When you have a cable internet connection it is very common to just pay a monthly rental cost to the provider so they can stick you with one of their shabby, third-rate hunks of equipment which may or may not work. Then you end up paying 2 to 3 times what it is worth – if not more – over the course of your contract. If you are wise you will break this heinous cycle and instead replace their standard clunker with an upgraded cable modem that you buy yourself.
The advantage to choosing a third party option is it will save you money in the long run, allow you to choose the features you require, and they almost always offer better speed, more reliable connections, and longer life spans. The worry that most people have is that if they buy a modem it may not be compatible with their internet service provider. This concern is typically unfounded, but not always. We’ve tried to ensure that the products listed here will fit with most of the standard providers but we cannot guarantee that they will function for everyone. Please check before you buy. Enough disclaiming, on with the 5 best cable modems.
Budget Friendly: This is the ultimate in cable modem savings. It pays for itself in less than year vs rental costs and blows out most of the standard modems offered by cable providers. Despite the low price, it has been clocked at 343 Mbps of download speed with uploads going up to nearly 150 Mbps. It is CableLabs certified making it hard to find a cable provider that can’t work with the 5341. The protocol is DOCSIS 3.0 allowing it to handle the fastest lines and the most impressive data transmission packages.
In addition to being flexible when it comes to cable providers, the 5341 is easy to setup whether you are running a Windows PC, a Mac, or a Linux box. It interfaces easily with both wired and wireless routers and its menus are easy to access, easy to understand, and easy to adjust. The simplicity of this model makes it best for smaller households since it can get overwhelmed by too many users trying to do too much. It doesn’t offer any extra features like on-board security, so you’ll need to handle that at the router level. For power and simplicity at a cutting cost, there is none higher. [Purchase: $65]
Motorola SURFboard SB6141
Gamer’s Grab: When milliseconds count and there is raiding to be done and fools to be fragged, the SURFboard line from Motorola has no peer for handling incoming and outgoing data packets with the speed that both console and PC gamers demand. It is equipped with true channel bonding that can utilize up to 8 downstream and 4 upstream channels to jack data rates higher than 300 Mbps incoming and 100 Mbps outgoing. Works for a single user or multiple players at any given time. Can use both IPv4 and IPv6 addressing for more flexible addresses and the use of older systems. It is a fully backwards-compatible DOCSIS 3.0.
The security on this SURFboard model is damn near bulletproof. It allows for true AES traffic encryption which protects your signal as it goes in and comes out from adulteration and would-be hackers that seek to meddle in your affairs. It is designed to help reduce line noise and interference so that your signal stays clean. The designated LED lights on the front are user-friendly and easy to read at a glance. It works with Windows computers, Macs, and can even make friends with Linux and UNIX machines. There is only a single 10/100/1000 Base-T Gigabit Ethernet Port and it does not work wirelessly. [Purchase: $120]
Cisco Model DPC3010
Multiple Users: When it comes to modems and routers, Cisco literally wrote the book. They then told all other manufacturers how it was going to be and those that didn’t comply were then beaten with the book so as not to show any bruises. The DPC3010 shows that Cisco hasn’t lost a step in recent years. It implements a unique internal packet processing system that helps reduce data collisions when used by a household of multiple users, all looking to do different things at the same time. It can support up to 64 users, though you’re definitely going to see some data stream degradation at that rate.
For power, this ranks as very good by using 8 bonded channels for a total of more than 300 Mbps of throughput. Like all the options on this list it is a DOCSIS 3.0 that offers maximum speed but is also backward compatible with older protocols. This model is a little bit older, though still very serviceable and able to deal with operating systems both new and old, including the latest Windows and OSX. Works with Linux and UNIX without a hitch since it’s internal workings are based around Linux infrastructure. Includes an older USB 2.0 port which works well, but can be touchy about certain devices. Be prepared to provide your own security through routers. [Purchase: $90]
Double Trouble: NETGEAR has long been the sole cable modem manufacturer who has managed to successfully incorporate routers into their devices. The N450 is the best example of an all-in-one solution for those who don’t want to spend money on separate routers and modems. While it is a good conjoining of the two, it still doesn’t work quite as well as having the two components separately. This is a DOCSIS 3.0 that will work with any of the former protocols with ease. The N450 design allows even older computers to run at 450 Mbps.
It should be noted that the on-board router is fully WiFi capable. It runs on the 802.11n protocol which will limit the amount of speed it can use with faster wireless cards that prefer the 802.11ac protocol for their connectivity. It does offer 4 LAN ports, but only allows for a cable input so it cannot be used as a standard router. Will work with any operating system, though certain versions of Linux can confuse it. It has a USB 2.0 port if you want to share a printer. Basically, if you find the modem/router combo to be overkill, this is a single solution that works well. Uses WPA/WPA2 security. [Purchase: $109]
Arris TM822G Touchstone
Chatty Kathy: The claim to fame of the Touchstone comes with its two lines of primary Voice over IP (VoIP) protocols that help you eliminate your home phone. Using this system it can maintain its 300 Mbps data connection while simultaneously offering a voice connection that will not automatically destroy your data stream. If you use Vonage or another VoIP provider as your home phone then this will save you from sudden drops in connectivity the minute your phone rings.
The Touchstone gives you the standard DOCSIS 3.0 treatment and works with every operating system seamlessly for easy setup and reliable use. It even allows you to help configure the device depending on how much you intend to use it for talk and how much you plan on pushing straight data through it. It gives you 300 Mbps worth of data that can take on any but the fattest data pipes of any ISP. You’ll find that many of the features are attached to the VoIP system including call notifications and HD talk. Great for small businesses or professional homes. [Purchase: $170]