Consider Buying One of These Expert Recommended Cable Modems to Cut Your Rental Expenses

best cable modems
The Best Cable Modems to Buy Now Jeff Dengate

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If you get Internet service from your cable company, you’ve probably noticed it’s not cheap, and it’s only getting more expensive with each passing year.

A smart way to take some of the sting out of that Internet expense is to buy your own cable modem rather than paying a never-ending monthly fee to the cable company to rent one. After all, those rental fees can add up quickly.

Case in point—if you're an Xfinity customer in 2023 (and there’s a good chance you are since it’s the largest cable provider in the Unites States with over 22 million subscribers) you’re paying $15 every month to rent a cable modem (up from $14 in 2022). That’s $180 per year and $540 over three years.


In contrast, whether you rent a bare-bones cable modem (i.e. one that requires you to supply your own separate Wi-Fi router) or a full-blown model with a Wi-Fi router that is built in, buying your own cable modem can pay for itself in less than three years, and perhaps less. (Of course, check your bill to determine your own specific savings potential.)

But Wi-Fi equipped or not, when buying a cable modem it’s important to choose a device that’s well-matched not only to the Internet service you have today, but what you might have tomorrow. This ensures you won’t lose performance or features (now or in the future), just that rental fee on your bill each month.

The Best Cable Modems

The Expert: For nearly 30 years I’ve been an IT professional, personal tech consultant, and technology writer, who spends most of my time hip-deep in all kinds of tech. I’ve written for PC Mag, Small Business Computing, and Smart Computing among others, and my most recent book is Hacks for Alexa (Racehorse Press, 2019). I stopped renting cable modems back in 2007, which has saved me about $1,800 over fifteen years.

How to Choose a Cable Modem

Finding the best cable modem for your needs boils down to a few things.

Namely, does the cable modem support:

1. Your cable provider

2. The Internet performance tier of your current subscription

3. A higher performance tier you might subscribe to in the foreseeable future

4. Any extra feature you receive from your cable provider (e.g. phone service from Xfinity).

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How We Selected These Cable Modems

I chose these cable modems based on compatibility with the three major cable providers—Xfinity (Comcast), Spectrum (Charter), and Cox—as well as considering the specifications and features of each individual product including, for most recommendations, the ability to handle download speeds greater than 1 Gbps which will be increasingly common over the next several years. Also, I factored in cost, personal experience with the manufacturer and its products, and to a lesser extent, customer reviews.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Surfboard S33 DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem</p><p></p><p>$160.00</p>

The Arris Surfboard S33 is a DOCSIS 3.1 device with a 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port that supports all major cable providers. Plus, it sports a second 1 Gbps Ethernet port you can use for a separate network.

Ideal for multi-Gigabit home networking, this cable modem can meet the demands of video streaming and video gaming without disrupting your Internet speed. And with its 2.5 Gbps port, this modem should be able to withstand increases in your Internet service for years to come.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>MB7621</p><p></p><p>$125.00</p>

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The Motorola MB7621 is a basic, inexpensive cable modem—perfect for homes with a mid-speed Internet plan—to pair with the Wi-Fi router of your choice. It doesn’t support DOCSIS 3.1, so it’s less powerful at 3.0, but appropriate only when cost is your primary concern. The positives are that it's compatible with all the major cable providers at speeds up to 900 Mbps, so you should get several years life out of it.

While the ethernet port may not be quite as future-proof as what you'll find with some competing modems, the low price of this model can at least help you get out of a rental situation from a cable company until you decide if you want to upgrade to a higher-end modem.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Nighthawk CAX80</p><p></p><p>$499.99</p>

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Nighthawk CAX80


The NETGEAR Nighthawk CAX80, a high performing modem/router combo that works with internet plans up to 1200 Mbps, has similar specs as the Comcast/Xfinity-only Motorola MT8733—DOCSIS 3.1, 2.5 Gbps Ethernet, and Wi-Fi 6, but it doesn’t have ports for Comcast/Xfinity voice service. It does have a USB 3.0 port, through, which you can access a storage device or printer.

This is a solid unit that should be able to serve your needs for years to come, unless you decide that you want to get a cable-provided voice service down the line.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Nighthawk CM2050V</p><p></p><p>$349.99</p>

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Nighthawk CM2050V


If you have Comcast/Xfinity voice service and you have (or want) 1Gbps+ service, you may want the NETGEAR Nighthawk CM2050V. This DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem has two built-in ports for your phones and works effortlessly with Xfinity's Triple Play plan supporting enhanced calling features like Caller ID on your TV and call forwarding.

Also, it has a 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port so it can pass the full download speeds through to your connected Wi-Fi router. The only real downside: It’s about 50 percent more expensive than a comparable cable modem without Comcast/Xfinity voice support (such as the Arris S33).

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Motorola MT8733</p><p></p><p>$359.99</p>

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Motorola MT8733


Yes, the Motorola MT8733 is a bit pricey, but it gives Comcast/Xfinity customers everything they need: DOCSIS 3.1, a 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port, Comcast/Xfinity voice service support, and modern Wi-FI 6. It also has a mobile app for monitoring and management, and even better, the MT8733’s security and parental control features don’t require a subscription.

Security features include 24/7 scans of your network to detect malware, alerts for threats trying join your network, and the option to have an isolated guest network. For controls, parents can restrict specific web sites, monitor and limit Internet usage, and protect children from dangerous web sites.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Orbi CBK752</p><p></p><p>$519.99</p>

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Orbi CBK752


Do you have a vast amount of space and/or more than two floors to cover (especially if there’s a basement involved)? Then a single Wi-Fi transmitter almost certainly won’t suffice. This situation calls for a Wi-Fi mesh system—multiple transmitters that talk to each other as well as to your devices.

The NETGEAR Orbi’s CBK752’s cable modem supports up to 1 Gbps speeds (depending on provider) and the pair of included devices bathe your home (NETGEAR claims up to 5,000 sq. ft.) in Wi-Fi. You can expand it further with additional satellite units if needed.

Ideal for uninterrupted streaming, HD video gaming, and web conferencing, this cable modem is ideal for families who desire a robust smart home experience.

Tech Expert Joseph Moran Helps You Take the Leap With Buying a Cable Modem Instead of Renting. Here’s What You Need To Know.

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