Best Modem for your ISP

A modem is an important device responsible for connecting your home to the internet. Short for MOdulator-DEModulator, these blinking boxes receive signals from your internet service provider (ISP) (through a coaxial cable, telephone line, fiber-optic cable or radio signals) and translate them to Ethernet signals that your computing devices can use, and vice versa. To access the internet, you will also need a router that lets you share the modem’s internet connection on all your devices, either through an Ethernet cable or WiFi signals.

Traditionally, modems and routers were separate devices that worked together to establish a home network. However, with today’s technology, you’ll also find devices that combine the functions of both modem and router into a single gadget. Your ISP will most likely provide a modem or a combo unit with your new internet connection. However, some might require buying or renting a new modem to connect your home to the internet.

In the latter case, getting the fastest modem becomes a necessity. However, with myriad options available on the market, choosing the right one can get overwhelming at times. If you’re on the fence about selecting the best modem for your internet connection, this guide will help you make the right choices.

Buying vs. renting a modem

One of the most nagging questions that come with an internet connection is whether to rent or buy a modem. Most ISPs offer modems on rent, but it can add about $10 to $15 to your monthly internet bill. Fortunately, you can quickly mitigate this cost by purchasing your own equipment, which can pay for itself within a year or two, depending on the device you buy. You also have the option to choose your preferred high-speed modem when you buy.

However, this doesn’t mean that renting a modem is a bad idea. There are scenarios where renting makes more sense. For example, if you’re planning to move, renting is the best option, since you might not know what internet options will be available at your new location. Besides, when renting, you will also get all the support and repair services from the ISP, which is quite useful if you aren’t tech-savvy.

Types of internet modems

Modems come in a variety of types depending on the kind of signal that needs translation. These include:

  • Cable modem: This type of modem is designed to operate over a cable television network. A cable modem can be an external device or integrated within a set-top box that provides channels to your TV.
  • DSL modem: A DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) modem allows your devices to connect to the internet using telephone lines.
  • Gigabit modem: A gigabit modem is essentially a router that is capable of handling gigabit Ethernet speeds and is ideal for the gig plans that ISPs offer. 
  • Satellite modem: These types of modems receive and transmit signals from a satellite transceiver.
ModemBest ForCompatibilityStarting Price

Linksys CM3008

Lower speed caps

Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox

$84.95

Netgear CM500

Speed and price

Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox

$53.99

Netgear DM200

Speed

Speed, CenturyLink, Frontier

$195.01

ARRIS SURFboard SB6190

Speed

Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, Mediacom

$83.99

TP-Link TC-W7960

Lower speed caps

Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, Suddenlink, Mediacom, WOW!

$68.49

TP-Link TC-7620

Speed

Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, Suddenlink, Mediacom, WOW!

$109.55

Netgear CM1000

Speed

Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox

$159.98

Motorola MB7621

Speed

Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, Sparklight, Suddenlink, RCN

$77.89

ARRIS SURFboard SB8200

Speed

Speed, Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox

$169.99

Motorola MB8600

Speed

Speed,  Xfinity, Cox, Sparklight

$159.99

*As of 03/11/2020

Top 10 modems for 2020

Linksys CM3008

If your data plan maxes out at 100 Mbps, CM3008 from Linksys is the best modem out there. This compact device is compatible with top cable internet providers, including Cox, Spectrum and Xfinity. The CM3008 comes with eight download channels and four upload channels, supporting downloads speeds of up to 100 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 122 Mbps

The modem is DOCSIS 3.0 certified, which is an industry-standard that allows high-speed data transfers through existing cable lines. While the modem is cost-effective, it will not perform well with high-speed internet service. The device also doesn’t support DSL service. Linksys offers a one-year warranty on this modem.

Netgear CM500

CM500 from Netgear stands out from the rest due to its support for high-speed internet at a competitive price. The device supports download speeds of up to 680 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 132 Mbps. CM500 is also compatible with popular cable internet providers, including Cox, Spectrum and Xfinity. CM500 is ideal for your 300 Mbps internet plan. 

The modem meets DOCSIS 3.0 specifications, featuring 16 downstream and four upstream channels, a gigabit Ethernet port for fiber connections, and comes with IPv6 support (Internet Protocol Version 6). 

While the device gets recognition for its solid performance, some of the Amazon reviews do question its reliability. However, Netgear’s one-year warranty on the CM500 model means you’ll have an option to replace the equipment if there are any performance issues.

Netgear DM200

DM200 is an ideal replacement for your rented modem. The equipment is compatible with major DSL ISPs, including CenturyLink and Frontier. The equipment supports speeds of up to 100 Mbps. It comes with a host of security features such as Port Scan and DoS (Denial of Service) protection, to protect your devices from cyber attacks. 

This low-cost modem is best for your 100 Mbps internet plan. However, the device doesn’t support bonded ADSL or VDSL, which means it won’t work with Verizon, AT&T and other DSL ISPs that utilize fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology. Netgear offers a one-year warranty on this modem.

ARRIS SURFboard SB6190

If you’re planning to get a gig plan for your home, get your hands on this blazing-fast modem that supports download speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 240 Mbps. This Gigabit modem is compatible with top fiber and cable ISPs that include Cox, Spectrum, Mediacom and Xfinity. 

The equipment boasts 32 download and eight upload channels that meet DOCSIS 3.0 standards. The modem comes with a two-year warranty and supports IPv6 internet standard. The SB6190 modem is ideal for glitch-free HD video streaming and online gaming.

TP-Link TC-W7960

This modem and router combo from TP-Link can handle download speeds of up to 343 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 143 Mbps. Ideal for cable plans of up to 150 Mbps, this cost-effective unit will also give you wireless speeds of up to 300 Mbps. The TC-W7960 model is compatible with most cable ISPs, including Cox, Mediacom, Spectrum, Suddenlink, Xfinity and WOW! 

The equipment features four gigabit Ethernet ports and includes a firewall and access control features for network security. TP-Link offers a two-year warranty on this combo unit. The device, however, does not support high-speed internet plans.

TP-Link TC-7620

The TC-7620 from TP-Link is a super-fast modem supporting high-speed cable internet plans of up to 300 Mbps. The equipment is capable of handling up to 680 Mbps download speeds and 143 Mbps upload speeds

With support for IPv6, the modem has 16 downstream channels and four upstream channels, offering reliable connectivity for streaming and gaming. TC-7620 comes with a two-year warranty and is one of the best devices compatible with cable ISPs, including Cox, Mediacom, Spectrum, Suddenlink, Xfinity and WOW!

Netgear CM1000

With a capability to support download speeds of up to 1 Gbps, this powerful gigabit modem from Netgear is best for your 1 Gbps internet plans. CM1000 is compatible with Cox, Spectrum and Xfinity. 

The device meets the new industry-standard DOCSIS 3.1 specifications, ensuring blazing-fast data transfer for glitch-free HD video streaming and online gaming. The equipment comes with a one-year hardware warranty. 

Motorola MB7621

Motorola’s MB7621 modem checks all the boxes when it comes to speed, price and reliability. The device supports download and upload speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps and 246 Mbps, respectively. Compatible with top cable ISPs, including Cox, Spectrum and Xfinity, this modem is ideal for internet speeds up to 400 Mbps. Note that the device does not support AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink and other fiber-optic or DSL internet providers.

The compact equipment comes with lightning and power surge circuits for protection against electrical shorts. MB7621 also supports IPv6 and meets the DOCSIS 3.0 specifications. Motorola offers a two-year warranty on the device.

ARRIS SURFboard SB8200

SB8200 is an ultimate gigabit modem that offers support for high-speed internet. With 32 download and eight upload channels, this DOCSIS 3.1 device can handle downstream speeds of up to 10 Gbps and upstream speeds of up to 2 Gbps. The future-proof modem is compatible with Cox, Spectrum and Xfinity. 

It is best for internet service plans starting from 300 Mbps and above, and it comes with a two-year limited warranty.

Motorola MB8600

This gigabit modem from Motorola is compatible with ISPs such as Cox, Sparklight and Xfinity, supporting download speeds of up to 3.8 Gbps and upload speeds of up to 1 Gbps. The device is a good fit for internet service plans of up to 1 Gbps. 

This compact unit also meets DOCSIS 3.1 specifications and supports IPv6 internet standards. It comes with a two-year limited warranty.

What to consider when choosing a modem

  • Compatibility with ISPs: Make sure you buy a modem that is compatible with your ISP. Verify the model with your service provider to ensure compatibility. An incompatible device might not offer the speeds you’ve paid for, or might not run at all.
  • Price: Avoid paying for a high-end modem if your internet connection runs on lower speed caps. Unless you’re planning to go for a gig plan, you won’t need a gigabit modem that costs more compared to ones that offer speeds in the range of 100 Mbps–300 Mbps.
  • Warranty: Ensure that the manufacturer offers a warranty on the equipment to prevent spending on repair or replacement costs. Most reputable manufacturers provide a two-year warranty on their modems.
  • Speed: Always check the speed capability of the modem to ensure that you will get the same upload and download speeds for which you’re paying. 

The bottom line

If you’re getting an internet connection for your home, selecting the best modem is the first thing you would want to consider to get fast and reliable connectivity. You may consider renting the modem from your ISP or prefer buying your own. In most cases, purchasing this network equipment makes the most sense as the modem cost will most likely pay for itself within a year compared to renting. Selecting the right modem for your internet connection is easy once you compare different models against the speed range, compatibility with ISPs, price and warranties. Consider all these factors carefully to ensure the best performance within your budget.