The Best Cable Modem/Router Combos [October 2020]
While many people use the words “modem” and “router” interchangeably, there actually is a very different meaning between the two words. While not everyone has both a router and a modem, both components are required for a wireless internet network, whether at home or in your office. A router’s job is to create a network between all the Internet-capable devices in your home or office, while a modem’s job is simply to connect that network to the Internet. And while this may seem trivial, a surprising number of people are confused and disappointed when they purchase only a router and are unable to connect to the Internet.
That very same confusion plagues buyers who purchase a modem and can’t understand why their wireless devices aren’t being recognized. Many major Internet providers have sought in recent years to eliminate such needless confusion by creating cable modem/router combinations, which handle everything from setting up a home network to connecting to the Internet—all in one convenient package. If you’re looking to pick up a combination modem/router for yourself, either to replace your old hardware or to avoid paying fees to the cable company, you’ll wanna check out one of the routers we have listed below. Hopefully, these routers will be powerful enough to carry you through 2020 and beyond. Let’s take a look!
This is it: the classic Motorola router. When it comes to power, speed, range, and affordability, it really doesn’t get much better than this Motorola cable modem/router unit. Released in 2016 (though obviously based on models going back more than a decade), the MG7540 has a built-in AC1600 Wi-Fi Gigabit Router, four 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet ports, and a firewall. It’s also certified by Comcast, Charter Spectrum, and most other major service providers, so you can rest assured there won’t be any unwanted surprises when it comes time to set it up.
Connectivity aside, this unit is wicked fast, with speeds of up to 686 Mbps and the ability to focus your WiFi signal at 5.0 GHz for added performance and range. The router portion of this unit also provides Internet access for wireless n, ac, g, b, and a devices including smartphones, computers, tablets, game stations, Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku, HDTVs, and more. And if you prefer to use a physical connection, four Ethernet LAN ports are also available on the back panel.
Installation was fast, easy, and intuitive, and the unit is small enough to be easily concealed. And with a name like Motorola, you can expect the highest quality products along with reliable customer service. Of course, the router isn’t the most attractive thing in the world—it looks like a router, nothing more and nothing less—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. At $129, this is a solid deal, a one-time purchase that should keep you satisfied with your router up through the next several years. As you’ll soon see, there are indeed cheaper modem/router combinations on our list, which might be more suitable for buyers on a budget. However, if you have the cash to spend, it would be hard finding a better and more reliable unit than the Motorola MG7540.
- Fast networking
- Dual-band support
- Looks plain
Netgear is a perennial champion of networking, and they’ve been our previous top pick on this list before. Unfortunately, when it comes to technology, so many decisions come down to cost. Oh, to dream of all the wonderful gadgets we’d own if money were no issue. Alas, money is an issue, and it’s the reason why this wonderful NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 modem/router was bumped to #2 on our list.
At first glance, this unit is very similar to the Motorola MG7540 in both size and functionality. Yet subtle differences add up. This modem/router combination can cruise at speeds of up to 960 Mbps (which is quite a noticeable difference from the MG7540), and 24.8 channel bonding brings a more focused and responsive signal during peak hours. (Much like an actual highway, cable companies use data channels to deliver Internet to your home. The more channels you have, the less likely you are to experience congestion.
Compatible with Xfinity from Comcast, Spectrum, Cox, and more, this unit is the ideal choice for buyers who can afford it, especially buyers who require super-fast transfer speeds for gaming, hi-speed downloads, and more.
- Fast speeds
- Sleeker design
- Designed mainly for Xfinity
Now for some fantastic cable modem/routers that are a bit more affordable. First, we have the ARRIS SURFboard SBG6400 DOCSIS 3.0. This attractive and compact unit can handle download speeds of up to 343 Mbps (although a cheaper version that can only handle 172 Mbps is also available), and contains a 2-port N300 router. It’s been officially approved for use by Comcast Xfinity, Cox Cable, Time Warner, Charter, Bright House, and more, and has eight download channels alongside four separate upload channels. It also supports both IPv4 and IPv6 and allows for WiFi beamforming, which decreases congestion.
Although highly suitable for run-of-the-mill office work, we wouldn’t recommend this modem for buyers who are looking to stream or download lots of data at once. SURFboard has been around for years, making this an obvious choice for any standard users.
- Incredibly cheap
- Some questions about reliability over high data streams
- No 5GHz network
Next on our list is the ever-popular TP-Link TC-W7960. Unlike older odels from TP-Link, their W7960 is priced far closer to the ARRIS SURFboard, while still offering better connections and faster speeds. In fact, in the speed department, the TC-W7960 comes up about twice as high as the SURFboard—topping out at about 600 Mbps on 2.4 GHz as opposed to 343 Mbps. The TC-W7960, however, has separate channels devoted to uploading data, which can operate at speeds of up to 143 Mbps. In terms of range, the TC-W7960 is fairly identical to the SURFboard, and will have you covered as long as you don’t venture too far off of your property. The setup is fast, and the unit is fully compatible with all major cable providers, including Comcast, Cox, and Spectrum.
- Good design
- Works on all major ISPs
- No 5GHz network
- Okay speeds
This is the second NETGEAR cable modem/router on our list, which isn’t very surprising. NETGEAR has made quite a name for themselves in the world of home Internet devices due to their power, reliability, and affordability. This N600 is no exception to that rule, and brings speeds of up to 300 Mbps along with easy installation and solid performance. On the rear panel, there are two Gigabit Ethernet ports alongside one USB 2.0 port, and the N6000 has been approved by Internet providers such as Comcast, Spectrum, Cox, and more.
We actually found this unit to be slightly better at streaming video and high-speed online gaming, however it fell a bit short of the other similarly-priced units on our list when it came to upload speeds, which clocked in around 130 Mbps.
- USB access for network sharing
- Slow connection
- Small networking area
Calling all gamers: have we got the router for you. As covered previously, Netgear is one of the best networking companies in the game today, and they’ve poured a ton of work and attention into their C6250 modem/router combo. Although $150 puts it in the higher tier on our list, it’s well worth it for the impressive speeds and—perhaps more important—its stellar connection quality, no matter what you throw at it. Built for HD streaming and gaming, Netgear has equipped the C6250 with DOCSIS 3.0 and 16×4 Channel Bonding for reliable, fast internet no matter where you are.
The C6250 can support speeds up to 300Mbps—well over the average internet speed found in the United States—while also covering up to 1500 square feet of your house with no additional equipment required. It also features a phenomenal design that looks flashy and eye-catching without appearing embarrassing. And it’s supported out of the box by Spectrum, Cox, and Comcast, so you’re all set to begin streaming, gaming, and surfing the web as soon as you get your new router.
- Fast, stable internet perfect for gaming
- Supported by most major ISPs out of the box
- Some may have speeds above 300Mbps