You can upgrade your cable modem and Wi-Fi router to improve your internet experience. Most cable companies charge a monthly rental fee. The best combo cable modem/router will do the exact same job for a fraction of what it costs. It also does the job in a much simpler manner with fewer cables.
It’s not as simple as it seems. Some modems are not compatible with all providers. You’ll need to ensure that the unit you purchase is compatible with Spectrum, Cox, and AT&T. You can find information about compatibility on the website of your cable provider. If you don’t see the information, call to verify before you purchase.
These are the top cable/router combinations to help you make an informed decision.
Do you need a basic modem and router for your cable connection? If you are a Spectrum, Cox or Comcast customer, you can purchase the Motorola MG7700 cable modem and router (unless your home is very large or you pay more for a superfast connection).
The Motorola MG7700 was tested in our 4,500 square-foot home. It was connected to a few dozen devices, including tablets, gaming consoles, smartphones, and computers. The router provided strong Wi-Fi signals on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, on both floors. Within a radius of approximately 2,000 feet, everything from browsing the internet to streaming video was possible. The signal strength was poor in the basement and other locations, but this is to be expected.
The MG7700 performs well in large apartments and small homes.
You will need to support Wi-Fi standards unless you have an extremely basic internet plan. A cable modem/router combination works exactly the same way as any other wireless router. This means you can choose from the same WiFi standards and frequencies as any other wireless router. The WiFi 6 802.11ax standard is also starting to be popular.
Although it’s a good idea to invest in technology in the future, it’s unlikely that you will ever need Wi-Fi 6 in your house or be able to use it fully.
What is a combo cable modem/router?
Cable modem/router combination is one device that combines both the features of a router and the capabilities of a modem. It plugs directly into your coaxial cable, just as you would a cable modem. Then, connect your devices to your Wi-Fi router or wired Gigabit Ethernet connections.
Do you prefer a combo modem/router or to have separate devices?
A combo bundle of a router and cable modem can help you save a lot of money. These all-in-one units tend to be cheaper than purchasing a router and cable modem separately. You can also save more money by renting your cable modem and returning it to your ISP. This will reduce your monthly cost. Modern cable modems/routers can be very powerful if you have advanced needs. However, the best wireless routers offer many more features and options.
What is DOCSIS?
DOCSIS stands for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specifications. This is the standard cable company protocol to provide home internet access. There are many versions of DOCSIS, which has been around for more than 20 years. It’s usually not something you should worry about unless you have an extremely fast internet connection.
Is DOCSIS 3.1 faster?
Your cable modem’s speed is affected by its support for DOCSIS standards and the number of channels it offers. However, your ISP must also be able to support these standards. A DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem will not give you better performance if your cable provider supports DOCSIS 3.0. However, it may still be a worthwhile investment in the future.
Additionally, although 32-channel DOCSIS 3.0 modems can theoretically offer speeds up to 1 Gbps (most cable providers have a top speed of 600 Mbps) so if you are offered multi-gigabit plans by your ISP, you will almost certainly require a DOCSIS 3.1 modem.
My ISP must approve my cable modem/router?
Most cases, yes. To ensure that your cable modem works properly, you need to register it with your ISP. It is important to make sure you buy compatible equipment. Although some ISPs will allow you to register any cable modem they approve, many won’t.
Most major cable companies in America have “pre-approved” all cable modems made by the large manufacturers. This information is usually found on the package or on the manufacturer’s website. If you are still unsure, you can always check with your cable provider to see if the modem/router is compatible with their network.
What does “Approved for plans upto” mean?
Cable providers test a modem before certifying it compatible with their network. They also indicate the maximum speed they are willing to guarantee for their network. This number is typically lower than the maximum speed of a cable modem and may vary for every ISP. It’s like the difference in speed between your car and the speeds allowed by the local highways. Although you might be able to get a better performance rating than your ISP, don’t expect it.
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Jesse Hollington has over 10 years experience writing about technology, and more than three decades in the field of information technology and networking. He has installed, tested and configured almost every brand of router, firewall and wireless access point. This includes single-family homes, office buildings, universities campuses and coast-to-coast wide area network (WAN) deployments.
Don Reisinger, a freelance writer who is based in New York City, is a full time worker. For more than 12 years, he has covered technology, sports, entertainment, and video games. He is an expert on consumer technology, including router combos and cable modems.
Bill Thomas, a freelance writer based in Denver, covers technology, music and gaming. This is their review of the Netgear Nighthawk C7000.