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The 9 Best Cable Modem/Router Combos of 2021

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The RundownBest Overall:Arris Surfboard SBG7600AC2 at Amazon"A great little modem/router combo that provides what most users need without the extra frills."Best Value:Netgear Nighthawk C7000 at Amazon"A slim and unobtrusive router with great wireless performance."Best Mesh:Netgear Orbi CBK752 at Amazon"This ultimate future-proof combo offers advanced Wi-Fi 6 coverage for even the largest and busiest homes."Best Design:Motorola MG7700 at Amazon"A powerful 24x8 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem and AC1900 Wi-Fi router in an unobtrusive package."Best Range:Netgear Nighthawk C7800 at Amazon"This DOCSIS 3.1 modem/router combo delivers true 1Gbps internet speeds with Wi-Fi performance to match."Best Security:Asus CM-32 at Amazon"The integrated VPN secures your internet connection and allows for remote access away from home."Best for Gigabit Internet:Arris Surfboard SBG8300 at Amazon"The Surfboard SBG8300 offers download speeds of up to 3.78Gbps, so you'll be future-proofed to go well beyond even 1Gbps plans."Best for Voice Services:Motorola MT7711 at Best Buy"Combines Motorola's great cable modem performance with a built-in voice gateway for XFINITY voice subscribers."Best for Smaller Homes:Netgear C6250 at Amazon"Compatible with most major cable providers, the C6250 is built for speed like most Netgear models."in this articleExpandOur PicksAbout Our Trusted ExpertsWhat to Look for in a Modem/Router ComboFAQsThe Ultimate Cable Model/Router Buying Guide

Getting the most out of your cable internet service requires the best cable modem/router combo, and while you often can rent one of these from your ISP, you'll do much better buying one of your own. Even the rental cost of a normal non-router cable modem can run up to $168/year, so it's easy to see how purchasing one outright can easily pay for itself in no time at all. 

The best cable modem/router combos combine all the capabilities of the fastest cable modems with the features of the best wireless routers, usually at a fraction of the cost of buying two devices separately. Plus, these all-in-one devices will reduce the clutter in your home and simplify your network setup. Whether you're looking for something cheap and cheerful to replace your rental cable modem or you want to be ready for the fastest multi-gigabit plans, the best cable modem/router combos will have you covered, from affordable models that will provide smooth 4K streaming performance to top-tier devices that pack in DOCSIS 3.1 support and the latest Wi-Fi 6 technologies. These versatile devices aren't just for power users either—any cable internet subscriber can benefit from the performance and features they offer, especially if you're shopping for a new wireless router anyway. 

Best Overall:Arris Surfboard SBG7600AC2 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem & Wi-Fi Router

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Good Wi-Fi coverage

Simple to set up

Great app support

What We Don't Like

Limited advanced features

Arris may not be a well-known name in routers, but it has been making cable modems from almost the beginning, and the Surfboard SBG7600AC2 is the company's latest DOCSIS 3.0 model with a built-in Wi-Fi router. The 32x8 channel support promises to deliver download speeds up to 1.2Gbps on compatible plans, and thanks to the Arris mobile Surfboard Manager app you can be up and running in no time at all without the need for any advanced networking expertise.

On the Wi-Fi side, the SBG7600AC2 offers dual-band AC2350 speeds across both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands with enough range for a small-to-medium-sized home, making it more than adequate for streaming Netflix and even gaming for single users and small families. Four Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back also allow for plenty of room to hardwire in if Wi-Fi congestion is a problem.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: DOCSIS 3.0 / AC2350 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: No | Beamforming: No | Wired Ports: 4

Best Value:Netgear Nighthawk C7000 X4 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem Router

4.5 Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartWhat We Like

Slim design

Xfinity-certified

Easy to set up

What We Don't Like

Lacks advanced features like MU-MIMO and QoS

Expensive

Netgear Nighthawk C7000 Review

Netgear's Nighthawk C7000 offers solid wireless performance in a surprisingly slim aesthetic that doesn't look like something out of a bad sci-fi movie, since it packs all of the antennas on the inside rather than letting them protrude in every direction. Even without the external antennas, however, it can cover 1,800 square feet at speeds of up to 1.3Gbps over the 5GHz band or 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz side.

The DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem also offers 24x8 channel bonding for internet throughput of up to 400Mbps, and it's not only compatible with all of the major cable providers, but actually certified for Xfinity by Comcast, Spectrum, and Cox, although there's no phone port, so it won't work with cable-bundled voice services. Set up is also a snap thanks to Netgear's easy user interface, so you don't need to be a network engineer to get up and running, although power users who want to get into the more technical settings still can. 

Not only are the Wi-Fi speeds blazingly fast, even in a large home, but the C7000 also provides four Gigabit Ethernet ports for those times when only a wired connection will do. While it doesn't offer any advanced features like MU-MIMO or QoS, it's not a serious omission for most home users considering that the available Wi-Fi bandwidth well exceeds the maximum speed of the cable internet connection.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: DOCSIS 3.0 / AC1900 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: No | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

"Even with our extreme 250Mbps internet connection, the modem was able to keep up during even the busiest times."— Bill Thomas, Product Tester

Best Mesh:Netgear Orbi Whole Home Wi-Fi 6 System with DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem (CBK752)

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Fast DOCSIS 3.1 speeds

Advanced Wi-Fi 6 support

Extensive coverage

What We Don't Like

Expensive

Subscription required for advanced security features

Netgear's Orbi lineup of mesh Wi-Fi systems are among the best when it comes to getting reliable and fast wireless coverage throughout a larger living space. So cable internet users looking for whole-home coverage will be delighted to hear that Netgear has released a premium version of its system that combines the most advanced mesh Wi-Fi technology available today with the fastest modern cable modem standards.

In fact, it's the ultimate future-proof cable modem/router combo, thanks to advanced Wi-Fi 6 technology that can deliver top-notch wireless performance to even the busiest homes plus the latest DOCSIS 3.1 standard, so you'll be ready for multi-gigabit internet plans with speeds of up to 10Gbps. It's a no-compromise solution that takes all the great features of Netgear's Orbi Whole Home Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System and adds in a high-performance cable modem. 

Two Orbi units—the main router and a single satellite—can provide gigabit wireless speeds over areas of up to 5,000 square feet, and you can drop in a second satellite unit to extend that coverage to a total of 7,500 square feet. Thanks to a dedicated Wi-Fi 6 backhaul channel between the Orbi stations, your connection also remains blazing fast no matter where you are in your home, and four Gigabit Ethernet ports on the main router and two more on each satellite unit let you hardwire in those devices that demand maximum performance or simply lack built-in wireless capabilities on their own.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: WPA3 | Standard/Speed: DOCSIS 3.1 / AX4200 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4 (Base) / 2 (Satellite)

Best Design:Motorola MG7700 Cable Modem and Router

4.8 Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartWhat We Like

Simple security management

Easy setup

Unobtrusive design

What We Don't Like

Combo unit limits placement locations

Not ideal for larger homes

Motorola MG7700 Cable Modem and Router Review

When it comes to cable modems, Motorola is one of the most reliable names in the business, and the MG7700 combines its solid DOCSIS 3.0 24x8 channel cable modem technology with an AC1900 Dual-Band Wi-Fi router, giving you high-speed Wi-Fi access to the internet in a small and unobtrusive package.

Our testing demonstrates that the MG7700 can handle cable services with speeds of up to 1Gbps and also includes four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, so you can hardwire your PC or gaming console into it if the 802.11ac speeds aren't cutting it for you. On the other hand, it doesn't include a telephone jack, so you won't be able to connect any phone services to the router, which could be a problem if your bundle includes voice. However, if you're ready to stop paying a monthly rental fee on what's most likely a less up-to-date modem, the MG7700 is easily worth the price.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: DOCSIS 3.0 / AC1900 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

"We found that it delivered outstanding speeds, maxing out our 100Mbps Spectrum plan when hard-wired via the LAN ports."— Don Reisinger, Product Tester

Best Range:Netgear Nighthawk C7800 X4S DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem Router

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DOCSIS 3.1

Xfinity-certified

Easy to set up

What We Don't Like

Reported problems with Cox/Spectrum

Poor customer support

Expensive

If you're looking to take your network performance up to a whole new level, Netgear's Nighthawk C7800 is worth a closer look. It's one of the first modem/router combos to include a built-in DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem, so it not only works with all of the major cable providers right out of the box, including Xfinity by Comcast, Cox, and Spectrum, but supports the kind of broadband speeds that were once the exclusive domain of fibre connections, with download performance up to 1Gbps.

The beamforming four-antenna array also delivers AC3200 Wi-Fi speeds of up to 3.2Gbps across 3,000 square feet of living space—1Gbps on the 2.4GHz band and 2.2Gbps in the higher 5GHz range. If the wireless speeds aren't fast enough, four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports let you hardwire in your gaming console or PC directly, and there are two USB 3.0 ports to hook up printers or external hard drives, plus built-in DLNA support to stream your media directly to your smart TV or game console. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: DOCSIS 3.1 / AC3200 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

The 9 Best Long-Range Routers of 2021

Best Security:Asus CM-32 AC2600 Wireless Cable Modem Router

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Good Wi-Fi range

Integrated VPN support

Apple Time Machine compatible

What We Don't Like

Limited firmware updates

Higher latency

The Asus CM-32 is a great choice for Asus fans looking to ditch their cable modem rental, since it combines an Asus AC2600 router with a DOCSIS 3.0 modem built right in. On the Wi-Fi side, you get dual-band AC2600 performance with speeds up to 1,734Mbps on the 802.11ac 5GHz channel plus 4x4 MU-MIMO support so that you can get maximum throughput even when you have multiple devices connected. An integrated VPN feature also helps to secure your internet connection and allows for remote access when you're away from home. 

The integrated cable modem works with most providers and is certified for Xfinity, Spectrum, and Cox, meaning you can get up and running quickly after buying this one and shouldn't even need to call your ISP. 32x8 channel bonding offers theoretical speeds of up to 1.3Gbps, and while many cable ISPs won't let you get this fast over DOCSIS 3.0, this still means it offers performance to spare. Unfortunately, the integrated cable modem means that you'll have to rely on your ISP rather than Asus for the latest firmware updates.

Four Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back let you hardwire in a PC or game console, plus there are two USB ports for sharing printers or external storage, and it's even compatible with Apple's Time Machine, so if you're a Mac user you can use it to back up all of your computers over Wi-Fi. On the downside, while the Wi-Fi router provides great performance for your wireless LAN, the higher internet connection latency on the cable modem side means this may not be the best choice for gamers. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: DOCSIS 3.0 / AC2600 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

The 9 Best Secure Routers of 2021

"Since manufacturers need to get new firmware versions certified by cable providers before they can release them, purchasing an integrated cable modem and router combo means that you'll often be at the mercy of your ISP when it comes to getting the latest firmware updates."— Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer

Best for Gigabit Internet:Arris Surfboard SBG8300 DOCSIS 3.1 Gigabit Cable Modem & Wi-Fi Router

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Fast DOCSIS 3.1 Performance

Easy app-based setup

Solid Wi-Fi performance

What We Don't Like

Pricey

No USB ports

If you're looking at getting true gigabit internet speeds from your cable ISP, you're going to need a DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem to pull it off, and venerable cable modem maker Arris has you covered with its Surfboard SBG8300, which offers 2x2 OFDM DOCSIS 3.1 channels for download speeds of up to 3.78Gbps, so you'll be future-proofed to go well beyond the 1Gbps plans of today.

Like most DOCSIS 3.1 modems, the SBG8300 also supports the more common DOCSIS 3.0 standard, of course, so it's backward-compatible with 32x8 channel support for maximum throughput, meaning that you can invest for the future without having to jump up to a higher speed plan right away. 

The SBG8300 also provides Wi-Fi performance to match, with dual-band 2.3Gbps speeds spread across the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, plus four Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back so you can hardwire in at gigabit speeds as well. Like Arris' other modems and modem/router combos, it's also trivially easy to get up and running thanks to the Arris Surfboard Manager app and the fact that it's already been certified by cable modem providers like Xfinity and Cox for easy installation. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: DOCSIS 3.1 / AC2350 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: No | Beamforming: No | Wired Ports: 4

"While some DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems advertise speeds of 1Gbps or higher, most cable internet providers will only give you up to 600Mbps over this standard. To get the fastest possible speeds, you'll need to invest in a DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem."— Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer

Best for Voice Services:Motorola MT7711 Cable Modem/Router with Voice Gateway

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Built-in support for XFINITY Voice

Solid Wi-Fi performance

Two voice ports

What We Don't Like

Only works with Comcast XFINITY

If you're also using your cable ISP for your voice telephone service, your options for replacing your rental cable modem will be a bit more limited, as you'll need to make sure it also has a voice gateway built in. Fortunately, Motorola's MT7711 offers all of the great features of the company's other cable modem/routers, while also supporting Comcast XFINITY voice service.

With support for 24 upstream and 8 downstream DOCSIS 3.0 channels, along with AC1900 Wi-Fi performance, this router is no slouch either. It supports cable internet speeds of up to 400Mbps, while also providing two XFINITY Voice compatible phone ports, and on the router side the dual-band Wi-Fi offers both 2.4GHz and 5GHz coverage, plus beamforming to help focus and boost your wireless signals for better range and performance and four Gigabit Ethernet ports around back. 

The MT7711 is also incredibly easy to get up and running with Comcast XFINITY, since it's designed specifically for Comcast's internet service, offering a Quick Start that will let you register it with your account and have it up and running in minutes with a minimum of fuss, and there's also an optional battery backup module you can add to make sure your telephone service stays up if there's ever a power outage. 

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: DOCSIS 3.0 / AC1900 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: No | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: Ethernet: 4 / Telephone: 2

Best for Smaller Homes:Netgear C6250 Dual-Band AC1600 Router with DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem

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Fast performance

Easy setup

What We Don't Like

Only two Ethernet ports

If you're in a smaller living space with only a handful of devices, then you'll do very well with Netgear's C6250—a solid cable modem/router that offers more than enough performance for mid-tier internet plans, guaranteeing that you'll be able to keep up with the latest shows on Netflix and Hulu without interruption.

Compatible with most major cable providers—as long as you don't need bundled voice services, that is—the C6250 is built with enough speed and coverage to easily handle the streaming and surfing needs of most families. It's optimized for plans up to 300 Mbps while offering 1,500 square feet of wireless coverage for up to 25 devices.

Perfect for an apartment, office, or even a medium-sized home, the C6250 will keep every device connected and ready for streaming without any lag or buffering. Plus, it comes equipped with two Gigabit Ethernet ports for hardwiring in a PC, smart TV, or game console, and a USB port that can be used for sharing a printer or hard drive.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: DOCSIS 3.0 / AC1600 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: No | Beamforming: No | Wired Ports: 4

Final Verdict

Arris' Surfboard SBG7600AC2 can deliver smooth 4K streaming throughout most average-sized homes at a really affordable price. If you're looking to splurge, however, Netgear's Orbi CBK752 combines a top-rated Wi-Fi 6 mesh system with a DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem so that you can take full advantage of the fastest internet plans in even the largest homes. 

About Our Trusted Experts

Jesse Hollington is a freelance writer with over 10 years of experience writing about technology and three decades of experience in information technology and networking. He's installed, tested, and configured just about every type and brand of router, firewall, wireless access point, and network extender in places ranging from single-family dwellings to office buildings. university campuses, and even coast-to-coast wide-area network (WAN) deployments.

Bill Thomas is a Denver-based freelance writer who covers technology, music, film, and gaming. They began writing for Ach5 in January 2018, but you can also find their work on TechRadar. Bill has also worked as an editor at Future.

Don Reisinger is a full-time freelance writer based in New York City. He has been covering technology, video games, sports, and entertainment for more than 12 years. His work has appeared in Fortune, PCMag, CNET, eWEEK, Slashgear, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and more. 

What to Look for in a Modem/Router Combo

Bandwidth

To take full advantage of the bandwidth your ISP provides, you'll need a modem/router combo that at the very least matches, and ideally exceeds, the top speed promised by your provider. The maximum bandwidth is indicated in gigabits per second (Gbps) and is usually prominently displayed in a modem/router's title or description.

Bands

Routers increasingly are offering multiple data bands (think of traffic lanes) in an effort to reduce bottlenecking and increase efficiency in directing network traffic. Dual-band devices typically supply 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, with the 5GHz band providing more peak bandwidth. Tri-band routers provide an additional 5GHz band to sort devices into, further reducing congestion when multiple devices are attached to a network at once.

Range

If you live in an apartment or modest home, nearly any modem/router combo will provide ample coverage for your entire living space. For larger homes, however, pay close attention to the range indicated by the model you're considering, and you also may want to consider a modem/router with beamforming technology, which shapes the signal from the router into a tighter beam to direct it towards a specific device.

FAQs

What is a Cable Modem/Router Combo? 

A cable modem/router combo is a single device that combines the capabilities of a cable modem with the features of a Wi-Fi router. You plug it directly into your coaxial cable just like you would a cable modem, and then connect your computers, smartphones, tablets, and other devices directly using either wired Gigabit Ethernet connections or via Wi-Fi.

Is it better to get a modem/router combo or separate devices?

Buying a cable modem/router combo can save you quite a bit of money since these all-in-one units are usually far more affordable than buying a cable modem and a router separately. And if you're renting your cable modem, you can save even more by returning that to your ISP, reducing your monthly bill. That said, while modern cable modem/routers are very capable if you have more advanced needs, there are many more options and advanced features to be found among the best wireless routers.

Does DOCSIS 3.1 increase speed?

The speed of your cable modem is determined by the DOCSIS standard it supports and the number of channels that it offers, although your ISP also has to support these standards on the other end. Buying a DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem won't give you any better performance if your cable provider only supports DOCSIS 3.0, although it could still be a good investment for the future. Further, even though 32-channel DOCSIS 3.0 modems offer theoretical speeds of up to 1Gbps, most cable providers top out at 600Mbps over DOCSIS 3.0, so if your ISP is offering multi-gigabit plans, you'll almost certainly need a DOCSIS 3.1 modem to take advantage of those speeds.

The Ultimate Cable Model/Router Buying Guide

A good cable modem/router combo unit can ensure that you not only get the fastest internet speeds from your cable provider but also offer the kind of Wi-Fi performance and range that you need to meet the streaming and gaming needs of even the busiest homes.

Combining the cable modem and the router in a single device gives you one less piece of equipment to worry about managing. Many can offer even tighter integration with your cable service, as well as improved security and performance since you don't have to worry about whether your router will actually talk to your cable modem properly, which can especially be a challenge if you're still relying on the cable modem that your ISP provides.

Why Buy a Cable Modem/Router Combo? 

Although many cable ISPs now offer cable modems with built-in routers, they often focus too much on the cable modem side and not enough on the router side, resulting in solutions that may be okay for casual surfing in an apartment or small bungalow, but are seriously underpowered for anybody looking for fast performance or expansive coverage. 

If the cable modem/router combo that you're renting from your ISP isn't meeting your needs in terms of Wi-Fi range or performance, you'll end up needing a standalone router anyway. And if you're going to go down that road, you can just as easily purchase a router that already includes a cable modem for about the same amount of money and lose the monthly rental fee in the process. 

In addition to saving money, you'll also end up with an integrated solution that's far easier than trying to figure out how to bypass the router that your ISP has already provided you with. Some ISP-supplied modem/router combos don't even let you fully disable their router features, which can make it even more of a hassle to add your own standalone router into the mix. A cable modem/router combo means that you only have to manage and configure a single device and there you won't have to worry about any potential compatibility issues. 

Cable Modem Standards

Since a cable modem/router will replace your actual cable modem, you'll want to pay attention to the actual cable standards it supports to make sure that it's compatible with your provider and that you're getting the maximum performance from your internet service plan.

All cable modems use an international telecommunications standard known as DOCSIS, however, there are several versions of the standard, each supporting faster speeds, and better security features. At this point, the very leading edge standard is DOCSIS 3.1, which can provide a theoretical maximum throughput of 10Gbps.

Although you won't find any ISPs that offer anywhere near those kinds of speeds yet, purchasing a DOCSIS 3.1 compatible cable modem/router combo can be a great future-proofing investment to ensure you'll be ready for faster speeds when they do come. All newer DOCSIS standards are compatible with older ones, so you'll have no problem using a DOCSIS 3.1 modem even if your cable ISP only supports DOCSIS 3.0 right now. 

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It's also worth mentioning that although DOCSIS 3.0 technically supports speeds of up to 1Gbps, very few cable ISPs offer much better than 630Mbps on DOCSIS 3.0, so if you want to take advantage of the newer 1Gbps plans, you'll likely need a DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem anyway.

The downside, of course, is that DOCSIS 3.1 modems are still fairly expensive, so unless you're already on a really high-speed internet plan, you'll have to weigh the additional expense against when you'll actually expect to be getting faster internet speeds.

Note that while you may still find cheaper modems around that use older DOCSIS standards, these days DOCSIS 3.0 should be considered the bare minimum, as it not only offers better performance but fixes a number of security problems that plagued the older standards.

Channels and Speeds

The DOCSIS standard used by your cable modem determines the maximum performance that's possible, however not all cable modems will take advantage of the full capacity. This is especially true of DOCSIS 3.1 cable modems since there's no point in building modems to support 10Gbps internet plans that aren't likely to be available anytime soon. 

The actual performance of a cable modem is determined by the number of channels that it supports, and this is usually expressed as the number of download channels by the number of upload channels. So, for example, a"32x8"DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem would offer 32 download channels and 8 upload channels.

Each channel offers a fixed speed according to the DOCSIS standard that's being used. For DOCSIS 3.0, each download channel is 43Mbps and each upload channel is 31Mbps, and these are simply additive, so a 4x2 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem will offer download speeds of 172Mbps (43Mbps X 4 channels) and upload speeds of 62Mbps (31Mbps X 2 channels). On the other end of the spectrum, a 32x8 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem, which is the fastest currently available, will give you download speeds of 1,376Mbps and upload speeds of 248Mbps, assuming your ISP supports that many DOCSIS 3.0 channels, although we noted earlier, most don't.

If you're considering a DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem/router combo, don't be scared by the lower number of channels, however. DOCSIS 3.1 channels are much faster than DOCSIS 3.0 channels, with each one offering 1.89Gbps download speeds or 0.94Gbps upload speeds. So even a 1x1 DOCSIS 3.1 modem can run circles around a 32x8 DOCSIS 3.0 modem, although when running in DOCSIS 3.0 mode, it naturally still has to use the slower channels, so you'll often see the DOCSIS 3.0 channels listed as well, although it's pretty rare to find a DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem that doesn't support at least 24x8 DOCSIS 3.0 channels.

Voice Services

If you subscribe to voice telephony services through your cable ISP, this can make your situation a bit more challenging, since you'll need to find a cable modem/router combo that can act as a voice gateway. These are considerably less common.

Don't despair if you can't find one, however, as you might be able to continue using your ISP-provided rental modem strictly as your voice gateway alongside a better cable modem/router combo for your actual internet access. Unfortunately, this means you'll still have to keep paying for your rental modem, but you'll get all of the other advantages of an integrated cable/modem router combo.

If you find yourself in this situation, however, we recommend checking with your ISP before purchasing a new cable modem/router combo, as not all ISPs allow you to use two cable modems on the same service. On the other hand, some ISPs can also offer you a more inexpensive rental modem that acts only as a voice gateway. 

Speed and Throughput

As we explained earlier, the performance you get from the cable modem side of a modem/router combo will be determined by the DOCSIS standard and number of channels it supports, as well as by your actual internet plan, of course.

However, when buying a modem/router combo, you also need to consider the router side of the equation, since you'll want to make sure that you can get the maximum speeds that your ISP and cable modem are offering you. Unless you have a fairly basic internet plan, this means you'll want support for relatively modern Wi-Fi standards.

On the Wi-Fi side, a cable modem/router combo works the same as any other wireless router, meaning you'll be choosing from the same Wi-Fi standards and frequencies, such as 802.11n and 802.11ac, which have recently been redesignated as Wi-Fi 4 and Wi-Fi 5, respectively, in order to make it easier for consumers to understand the relationship between them.

As the new numbering system implies, Wi-Fi 5 is better than Wi-Fi 4, and it's the fastest standard that's in widespread use right now. Most Wi-Fi 5 routers will have a speed rating that begins with AC and represents the maximum total throughput in Mbps. So an AC1900 router will offer you 1,900Mbps, or 1.9Gbps, an AC3000 can do 3Gbps, and so forth. Similarly, older Wi-Fi 4 routers offer similar ratings, starting with the letter N instead. You may also have heard of the Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax, but while there are a few standalone routers out that offer support for this leading-edge standard, Wi-Fi 6 cable modem/router combos are still just emerging. Nonetheless, while it's nice to invest in technology for the future, it will be a while before you're likely to need Wi-Fi 6 in your home, or really even be able to fully take advantage of it.

Keep in mind, however, that these ratings represent the maximum total throughput for all of the devices on your network, which is the reason that these higher numbers are so important. You may not think you need an AC1900 router if you only have a 200Mbps internet connection, but remember that if you have a dozen devices using your Wi-Fi at the same time, they're all sharing that bandwidth. 

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Wireless Frequencies

The other thing that's important to understand is that Wi-Fi 5 routers are almost always at least dual-band routers. This means that they operate on two separate frequency bands—2.4GHz and 5GHz. This generally allows for better performance by placing your fastest devices on a higher frequency band that's less prone to congestion and interference.

The 2.4GHz band is the most common Wi-Fi frequency, and it's been used for over 20 years. Almost every Wi-Fi device on the planet supports 2.4GHz as a minimum standard, and this is the only frequency that most older devices and inexpensive internet-of-things devices support.

However, since the 2.4GHz frequency range also is used for a lot of other things, including cordless phones, walkie-talkies, garage door openers, and baby monitors, it's a pretty crowded place. It's also subject to interference from things like microwave ovens. Hence the architects of Wi-Fi decided to begin using the 5GHz frequency range in order to avoid these problems. And as an added bonus, higher frequencies also offer faster throughput. Wi-Fi 4 devices could optionally use the 5GHz band, while Wi-Fi 5 devices use it exclusively when operating in 802.11ac mode, although all Wi-Fi devices are backward compatible with older standards. So a Wi-Fi 5 device still can fall back to using the 2.4GHz band when a strong enough 5GHz signal isn't available, although you'll get slower performance.

In addition to dual-band routers, you also can find tri-band routers, which can be a boon if you have a really busy home with a lot of Wi-Fi 5 devices. As the name implies, a tri-band router offers a third band, in the form of a second 5GHz band, to help separate your high-performance devices to reduce congestion. Keep in mind, though, that this is a second 5GHz channel, so it will do absolutely nothing for your 2.4GHz devices. The additional 5GHz band won't double your performance for a single Wi-Fi 5 device either, as it can only use one band at a time. Tri-band routers are about improving performance by reducing congestion, so they're really only necessary if you have a lot of high-speed Wi-Fi 5 devices on your network.

It's also important to note that the AC speed ratings on dual-band and tri-band routers refer to the total speeds across all of the bands, which means that you'll definitely never see the maximum throughput from a single device. For example, a dual-band AC1900 router often provides 1.3Gbps on the 5GHz band and 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz side, and an AC5400 tri-band router will divvy that up even further, perhaps offering 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and splitting the rest between the two 5GHz channels. This is why tri-band routers have higher speed ratings. 

Range and Coverage

You'll want to get a cable modem/router combo that can provide solid Wi-Fi coverage throughout your entire home, but if you only live in an apartment or small bungalow, don't buy more than you need—unless you think you'll be moving into a bigger home soon, of course.

Even the most basic Wi-Fi routers will cover an apartment or smaller home without any serious challenges, but if you live in a larger home, you'll want to pick something up that offers external antennas with beamforming support, or maybe even look into a mesh Wi-Fi system.

Bear in mind that there's more to getting good coverage than just raw distance, as you'll want to make sure that your router still can offer good performance at the periphery of its range. Some routers have performance that drops off faster as you move farther away from the router, and this is even more common on the 5GHz channel, which offers less range and penetrates solid objects more poorly than 2.4GHz does, meaning that your Wi-FI 5 devices may be forced to switch back to the slower standards as they lose 5GHz coverage. Just because you can get a signal at the opposite end of your home doesn't mean that you'll be getting a fast signal.

Wired Connectivity

Just because you have a wireless router doesn't mean you necessarily want to be giving up on wired connectivity, especially if you have a fast cable ISP connection. If you or one of the members of your household is into online gaming, you'll definitely want room to wire in for the best performance, since unless you have a gaming-centric router, the latency over Wi-Fi will make it unsuitable for playing fast-paced games online. 

So make sure that your router has enough Ethernet ports for the devices you'll want to plug in, and if you have an internet plan that offers speeds above 100Mbps, you'll want to get one with Gigabit Ethernet ports to take maximum advantage of your plan.

Firmware Updates

One of the potential disadvantages of cable modem/router combos is that the firmware for the router is often tied to the modem firmware, which means you can't update one side without updating the other. This often means that important firmware updates can be delayed while manufacturers wait for the big cable ISPs to certify them to make sure they're compatible with their networks.

In most cases, this usually isn't a big deal, unless of course you're dealing with a security vulnerability or a serious bug that needs to be patched, in which case you may find that you'll be waiting longer for an update than you would be if you simply had a standalone router. 

Top Brands

Arris

While you may never have heard the name among router brands, when it comes to cable modems Arris is actually one of the oldest names in the business, with a wide array of small and unobtrusive cable modems. While Arris' cable modem/router combos are fairly spartan on the router side, they're really easy to set up and provide decent coverage for smaller spaces.

Motorola

Like Arris, Motorola is a household name in cable modems and has logically extended into offer units with built-in Wi-Fi routers as well. However, Motorola brings its strong background in radio technology to produce some surprisingly solid Wi-Fi routers, especially considering that they don't sprout large antenna arrays.

Netgear

Approaching the cable modem/router family from the other side is Netgear, one of the most venerable names in Wi-Fi routers. The company offers quite a collection of both wallet-friendly and higher-end premium routers, even including a version of its top-rated Netgear Orbi that also packs in a cable modem. 

Conclusion

Opting for a cable modem/router combo no longer means that you need to compromise on either the cable modem or the router, as more companies begin packing in leading-edge DOCSIS cable modem technology into some of the very same premium routers that you can buy in standalone form. 

So if you're looking to stop paying to rent your cable modem, and you're in the market for a new Wi-Fi router, as well, a cable modem/router combo can be a great way to kill two birds with one stone. You'll have one less device to manage, fewer compatibility issues to worry about, and less wiring to fuss with. Unless you have really specialized needs, a cable modem/router combo can be a win all around.