- Best Cable Modem
- Best DSL Modem
- Best In-Car Internet Modem
- Best Satellite Modem
Modems are one of the most important computer devices when it comes to setting up a network connected to the Internet. The modem connects directly to an incoming Internet signal, provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP), and then relays that signal to other devices. There are quite a few different types of modems out there, based on the type of Internet signal you receive and the setting for your network.
Cable and DSL modems are used for high-speed internet, replacing older dial-up modems that established an Internet connection through a phone line. Satellite modems work in a similar way, communicating with a satellite relay to receive and send signals. In-car Internet modems are interesting devices, used to receive a signal in a vehicle so that you can connect to the Internet while on the road. With so many options and devices available, take a look at the modem buyer’s guide below for more information on picking the right model for your setup.
Best Cable Modem:
In looking at cable modems, there are a few major concerns to keep in mind. Look at the speeds that various modems support, though your actual internet service will largely determine your data rates. Reliability is a big issue, since you want a modem that is going to last you awhile, check the different manufacturers and look at user reviews to see where people have problems and how the manufacturers dealt with those issues. The number and types of connections on these modems is also important to be sure they can easily connect to other devices. As technology improves, it is also worthwhile to make sure you pick a model that offers some future-proofing through support for the latest standards.
These cable modems were chosen because they run fast with support for at least 131MB upstream and 172MB downstream speeds. Such fast data rates are possible thanks to at least four download channels and four upload channels with each of these modems. You get support for DOCSIS 3.0 as well as IPv4 and IPv6 standards with these modems, making them ideal for all modern networks and a wide range of cable Internet Service Providers.
This is pretty much the fastest and most impressive cable modem on the market. It supports incredibly high speeds; up to 1.4Gbps download speeds thanks to 32 download channels and eight upload channels for terrific data rates. This modem is easy to set up and works with a wide range of cable providers and other hardware. Read Full Review
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While this model from Zoom isn't as impressive as the ARRIS SURFboard SB6190, it's still a terrific cable modem that works quite well. Maximum data rates with this modem are 686Mbps downloading and 123Mbps uploading, which should be adequate for most cable service providers. This is a great option for a home or small business with cable internet that does not reach up to Gigabit speeds. Read Full Review
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This is an excellent midrange cable modem that may not be the fastest model available, but still provides fast performance for a reasonable price. It supports download speeds up to 320Mbps and uploads at up to 131Mbps, which should be sufficient for a wide range of settings. While this model works with most cable companies, keep in mind that it is not compatible with Comcast. Read Full Review
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This is a solid cable modem that works well and provides fast data rates, but the price on it is just a bit high. It supports up to 172Mbps download rates and up to 131Mbps upload rates, though it does not have as many channels as some other models. If the price on it was lower, it would be a truly fantastic option, but even with the cost this is a great choice. Read Full Review
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This model is a little more expensive than some comparable modems, but it includes built-in wireless router technology. It’s not the fastest model available, with download rates of 343Mbps and upload rates of 123Mbps, but it still offers great performance. If you need a router as well as a modem, then seriously consider this model, but if you don't need a router, then other choices present a better value. Read Full Review
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Best DSL Modem:
While most people with DSL internet rent a modem from their service provider, it can be more cost-effective to simply buy your own, and it lets you choose the model you want. In looking at different DSL modems on the market, start by considering overall performance and how well they work. Data rates are important to ensure your internet is fast and easy to use and enjoy, which really comes down to support for the latest DSL standards. You should also consider overall connectivity, such as router functionality and other secondary features on these modems.
We've chosen these as the best DSL modems because they offer the fastest data rates possible, supporting for ADSL2+ standards so they're compatible with a wide range of service providers to provide optimal speed. All of these modems have at least one Ethernet port so you can connect them directly to a computer or a router, and some of them have even more. These DSL modems also utilize ATM Adaptation Layer 5, or AAL5, which helps reduce data transmission overhead and more importantly ensures ongoing adaptability, making them fairly future-proof.
This is an excellent DSL modem that runs nice and fast and has a wireless router built into it. You can easily set this up and have multiple devices all connect to your network wirelessly, letting you share files and programs quickly between them. Read Full Review
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Here is a great choice if you already have a wireless router, or you simply do not need to create a wireless network for your Internet. It has ADSL2+ and AAL5 support so it runs fast and should be a great choice for years to come. However, you only get a single Ethernet port on this modem so keep that in mind if you need to connect multiple devices to it. Read Full Review
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This is another great option if you are looking for a DSL modem that includes wireless connectivity. It meets ADSL2+ and similar standards for the best performance possible, and it has four Ethernet ports. The built-in router provides Wireless-N support so you can connect a wide range of devices to this one. Read Full Review
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This modem is very simple to set up and use with a single Ethernet port and support for the latest DSL standards. For IT professionals, this model is probably a bit too simple, lacking much in the way of connectivity and additional features. Read Full Review
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This is a solid DSL modem that works well and is easy to set up and use. It's only real weaknesses is shared by many other modems on the market: there's just nothing unique or interesting about it. It has a single Ethernet port and supports the latest DSL and security standards, though it lacks wireless connectivity. Read Full Review
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Best In-Car Internet Modem:
While there are a number of ways to create networks for internet connections in remote locations, in-car devices are actually fairly rare. Many modern mobile phones, for example, can be used to create a hotspot that other devices can then connect to for internet access. However, the problem is that such connections in a vehicle moving quickly along a highway (often passing between signal zones) can easily be lost or interrupted. In-car internet modems are installed into vehicles and designed to maintain a strong mobile connection even while on the move. These devices are usually quite expensive and specialized, meant for more than just occasional use while sitting in a parked car while waiting for a friend.
We've chosen these as the best in-car modems thanks to their support for at least 3G mobile connectivity, which provides fast and reliable internet service in a vehicle. All of these modems have at least one USB port, plus another port such as an Ethernet connection or digial I/O port for additional connectivity for all of your devices. These are all easy to install, with brackets and housings that make them perfect for any vehicle as well as having fairly low power consumption so you can keep using them over long periods of time.
This model from Sierra Wireless is an excellent option for a powerful car network solution, but it's also quite expensive. It offer LTE support for great performance and is not only a modem but includes Wireless-N connectivity and Bluetooth support. The price makes this pick this less than ideal for general, consumer use, but it’s a great option for a professional vehicle. Read Full Review
Of the in-car modems on the market, this one is certainly one of the easiest to use, promising solid overall reliability and connectivity. It includes options for physical connections while creating a Wireless-G network so you can use many different devices with this model. It is very easy to install and though a a bit expensive, it's actually pretty reasonable for this type of device. Read Full Review
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This is a great in-car modem that offers very fast networking speeds and performance. It has 4G LTE support and includes an option for Wi-Fi connectivity, which makes it ideal for use with a wide range of devices. This one meets military standards for rugged design, so it can handle shocks and rough terrain without any issues. Read Full Review
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Here is a great option for performance and functionality, with a small design that greatly reduces power consumption. You get 4G LTE network connectivity, which gives you fast and reliable performance, but it only has 2G power needs. Keep in mind this model lacks any wireless options but it does have Ethernet and USB ports. Read Full Review
This is an older model with 3G support, so if you do not need a 4G LTE model, then it is a great option. While you do get a USB 2.0 port on this model, it lacks an Ethernet connection and does not offer any wireless connectivity. You don't get many bells and whistles on this one, but certainly stand out as a great model that works well for simple setups. Read Full Review
Best Satellite Modem:
While satellite modems are certainly a niche item that you won't likely find at your local electronics store, there are a number of good ones out there to choose from. When considering different devices on the market, look for modems that are fairly easy to set up and use, though in general they are a bit more complex than commercial DSL or cable modems. Overall performance is an important issue so you'll want a model that can be set up in a wide range of locations compared to those designed for one specific use. One thing to keep in mind is most satellite modems are designed for commercial sale and use (rather than for consumers) so you'll probably have to contact the manufacturer directly to purchase one.
We've chosen these as the best satellite modems because they provide excellent data rates of at least 9.6 Mbps downstream and 1.6 Mbps when uploading. They also have unicast and multicast support, which ensures even faster data rates with satellite networks that utilize multicasting. You'll also find a wide range of designs offered here, including mobile modems you can take anywhere and models designed for use in a server rack, but they're all able to work well in remote locations. All of these models support DVB-S2 standards which optimizes bandwidth and data coding so you get the best performance possible with your satellite internet service.
As far as consumer-accessible models go, this is pretty much the best satellite modem out there. It works great for professional and government-service uses as well, but it's a decent model for private use. It is easy to set up and use without the need for a server rack and supports upstream rates up to 1.6 Mbps and download speeds up to 121 Mbps. Read Full Review
This is a great, small satellite modem that's easy to use and take anywhere due to its size and ease of set up. It runs fast with multicast support to stream data as fast as possible. While it has support for DVB-S2 and Wi-Fi broadcasting to make networking easy, it’s so small this modem can be taken anywhere to connect to the Internet. Read Full Review
What this modem lacks in simplicity and consumer-friendly design, it makes up for in efficiency and overall throughput. If you're looking for speed and effectiveness in your satellite internet system, then take a good look at this one. This modem is designed to fit into a server rack and offers over 300 Mbps data rates, but you'll definitely want a background in IT to ensure proper setup. Read Full Review
The design on this makes it perfect for using as part of a server system or network stack, but it's also an excellent standalone modem. Data rates go up to 45/20 Mbps with multicasting support that takes performance up to 80 Mbps. This model supports DVB-S2 standards and both IPv4 and IPv6, so it's an ideal choice for any satellite provider. Read Full Review
Where this satellite modem shines over most other models is in terms of reliability and performance in potentially stressful situations. It meets military standards for high performance and speeds, so it's a great option for government services or if you simply need hardware that meets those standards. This is perhaps the most durable satellite modem on the market, so it is perfect for use in hazardous and rough conditions, providing data rates up to 155 Mbps. Read Full Review
Modem Buyer’s Guide
Despite the importance of a good modem when setting up a network, there are only a few major concerns you need to look at when picking the right device for your system. Consider the different types available and pick one that is right for the type of Internet signal you have, and also be sure that it is compatible with your particular ISP.
Look at the interface connection used by each modem to ensure you pick one that works with your computer or other hardware, and consider any additional features you need. The transmission rate is the most important technical feature when looking at modems, as it directly impacts how quickly you can send and receive data, so be sure to pick the fastest option you can.
Types of Modems
The type of modem usually refers to the kind of Internet signal it is designed to receive, based on the type of ISP you use. One major exception to this is an in-car modem, which is designed to receive a signal while in a vehicle.
These are older devices used to connect to the Internet over a telephone line. Unless you are in a very rare and specific circumstance where you only have access to dial-up Internet, there is no reason to choose this type of modem.
Used to connect to a cable Internet service, this is one of the fastest options on the market. If you have cable Internet, then this is the modem to choose, and just be sure to pick one that is fast enough and compatible with your specific ISP.
Digital Subscriber Line or DSL uses traditional telephone lines to deliver high-speed Internet access. If you have a DSL signal, then choose this type of modem, but be sure that it works with your ISP.
A satellite modem receives a wireless Internet signal from a satellite, providing you with a connection just about anywhere. These are specialty devices that you really do not need to worry about unless you already have satellite Internet from a provider.
This is another specialty item that turns your vehicle into an Internet hotspot. While many modern mobile phones can act as wireless hotspots, using one in a moving vehicle can be difficult as you transfer from one signal area to the next. In-car modems ensure consistent coverage and signal strength no matter where you go.
A gateway modem receives and sends signals along the Internet just like other modems, but also creates a Local Area Network (LAN). This is typically used in a residential household or small office if you want to connect to the Internet and create a small local network all with a single device. If you plan on using a separate router, however, then you probably do not need a gateway modem.
The interface refers to the connections available on a modem, which you then use to connect a router, computer, or other hardware to it. Most modems have one input connection that you use to connect to the source of your Internet signal, either a phone line or cable input. From there, you get at least one interface output connection, which you use to connect your modem to other hardware. This is usually an Ethernet or Cat-5 cable that connects to a port on your router, computer, or other device.
Some models can include a PCI or PCIe connection or even a USB port for connecting other devices. Choose a modem based on the connections you have on your computer or router to make sure you can easily plug your modem into your other hardware.
Maximum Data Rate
The data rate indicates the speed at which data is received and sent by the modem. This is important because the actual rate is determined by your ISP, based on the data rates they set, but your modem can bottleneck performance. If your modem only supports speeds that are slower than what your ISP provides, then you won’t be able to take advantage of the fast Internet you pay for.
You want to look at both upstream and downstream rates. Upstream indicates how fast you can send data, while downstream shows how fast you can receive it. Downstream (or received rate) is usually much faster than upstream. For high-speed Internet, you want a modem with down rates of about 300Mbps or more and up rates of 100Mbps or more.
This can be easy to overlook, but it is very important to make sure that you choose a modem that is compatible with your ISP. Make sure you know what type of Internet you have, usually either cable or DSL, as well as the name of your ISP.
With that in mind, look at any modem you might be interested in and make sure it specifically works with your ISP, whether you have Cox, Time Warner, or another company. If you really want to be sure, contact your ISP and ask them if the specific modem model you plan on using is compatible with their service.
Additional Networking Features
While compatibility and data rates might be your biggest priority, there are some extra features that you should consider. Look for security and encryption features as you compare different modems, though mostly you want to be sure that any network security you plan on using will work with your chosen modem.
If you don’t already have a wireless router, then consider a gateway modem that provides you with a local wireless network as well as connecting to your Internet service. Finally, look for models that include some future-proofing thanks to support for the latest standards such as IPv6.
Manufacturer and Warranty
While the names of manufacturers of modems might not be familiar in every household the way that computer builders are, it’s still important to choose a company that provides reliable hardware in their builds. Manufacturers like D-Link, Netgear, and ARRIS produce good modems that work well and run nice and fast. While you can usually rent a modem from your ISP, buying one typically saves you money in the long run, but only if it lasts you a few years. A one-year warranty is the bare minimum you should look for, while two or three-year warranties are preferable.