Cable modems support one of two standards. DOCSIS 2.0 modems are only compatible with DOCSIS 2.0 connections, but DOCSIS 3.0 modems are compatible with both DOCSIS 2.0 and 3.0 connections. Installing the best cable modems can reduce latency while increasing speeds for any user.
Purchase or Rent?
Most ISPs provide cable modems for a small fee, which is usually no more than $5 a month. However, equipment fees can be taxed, increasing the cost. Retail modems can cost anywhere from $20 to $150, but most modems will pay for themselves in 6 to 18 months. However, ISPs will replace broken rentals at no additional cost while owners are stuck paying for their replacement modems.
DOCSIS 2.0 Modems
DOCSIS stands for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification, and it’s the standard by which data is transmitted over cable networks. After 2001, most ISPs switched to DOCSIS 2.0, which increased upload speeds to about 27 Mbps. However, the maximum download speed remained unchanged at 38 Mbps.
Internet subscribers who are still using DOCSIS 2.0 connections can pick up the Cisco-Linksys CM100 for $100. While on the expensive side, the CM100 comes with both USB and Ethernet ports, so users can hook it up to their routers or directly to their computers.
Although it only supports DOCSIS 1.0, 1.1, and 2.0, the CM100 continues to receive stellar reviews from professional reviewers and customers alike. It boasts excellent connectivity, and new purchases come with a standard 1-year warranty. The sleek black case fits on any desk, and the modem comes with Ethernet, USB, and power cables to get new users started. Setup is as easy as plugging in and turning on. Users can call their ISPs and configure their new modems in just a few minutes.
For users looking for a cheaper modem, the D-Link DCM-202 offers reliable performance for $65. It’s an older model, and the product page only lists compatibility from Windows 95 to Windows XP. While it should work fine with systems using Windows Vista, 7, and 8, technical assistance may be limited.
The package comes with a power cable, but users will have to supply their own USB or Ethernet cables to connect their new modems. Documentation can also be found online, so DCM-202 users will have to use other Internet capable devices if they need to troubleshoot networking issues.
DOCSIS 3.0 Modems
DOCSIS 3.0 was released in 2006, and speeds leaped ahead to 152 Mbps for downloads and 108 Mbps for uploads. Most ISPs do not support those speeds yet, so DOCSIS 3.0 modems should support the fastest available speeds for the next few years. Future DOCSIS standards will increase speeds up to 10 Gbps.
The Motorola SB6121 ranks right up there with the very best cable modems. Its specifications are unmatched by its competitors. At $78, users receive up to 160 Mbps downloads and 120 Mbps uploads, which is actually slightly better than the DOCSIS 3.0 standard.
The SB6121 also comes with next generation IPv6 support, so SB6121 users will be prepared after the Internet runs out of IPv4 addresses. Like other modems, SB6121 owners can use either USB or Ethernet cables to connect to their routers or computers. Because it’s a newer model, the Motorola SB6121 is compatible with all of the latest operating systems including Unix.
An online suite of diagnostic tools makes the SB6121 a breeze to troubleshoot. This modem also supports gigabit Ethernet cables for 1 Gbps data transmission, and users can even configure the modem to support AES encryption.
The Linksys DPC3008-CC is another stellar cable modem with specifications almost identical to the SB6121. It is IPv4 and IPv6 compatible and can connect via USB or Ethernet. Cisco is well known for its excellent customer support, and the DPC3008-CC works with DOCSIS 1.1, 2.0, and 3.0 connections.
Fortunately, Cisco doesn’t skimp when it comes to extras. The package comes with a power adapter, Ethernet cable, and user CD. Inside the box, customers will also find a user manual, so they can configure their new DPC3008-CC modems without connecting to the Internet.
The DPC3008-CC’s real selling point is its support for 8 channel DOCSIS 3.0 technology, which allows users to receive theoretical download speeds of up to 320 Mbps. Compared to other modems, the DPC3008-CC is the most technologically advanced model on the market.
While slightly more expensive at $110, the Motorola SB6120 is well worth the price premium. It’s designed to work equally well in both residential and commercial settings, so it’s a very reliable piece of equipment.
It supports 4-channel DOCSIS 3.0 connections and caps out around 160 Mbps, which is more than double what ISPs currently offer. Like the DPC3008-CC, the SB6120 also supports AES encryption, and the modem comes with an industry leading 2-year warranty.
Named the SURFboard eXtreme cable modem, the SB6120 comes with a quick start guide, user CD, Ethernet cable, power adapter, installation checklist, and warranty card. The best cable modems all offer incredibly fast speeds, but the SB6120 also offers easy installation and a fantastic warranty.