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 that you can usually replace any of their mediocre rental equipment with your own networking gear to keep at a cost less than a 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 recognized as a top recommended modem/router because it is universally compatible with all major cable providers. It gets a download speed of 343Mbps 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 setups. 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.
Price: $123.35 (18 percent off MSRP)
2. NETGEAR N300 (C3000)
Netgear’s C3000 is another N300 router that, despite being less expensive, still boasts a comparable 340Mbps down, and 300Mbps up. While a router of this class doesn’t get the same range as more updated 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, making this a safe buy if you feel like you might need some help to set up networking gear on your own.
Price: $99.90 (9 percent off MSRP)
3. ARRIS SURFboard AC1800 (SBG6782-AC)
The Arris SURFboard SBG6782-AC is the definitive upgrade to the Arris SBG6580. The AC1750 modem/router offers impressive range, asArris’ WiFi Beamforming technology can deliver focused signals towards stationary devices to maximize its effectiveness. However, the router’s speeds are still capped at 343Mbps down and 141Mbps up. This is still plenty of speed for any standard cable internet plan though, as few providers offer more than 50Mbps 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: $194.14 (12 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 13000Mbps 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 600Mbps. 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.
Price: $168.99 (16 percent off MSRP)
5. NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 (C7000-100NAS)
As a router that only works with Comcast’s web service, Netgear’s Nighthawk AC1900 (C7000-100NAS) is not for everybody. But as its high price tag suggests, it’s not just because of its service-specific functionality, but also because of the premium speed it offers for power users. The Nighthawk modem/router is the only combo unit that uses 24×8 channel bonding to get speeds up to 960Mbps 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, parental controls and more.