Your ISP charges you rent for your cable modem and they don’t necessarily update your unit when new technology is available. You can save money and get one of the best modems if you buy it yourself, but there are some features and requirements you have to consider first.
We’ve already shown you the five best wireless routers to buy from Amazon, so let’s look at the other end of that Ethernet connection!
Before buying a modem, however, it’s a good idea to check with your ISP regarding compatibility of the modem you’re planning to buy. If you have an older modem, you may find that your Internet performs much better and at a higher speed with your new unit. CNET has a series of reviews on different models of cable modems and below we review some available from Amazon.
The Best Modems are Easy to Use
For the best modems, look at those that are easy to use. Many are basically plug-and-play, but some need drivers for certain applications and networks. Ideally, the modem comes with a CD or DVD that has the drivers, should you need them. Often it’s just a question of plugging in the power supply, cable connection, the Ethernet cable to your computer or router, and possibly calling your ISP for some account and connection information.
Get a cable modem that has adequate status LEDs to indicate operating status. It has to at least have LEDs for power, operations such as send and receive, and for activity or traffic. A rest button is useful for troubleshooting.
The “Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification” is the standard that helps ensure cable modems can work on the different networks of the cable companies. The latest standard as of 2013 is DOCSIS version 3.0, and many manufacturers have cable modem models available with DOCSIS 3.0 capability.
The standard specifies how modems support data transmission speeds over the cable connection and additional features for control of the modem. DOCSIS 3.0 supports much higher speeds than the older DOCSIS 2.0 standard, and a modem using the 3.0 version of the standard will deliver the maximum speed provided by your ISP under your service plan.
The Internet is running out of IP (Internet Protocol) addresses being issued under the current IPv4 system. IP addresses identify all computer and devices connected to the Internet. The new version 6 of the IP address system is being rolled out, and IPv6 addresses will gradually replace all IPv4 addresses. If you get the latest modem and intend to keep it for many years, check that it supports IPv6 to avoid problems in the future, when IPv4 devices may see limitations on their operation.
5 Best Modems on Amazon
Amazon has a wide variety of cable modems available but some have all the required features, good customer reviews and a reasonable price. The best modems feature DODSIS 3.0, ease of use, high Ethernet connection speed and possibly IPv6 capability.
This modem has everything needed for fast operation and convenient installation. It supports DOCSIS 3.0 and can download at 343 Mbps and upload at 131 Mbps. Those speeds are much higher than your ISP can currently supply, but this modem will not limit the available speed and will be able to handle future speed improvements.
Rear color coding of the connectors and descriptive front panel LEDs are designed for easy installation and troubleshooting. The Ethernet port to your computer or router also supports the highest available speeds.
Slightly less expensive than the top-of-the-line Motorola modem, the Linksys cable modem also supports DOCSIS 3.0 and is explicitly compatible with IPv6.
Comcast specifies it as one of its compatible modems and it may be the easiest to install if you’re a Comcast customer. (If you are curious to see if Comcast services your area, enter your street address here to see if Comcast has any deals.
Also DOCSIS 3.0 compatible, this Zoom modem is good value and delivers top speeds on current configurations.
For future development and possible speed increases, its performance will be limited by its maximum transmission speed of 172 Mbps.
An older model with DOCSIS 2.0 capability, it has good speed with present networks, but may not give you top speeds and additional features in the future, as DOCSIS 3.0 becomes the standard.
Especially easy to set up, it also has a USB port for additional connectivity options, such as connecting a computer that does not have a network card. You usually have to install drivers for the USB to work.
If you want to save some money and don’t have access to super-fast Internet anyway, this older Motorola model is easy to set up and connects at adequate speeds.
With DOCSIS 2.0 and 30 Mbps transfer speeds, it won’t limit your Internet browsing if your ISP doesn’t supply these high speeds in any case.
Below is a Digital Landing video that explains the difference between a cable modem and a router, in case you weren’t really clear.
The best modems should be able to satisfy your cable Internet browsing, and the top-of-the-line models will do so for many years into the future. For a comparatively small investment, you can avoid the monthly ISP cable modem rental fee and make sure you get the data transfer speeds specified in your service plan.