Best Cable Modems 2022

Stop paying equipment rental fees with these pro picks for cable internet.

Our pick: Which cable modems are best?

The Motorola MB8600 is the best cable modem because of its wide compatibility with most cable internet providers, fast speeds, and up-to-date tech for a reasonable price. Though many of the cable modems recommended here are not drastically different, we like that the MB8600 has beefed-up security against denial of service attacks and active queue management for lower network latency.

Are you looking for a modem/router combo?

A wireless gateway is a single device that combines a modem and a wireless router. If you’d rather have a combo device, we list the best modem/router combos you can buy from ARRIS, Motorola, and NETGEAR.

The 5 best cable modems

Best cable modems

ModelImageStandout featurePriceOrder online
Best overallMotorola MB8600Active Queue Management to lower latency$149.99View on Amazon
Best for multigigabit internetARRIS Surfboard SB8200Two gigabit LAN ports and port aggregation for multigigabit connections$148.24View on Amazon
Best for a budgetMotorola MB7420Quick setup$58.99View on Amazon
Best no-frills modemNETGEAR CM1000No extra features for straightforward networking$169.99View on Amazon
Best for gamingNETGEAR Nighthawk CM20002.5 Gbps speeds$229.99View on Amazon

What should you look for in a cable modem?

Check your provider’s list of approved modems before you invest in a new one. Not all modems work with all providers, so you need to make sure yours is compatible with your internet provider.

Here are the compatible modem lists for popular cable providers:

Best overall—Motorola MB8600

Best overall

$149.99

Specs:

  • DOCSIS 3.1 2×2
  • DOCSIS 3.0 32×8
  • 3.8 Gbps max downstream
  • 1 Gbps max upstream
  • 1x open Ethernet port (1 Gbps)
  • 3x masked Ethernet ports (1 Gbps)

Motorola is one of the tried-and-true brands when it comes to cable modems, so we’re not surprised that the MB8600 does its job really well.

Though most modems tend to be very similar when it comes to performance, the MB8600 has a few extras that we appreciate, including its active queue management. This feature minimizes latency by prioritizing data from high-bandwidth connections like movie streaming or online gaming.

Overall, we like that it’s compatible with most internet plans from major cable companies, including gigabit internet plans from Xfinity, Cox, Spectrum, and more.

Pros:

  • Compatibility with most internet plans from most cable providers
  • Active Queue Management

Cons:

  • Not compatible with RCN

Best for multigigabit internet—ARRIS Surfboard SB8200

Best for multigigabit internet

$148.24

Specs:

  • DOCSIS 3.1 2×2
  • DOCSIS 3.0 32×8
  • 2 Gbps maximum downstream
  • 1 Gbps maximum upstream
  • 2x Ethernet ports (1 Gbps)

All the modems we recommend here can stand up to gigabit internet connections, but the Surfboard SB8200 can handle twice that internet speed. Not many internet providers offer speeds up to 2,000 Mbps, but if you’re one of the lucky ones with multigigabit internet, you’re going to need a multigigabit modem to handle it.

Of course, you don’t need to have fast internet to use this ARRIS modem. It’s a good choice all around, as it works with every cable provider that has a published list of compatible modems. But if you want to take advantage of the 2 Gbps download speed, you can use link aggregation to combine both Ethernet ports—even if your plan supports 1.2 Gbps downloads only.

The only very minor downside to this option is that it doesn’t have a power button, so you have to unplug it to turn it off.

Pros:

  • Approved for internet speeds up to 2,000 Mbps
  • Supports link aggregation

Cons:

  • No power button

Best for a budget—Motorola MB7420

Best for a budget

$58.99

Specs:

  • DOCSIS 3.0 16×4
  • 686 Mbps maximum downstream
  • 123 Mbps maximum upstream
  • 1x Ethernet port (1 Gbps)

If you need a new modem and you’re strapped for cash, the Motorola MB7420 is as budget-oriented as you can get without using a snail for a modem. It’s ideal for internet connections 600 Mbps and lower, although its peak downstream speed is 686 Mbps. There’s no DOCSIS 3.1 support, so you’ll need a new modem if you switch to a gigabit plan.

There’s really nothing else to report with this modem other than it has one gigabit Ethernet port. There’s a power button on the back, so you don’t have to power cycle by pulling the plug. It’s also certified to work on Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, and other cable internet networks.

Pros:

  • Affordable price
  • Decent download speeds

Cons:

  • No DOCSIS 3.1 support

Best no-frills modem—NETGEAR CM1000

Best no-frills modem

$169.99

Specs:

  • DOCSIS 3.1 2×2
  • DOCSIS 3.0 32×8
  • 1 Gbps maximum downstream
  • 2 Gbps maximum upstream
  • 1x Ethernet port (1 Gbps)

The NETGEAR CM1000 is a solid all-around router. It has similar specs and price point as other recommended modems on this list, and it’s compatible with most cable internet providers, including Xfinity, Cox, and Spectrum. If you have internet speeds below 1,000 Mbps, you’ll honestly get comparable performance with this modem as with the ARRIS SB8200 and Motorola MB8600.

To put it simply, there’s nothing really exciting about this modem. It has no extra features or quirks, but that can be a good thing. After setting it up, you don’t usually think about your modem beyond restarting it every once in a while when your network gets wonky.

Pros:

  • Simple and easy to use

Cons:

  • No standout features

Best for gaming—NETGEAR Nighthawk CM2000

Best for gaming

$229.99

Specs:

  • DOCSIS 3.1 2×2
  • DOCSIS 3.0 32×8
  • 2.5 Gbps maximum downstream
  • 2 Gbps maximum upstream
  • 1x Ethernet port (2.5 Gbps)

If you need speed and good looks, then NETGEAR’s Nighthawk CM2000 delivers both. It’s an attractive modem that easily complements NETGEAR’s other Nighthawk devices. It’s technically built for 10 Gbps download speeds, but it’s locked to 2.5 Gbps due to the Ethernet port’s limited speed. Bummer.

NETGEAR recommends that you pair this modem with its RAX120, RAX200, and Orbi RBK852 wireless routers to get the full Nighthawk Multi-Gig Eco System support. It’s actually ideal for any router that has a 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port in case you’d rather go with TP-Link or ASUS.

Pros:

  • 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port
  • Gaming appearance

Cons:

  • Just one Ethernet port

Cable modem specs and features

Shopping for a modem can seem complicated, but it’s actually pretty easy. There are only two things you need to look for in order to choose your modem:

  • ISP compatibility
  • Speed threshold

Of course, there are other things that impact how well a modem works, and we’ll touch on those, too, if you want to get really in the weeds. But those two factors are primarily what you need. If a modem is approved by your ISP for your internet speed, that means it’s been tested on the network and has proven to work well.

ISP compatibility

Internet providers often test and list specific cable modems that work with their networks, so you can buy your own and know it works.

Overall, cable internet providers use light and electricity to send data across their network. They generally use fiber to a certain point and then rely on existing coaxial cables to deliver internet to your home. Your cable modem receives the modified radio waves from your provider, removes the data from those waves, converts that data into electrical pulses, and sends them across an Ethernet cable.

But not all modems work with all cable internet providers. Check with your provider’s approved list before you invest in a new modem.

Internet speed

Make sure your modem supports your internet connection speed. When you check your modem compatibility, many ISPs specify which modems are approved for each speed tier they offer. But if not, sticking with a DOCSIS 3.0 modem or newer will ensure your modem is fast enough for any internet speed up to 1,000 Mbps.

Ethernet speed

Ethernet can be a limiting factor in terms of overall speed. If you have a connection with speeds of more than a gigabit, a modem with a single gigabit Ethernet port will limit your speed on the network side. Look for modems with a single 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port (or more), or a modem with multiple gigabit Ethernet ports that you can link together.

DOCSIS

Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) is the protocol cable internet providers use to send internet signals over coaxial cables. DOCSIS 4.0 is the newest version and can handle 10 Gbps download speeds and 6 Gbps upload speeds. Most modems currently support DOCSIS 3.1 and older protocols.

Cable battles against fiber

The DOCSIS 3.1 specification was created to compete with fiber. Previously, the DOCSIS 3.0 spec introduced channel bonding, which groups channels together to provide more throughput—but the maximum download speed is only 1 Gbps. The DOCSIS 3.1 spec enables 10 Gbps by grouping tiny channels together, which frees up spectrum and creates superwide channels. Fiber is still king because it has symmetrical speeds, but cable is a good alternative with these improved specs.

Data channels

Cable internet providers use vacant cable TV channels to send and receive internet data from modems. Most of the modems we list here use 32 bonded channels for downloads and 8 bonded channels for uploads (abbreviated as 32×8)—each with a small guard band to prevent overlap. This method applies when DOCSIS 3.0 is in use.

DOCSIS 3.1 eliminates the need for guard bands between channels, freeing up bandwidth. Thin multiple channels become subcarriers in one large channel that’s shared by other modems. The typical setup is two downstream OFDM channels and two upstream OFDMA channels.

Our verdict

The Motorola MB8600 is the best cable modem overall. It’s compatible with most major cable companies, can handle most available internet speeds, and has a few extra features that set it apart from other similar modems. Plus, it will stay relevant for the foreseeable future.

FAQ about cable modems

What is a modem?

A modem is a device that translates your internet provider’s signals into Ethernet signals your network can use. On a more technical level, it removes and adds data waves to radio waves that are delivered across a coaxial cable. Without it, your home network cannot access the internet.

Do I need a router if I have a modem?

You need a router to distribute wired and wireless internet connections to more than one device in your home. Technically, you can connect any network-capable computing device to the modem’s Ethernet port. But if you want additional wired and wireless devices to use the internet, you need a router to connect them all.

Author -

Rebecca Lee Armstrong has more than six years of experience writing about tech and the internet, with a specialty in hands-on testing. She started writing tech product and service reviews while finishing her BFA in creative writing at the University of Evansville and has found her niche writing about home networking, routers, and internet access at HighSpeedInternet.com. Her work has also been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ, and iMore.

Editor - Cara Haynes

Cara Haynes has been editing and writing in the digital space for seven years, and she's edited all things internet for HighSpeedInternet.com for five years. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. When she's not editing, she makes tech accessible through her freelance writing for brands like Pluralsight. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span.