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In computer networking, a modem is a device used by digital devices (that use digital signals) to communicate with other devices over non-digital mediums like TV cables or telephone lines etc.
Without any doubt, it is an important piece of hardware in your home network if you’re using DSL or cable internet.
Different Types of Modem
There are different types of modems available in the market and all of them are not the same. The type you choose would depend on the type of internet you use at your home.
First, there were dial-up modems. They were once very popular but almost no one uses them nowadays, due to their slow speed.
The two common types found in today’s market are cable modems and DSL modems.
Best Gaming Modems For 2019
1. Motorola MB8600: Check Price On Amazon
Best Cable Modem For Gaming 2019 Overall
Motorola is a very famous name in the tech industry. They are one of the pioneers of the cellphone industry, but what many people don’t know is that they make awesome cable modems too. One of them is the new MB8600.
The main thing which separates this cable modem from the most is its DOCSIS standard.
Yes, it’s one of the few cable modems that support DOCSIS 3.1 standard. But whether your ISP supports it or not, is another matter.
Right now, according to Motorola, it’s compatible with Cox and Comcast. But even if you don’t have Gigabit internet coverage in your area right now, you can enjoy regular DOCSIS 3.0 internet with 32*8 channel streams (almost 1Gbps speed).
It has one WAN port and four Ethernet ports.
As far as top speed is concerned, on DOCSIS 3.1 covered areas, you can have as much as 3.8 Gbps speed (in near-future). But there’s no ISP which provides that much speed right now and you’ll only be using one of these ports in normal circumstances.
In terms of hardware, it has a Broadcom BCM3390ZRKFSBG chipset with 512 MB of RAM and 128 MB NAND storage.
Since earlier cable modems had a security vulnerability due to Intel Puma chipset, it’s good to see many manufacturers are using Broadcom chipset in their new modems, like Arris SB8200 and Netgear CM1000.
Needless to say, its performance is over-the-top and probably an overkill for the current internet infrastructure.
That’s why we ‘ll have to wait before all ISPs start to roll out DOCSIS 3.1 support. But here’s one feature of this device you can enjoy right away.
It’s called Active Queue Management, or AQM.
This feature basically prioritizes traffic packets so that the high-priority packets reach you earlier than the low priority ones. This mechanism reduces the overall lagging, especially in high traffic situations.
Thanks to Broadcom chipset, it has another cool feature called Full Band Capture. This feature is very handy in rural areas with poor signal.
Overall, this is the best cable modem right now, especially for gaming. While there are some other DOCSIS 3.1 models, like CM1000 by Netgear and Arris SB8200, we choose it because it’s a bit cheaper than the other two.
Yes, it has some disadvantages that you can't fully utilize it for a year or two, but think of it as an investment. You don’t want to buy a new model after every other year, right?
2. Linksys CM3016: Check Price On Amazon
Best Cheap Modem For Gaming 2019
This is one of the three cable modems Linksys released in 2016.
The other two are (3008 with 8*4, and 3024 with 24*8 channel configuration respectively).
The reason we choose this one, instead of its siblings, was pretty simple. It’s cheaper than 3024 but more powerful than the 3008.
OK, now let’s talk about its design.
Since all of them were released together, they look the same from the outside, especially 3016 and 3024.
Both of them feature the same tall, black, rectangular-shaped design with LED lights on the front and Ethernet ports on the back. These LED lights show different stats like Power, Send, Receive, Status and Ethernet etc.
All of these statuses show different lights in different circumstances. For example, if the Ethernet LED indicator is Blue, then it’s a Gigabit connection. If it’s green, it means there’s a 10/100 Fast Ethernet connection.
The same goes for Send indicator (Blinking-green means searching for internet connection, solid green for established connection, and solid blue for multi-channel bonding).
On the back side, there’s a power port, an Ethernet port, and a cable port. This cable port is basically a coaxial RF connector in which you’ll put your TV cable.
To set it up for the first time, you only need a router (with a spare Ethernet port), an Ethernet cable, and an active cable internet connection from your ISP.
Since it’s a 16*4 cable modem, you can have up to 686 Mbps downstream and 131 Mbps upstream speed, if your service provider permits you.
As far as compatibility is concerned, this one works fine with Comcast Xfinity, Cox, Charter Spectrum and Time Warner internet, but it’s better to contact your ISP before purchasing it.
According to Linksys, it can easily handle up to 250 Mbps internet connection, which is more than enough for most people out there, including gamers.
3. Netgear D7000: Check Price On Amazon
Best DSL Modem For Gaming 2019
All the modems we’ve listed here so far work really fine until you’ve got ... cable internet.
So what if you use any other type of internet, like the DSL?
Well, in that case too, we’ve got you covered and here’s the D7000 - a DSL modem-router gateway from the Netgear.
This gateway resembles pretty much like the Netgear R7000, a WiFi router popular for its durability and good speed.
In this device, Netgear has just added a modem with an R7000, so that you can enjoy blazing fast internet speed on a DSL connection.
This gateway also reflects in its design, that it's a variant of R7000. It has the same sharp and angular edges, but the color has been changed from black to matte grey. It’s also wall mountable, like the R7000.
There are some exceptions though. It has two USB 3.0 ports instead of the one in R7000.
Talking about the ports, it’s worth mentioning that it has four Ethernet ports on the back, along with a DSL port, a power connector, and internet port. On the front side, there are some usual LED indicators.
As far as hardware is concerned, it has a dual-core 1 GHz BCM63138 SoC by Broadcom along with 25 MB RAM and 128 MB flash memory.
If we talk about its router-capability, being an AC 1900 router means that this device can achieve as high speed as 1300 Mbps on 5 GHz and 600 Mbps on 2.4 GHz Band.
Not to forget about other bells and whistles like QoS setup, Guest Networks, Port Forwarding, and Dynamic DNS etc. As a DSL modem, this one supports both the ADSL+ and VDSL2 technologies.
As far as performance is concerned, this one is a beast, especially among DSL modem-routers. On both 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz, the results are exceptional. It supports Beamforming technology, although MU-MIMO is missing.
The only problem you can face, if you haven’t owned a Netgear device previously, is its less noob-friendly interface,
ISP-rented Modem vs Your Own Modem
In normal circumstances, most of the ISPs rent you their own modems for a particular monthly fee (usually less than 10 bucks/month) just like the fee you give for your internet. (Some companies even rent you a router too, or a 2-in-1 router/modem combo, more about it later).
Now, this monthly fee may seem trivial but can exceed the actual cost of the modem if you see things in the long term.
Related Post: Best Gaming Router Guide
There are some advantages of using your ISP-owned modem, of course.
First, you don’t need to worry about any compatibility issue, and replacing it with a new unit yourself. Next, you can ask your ISP to replace it with a new unit, if the old unit becomes obsolete - without any added cost.
Third, and the last one, is related to ISPs. Many ISPs include the cost of a modem in your monthly internet fee, and you won’t have this money back even if you don’t use their provided modem.
Modem/Router Combos vs Separate Devices
The normal internet setup consists of a Cable/DSL modem connected with your router, but there are some exceptions. Many ISPs built their own router-modem combo device - also known as gateways. These devices act both as a router as well as a modem.
Both of these solutions have their own pros and cons, and it’s up to you (and what your ISP permits).
Pros/Cons of Modem-Router Combo
- A single device means that you require only a single power outlet.
- Router-part of these devices lacks high speed.
- There’s no way you can upgrade a modem or router, without changing your whole device.
Pros/Cons of Separate Modems and Routers
- Flexibility in terms of hardware and permanence.
- There’s a lot of room of improvement.
- More devices mean more wires and more power outlets.
Things to Remember When Buying Your Own Cable Modem
Here are some of the things you need to consider before purchasing your own modem.
Compatibility with your ISP
If you’ve short-listed some modems, the first thing you should to do is checking their compatibility with your ISP. While most of the cable modems are compatible with most of the ISPs around, some exceptions still exist.
That’s why many ISPs have a compatibility chart for their supported modems. Here are the ones by Xfinity, Century Link, and Time Warner. If you have any other ISP, you better call them and confirm the compatibility of any of your short-listed modem.
Which version of DOCSIS your ISP supports?
DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) is the telecommunication standard used by ISPs for providing cable internet.
The newest version of this standard is DOCSIS 3.1 but it’s the DOCSIS 3.0 which is most widely used.
Although there are many cable modems coming in the market with DOCSIS 3.1 (and have backward compatibility with DOCSIS 3.0) speed, many ISP simply don’t support that much speed. The ones which do so, do that in a very limited number of cities in the US.
So, unless you live in a gigabit internet area, there’s no need to rush for DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem, just for the sake of future proofing.
Another thing you’ll notice besides a DOCSIS version, is numbers like 16✕4 or 8✕4. This is basically the number of downstream channels and the number of upstream channels.
For example, 16✕4 means that a cable modem has 16 downstream channels and 4 upstream channels. One downstream channel can have up to 43 Mbps speed.
This means that an 8✕4 modem will give you a top speed of 344 Mbps, whereas, in a 16✕4 modem, that speed will go as much as 688 Mbps. Fastest among all cable modems is the 32✕8 channel configuration.
One thing you need to remember though is no matter how fast your modem or router is, your final speed will depend on your internet plan.
If you have a 50 Mbps internet connection, for example, and have a 16✕4 modem, your speed will remain 50 Mbps at best.
Other than this, your WiFi router should also be good enough to transmit that much wireless signals efficiently.
Ethernet ports of a modem should probably be your last worry. It’s because most of the cable modems around us have pretty much the same amount of Ethernet ports in them, which is 4.
Apart from connecting these modems with your desktop PCs, there’s no real need for you to use these ports. It’s because laptops, smartphones and most other gadgets utilize WiFi connectivity.
In case you don't have it by default, you can turn your PC into a WiFi client by using a WiFi adapter.
That being said, if you’re into PC gaming, it’s better to have a wired connection than a wireless one, because of the latency issues of wireless networks.
A Note About DSL modems
Although cable modems are the ones most talked about in the market, there are some other types that exist. DSL modems are one of them.
Unlike cable modems, they utilize telephone wires for internet connectivity. They are a lot slower than cable modems but many people still use ‘em. The main steps for choosing a DSL modem are same as choosing a cable modem.
So these were some of the best modems that we have tested and loved. In case, you think there's any other awesome model out in the market, that should be in this list, feel free to comment below.