableONE and more.

What you should consider: Some users found the cable modem difficult to use after several months.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top modem for the money

ARRIS SURFboard SB6190 3.0 Cable Modem

ARRIS SURFboard SB6190 3.0 Cable Modem

What you need to know: The setup is effortless: just plug in the coaxial cable, power and ethernet cable and activate online.

What you’ll love: Owning your own modem can trim down your monthly cable bill.

What you should consider: Some users experienced latency issues when pushing the limits with streaming or game play.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Linksys CM3024 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem

Linksys CM3024 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem

What you need to know: This device allows you to get the most out of your broadband subscription plan (250 Mbps and up) with 24 download and eight upload bonded channels.

What you’ll love: The unit is compatible with most services and offers a quick and easy setup.

What you should consider: This modem is not compatible with Verizon, AT&T or CenturyLink.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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