The 4 Best Modems of 2024

Whether you're a casual user or a power user, our guide to the best modems of 2024 has you covered, with options to suit every budget and requirement.

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Lyndon Seitz - Editor-in-Chief

Date Modified: February 21, 2024

A reliable modem stands as the unsung hero in our fast-paced digital lives, shaping both work and leisure. It's the linchpin for smooth streaming, gaming, and communication, demanding careful selection to meet diverse needs. Criteria like speed, compatibility, and security are pivotal, guided by the latest market trends and performance metrics. 

Choosing the best modem isn't just about raw speed; it involves understanding your specific online habits and the devices in your network. The top picks of 2024 excel not only in speed but also in reliability, user-friendly setup, and seamless integration with various ISPs and home ecosystems.

Best All-Around: ARRIS SURFboard S33  

The ARRIS S33's appeal to the average user lies in its capability to support high-speed internet plans up to 1 Gbps, courtesy of DOCSIS 3.1 protocol. This technology is ten times faster than its predecessor, DOCSIS 3.0, but maintains backward compatibility. The modem's dual ethernet ports offer flexibility for direct connections to computers or consoles, enhancing user experience with minimal setup hassle. Its straightforward setup process, aided by the SURFboard app, further simplifies activation, making it an accessible choice for users of all technical backgrounds.

Key Features

  • Top choice for high-speed cable internet, DOCSIS 3.1 modem
  • Includes 2.5Gbps and 1Gbps Ethernet ports
  • Utilizes 2x2 OFDM DOCSIS 3.1 channels
  • Features 32x8 bonded DOCSIS 3.0 channels
  • Supports major US cable providers: Cox, Spectrum, Xfinity, Suddenlink, etc.
  • Setup and monitor network via SURFboard Central app
  • Backed by a 2-year limited warranty


Performance and Speed

  • Latest DOCSIS 3.1 protocol enables high-speed, reduces latency, enhances security.
  • Ten times faster than DOCSIS 3.0, backward compatible with older devices.
  • Supports high-speed internet plans up to 1 Gbps for minimal latency.
  • 1GM RAM and multi-core processor reduce network congestion, enable high-speed.
  • Two ethernet ports provide direct connections to computers or consoles.
  • Extra port offers the benefit of an additional wired connection.


Design and Build

  • Compact, portable design; measures 5.24 inches, weighs 1.52 pounds.
  • Cylindrical design ensures stability, easy standing on surfaces.
  • Vents allow airflow, prevent overheating, ensuring device longevity.
  • Includes power, coaxial, 1 Gbps, 2.5 Gbps ethernet ports.


Compatibility And Setup

The ARRIS Surfboard S33 stands out for its broad ISP compatibility and straightforward setup, making it an excellent choice for users. It works seamlessly with a wide range of cable internet plans from major providers, ensuring users can maximize their internet plans without hassle. 

  • Spectrum: Works with all tiers, including Internet, Internet Ultra, and Internet Gig.
  • Suddenlink: Approved for use with the Suddenlink 1 Gig plan.
  • Cox: Designed for high-speed internet, supporting both Gigabit and Gigablast services.
  • Xfinity: Fully supports Blast!, Extreme, Extreme Pro, and Gigabit plans.
  • Optimum: Versatile enough for 100, 200, 300, and 500 Mbps plans.
  • RCN: Pairs smoothly with 330Mbps, 660Mbps, and 1Gbps packages.
  • WOW: Capable of handling internet speeds up to Gig levels.
  • Mediacom: Compatible with both Mediacom MetroNet and Mediacom Biz Net plans.

The S33 modem offers a user-friendly setup process:

  1. Attach the coaxial cable to the modem.
  2. Plug in the power cord to start the modem.
  3. Power up the modem to initiate setup.
  4. Use an ethernet cable to link the modem to a computer or router. If using a router, ensure a device is connected to the router for setup.
  5. Launch a web browser, which should automatically redirect to the modem's activation portal.
  6. Input the modem's MAC address, found on its bottom or back, along with any other necessary details for activation.

You can also easily set up your device using the convenient SURFboard Central app. Just download it, log in with your provider details, and follow the prompts. If you prefer, access the web interface by entering the IP address (http://192.168.100.1) in your browser. There, you can manage settings, update passwords, and monitor connectivity.


Price and Value


Best Budget-Friendly: ARRIS SURFboard SB8200

The ARRIS SURFboard SB8200 is a standout choice for budget-conscious consumers seeking reliable performance without breaking the bank. It's compatible with major cable providers and supports DOCSIS 3.1, offering fast internet speeds suitable for most home networks. This modem's affordability and future-proof features make it an excellent investment for users wanting to enjoy high-speed internet without a hefty price tag.

Key Features

  • Supports cable internet plans up to 1 Gbps with DOCSIS 3.1
  • Includes two 1 Gigabit Ethernet Ports for flexible connectivity
  • Features 2x2 OFDM DOCSIS 3.1 channels for efficient data transfer
  • Offers 32x8 DOCSIS 3.0 bonded channels for robust speed
  • Supports both IPv4 and IPv6 standards
  • Perfect for 4K streaming and VR gaming
  • Works with major providers like Cox, Spectrum, and Xfinity
  • Easy setup and network management via the SURFboard Central app
  • Comes with a 2 Year Limited Warranty


Performance and Speed

  • Supports cable internet plans up to 1000 Mbps.
  • Achieved 902 Mbps download speed with Xfinity Gigabit.
  • Upload speed maxed at 35 Mbps.
  • One of the fastest modems for Comcast users.


Design and Build

  • Compact design, measuring 5.24 inches square, slightly smaller than peers.
  • Four inputs: Two Ethernet, one coaxial, one power.
  • Front has four lights indicating power, downstream, upstream, and internet connection.
  • Lights color-code DOCSIS 3.1 (blue) and 3.0 (green) usage.
  • Simplified lights design, fewer than most modems

The SB8200 shines by swapping the Intel Puma chipset for a Broadcom processor, enhancing efficiency. This setup, combined with 3GB RAM, efficiently tackles network congestion and latency. The Broadcom BCM3390 chipset is speedy, supporting 32 x 8 channel bonding and DOCSIS 3.1 for gigabit internet speeds, assuming ISP compatibility. Additionally, it boasts 128MB of flash memory for storing network settings and updates, streamlining performance and reliability.


Compatibility And Setup

The SB8200 supports multiple ISPs and offers up to 800 Mbps throughput. Consider pairing it with a compatible plan from listed ISPs.

  • Xfinity by Comcast
  • Cox
  • Mediacom
  • Sparklight
  • Midco
  • WOWWAY Internet
  • Atlantic Broadband
  • Grande
  • Armstrong
  • Optimum
  • Wave
  • RCN

Setting up the SB8200 is straightforward with clear, easy-to-follow instructions. However, be aware you may need to reset it multiple times during setup.

  1. Plug the coax cable and connect the modem to the computer using ethernet ports.
  2. Connect the power cable and wait for the lights to illuminate.
  3. Activate modem by calling ISP or using a connected device and MAC ID from the modem bottom. Alternatively, activate via ISP's self-activation page.


Price and Value

  • SB8200 offers great value at $138.49 on the official website.


Best High-end: NETGEAR Nighthawk CM2050V

The NETGEAR Nighthawk CM2050V is a future-proof choice, high-end modem designed for users looking for top-tier internet speeds. It supports DOCSIS 3.1 technology, making it capable of handling cable plans up to 2.5Gbps. This modem is especially ideal for Xfinity Voice service plan subscribers, offering smooth browsing, streaming, and gaming experiences with its Multi-Gig 2.5Gbps capability. Additionally, it features two telephone ports for clear voice over internet prioritization.

Key Features

  • Maximizes high-speed Xfinity with Voice service, saves money.
  • Supports 2.5 Gb/s for seamless 4K streaming, gaming.
  • Backward compatible, future-proofs for speed upgrades without new purchases.
  • Avoids rental fees by owning your modem.
  • Includes two phone ports for clear voice prioritization.
  • Features caller ID, 3-way calling, call forwarding.
  • Requires Xfinity Voice plan, incompatible with other services.
  • Offers limited 1-year Hardware Warranty


Performance and Speed

  • Supports DOCSIS 3.1 and 32 x 8 channel bonding for high speeds.
  • Tested with Xfinity’s 2 Gbps plan, no throttling observed.
  • Achieved 2100 Mbps download and 1700 Mbps upload speeds.
  • Ideal for both home and commercial use, enhances productivity.
  • Handles streaming, gaming, and multi-device browsing flawlessly.
  • No speed drops or lags in various tests.


Design and Build

  • No premium finish on Netgear routers, including Nighthawk CM2050V.
  • Vertical design, made of glossy, hardened plastic.
  • Occupies more space but effectively dissipates heat.
  • Features status-indicating lights for internet and connected devices.
  • Tested in high temperatures without overheating issues.
  • Chunkier and heavier than CM1150V, weighing 2.64 pounds.


Compatibility And Setup

Designed specifically for Xfinity users, particularly those subscribed to voice plans, the Netgear Nighthawk CM2050V might not be compatible with other ISPs like Verizon Fios or AT&T. Despite its primary focus on Xfinity, there are anecdotal reports of it working with Spectrum. However, given its premium cost, it's wise to ensure compatibility before investing.

  • Xfinity

Setting up the Nighthawk CM2050V is straightforward and quick, taking just 5-10 minutes, especially if paired with an Xfinity Internet plan.

  1. Unbox the modem and connect the coaxial cable.
  2. Link it to your router via Ethernet and attach phone lines.
  3. Plug in the power cable.
  4. If needed, set up your router.
  5. Connect a device to your network and open a web browser to access the activation portal.
  6. If the portal doesn't load, contact Comcast to register your modem or activate your coaxial connection.

Netgear's Nighthawk CM2050V promises smooth and consistent internet speeds thanks to its robust internal hardware. Although specific details are scarce, its performance speaks volumes, with a multi-core processor and DOCSIS 3.1 ensuring reliable speeds. It also features 32 x 8 channel bonding for reduced gaming latency and 2x2 OFDMA for efficient data handling during peak times. Additionally, it supports IPv6 and has built-in Quality of Service (QoS), making it a strong choice for maintaining steady connections across all devices.


Price and Value

Priced at $299.99 on NETGEAR and Amazon.


Best Modem for Gaming: NETGEAR Nighthawk CM2000 

The NETGEAR Nighthawk CM2000 stands out for gamers with its robust features designed to enhance gaming performance. It boasts DOCSIS 3.1 technology, 32x8 channel bonding, and a powerful 1.5GHz dual-core Broadcom BCM3390 processor, capable of delivering up to 2.5Gbps broadband speeds. This combination ensures reduced latency and faster data transfer, essential for a seamless gaming experience. Its single 2.5Gbps Ethernet port supports high-speed wired connections, further improving gaming performance by ensuring stable and swift internet access​. 

Key Features

  • Enjoy DOCSIS 3.0 speeds while future-proofing your internet.
  • Ideal for routers like RAX120, RAX200, and Orbi RBK852.
  • Supports 2.5x faster internet, 10x quicker downloads than DOCSIS 3.0.
  • Delivers up to 2.5 Gbps with the latest cable modems.
  • Ready for today's and future cable internet plans.
  • Offers limited 1-year Hardware Warranty.


Performance and Speed

  • DOCSIS 3.1 and 32 x 8 channels enhance speed efficiency.
  • Conducted speed tests throughout the house without throttling.
  • Achieved 1089 Mbps download speed on Comcast's Gigabit Extra plan.
  • Maintained high speeds even at 50 feet, with 702 Mbps download.
  • Ideal for large spaces, supporting intense online activities effortlessly.


Design and Build

  • Follows Netgear's vertical design, similar to CM1000, CM1100.
  • Constructed from durable, glossy plastic, yet lightweight at 1.02 pounds.
  • Measures 6.8 x 3.7 x 8.2 inches, compact yet slightly chunky.
  • Features a sturdy base, ensuring stability and compensating for its bulkiness.

The Netgear CM2000, powered by a multi-core processor and DOCSIS 3.1, guarantees steady speeds and efficient data handling. Its 32 x 8 channel configuration enhances gaming and streaming consistency. With 2x2 OFDM/OFDMA, it smoothly manages large data packets, even during busy hours. IPv6 support ensures optimal service quality, prioritizing traffic to bandwidth-heavy devices when paired with a router, making it a robust choice for high-demand internet users.


Compatibility And Setup

The CM2000, leveraging DOCSIS 3.1, requires ISP support for optimal use. It does work with numerous providers; however, verify with your ISP to ensure compatibility before making a purchase. This step ensures you leverage its full capabilities without any hiccups.

  • Comcast Xfinity: Supports Gigabit Extra 1.2 Gbps Plan
  • Charter Spectrum: Works with the Gig Plan
  • Mediacom: Ideal for the Internet 1 GIG Plan
  • Mediacom Xtream: Appropriate for Internet 1 Gig Plan
  • WOW Internet: Compatible with the 1.2 Gig Plan
  • Cox: Designed for the Gigablast Plan
  • Sparklight: Suitable for the 1 Gig Plan
  • Astound: Fits the Gig Internet Plan
  • Midco: Aligns with the Gig Internet Plan
  • Breezeline: Matches the 1000 Mbps Plan

To set up the CM2000 quickly:

  1. Plug the coaxial cable into the modem.
  2. Attach the power cord and turn on the modem.
  3. Connect the modem to a computer with an ethernet cable or to your router. If connected to a router, ensure a device is also connected to the router.
  4. Open any web browser, which should auto-redirect to the activation page.
  5. Input the modem’s MAC address (found on its bottom or back) and any other required details.

Alternatively, you can call your ISP for help with the setup over the phone.

For modem settings adjustments like password changes, device information, or troubleshooting via event logs, simply enter https://192.168.100.1/ in your browser. Accessing these settings is rarely necessary but available for your convenience.


Price and Value

CM2000 costs $249.99 on Amazon.


Factors to Consider When Choosing a Modem


Internet Speed Compatibility 

Matching your modem to your internet package ensures you're not throttling your speed capabilities. Ensure the modem supports the maximum speed of your current package to avoid bottlenecks. For instance, a DOCSIS 3.1 modem is essential for gigabit speeds. However, settling for just enough isn't wise.

Future-proofing is equally vital. As ISPs upgrade their services, having a modem that can handle faster speeds means you're ready for advancements without needing new equipment. Investing in a modem that supports higher speeds than your current plan can save you from future upgrades. 


Compatibility with ISP

Every ISP has a list of approved modems, and straying from it can lead to connectivity issues or slower speeds. It's not just about plugging in and powering on; your modem needs the green light from your provider to perform optimally.

Compatibility extends beyond initial setup. It influences firmware updates and technical support, key factors for a hassle-free internet experience. A compatible modem ensures that your device receives necessary updates and that any hiccups get prompt, knowledgeable support, keeping your online world running smoothly.


DOCSIS Standards

DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) is the backbone of modem technology, defining how data travels over cable networks. Each version, from 3.1 to the latest DOCSIS 4.0 technology, marks a leap in internet speed and efficiency. DOCSIS 3.1 brought gigabit speeds to the table, while 4.0 promises even higher capacity and reduced latency, making a noticeable difference in network congestion during peak hours. Opting for a modem with the latest DOCSIS standard is more than an upgrade; it's future-proofing your connectivity. 


Modem-Router Combo vs. Separate Units

Choosing between a modem-router combo and separate units hinges on your specific needs and network layout. Combos offer a neat, space-saving solution with simplified setup, ideal for smaller spaces or less complex networks. However, separate devices shine in customization and flexibility, allowing for tailored network performance and easier singular upgrades.

Consider your scenario: for streamlined, hassle-free operations, combos are king. But if you're eyeing detailed network management or foresee regular upgrades, separate units are your ally. They allow you to adapt and expand your network, matching your pace of technological advancement, and ensuring your setup remains functional and optimal.


Security Features

Modern modems come equipped with robust security features. Firewalls serve as the initial defense against cyber threats, and secure boot processes guarantee verified software, reducing the risk of malicious attacks. Additionally, WPA3 encryption enhances wireless security, shielding your network from eavesdropping and brute-force attacks.

Security doesn't stop at purchase. Regular firmware updates are vital for ongoing protection, patching vulnerabilities and safeguarding against emerging threats. Opt for a modem with automatic updates for long-term peace of mind, as securing your digital life is an ongoing commitment.


Price and Budget Considerations

Conduct thorough price comparisons among brands and types, keeping the long-term investment in mind. A modem isn't merely a purchase; it forms the foundation of your internet experience. Go beyond the price and assess the advantages of reliability, speed, and security features. A deliberate decision today can lead to consistent savings and a smooth online experience in the future.


Additional Features and Technology

Modern modems go beyond basic internet connectivity, enhancing your online experience with various features. Quality of Service (QoS) measures prioritize traffic for smoother streaming and gaming. Parental controls and guest networks offer privacy and customized access.

Technologies like MU-MIMO and Beamforming greatly improve performance, ensuring stable connections for multiple devices. Ethernet ports provide essential high-speed connections. These features collectively create a modem that serves as a hub for efficient, secure, and smart online interaction, not just an internet gateway.


The Takeaway

In choosing the best modem, your unique digital lifestyle dictates the final decision. It's not about the fastest or the latest; it's about what fits your internet habits. A top-notch modem isn't just an expense; it's a commitment to seamless, future-proof connectivity. Remember, the right modem transforms your online experience, turning your digital world from good to exceptional.


FAQ

Is it necessary to purchase a modem or router separately, or can I use a modem-router combo?

A combo device streamlines your setup by combining a modem and router, offering convenience and space-saving benefits. However, separate devices allow for more flexibility and potential performance advantages by choosing specialized equipment for each function.

Can I use my existing modem with a new ISP, or do I need to buy a new one?

Compatibility varies. Always check if your current modem matches the specifications required by the new ISP. Factors like the DOCSIS version and channel bonding capabilities are crucial. For instance, if you're on a high-speed plan (500 Mbps or above), a DOCSIS 3.1 modem is recommended for its future-proofing and high performance.

How often should I upgrade my modem to keep up with technology advancements?

Technology evolves, and so should your modem. Upgrading every five years is a good rule of thumb. This ensures you keep up with advancements like increased speeds, improved security, and new standards like DOCSIS 3.1.

What is the significance of channel bonding, and how does it affect my internet speed?

Channel bonding is a feature that combines multiple channels to increase your internet speed. For example, a 16x4 modem means it has 16 download and 4 upload channels. More channels can lead to faster speeds, making a significant difference in your internet performance.

Are there any specific security concerns related to using a personal modem, and how can I mitigate them?

Using a personal modem does come with security considerations. Ensure your modem has robust security features. For example, some modems come with chipsets designed to protect against Denial of Service attacks. Regular firmware updates and secure personal network settings are also vital to mitigate potential security risks.