The Best Cable Modem/Router Combos of 2024

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The Best Cable Modem/Router Combos of 2024

Our experts test the top cable modem/router combos to overhaul your home Wi-Fi

Jesse Hollington Jesse Hollington
    Jesse Hollington is a technology writer with over 10 years of experience. He has written for iLounge, Forbes, Yahoo, The Independent and iDropNews, among others. lifewire's Editorial Guidelines updated on March 6, 2024 Rich Sher Rich Sher
    • University of Maryland Baltimore County
    Rich Scherr is a veteran technology and financial reporter who served as editor of the Potomac and Bay Area Tech Wire for nearly two decades. Lifewire’s fact-checking process

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    • Simple security management

    • Easy to set up

    • Understated design

    • Combined unit placement restrictions

    • Only available on Comcast Xfinity, Cox and Spectrum

    If you're a Comcast Xfinity, Cox, or Spectrum customer and don't have to pay extra for superfast plans, the Motorola MG7700 may be your best choice if you need to upgrade your modem and router. Your cable company (and even your monthly bill) will be able to tell you the speed of your connection. As a rough guide, though, if you're on the basic plan it's almost certainly not going to be what's called a 1 gigabit connection, and if it is, we've got some options for you below.

    One of our favorite features of the Motorola MG7700 has nothing to do with its technical prowess: It's not terribly ugly. To get the best range for your wireless signal, you don't want to hide your modem/router behind furniture or in a closet. But this unit is innocuous enough that you can place it on a side table in your living room without being embarrassed.

    Crucially, the indicator light is also easy to see and understand when a problem occurs - something you don't usually find in cable company modems.

    The MG7700 has four Ethernet ports that allow you to connect certain devices via physical cables for increased speed and reliability, which is generally a good idea for devices like game consoles, smart TVs, or Apple TVs. It can easily stream movies and TV in 4K (also known as Ultra HD). This is the standard for really sharp pictures. It also does a great job with Zoom or FaceTime calls.

    One more thing to note is that if your internet connection includes a voice plan (confusingly called VOIP, you'll know if you have it because there will be a phone number included with your internet plan) you'll want to check that Model's older brother: Motorola MT7711.

    • Slim design

    • Built-in DLNA media server for sharing pictures, music and videos

    • Easy to set up

    • Lacks some advanced features

    • A bit expensive

    • Only available on Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum and Cox

    If you consider yourself a power user and are an Xfinity, Spectrum, or Cox user, the Netgear Nighthawk C7000 probably checks all the boxes. let's see. Is it possible to achieve a reasonably fast connection? Check! Four ports to accommodate many additional devices? Check! Good range for large homes (2,500 sq. ft.): Check! Not ugly: check (mostly)!

    These features are reflected in the higher price tag, which may be a bit overkill for the average user's internet needs. It really depends on whether you're a gamer or if you're watching live on different TVs around the house at the same time. Another benefit is that if you're an Xfinity phone service customer, you can plug right into your landline phone handset.

    If your home is large enough, has a room (or rooms, for that matter) that isn't used very often, and you have a super-fast gigabit connection (your cable company can tell you this), this might be the one for you Combo Modem Router.

    Wireless Specs: Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) | Security: WPA2 | Standards/Speeds: DOCSIS 3.0/AC1900 | Bands: Dual Band | MU-MIMO: No | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4

    • I want to splurge. The Netgear Nighthawk Cable Modem and WiFi 6 Router Combo (CAX80) has all the wireless features you could need, making it perfect for gaming.
    • What about mesh networking? The Netgear Orbi Whole Home WiFi 6 system consists of two units that ensure your home has a strong Wi-Fi signal. If your home is large, you can add more for nearly unlimited coverage.
    • I have gigabit internet. The ARRIS SURFboard SBG8300 is a fast modem/router that supports high-speed internet.

    In order to take full advantage of the bandwidth provided by your ISP, you need a modem/router combination that at least matches and preferably exceeds the maximum speed promised by the provider. Maximum bandwidth is expressed in gigabits per second (Gbps) and is often highlighted in the modem/router's title or description.

    Routers are increasingly offering multiple data bands (such as traffic lanes) to reduce bottlenecks and increase efficiency in directing network traffic. Dual-band devices typically offer both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, with the 5 GHz band providing more peak bandwidth. Tri-band routers provide an additional 5 GHz band to classify devices, thereby reducing congestion when multiple devices are connected to the network at the same time.

    If you live in an apartment or modest home, almost any modem/router combination will provide adequate coverage throughout your living space. However, pay close attention to the range indicated by the model you are considering for a larger home. You may also want to consider a modem/router with beamforming technology, which shapes the signal from the router into a tighter beam, directing it to specific devices, providing a stronger, faster signal. Alternatively, it might be better to use a separate cable modem and mesh network.

    Make sure your router has enough Ethernet ports for the device you want to plug it into. If your internet plan offers speeds above 100 Mbps, you will want to purchase a router with a Gigabit Ethernet port to get the most out of your plan.

    Unless you have a basic internet plan, you'll need to support relatively modern Wi-Fi standards. On the Wi-Fi side, the cable modem/router combo works the same as any other wireless router, which means you can choose from the same Wi-Fi standards and frequencies, such as the recently redesignated 802.11n and 802.11ac. Wi-Fi 4 and Wi-Fi 5 respectively make life easier. You may also have heard about the newer, upcoming Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax standard.

    Investing in technology for the future isn't a bad idea, but it might be a while before you actually need Wi-Fi 6 in your home or even be able to fully take advantage of it.

    • A cable modem/router combo is a single device that combines the functions of a cable modem with those of a Wi-Fi router. You plug it directly into a coaxial cable, just like a cable modem, and then connect directly to computers, smartphones, tablets, and other devices using a wired Gigabit Ethernet connection or Wi-Fi.

    • Buying a cable modem/router combo can save you a ton of money, as these all-in-one devices are often much cheaper than buying a cable modem and router separately. If you lease a cable modem, you can save even more by returning it to your ISP, thus reducing your monthly bill. That said, while modern cable modem/routers are great if you have more advanced needs, more options and advanced features can be found in the best wireless routers.

    • In most cases, yes. Since your cable modem must be registered with your ISP in order to function properly, it is important to purchase a cable modem that is guaranteed to be compatible. While some ISPs may allow you to register any cable modem, most ISPs will refuse to set up a device that is not on their approved list. Fortunately, most major cable providers in the United States have "pre-approved" cable modems from all major manufacturers. You can usually find this information on the packaging or on the manufacturer's website. However, if you're still unsure, you can always ask your cable provider if the modem/router you're considering will work with their network.

    • When a cable provider tests a modem and certifies it as compatible with their network, they also specify the maximum speed they are willing to guarantee on their network. This number is usually lower than the cable modem's maximum possible speed, and is not always the same for every ISP. Think of it as the difference between how fast your car is actually traveling and the different speed limits on your local highway. You may get better performance than your ISP's maximum rating, but don't count on it.