Stop Leasing Your Modem With These Top Picks
Purchasing a third-party modem is a great way to save on your internet bill. The up-front cost of buying a modem may seem high, but it offers an excellent return on investment. Some ISPs run promotions for free Wi-Fi equipment, but you’ll typically pay a monthly rental fee or one-time charge. If you’re looking for modem alternatives to call your own, check out our top picks below.
Buying vs. Renting a Modem
You’ll need to decide whether buying or renting a modem is better for you. Expect to pay $8 to $15 per month — or $96 to $180 a year — if you lease your ISP’s modem, which should get you some high-quality equipment. Aside from monthly or annual charges, there are extra fees for not returning equipment when you terminate your internet contract.
An ISP-provided modem or gateway device may be required for some internet plans, but not all of them. If you buy your own modem, you need to make sure it’s compatible with your internet service. Buying your own modem also means you’re responsible for any technical problems, while you’ll usually get free tech support if you lease a modem.
Before you purchase any of these modems, check with your ISP that the modem supports your internet connection.
Arris Surfboard SB8200
With its consistent speed and reliable performance, the Arris Surfboard SB8200 is one of the best modems on the market. It supports gigabit internet service with speeds of up to 1 Gbps. It also has a Broadcom processor and 3 GB of high-speed RAM.
You get an impressive 128 MB of storage support for firmware and network configuration. This modem has two high-speed Ethernet ports, allowing you to connect one port to the router and the other to bandwidth-intensive devices such as a smart TV or gaming console.
Another impressive feature is that it allows link aggregation — also known as Ethernet bonding — which means you can combine multiple Ethernet connections into a single link, which will improve network reliability. The network, for example, can use the other links if one fails.
The SB8200’s design and build quality are outstanding, with a well-ventilated layout to prevent overheating and a plastic-clad form factor to reduce weight. Its multi-ISP compatibility means the Arris Surfboard SB8200 is compatible with Cox, Xfinity, Spectrum®, and other major ISPs.
The Motorola MB8600 is a newer model of the popular MB7220, which is well known for its reliability and ease of use. It offers speeds of up to 930 Mbps, making it ideal for all types of internet connections, including gigabit plans. There’s room for only one Ethernet port, but it does support link aggregation.
The MB8600 is lightweight and has a vertical design to maximize ventilation. It’s one of the few modems that offers 10 status-reporting lights, which can come in handy during troubleshooting or initial setup. The hardware and software setup is straightforward. When you open your browser, it will direct you to an activation page where you can easily complete the registration and setup procedure.
The hardware includes 512 MB of high-speed RAM and 128 MB of storage. It also has QAM compatibility for productivity boost and gaming. Better yet, it supports DOCSIS 3.1, which is a cable standard that delivers speeds of over 1 Gbps. The Motorola MB8600 is certified with Cox and Xfinity.
Netgear Nighthawk CM1100
Netgear’s Nighthawk CM1100 boasts the best network technology and a powerful internal setup system. It supports multigig speed, with a maximum speed of 1 Gbps. The hardware also has 256 GB RAM and 128 GB flash storage.
The Nighthawk CM1100 has an ultra-fast link-aggregative feature, two telephone ports for added flexibility, and two gig Ethernet ports. Its sleek design is aesthetically pleasing, and at less than a pound in weight, the Nighthawk CM1100 is one of the most lightweight modems on the market.
The responsive web interface makes setting up the Netgear Nighthawk CM1100 quick and easy. ISP compatibility includes Spectrum, Xfinity, and Cox. Note that it doesn’t work with cable bundled with voice services.
Coda’s compact and understated design may not be as attractive as other modems, but it does the job. The Hitron Coda is extremely fast, with speeds of up to 10 Gbps. The modem has a horizontal design, but there are narrow slits in the case for ventilation.
The device has four gigabit Ethernet ports, enough to connect most devices, such as gaming consoles, desktop computers, and smart TVs. A significant drawback is that it doesn’t support Verizon, AT&T, CenturyLink, DSL providers, DISH, DIRECTV, and fiber internet services. It’s designed for Xfinity, Cox Gigablast, CableOne Sparklight, Zito Media, and Spectrum.
As the most budget-friendly option on this list, the Motorola MG7540 modem-and-router combo offers great value with impressive hardware and easy setup. It’s compatible with most leading cable internet providers, including Spectrum and Xfinity.
Its speeds go up to 686 Mbps, so there are better choices that support faster speeds if you have a gigabit internet plan. If you have lower-speed internet, the Motorola MG7540 offers several impressive features, including a direct Wi-Fi connection with a built-in router and seven status-reporting LEDs. The vertical design also helps improve cooling and wireless performance and minimizes shelf space.
If you’re ready to spend more money, you can invest in a Netgear CAX80 for a high-tier modem-and-router combo. With wireless speeds of up to 6 Gbps, it can support the fastest internet plans in the U.S. The advantage of using a modem-and-router combo is that you won’t have to purchase a separate router and configure it with your modem. You can simply connect the device to your coaxial outlet and get a Wi-Fi signal.
With a 1.5 GHz dual-core chipset, 512 MB of RAM, and NAND memory, the Netgear CAX80 has all the hardware to justify its steep price tag. The interface offers parental controls, USB sharing, and Netgear Armor protection to keep the device safe. Internet services compatible with the Netgear CAX80 include Spectrum, Cox, Xfinity, and other ISPs.