A DOCSIS 3.1 Modem is different from traditional DSL modems. Both DOCSIS and DLS are two different technologies used for high-speed internet access. DSL modems use an RJ11 connector to provide internet access from your ISP to your home. On the other hand, DOCSIS modems use a coaxial cable for the same purpose. If you have a cable connection for the internet and are tired of paying a monthly fee for your modem, it’s time to buy your own.
However, before you do so, there are a lot of things you need to consider. Factors such as Wi-Fi standards, maximum speed, security features, and the number of ports can all affect the performance and overall stability of any DOCSIS modem. Besides that, finding the best modem out of dozens of available options can be quite difficult.
There are then additional questions such as whether you even need a DOCSIS 3.1 modem over a 3.0 modem in the first place. In this in-depth guide, we’ll be answering all of those questions to help you find the best DOCSIS 3.1 modem for your needs.
DOCSIS 3.1 Modem vs DOCSIS 3.0 – Which is Better for You?
While DOCSIS 3.0 modems are generally more cost-effective, DOCSIS 3.1 features faster speeds and enhanced security. There are significant differences between the two, especially when it comes to performance, pricing, and availability. With DOCSIS 3.0, you will likely save a lot of money on initial costs. There’s also a large likelihood that you’ll have more used or refurbished devices to pick from.
However, DOCSIS 3.1 tops out at 200 Mbps upstream and 1 Gbps downstream. On the other hand, DOCSIS 3.1 modems can deliver speeds of up to 10 Gbps for the downstream and 1-2 Gbps for the upstream. The older version has been around since 2006, so there’s no wonder that there’s a major speed difference between the two.
DOCSIS 3.1 modems are also more likely to provide better security features such as WPA3 encryption. You also get support for additional features such as Mesh Wi-Fi support, Dual-band or Tri-band Wi-Fi, and better built-in routers (on some models). They are also better for long-term use as DOCSIS 3.0 is likely to be outdated in the coming years.
It’s also more likely that your ISP only supports DOCSIS 3.1, as that is starting to become the industry standard. However, if you don’t have a need for the high speeds that DOCSIS 3.1 can provide, it’s better to go with DOCSIS 3.0 if your ISP still supports it.
|1||ARRIS SURFboard SB8200||Editor's Pick|| |
|2||NETGEAR Nighthawk CAX80||Best High-End Model|| |
|3||NETGEAR Orbi CBK752 Mesh Wi-Fi System||Best for Mesh Wi-Fi|| |
|4||Motorola MG8702||Best Modem/Router Combo|| |
|5||NETGEAR Nighthawk CM1100||Best for Gaming|| |
|6||Motorola MB8600||Best for Comcast|| |
|7||ARRIS SURFboard SB6190||Best Entry-Level|| |
|Name||ARRIS SURFboard SB8200|
|Name||NETGEAR Nighthawk CAX80|
|Award||Best High-End Model|
|Name||NETGEAR Orbi CBK752 Mesh Wi-Fi System|
|Award||Best for Mesh Wi-Fi|
|Award||Best Modem/Router Combo|
|Name||NETGEAR Nighthawk CM1100|
|Award||Best for Gaming|
|Award||Best for Comcast|
|Name||ARRIS SURFboard SB6190|
Last Update on 2023-09-23 at 06:15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Factors To Consider When Buying a DOCSIS 3.1 Modem
While you’re on the hunt for the best DOCSIS 3.1 modem, there are several factors that you need to consider. A good modem will elevate your internet speed and give you a reliable connection to the web. However, that’s only possible if you know what you are looking for.
With that said, it can prove to be a bit of a hassle to find the right modem for your needs. While sticking with our recommendations is a good idea, we understand that it may not always be possible. It’s very likely that some of the items go out of stock, get discontinued, or inflate in terms of pricing. If that happens, we’ve put together this buyer’s guide to save you the headache.
After testing dozens of DOCSIS 3.1 modems and sifting through multiple versions, we came across factors that make or break these devices. These are the things you should know when you’re planning on getting a DOCSIS 3.1 modem for your home.
Before you go about buying any DOCSIS 3.1 modem, it is important to consider that it is compatible with your cable internet service provider (ISP). Providers such as Comcast, Charter, and Altice can be quite picky with what devices they support. Check with your provider or consult their website to determine what modems or brands are approved for their network.
With that said, a lot of modems will work fine with almost any cable provider out there. Just make sure your modem can take full advantage of your internet speed. If your modem is slower than the speeds your ISP provides, you will be bottlenecking yourself severely. Also, make sure the modem can support multiple devices like different routers, access points, PCIe Wi-Fi cards, laptops, and more.
Speed and Channel Bonding
The best DOCSIS 3.1 modem is one that can support your ISP’s maximum provided speeds. A good modem should be capable of keeping up with high-speed internet without issues. Fortunately, even a lot of the cheaper modems these days are capable of supporting a gigabit connection. Considering how most households have an internet speed slower than that, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
However, make sure that the modem supports newer routers with Wi-Fi 6/6E. This is a newer Wi-Fi version that has become standard with modern networking devices. Many phones, tablets, laptops, and computers all support Wi-Fi 6. If you get a modem that does not support it, you’ll be missing out on faster speeds, lower latency, and better efficiency.
Many of the best DOCSIS 3.1 modems also feature channel bonding. They can bond multiple downstream and upstream channels, significantly increasing the data throughput and improving overall performance. Make sure that this is a feature mentioned on any modem that you are planning on buying.
A modem is the central hub of your home’s internet connection. As such, it is important to look out for ports and other forms of connectivity to support all of your devices. A good DOCSIS 3.1 modem should have at least two Gigabit Ethernet ports so you can connect routers and other devices. Many higher-end models will have at least four.
Modems that have built-in routers should have multiple ports so that you can connect smart-home devices, gaming consoles, your PC, or even smart TVs. These combo modems/routers also feature multiple USB ports that let you connect devices such as printers, external storage, or network adapters.
If a modem does have a router built-in, make sure it supports Wi-Fi 6 at the very least. It should also provide sufficient coverage for your house.
The Setup Process
Ideally, you should be able to talk to your ISP and get a technician that can help you set up the new modem. But considering ISPs want you to pay a monthly fee for using their modem, they are less likely to help you out. This depends on where you live and how good of a customer service your ISP offers. So, when on the hunt for the best DOCSIS 3.1 modem, find one that’s easy to set up.
You can go about this by making sure that the modem has a good number of ports, seamless compatibility with your network provider, and a user-friendly interface for accessing settings and configuring your network. Modems can be quite a pain to set up at times, but you will be alright if you know what to look for and closely follow the user guide present in the box.
Pricing and Value
Last but not least, you’ll want to worry about how much you’re willing to spend. DOCSIS 3.1 modems can cost anywhere from $60 to $400 (USD) and beyond. That’s quite a wide range and picking a modem for yourself out of that makes the buying decision a bit difficult. Just keep in mind that because something is cheap, that does not mean it is bad or of low quality. Similarly, not every high-end modem is going to be good in terms of value.
Prioritize the features, ports, flexibility, and speed that you need instead of just looking at the price. Once you know what to look for, start hunting for modems that have everything you’re looking for and fall within your budget. For example, if you already have a decent enough router, you don’t need to buy a modem that has a router built in. You’ll end up saving quite a bit of money this way.
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When it comes to consumer-level network devices, Arris is a popular household brand. They provide DSL and cable modems to most ISPs, so you are in safe hands here. If you’re looking for the best DOCSIS 3.1 modem that has a good number of features, excellent performance, and great reliability, the SB8200 is the right choice.
This is a cable modem that is compatible with most cable internet providers in the USA. It features support for Comcast, COX, Spectrum, and more. The wide compatibility alone makes it an obvious choice as it translates to a seamless setup process. Speaking of which, this DOCSIS 3.1 modem only takes a minute or two to set up. Plug it into the wall, download the SURFboard companion app, follow the step-by-step instructions, and you’re good to go.
It’s a bit on the bigger side, but that is par for the course for a standalone high-speed modem. The front display shows you when the device is turned on and connected to the internet. The blue LEDs indicate that it is communicating with other devices such as routers and Ethernet switches.
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Around the back, you’ll find a coaxial input, power input, and two Gigabit Ethernet ports. Performance is quite impressive as well. It’s perfect for Gigabit connections as it can maintain a 1 Gbps downstream speed frequently. It’s also backward compatible, meaning it can work with DOCSIS 3.1 as well as DOCSIS 3.0 or older.
The SURFboard SB8200 boasts multi-ISP support and excellent stability thanks to the 3GB RAM installed inside. While it’s slightly expensive, it certainly delivers on nearly all fronts. If it included a router at this price, it would have been an even better value. That does not take away from its excellence at all though, and it’s one of those devices that you can buy with your eyes closed.
NETGEAR is the only name bigger than ARRIS on this list. In fact, NETGEAR is the leading choice for hardware enthusiasts and networking professionals for consumer-level hardware. The CAX80 we’re looking at here shows why that is the case. This is a high-end modem/router combo that’s pricey but more than justifies its cost if you want to buy a modem once and forget about it for the next decade.
This is because while the CAX80 has a lot of features that make it great now, it’s fast enough to support any internet upgrades in the future. It is a combo unit meaning that it comes with a built-in Wi-Fi router. The unit features a Wi-Fi 6 router with a dual-band frequency. This means it can operate on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels.
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It is compatible with all major cable network providers such as Xfinity, Spectrum, and Cox. Just keep in mind that it won’t work with Verizon, AT&T, or any other fiber/DSL-based internet service providers. The setup process is quite intuitive as the companion app will guide you along the way.
Speed is not an issue here either. The router can support a maximum speed of up to 6Gbps. Coverage is also quite good as it can provide a wireless connection of up to 3000 square feet. It’s also versatile in terms of connectivity. You get a 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet port, 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports, and one USB 3.0 port for connecting storage drives, printers, and other devices.
This is by far the best DOCSIS 3.1 modem if you can stomach the costs. It even features 32×8 channel bonding, which explains the ridiculously fast speeds. You also get a 30-day free trial for NETGEAR Armor. It’s an all-in-one security service that makes sure your internet and the devices connected to it are protected at all times.
Finally, this modem/router combo also features 2-port aggregation which lets you achieve up higher speeds for downloading, streaming, and gaming. While it’s one of the more expensive units on this list, it is also the most impressive.
This one is a bit of a wildcard. While the NETGEAR CAX80 we looked at above is an excellent router/modem combo, this Orbi Mesh Wi-Fi system might be better if you’re looking for a seamless wireless connection. As this a system that includes a modem, Wi-Fi, and an additional satellite/node for mesh Wi-Fi, it is expensive. However, it is the best all-in-one package that you can get.
If you’re not familiar with mesh Wi-Fi, let’s quickly explain it. A mesh Wi-Fi system works just like any other router/modem setup. The only difference is that it comes with additional access points that you can install or place anywhere in your home. This creates a separate access point that you can set up in dead zones where coverage is an issue. It expands your home Wi-Fi signal and removes some of the traffic from a single channel.
Since you’re getting a complete mesh Wi-Fi system for NETGEAR, the setup process is nearly seamless. It pairs with the Orbi mobile app which makes it easy for you to add any additional Orbi nodes down the line. The one we’re looking at here comes in a 2-pack unit. This includes the modem/router that acts as the central hub and an additional satellite that works as a separate access point.
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You get four Gigabit Ethernet ports on the main router, as well as two Gigabit Ethernet ports on the other satellite. If you get an additional Orbi satellite, you’ll have access to even more ports. This setup provides excellent coverage of up to 5000 square feet and support 40+ devices connected simultaneously.
In terms of speed, this Orbi system can provide a theoretical maximum output of up to 4.2Gbps. It also supports Tri-Band Wi-Fi. You even get access to smart parental control and NETGEAR Armor which protects your internet connection from brute force attacks and malware.
Apart from the lack of a USB port, this Orbi Mesh Wi-Fi system has it all. While it might not be the best DOCSIS 3.1 modem in terms of value, it more than delivers on its promise of a seamless mesh Wi-Fi experience.
This one is an AC3200 4×4 Wi-Fi router/modem combo that excels in terms of reliability. The Motorola MG8702 is an excellent unit considering the 2-in-1 functionality, high-speeds, and superb stability. This particular version has a Wi-Fi 5 router alongside he DOCSIS 3.1 modem. There are different versions, including one with Wi-Fi 6 support. However, the one is a bit more expensive.
Initially, the fact that this is a Wi-Fi 5 only router might push some people away. However, considering that Wi-Fi 5 is still fast enough for most people, this is not a bad configuration for the price. Sure, it will be slightly slower and less efficient than any Wi-Fi 6 router, but you’re less likely to notice if you haven’t used one in the past.
Even without Wi-Fi 6, this router/modem combo can easily handle any Gigabit connection. It’s fast and reliable as it works with almost any cable internet service provider out there. It also delivers a wide coverage of up to 2000 square feet making it suitable for the average home and large apartments.
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It has advanced features such as Wi-Fi beamforming, guest network management, usage monitoring, parental controls, and more. All of these features lets you customize the functionality of the router, which makes it an excellent choice if you have multiple people at your home using different devices.
Despite the lackluster selection of ports and Wi-Fi 6, this DOCSIS 3.1 modem is the perfect choice if you want flexibilty with your network. The deep configuration options make it excellent for advanced users. On the other hand, it’s also easy to set up and use for beginners. It’s a versatile device through and through.
If you need a simple standalone modem that provides high-speed internet to your router, this is your best bet. The Nighthawk CM1100 from NETGEAR is the best DOCSIS 3.1 modem for gaming. While it lacks a lot of bells and whistles, it focuses purely on performance. This makes it an excellent choice for gamers who just want a simple setup but don’t want to leave any performance on the table.
Speaking of which, this NETGEAR modem delivers Gigabit speeds on most cable connections. It works with a wide variety of ISPs and the setup process is incredibly easy. The modem can provide up to 2Gbps download speeds with link aggregation. It’s also backward compatible with DOCSIS 3.0.
You get two Gigabit Ethernet ports, a simple black design, and a small footprint. While it’s nothing to write home about in terms of aesthetics, it is a modem at the end of the day. Considering most people prefer to hide routers, modems, and other networking devices, this is not a big issue. However, the LEDs on the front have poor visibility. This makes the device harder to troubleshoot.
Fortunately, you won’t have to troubleshoot anything frequently. This is a very reliable modem simply because it is light on features. The fact that it doesn’t include any gimmicks or useless features inside makes is what makes it stable.
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It does not include a built-in router, as this is a standalone unit. If you want to use Wi-Fi, you will need to buy a separate router alongside it. With that said, it is quite good as a standalone modem. Considering the price and the reliability, it’s the best DOCSIS 3.1 modem for gamers.
If you have Comcast/Xfinity connection, then this is the best DOCSIS 3.1 modem you can buy. It works seamlessly out of the box, supports Gigabit speeds, and lets you configure it to your heart’s content. The Motorola MB8600 isn’t that expensive either, making it excellent for Comcast users who don’t want to break the bank.
While the modem itself can support a theoretical maximum speed of up to 6 Gbps, Comcast recommends that you configure it to 1 Gbps. Fortunately, you won’t have to that yourself as the modem will do it automatically. The 6 Gbps isn’t really achievable in real-world scenarios anyway. Also, we imagine a connection like that is not something most home-users would even need.
It’s important to note that this modem is similar to the other Motorola device seen above. That’s because this one is almost the same device, with the major difference being a lack of a router. Yes, that means you will have to separately buy a router to use Wi-Fi, but that’s not a bad deal considering the price.
Other than that, it works with almost any traditional router that uses a WAN port for connection. While Motorola claims it will also work with wireless mesh routers, there may be some issues if your router only works with particular modems. For example, some TP-Link mesh routers have known to have some bugs and glitches with this modem.
More Ethernet ports would have been nice, especially one with a 2.5 Gigabit connection. That’s the only thing that’s holding this modem back. If you don’t mind those shortcomings and just want something that’s cheap and easy to set up, this is a decent DOCSIS 3.1 modem.
The Arris SURFboard SB6190 is a very capable modem. It’s been around for quite a while now, but it’s still a popular choice for many people. It works especially well with a Comcast or Spectrum connection. While it’s a bit lacking in terms of ports and customization, it’s an excellent modem for the price.
First off, the setup process is relatively easy and straightforward. This is not something that you’d expect from a cheap or basic modem. It will take you less than two minutes to get it up and running. The modem features 32 downstream and 8 upstream channels, which means it can handle high-speed internet plans with ease.
As for performance, it’s quite surprising how well this modem holds up against the competition. For the download speeds, you’re looking at a maximum of 1.4 Gbps. Not bad at all for a router that doesn’t even cost $100. Unfortunately, upload speeds can be a bit inconsistent. Sometimes it will reach around 200 Mbps, and other times it will fall to below 70 or 80.
If you’re a content creator or someone who shares large files with their colleagues, this could be a bit of an issue. However, considering the price, even an 80 Mbps upload speed isn’t all that bad. Especially if you consider the excellent reliability.
Throughout our testing, we didn’t notice any sort of signal dropouts. It will run smoothly without any issues and you’ll never run into random disconnections. This is great for gamers or people who work from home and rely on a stable internet connection. Considering that, this might just be the best budget DOCSIS modem you can buy right now.
DOCSIS 3.1 Modem vs DSL vs Fiber – Which Is Better
Right now, cable internet is the most common in the US. This is because the bigger providers such as Comcast and Spectrum use coaxial cables to provide an internet connection. However, the number of ISPs that are using DSL is also quite large. On top of that, Fiber internet is also gaining traction in states like California and New Jersey.
DOCSIS 3.1 Modems will only work with a coaxial or cable connection. Cable internet provides a high-speed connection and it is often included with a TV and phone bundle. A lot of cable providers are able to provide Gigabit connections thanks to DOCSIS 3.1. It’s also more widely available in both rural and urban environments.
On the other hand, DSL does not lag far behind in terms of speed either. While Gigabit DSL connections are rarer, a lot of routers and ISPs have started to support it. A DSL connection uses telephone lines, and it’s easy to maintain and set up. It’s also more affordable. However, DOCSIS 3.1 modems and cable connections might be faster in your area.
Fiber is the latest technology. It is powered by expensive high-speed cables that are made out of a fiber optic material and glass. Fiber internet uses pulses of light that travel across these shards of fiber and glass at the speed of light. This obviously makes the technology faster and more expensive than DSL or DOCSIS.
At the end of the day, it depends on what type of service is available in your area and how much it costs. Fiber is the best option out of all three, but availability is an issue in some cities. DOCSIS and DSL modems perform around the same, but this also depends on your locality.
Does a DOCSIS 3.1 Modem Support Wi-Fi 6?
Wi-Fi 6 is a newer standard of wireless connectivity and the successor to Wi-Fi 5. It’s also known as 802.11ax Wi-Fi, if you’re looking for the technical term. Wi-Fi 6 provides a faster connection, lower latency, and improved battery life on portable devices. However, Wi-Fi 6 devices need to connect to a router that also supports the feature.
Fortunately, a lot of DOCSIS 3.1 modems will support Wi-Fi 6 routers. Just make sure that both devices can deliver on the speeds that you are looking for. Almost any DOCSIS 3.1 modem will work with any Wi-Fi 6 router provided that the router uses a WAN connection.
Best DOCSIS 3.1 Modem- FAQs
Compared to DOCSIS 3.0, DOCSIS 3.1 makes a major difference in terms of improvements in speed, security, and latency.
DOCSIS 3.1 is much slower than a fiber connection. Fiber cables carry a higher bandwidth and higher frequencies. Coaxial cables can’t match this speed at all.
While not everyone will have any real-world needs for the speeds provided by DOCSIS 3.1, it is necessary for future-proofing. It adds certain security features and support for Wi-Fi 6. If you’re buying a new modem, DOCSIS 3.1 is the way to