ISPs like Comcast, Time Warner, Charter, and Cox are notorious for cajoling their customers into unnecessary equipment rental. If you are currently renting a modem or router from your ISP, consider replacing their mediocre rental equipment with your own networking gear. It will be yours to own, and most decent units cost less than one year of rental fees.
Though you have the option to purchase a separate modem and router, combo units are usually the more affordable, convenient option. Sure, if you are trying to push online gaming to its limits, you might be better off with a quality cable modem and one of the best AC routers, but aside from that, even an average modem router can handle everyday tasks like streaming, web surfing, and uploading.
All of these modem/routers are designed to work with cable internet, so make sure you don’t have a DSL or FiOS service before you buy one. The modems on each unit are the latest DOCSIS 3.0 standard, and will work problem-free with any major service provider.
Also don’t forget, if you get your home phone service bundled with your WiFi, you will need a special modem to support this feature. And so long as you make these basic compatibility checks, you’re free to cut equipment rentals out of the picture completely.
1. Arris SURFboard N300 (SBG6580)
The Arris SURFboard SBG6580 is a top recommended modem/router because it is universally compatible with all major cable providers. It gets a download speed of 343 Mbps and an upload speed of 131Mbps, making it a surprisingly fast unit for its price.
The reliability of this combo unit is matched by its versatility, as it includes four gigabit-speed ethernet ports for wired connections, and is capable of quick WPS one-button setup when connecting other devices.
As an N300 router, you won’t have access to the faster 802.11ac wireless, but this will only be an issue if you have a compatible device that benefits from higher speeds. Online gaming might be somewhat inhibited on an N300 connection, but this router handles other everyday uses superbly.
2. Arris SURFboard AC1750 (SBG6782-AC)
The Arris SURFboard SBG6782-AC is the definitive upgrade to the Arris SBG6580. The AC1750 modem/router offers impressive range, as Arris’ WiFi Beamforming technology can deliver focused signals towards stationary devices to maximize its effectiveness.
Despite using the faster AC wireless standard, this router’s speeds are still capped at 343 Mbps down and 141Mbps up. This is plenty of speed for any standard cable internet plan though, as again, few providers offer more than 50 Mbps plans.
Upgrading to an AC router also allows for faster connections with AC-compatible devices, and yes, it is backwards compatible with any older wireless standards.
The SURFboard has four gigabit ethernet ports on the back, plus a port for MoCA networking (Ethernet Networking over Coaxial Cable), and a WPS button for quickly connecting wireless devices. The SBG6782-AC is the ideal combination of fast and easy.
Price: $149.99 (32 percent off MSRP)
3. Netgear N300 (C3000)
Netgear’s C3000 is another N300 router that, despite being a basic model, still boasts high upload and download speeds. Depending on your Internet service package, the C3000 can get 340 Mbps down, and 300 Mbps up. While a router of this class does not get the same range as more modern AC routers, the power the C3000 boasts is enough to achieve maximum speed on most basic wireless plans.
This modem/router is compatible with all major cable internet providers, and offers versatility with its two gigabit ethernet ports and its USB port to share networked media. Netgear routers are notoriously easy to setup, either using their WPS push-button connections, or using Netgear’s Net Genie app.
On top of that, they have fantastic customer support online and over the phone, making the C3000 a safe buy if you feel like you might need some help to set up networking gear on your own.
Price: $89.99 (18 percent off MSRP)
4. Zoom Telephonics AC1900 (5363)
Though this modem/router from Zoom looks particularly plain and boxy, its AC1900 WiFi signal is anything but plain, with a speedy dual band connection and great supporting features.
While its AC 5GHz connection can support up to 13000 Mbps of data at once, its modem limits it to a standard 343 Mbps up and down. This unit does have a couple tricks up its sleeve though, like Broadcom TurboQAM technology, which increases maximum wireless-N data rates to 600 Mbps.
The dual band itself gives this modem/router a big edge over competitor units, as it allows you operate on either a 5GHz band or a 2.4 GHz band based on which is more crowded (usually the 2.4GHz band), improving speeds when many devices are connected to one router.
As a less well-known brand, this Zoom Telephonics unit can usually be picked up at quite a bit cheaper than any AC SURFboard models, even though it performs about as well and offers the same service compatibility.
5. Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 (C7000-100NAS)
Netgear’s Nighthawk series represents the top of the line in home networking and stealth design. Its higher price tag means that it might not be for everyone, but if you are frequently streaming videos and gaming online, you will be glad for the extra horsepower.
The Nighthawk modem/router employs 24×8 channel bonding to get speeds up to 960 Mbps down with an upload speed to match.
This router boasts the full power of Netgear’s Nighthawk R7000 and then some, making it a go to if you want maximum speed.
This combo unit also sports four useful gigabit ethernet ports, a USB port to share networked media, and of course, access to Netgear’s helpful NetGenie app for controlling guest networks and parental controls.
Price: $195.59 (30 percent off MSRP)