If you’re looking for high performance from your connection, DOCSIS 3.1 modems offer top internet speeds, reduced latency, and include the latest security protocols. These pricey modems can save you money in the long run if you’re currently renting one from your internet service provider (ISP). The top DOCSIS 3.1 modems will keep your setup up-to-date for the foreseeable future. They’re advanced enough that most ISPs don’t offer plans that can top out even the fastest modems.
Modem technology tends to change slower than router technology, which means an investment in the fastest modem can potentially pay off for several years. That’s even more true for DOCSIS 3.1 models because they’re ahead of the internet plans ISPs currently offer. However, there are several key features to consider, as well as weighing how you use your internet and how many devices you connect. We’ve created a list of the best DOCSIS 3.1 modems to guide you through the selection process.
— Best Overall: Arris Surfboard S33
— Best Budget: Motorola MB8600 Docsis 3.1 Cable Modem
— Best Modem-Router Combo: Netgear Nighthawk C7800 Modem-Router Combo
— Best for Gaming: Netgear Orbi Whole Home WiFi 6 System
— Best with Link Aggregation: Arris Surfboard SB8200
How We Chose the Best DOCSIS 3.1 Modems
There’s no single modem that’s perfect for every setup, so we considered a few key specs to compare modems. However, we also considered modems that may work better for specific needs over others.
Speed: Modem comparison usually comes down to speed. DOCSIS 3.1 models can offer up to 10 Gbps, but most don’t in real-world performance. We included both models with top speeds and models that aren’t at the top of the category but still dramatically outperform the best DOCSIS 3.0 modems.
Ethernet Ports: Wired connections offer the fastest speeds. We considered the number of Ethernet ports in relation to the overall design of the modem.
Performance History: You can’t look at modems without researching their performance history. The models on our list have a history of strong connectivity, user-friendly setup, and excellent compatibility with their listed ISPs. We also reviewed the best modems if a DOCSIS 3.1 modem is more than you need.
Best Overall: Arris Surfboard S33
Why It Made The Cut: The S33 offers 2×2 OFDM channels and a 2.5 GB port that many DOCSIS 3.1 modems just don’t.
— Wired Speed: 3.5 Gbps
— Channel Bonding: 32×8 (DOCSIS 3.0), 2×2 (OFDM)
— Ethernet Ports: One 2.5 Gbps, One 1 Gbps
— 2×2 OFDM channels
— 2.5 GB port
— Beautifully manages congestion and interference to reduce latency
— Supports link aggregation
— Can run hot
The Arris Surfboard S33 tops our list because it’s one of the few DOCSIS 3.1 modems on the market that offer 2×2 OFDM channels. OFDM increases downstream speeds that go beyond the 32×8 channel bonding offered and supported by DOCSIS 3.0. The S33 also stands out for its 2.5 Gbps port, which provides some of the fastest wired speeds available. Other models can reach this speed, but most do it through link aggregation.
The S33 is completely 3.0 backward compatible, which most modems have to be unless you’re ready to replace all of your connected devices. There’s also a 1 Gbps port and a coaxial input slot to round out the connection options.
The S33 supports link aggregation to back up connections and strengthen throughput. All of those specs together manage a crowded network with ease. It can handle streaming, gaming, and heavy use without missing a gigabit. However, if there’s a weakness, it’s that it can run hot so make sure there’s adequate ventilation.
Best Budget: Motorola MB8600 Docsis 3.1 Cable Modem
Why It Made The Cut: AQM (Activated Queue Management), along with the latest DOCSIS 3.1 and 3.0 technology, offers fast speeds for loading and interacting with web pages.
— Wired Speed: Up to 1,000 Mbps
— Channel Bonding: 32×8
— Ethernet Ports: One open and three masked
— AQM improved web page loading and reduces latency
— Compatible with a wide range of ISPs
— Advanced built-in security
— Confusing Ethernet ports
The Motorola MB8600 Docsis 3.1 Cable Modem is only slightly more affordable than others on our list. However, it’s still one of the cheapest DOCSIS 3.1 modems out there. For a decent price, you get incredible speed and reduced latency because of additional technology like AQM. Active Queue Management reduces page load times, cutting down on latency for standard web pages as well as gaming and videoconferencing. If you work from home or you’re an online gamer, AQM will keep up with your demand.
AQM is coupled with DOCSIS 3.0 and 3.1 technology, including 32×8 channel bonding. The MB8600 also offers wide ISP compatibility, taking out some of the guesswork of “will or won’t it work” with your service provider. This Motorola DOCSIS 3.1 modem also offers advanced built-in security features, reducing the chances of trouble with denial-of-service attacks.
Where the MB8600 can get confusing are the Ethernet ports. There’s only one open, visible multi-gig port. However, it has three masked Ethernet ports, which can be a little confusing because you don’t directly plug a device into them, like you would with some other ports. They’re designed for use with a router that can bond multiple Ethernet ports to get speeds over 1 Gbps, but your internet package and the router have to support the speeds and technology that bond masked ports.
Best Modem-Router Combo: Netgear Nighthawk C7800 Modem-Router Combo
Why It Made The Cut: As Netgear’s first DOCSIS 3.1 modem-router combo, this impressive setup upgrades your entire network with top speeds.
— Wired Speed: 3.2 Gbps
— Channel Bonding: 32×8
— Ethernet Ports: Four
— Built-in AC3200 router
— Simple, fast setup
— Four Gigabit Ethernet ports
— Two USB 3.0 ports
— No link aggregation or QoS settings
The Netgear Nighthawk C7800 Modem-Router Combo is Netgear’s first DOCSIS 3.1 modem-router combo. It’s perfect if you like to keep clutter down, even though it’s a bit pricey. The four Gigabit Ethernet ports provide plenty of connections for game consoles, laptops, and other devices that need top speeds. It also has two USB 3.0 ports for additional connectivity options.
Netgear is known for its fast, simple set up and this model falls in line with that reputation. Using the accompanying app, it’s a matter of a few simple steps to get your network up and running. The powerful modem also contains an AC3200 router. It’s a little disappointing that the modem is actually capable of higher speeds than the router, however at this point, there aren’t any ISPs that offer high enough speeds for you to notice.
On the downside, this is an expensive combo, and you have to give up some features that are found if you were to buy a separate modem and router. For example, there are no link aggregation or Quality of Service (QoS) settings to prioritize certain devices over others.
Best for Gaming: NETGEAR Orbi Whole Home WiFi 6 System
Why It Made The Cut: The coverage area, signal strength, and sheer speed of this combo let gamers immerse themselves in the gaming experience because there aren’t latency issues or other distractions.
— Wired Speed: 1 Gbps
— Channel Bonding: 32×8
— Ethernet Ports: Four (on router), two (on satellite)
— Supports link aggregation
— Simple setup
— Wide, expandable coverage area
— QoS could be better
While the Netgear Orbi Whole Home WiFi 6 System might not be the fastest DOCSIS 3.1 modem out there, it provides a wide, expandable coverage area and a set of features that give gamers better speeds from almost anywhere in their house. This modem-router combo features a router and satellite, but at any time you can add an additional satellite that brings another 2,500 square feet of coverage. Within that space, you get DOCSIS 3.1 speeds and four Ethernet ports on the router, with an additional two on the satellite. We like that you could directly connect a game system to the satellite for a faster connection, even though the console may be set up well away from the router.
This Orbi is also a great option if the gamers in your home or underage. It offers Netgear Armor protection, plus you can customize the settings to add an additional layer of security. For example, you can protect the backhaul communications with an additional password activated through the Advanced settings.
Now for the bad news. Some of the settings, like QoS, are somewhat hidden in places you might not expect. The QoS’s settings are hidden with the WiFi Multimedia Settings, but once you find them, you can prioritize specific devices or those requiring the most data. The other issue with this mesh system is the high price.
Best with Link Aggregation: Arris Surfboard SB8200
Why It Made The Cut: The SB8200 has more speed than ISPs even offer, and its link aggregation can reach speeds up to 2 Gbps.
— Wired Speed: 2 Gbps
— Channel Bonding: 32×8
— Ethernet Ports: Two
— Simple, fast set up
— LED display enhances setup
— Supports traffic prioritization
— Runs hot
The Arris Surfboard SB8200 offers link aggregation to reach the promised 2 Gbps speeds that, unfortunately, ISPs don’t currently offer among their services. Everything about this modem is solid, from the aesthetics and relatively smaller size, to the speeds and link aggregation.
The SB8200 also supports traffic prioritization and IPv6/IPv4 stacking so that ISPs can process IPv6 and IPv4 data at the same time. What that means for you: faster speeds and reduced latency. The SB8200 also has surprisingly helpful indicator lights that are accurate and let you know your network status at a glance, including internet, power, receive, and send. There’s also an LED display that enhances the already fast, simple set up process.
Something to watch out for with the SB8200 is overheating. It tends to run hot, so it has to be set up somewhere with plenty of airflow and ventilation.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Docsis 3.1 Modem
Your expensive internet package won’t get you anywhere if the modem isn’t compatible with your ISP’s protocol. Many third-party modems are compatible with several ISP providers, but there are also models out there that only work with one. Modem manufacturers typically list the compatible ISPs, or you can check with your ISP to verify that the modem you want is compatible with their protocol.
The number of Ethernet ports determines how many wired devices you can connect directly to the modem. DOCSIS 3.1 modems have one, two, or four ports. (If you need more Ethernet ports, all you have to do is pair the modem with a router that has more).
Be sure to take a minute to note what kind of extra features the modem has because it can affect how you use the Ethernet ports. For example, models with link aggregation typically have four Ethernet ports with two available for link aggregation. If you use the link aggregation, you’ll only have two available ports left for other devices. A few models now have masked Ethernet ports, which don’t have an open port but are available for link aggregation done by a compatible router. However, both the router and your ISP have to support this kind of technology.
Security and Extras
For the best security, look for modems that support WEP and WPA2 protocols. Both are the most current security protocols and offer the best protection and encryption.
Modems aren’t typically as complex as routers, nor does the technology in them advance and change as quickly as with routers. Sometimes they can come with a few extra features that you may need, depending on how you use your internet and how many devices you connect. Two of the most popular are link aggregation and voice support.
Link aggregation combines multiple Ethernet connections to increase throughput speeds. It also provides extra support if one of the connections fails. Models with voice support have telephone ports to plug into your landline directly. They’re a great option for small businesses or homes where you need added connectivity for your phone system.
Extras may also include a built-in router. These two-for-one models reduce the amount of space dedicated to your setup. It’s sometimes better to have separate devices because router technology tends to get outdated faster than modem technology. However, these modem-router combos are worth considering if you want to explore this option in greater detail.
Q: How much do DOCSIS 3.1 modems cost?
DOCSIS 3.1 modems cost between $100 for a basic model to $500 for a cable-modem combo. Models at the bottom of the price range may have a shorter range, fewer Ethernet ports, and fewer extra features. Models near the top of the list may include a built-in router or additional OFDM channels.
Q: Where do I recycle my DOCSIS 3.1 modem?
These modems are fairly new to the market, but when the time comes to recycle one, many stores like Best Buy accept old modems and offer a discount on a new model, where they then refurbish the modem and resell it at a discounted price. If the modem isn’t in good condition, check for a local e-waste recycling facility by contacting your local recycling center, or check out our guide on how to recycle electronics.
Q: What’s the difference between 3.0 and 3.1 cable modems?
DOCSIS 3.1 modems are the updated version of 3.0 models. A 3.1 model’s speeds top out at 10 Gbps, versus 3.0 modem top speeds of 1 Gbps. With 3.1 modems, upload speeds of 2 Gbps are much more desirable than 100 Mbps with 3.0 modems. The DOCSIS 3.1 modems also have OFDM technology, which reduces latency in comparison to DOCSIS 3.0 models. These updated modems are typically equipped with the latest security encryption and protocols, too.
Q: Does DOCSIS 3.1 improve latency?
Yes, DOCSIS 3.1 has OFDM technology that’s specifically designed to reduce latency because it allows large data packets to transfer simultaneously.
Q: Does DOCSIS 3.1 make a difference?
DOCSIS 3.1 modems can certainly make a difference, especially if you use many of the latest devices and require a multi-Gig internet plan. However, even if you don’t have the latest devices, it might be worth investing in a DOCSIS 3.1 to future-proof your setup. If you’re adding smart devices regularly and are ready to jump on a faster internet plan once it’s offered by your ISP, then a DOCSIS 3.1 modem makes sense and can seamlessly keep you up and running.
Final Thoughts on DOCSIS 3.1 Modems
The Arris Surfboard S33 has additional OFDM channels that significantly reduce latency. That’s paired with the already fast speeds of DOCSIS 3.1, making it one of the fastest models on the market. The Motorola MB8600 Docsis 3.1 Cable Modem is the more affordable cousin of other DOCSIS 3.1 modems. It might be slightly less in price, but it doesn’t disappoint on the speeds, compatibility, or the simplicity of the set up process.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.