Best Cable Modem-Router Combos

Updated September 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

22 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
394 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best cable modem-router combos

Last Updated September 2019

 Subscribing to internet service through a cable provider can entail a whole new set of fees in addition to your base subscription price. Most notably, there are rental fees for the cable modem and router that can add $100 or more per year to your cable bill. Over the service life of this equipment, a cable subscriber could shell out hundreds of dollars. What’s more, the modem and router often aren’t the latest models, so not only are they prone to breaking down sooner than expected, they may not be able to properly handle a high-speed internet connection.

There’s a solution to this dilemma. Purchasing a cable-modem router combo, also known as a gateway, gives you control over the quality of your internet and cable connections and eliminates one or more rental fees from your cable bill. What’s not to like?

Read on for the best information on choosing a cable modem-router combo that delivers the right performance for your cable-internet connection.

Register your cable modem’s MAC address with your cable provider so the system will be properly set up to work with the provider’s signal. Often, the provider has software available to handle this part of the setup.

Key considerations

A cable modem-router combo is a highly efficient setup. It receives a data signal from the cable provider via a coaxial cable running from a nearby network node to the device. That data signal is processed by the cable modem and delivered wirelessly throughout the house via its onboard WiFi transmitter. It’s important, before making a purchase, to make sure a particular gateway would deliver optimum performance for your particular internet setup.

Compatibility

That screamingly fast cable modem-router combo at the top of the price range may not be the right device for your needs. It must be compatible with the service and internet speed your cable company delivers. For example, if you have a 50Mbps (megabits per second) internet connection, a gateway designed to handle 1Gbps (gigabits per second) is overkill. And if the cable company doesn’t support the gateway, it won’t work at all.

Future-proofing

Internet speeds continue to rise, and the WiFi spectrum is evolving, too. A cable modem-router combo must be compatible with new technologies for at least a few years after its purchase.

Upload vs. download speeds

Most gateways advertise fast download speeds (the speed at which you receive data, such as streaming video) but downplay upload speeds (the speed at which you send data, like uploading photos to Facebook). Upload speeds are typically much slower than download speeds.

Ideal for gamers

The onboard configuration software makes setting up this lightning-fast gateway much easier, and it is easily recognized by Xfinity’s service. This combo operates at the internet speed you’re paying for, making it an excellent investment.

Inflexibility

One downside to the cable modem-router combo is that putting both a modem and a router into a single device limits some of your options. For example, if the router becomes obsolete or can’t be upgraded through a software update, you may need to replace the entire combo. Also, combo routers tend to have fewer features than standalone routers.

Simplicity

The tradeoff for fewer features and options is a single device that takes up less space, is easy to set up, and will run reliably for quite some time.

Cost

A cable-modem router combo can cost a lot more than a separate router or a separate modem. See our Cable Modem-Router Combo Prices section for more in-depth information on costs.

EXPERT TIP

Signal problems can be caused by something as simple as a loose coaxial cable connection at the modem. Double-check all wired connections first.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

On the surface, a cable modem-router combo seems to have just a few features: randomly blinking lights, a smooth outer shell, and perhaps a couple of Ethernet ports. Of course, much more is going on inside the unit.

Modem: This part of the combo receives the signal from the internet service provider and can connect that signal to just one device.

Router: Connecting to multiple devices, both wirelessly and through an Ethernet port connection, is accomplished by the router.

Multiple ports: Cable modem-router combos typically have at least four Ethernet ports, giving users the option of a direct-wired Ethernet connection to the internet.

Multiple WiFi connections: Users with a WiFi-enabled device and the gateway password can access the internet from anywhere in the home.

Guest account: Gateways increasingly include a guest WiFi account that can be protected with a separate password, left open for use with no password (not recommended), or disabled by the owner.

Downstream channels: Look for a combo with at least 16 downstream channels to handle faster internet speeds.

Upstream channels: There will always be fewer upstream than downstream channels. For example, there may be 24 x 8 — 24 downstream and 8 upstream channels.

You’ll need to go through a setup process to get a new cable modem-router combo properly hooked up. The device likely has onboard software to help walk you through the configuration process. Alternatively, you could go to the manufacturer’s website for instructions and assistance.

Cable modem-router combo prices

Low-end cable modem-router combos start as low as $63 and range up to about $105, though they may not have the performance you need. For just a bit more, starting around $120 and moving up to $190, you can get a reliable device with a range of features that are compatible with most cable companies’ DOCSIS standards.

For peak performance in the gigabit-plus speed range and compatibility with fiber-optic internet providers, cable-modem router combos start around $250 and go as high as $350.

EXPERT TIP

Intermittent internet or cable signal? Try restarting the device first to see if that clears the problem.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Double-check your internet subscription and the speed that you’re paying for (25Mbps, 50Mbps, 100Mbps, or the like). The cable-modem router combo should match at least that speed.
  • Check for firmware updates frequently, and update the device as soon as one is available.
  • Place your cable modem-router combo in a location that is free of clutter and where the signal is unlikely to be blocked.
  • Dust your device frequently, and keep it away from locations with wide temperature variations. For example, a spot next to an open window or a hot kitchen would not be ideal.

Gigabit performance, megabit price

A strong WiFi signal from the router is a hallmark of this nicely priced gateway, and its reliable performance doesn’t hurt, either. Setup is intuitive and cable provider-friendly.

Other products we considered

Motorola’s MG7540 narrowly missed our shortlist, but we still feel it’s a great choice for those who subscribe to 50Mbps to 250Mbps internet. Why? Its admirable price, 16-channel download capability, and DOCSIS 3.0 compatibility that lines up with the requirements of many of the major cable companies.

For gigabit internet users, the Asus Modem Router Combo offers an impressive 32 download channels to handle exponentially higher speeds. And Netgear’s C6250-100NAS works with the higher speed demands of Comcast’s Xfinity service.

Not everyone enables the guest account feature on their gateway, but if you do, make sure it has a separate password. This way, visitors can access your internet without gaining access to your home network.

FAQ

Q. How do I find out if the cable modem-router combo I want to buy would work with my current internet service?
A.
Check your cable company or internet service provider’s website for a list of compatible devices, or call or chat with their customer service department directly. Some independent websites can also provide information on which gateways are supported by your internet provider.

Q. If I buy a super-fast cable modem-router combo, will my internet speed be faster?
A.
The speed of your internet service is determined by two big factors: the internet plan you subscribe to and the limits of the cable company’s network. Traditional cable companies overwhelmingly use the DOCSIS delivery protocol. While this delivery method is pretty close to miraculous, it’s still much slower than fiber optic cable-based networks. If your internet service is capped at 50Mbps, for example, buying a gateway that delivers gigabit speeds wouldn’t make your service any faster than 50Mbps.

The main reason to buy a faster gateway is to future-proof it against major speed upgrades from your provider in the next few years. Call your provider (or check the news) to find out if a speed upgrade is planned. If so, buy a gateway that matches that planned speed. If no speed upgrades are planned, save your money.

Q. I see a number figure, 8 x 4, in the description of the cable-modem router combo I’m considering. What does that mean?
A.
That number figure, or similar figures like 32 x 8, describe the number of downstream channels vs. upstream channels the modem has. Almost all modems have more downstream than upstream channels. This is a good thing, especially if you’re planning to stream video or play online games. A cable modem-router combo today needs at least 16 downstream channels to handle high-speed internet.

The team that worked on this review
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Karen
    Karen
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Samantha
    Samantha
    Writer

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