The best cable modem

Internet & Streaming

Buying a cable modem with a built-in router will save you money and allow you to project a strong WiFi signal throughout your home.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which cable modems are best?

A cable modem is one of the most important pieces of equipment in your home or office. These devices connect to the internet through a cable connection and either broadcast a WiFi signal or can be connected to your computer with an ethernet cord. Without a quality modem, your internet connection may not reach its full potential. 

One of the best cable modems is the NETGEAR Nighthawk CM2000 as it’s compatible with popular providers such as Cox, Spectrum and Comcast, and it offers impressive all-around speeds.

What to know before you buy a cable modem

Cable modem cost

Saving money on your internet bill isn’t always easy. Most people are stuck with the provider in their area and can come with steep prices. The good news is that purchasing your own cable modem is a great way to avoid the monthly fees that come from renting a cable modem from your provider. You’re also very likely to achieve faster speeds and more durability when you purchase your own cable modem. This is because the modem you rent from your service provider is often out-of-date, worn and provides sluggish speeds. 

The cost of a cable modem can vary depending on the quality and speeds you’re considering. Check out Best Reviews to find the best cable modem for you. 

Internet Service Providers

When purchasing a cable modem, there are a few things to consider when it comes to your Internet Service Provider. Firstly, it’s important to make sure the modem you purchase is compatible with your ISP. Be sure to check with your provider beforehand to make sure their services support the brand and specific type of modem you decide on. It’s also a good idea to check the expected speeds that come with your internet package. This way, you can choose the best cable modem that will offer the same output. 

DSL vs. Fiber Optic vs. Cable

DSL, or Digital Subscriber Line, is a type of internet connection that connects through a standard phone line. Fiber Optic internet uses a dedicated line separate from both a cable line and phone line. Cable modems are not compatible with Fiber or DSL internet connections. Cable modems are specific to cable internet connections, which are connected to the cable outlet in your home or office. Be sure to double check with your ISP that your internet feeds through a cable connection so your cable modem will be compatible.

What to look for in a quality cable modem

Upload/Download Speed

Outside of compatibility, speed is the most important thing to consider. Download speeds refer to how much data moves from the internet to your computer while upload speeds go from your computer to the internet. If you’re paying for fast upload and download speeds from your ISP, you’ll want to make sure you’re making full use of every megabyte per second. On average, service providers offer speeds ranging from 3 Mbps for standard service and 25 Mbps for business speeds. When purchasing a cable modem, you’ll want to make sure that the device is capable of matching the upload and download speeds from your ISP.

WiFi

While cable modems offer a physical hub connected to the internet, they sometimes include a built-in WiFi router as well. The router broadcasts a WiFi signal throughout a space so you can connect to the internet wirelessly. If you are purchasing a cable modem without this add-on, you’ll have to consider getting a router. Some quality cable modems come complete with a built-in router.

Calbe modem durability

The durability and longevity of a cable modem is important. This is especially true if you choose to buy a more expensive device. Most quality cable modems are made with durable materials to withstand long-term wear and tear. Be sure the modem you purchase has proper cooling fans and is made with durable plastics that won’t easily chip. The lifespan of your modem can also depend on how well you take care of the device. Be sure to occasionally clean the modem to prevent dust buildup, and ensure it’s sitting in the open to help keep it cool and prevent overheating. 

How much you can expect to spend on cable modems

Cable modems can cost between $120-$190.

Cable modems FAQ

Why should I buy a new cable modem?

A. You should buy a new cable modem if you are upgrading your internet package to include higher speeds or if you are simply looking to save on the monthly fee from renting a modem from your ISP. In either case, purchasing a new cable modem offers a higher quality internet connection and is less expensive in the long run.

Where do I place the cable modem in my home?

A. This largely depends on where your ISP is able to connect the modem. However, you can purchase an extra-long extended cable connection, so you can place the modem in a more ideal location. If your cable modem has a WiFi router, the best place to put it is in the center of your home away from walls and off the ground.

What’s the best cable modem to buy?

Top cable modem

NETGEAR Nighthawk CM2000

NETGEAR Nighthawk CM2000

What you need to know: The Nighthawk CM2000 has very fast download speeds up to 2 Gigabytes per second and features a sleek, modern design. 

What you’ll love: If you have an ultra-fast business package from your ISP, NETGEAR’s CM200 is a great option. The Nighthawk is compatible with most major ISPs, including Spectrum, Cox and Comcast, so you can ensure maximum efficiency. 

What you should consider: This modem doesn’t come with a built-in WiFi router.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top cable modem for the money

Motorola MB8600

Motorola MB8600

What you need to know: This is Motorola’s best cable modem, combining high speeds at an affordable price. 

What you’ll love: The MB8600 works with all major cable providers, features fast speeds up to 1 Gbps, offers compatibility with WiFi routers and features an ethernet cable.

What you should consider: This modem doesn’t feature a built-in WiFi router or phone jacks.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

NETGEAR C6250

NETGEAR C6250

What you need to know: The NETGEAR C6250 is an all-around great cable modem that comes at an affordable price.

What you’ll love: This quality modem was designed with a built-in WiFi router, boasts high speeds up to 300 Mbps and offers 1,500 square feet of wireless coverage throughout your home or office. 

What you should consider: This modem has a fairly complicated setup process.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

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

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.