The best cable modem
You may not realize how much money you're spending every month if you rent a cable modem from your cable company. Purchasing a modem for yourself costs far less in the long run, and it gives you the freedom to choose whatever model you want and bring it along whenever you move. Why pay the cable company to rent an inferior product when you can own a superior cable modem for yourself?
If you're ready to choose a new cable modem, read our buying guide. We include information and recommendations to find the right one for your needs. Our top choice, the Motorola Cable Modem, is both a cable modem and a wireless router, giving you a fantastic two-for-one deal.
Considerations when choosing cable modems
More than anything else, compatibility should be your primary consideration when choosing a cable modem -- your modem must be compatible with your internet service provider's network. Though most service providers support many different cable modems, look for your ISP's list of supported cable modems before buying.
DOCSIS 3.0 vs. DOCSIS 3.1
Though technical in nature, DOCSIS isn't very complicated. There are three main points you need to know when it comes to DOCSIS 3.0 versus DOCSIS 3.1:
DOCSIS refers to data transfer speeds, or how quickly your internet service can be provided by your modem.
Most high-speed internet is provided by the older DOCSIS 3.0 standard, which is good enough for most users.
If you want premium gigabit speeds from your ISP, you need a DOCSIS 3.1 modem. DOCSIS 3.1 is more often used by commercial interests who need extremely fast service.
Durability and longevity
The majority of cable modems will last for years without requiring replacement. However, some lower-cost models don't have the same durability and can begin to fail within a year, whether it's the technology inside or a poorly made housing. There's nothing wrong with getting a good deal on a cable modem, but make sure you're getting a quality product.
Many cable modems offer an "all-in-one" package that includes the functionality of a WiFi router in addition to that of a modem. It's convenient to need only a single self-contained unit that does the job of two components.
Although most cable modems only provide you with one standard RJ45 network port, a few offer two or more. These are the ports that are used to plug a component directly into the modem for a wired connection. If you don't get one with multiple ports and you have a need for two or more, you may need to purchase a separate network switch. Doing so allows you to have multiple wired connections to your cable modem.
Most cable modems cost between $50 and $300. A $50 to $150 cable modem is usually a DOCSIS 3.0 modem that can handle multiple users on a home network. Between $150 and $300, most modems are DOCSIS 3.1 models, which incorporate an internal wireless router with much faster internet speeds.
Q. Why do I need to upgrade from my current cable modem?
A. That depends on the modem you currently have. Some people are still using a DOCSIS 2.0 modem, which is probably quite a bit slower than today's current models. Replacing it could get you speeds up to 32 times faster.
Q. Does my modem need to be professionally installed or can I do it myself?
A. You shouldn't need professional help. Most cable modems come with easy to follow instructions and don't require too much technical know-how.
Q. Do I have to get a special cable modem if I also receive telephone service from my internet service provider?
A. Yes, you do. It's possible to get a bundle with internet, digital phone service, and cable TV through many ISPs. If you have phone service and want a new cable modem, you have to get one that includes support for telephone service.
Cable modems we recommend
Best of the best: Motorola's Cable Modem
Our take: All-in-one superstar that makes your online experience run smoother.
What we like: Four ethernet ports and included WiFi router feature make this an all-around great buy.
What we dislike: WiFi range is too limited for some users.
Best bang for your buck: TP-Link's Cable Modem
Our take: Easy setup at a reasonable price.
What we like: 343 Mbps download speed and 143 Mbps upload speed. Is simple to activate online.
What we dislike: Some Spectrum users complain that the modem didn't work with their service.
Choice 3: Linksys' High-Speed Cable Modem
Our take: A great all-around modem that's as user-friendly as they come.
What we like: No CD required for setup. Can handle speeds of up to 960 Mbps.
What we dislike: Some users said the modem didn't work well for streaming and gaming.
Adam Reeder is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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