Everyone knows that serious gamers are extremely picky about the equipment they use. From the monitor to the keyboard to the headphones and even the chair that they sit in, gamers are all about optimizing the hardware they have on hand to better enhance their playing experience in the game. This isn’t just because having better equipment makes you a better gamer; of course, if you’re a beginning player getting into online gaming, don’t except fancy tech and gear to be able to up your performance or accelerate your skills development process. In this post, we’ll talk about the best modems for gaming. A high speed gaming modem won’t help you become a better gamer, but it can provide you the best gaming experience possible!
If you happen to be an intermediate or even an advanced player, you can still exhibit poor performance if your internet speed or internet connectivity causes lag or even the connection to drop. Wi Fi issues is probably one of the most frustrating things that can happen to a gamer–when something out of your control causes you to mess up. Having any sort of internet connectivity issues while you’re gaming can be the difference between advancing ahead or getting shot dead. When the game that you’re playing–especially multiplayer shooter’s games–and your success depends on every last detail, from footsteps, leaves rustling, and warning clues, it’s critical for you to be able to instantly respond to imminent threat or communicate with other players to strategize on the go. More or less, if you’re online gaming, having the best gaming modem is a necessity.
Is a gaming modem for me?
If the problem is simply your internet connection, however, there’s a pretty easy way to get around it. Want to get rid of that pesky lag so that you can flex your gaming skills during those critical, split-second decisions at the height of the game? You can almost guarantee a stable and consistent Wi Fi connection and unparalleled download speeds by buying a cable modem for gaming.
Of course, it’s likely that you already have a modem through your internet service provider. But the standard hardware that comes with your existing internet package isn’t going to be sufficient to optimize either your gaming performance or your gaming experience. Most default cable modems are designed to support pretty standard Wi Fi usage, which might consist of some streaming, emails, and general browsing, and nothing close to the kind of activity that you’re engaging in with online gaming. On top of that, it makes financial sense to get your own modem because your internet provider is likely charging you a rental fee, which definitely adds up throughout the year. You can figure out the exact monthly fee by looking at your bill and identifying a line item charge labeled “equipment rental” or “modem rental.” By buying your own cable modem, you can return the original modem to your ISP and save money in the long run while optimizing your gaming performance, which is a win-win in our book.
Ready to maximize your gaming experience so that you have both the hardware and the software to match up? Take a look below for some helpful tips on how to pick a gaming modem, what the difference is between a modem and a router, and finally, our recommendations for the best modem for gaming.
But wait–what’s the difference between a cable modem and a router?
What’s sometimes confusing is that when it comes to setting up internet and getting either wired or wireless connections, there are a couple options out there. Chances are, you’ve heard the terms “cable modem” and “router” as it relates to Wi Fi and now you’re wondering what might be better if you’re already on the market to find something to solve your connectivity issues. But don’t worry–we’re here to help.
Basically, a router is the device that creates a network, while your modem is the device that connects the network (along with the computers and phones that are connected to the network), to the internet. A router connects networks (often multiple networks) and then directs, or routes, network traffic between them. Let’s say you’re at home. The internet is linked to the router through one connection, which is then linked to your private local network through another connection. When you connect to a new wireless connection, you’re actually creating a link to the router, which then draws in internet and transmits your digital traffic over your internet connection to your device through the modem. You can’t just connect to the internet with a router; the router and cable modem work in tandem, which is why sometimes ISPs will have a joint modem / router device. Your cable modem is the device that works as the bridge between your private local network and the internet. How it actually links to your network depends on the kind of connection and infrastructure you have, which can be cable, telephone, satellite, or fiber. You then use a standard Ethernet cable output and plug it into any router and then voila! You have internet. From the back end, or the internet’s perspective, all the traffic coming from your home appears to come from a single device. The router is what keeps track of what traffic corresponds to what actual device on your network.
A quick note on the modem-router combo devices that ISPs seem to be gravitating to. It might be tempting to try and kill two birds with one stone with a hybrid networking device, but we advise against it because modems and routers serve two very different purposes.
Is a cable modem or router better for gaming?
As such, since the modem is the device that actually communicates with your ISP, you’ll need to make sure that you’re buying your own and not going with the default version provided so that it can support HD streaming and long marathon sessions of gaming without any of those typical Wi Fi issues. You could, of course, upgrade your router as well–the best gaming routers will have multiple LAN ports for wired connections–but upgrading your cable modem alone will be sufficient because standard modems simply aren’t equipped to deal with the kind of traffic that gaming requires.
How do I choose the best modem for gaming?
The first thing to ensure is that the modem you’re buying is compatible with your internet service. More than likely though it will be; all you need to do is pick one that delivers an internet speed that are in line with your plan and you’ll be good to go. As a basis, a higher-end 32×8 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem will ensure that you get some of the fastest sub-Gigabit speeds currently available,. If you’re looking for something that might have a bit more longevity, then you can consider a DOCSIS 3.1 model that can handle upload and download speeds up to 10Gbps. Next, you’ll want to ensure that the modem speed will allow you to game comfortably. Something worth considering is that modem speeds can definitely vary based on the type of connection the modem offers, so this is something that serious gamers should think about carefully. While wireless connections can provide a speed of up to 2.5Gbps, wired or Ethernet connections offer speeds of up to 10Gbps and generally, wired internet connections are more reliable than wireless internet connections. So if you love the wireless connectivity but are experiencing lag or other general Wi Fi problems, it may be worth considering getting an Ethernet cord to get plugged in directly. In all honesty, wireless AC connections with speeds ranging between 1.7 and 2.5 Gbps will be sufficient for online gaming, but it’s definitely useful to consider since you’re already invested into buying a new gaming modem. Otherwise, you’ll want to look for devices that have advanced features beyond the default modem to ensure low-latency performance for your gaming sessions.
Based on all of this information, you must be ready to go search the web for a gaming modem that fits all your needs. But even with this newfound knowledge, the market for gaming modems is huge, and it might be daunting to figure out where to start. That’s why we’ve gone ahead and pulled together our picks for the best modem for gaming. Take a look below for our expertly curated selection and get one step closer incredible overall Wi Fi connectivity to optimizing your gaming performance.
The Best Gaming Modems In 2020
4. ARRIS SURFboard SB6190 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem, Approved for Cox, Spectrum, Xfinity & others (Black)
First on our list is this ARRIS SURFboard, a fairly standard go-to for anyone looking to upgrade their modem from the default ISP one. It’s the go-to because it’s easy to set up and also very inexpensive–this is a great pick for those who are looking to up their Wi Fi connectivity without breaking the bank or necessarily doing any hard core gaming. The DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem is best for cable internet speed plans up to 600 Mbps, so it’ll still be sufficient for light gaming needs. As one reviewer says, “this is a simple modem that does its job well. If you are paying Comcast, WOW!, Xfinity, or another company a monthly fee then this is the unit for you. Simple to setup. Just screw the coax into the coax connector, plug in the LAN cable for your router, and plug in the power cord. Then call your cable company and tell them you bought your own modem.”
- Compatible with major U.S. Cable Internet Providers including Cox, Spectrum, Xfinity & others. Not compatible with ATT, Verizon, CenturyLink or other DSL or Fiber internet providers.
- DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem best for cable internet speed plans up to 600 Mbps
- 32 downstream x 8 upstream DOCSIS 3.0 bonded channels
- 1 Gigabit Ethernet port for connecting to a Wi-Fi router or other device.
- Cable internet service required. Does not inlcude Wi-Fi and does not support cable digital voice service.
3. ARRIS SURFboard SB8200 DOCSIS 3.1 Gigabit Cable Modem, Approved for Cox, Xfinity, Spectrum & others
Unsurprisingly, the next one on our list is also an ARRIS SURFboard, but this one is a step up for someone who’s already experimented with modems with lower max internet speed plans. We like it because with the gigabit Ethernet ports, you can easily create two home networks that are both capable of gigabit speeds. It is a DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem (incidentally the first DOCSIS 3.1 in the SURFboard lineup) and has up to 10+ Gbps download speeds. One reviewer raved that “this beast is insanely fast. Even with my iPhone I am getting 500mb/s download speeds and 40 mb/s upload speeds which is a hardware limitation at my end although it is ridiculously fast compared to most people’s standard home hardware. These speeds eliminate all buffering issues with streaming, and allow ultra fast downloading of very large files for you IT guys.”
- DOCSIS 3 1 Cable Modem best for cable internet speed plans up to 2 Gbps. Note, a 2nd IP address is required from your cable internet provider to reach 2 Gbps.
- 32 downstream x 8 upstream DOCSIS 3 0 bonded channels, 2 downstream x 2 upstream OFDM DOCSIS 3 1 channels
- Two 1-Gigabit Ethernet ports capable of link aggregation
- others Not compatible with ATT, Verizon, CenturyLink or other DSL or Fiber internet providers
- Cable internet service required Does not inlcude Wi-Fi and does not support cable digital voice service
2. Motorola MB8600 DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem, 6 Gbps Max Speed. Approved for Comcast Xfinity Gigabit, Cox Gigablast, and More, Black
Near the top of our list is this Motorola MB8600 DOCSIS cable modem. While Motorola is an unusual player in this space, hear us out. The built-in DOCSIS 3.1 and DOCSIS 3.0 32×8 capabilities give top Internet speeds for all cable Internet services. We especially like that its active queue management capacity results in quicker page loads, which will significantly reduce overall latency. The max download is around 3.8 Gbps, which will be more than enough for your gaming needs. One reviewer boasts that this has “512 MB of RAM and 128 MB of NAN — a buck cheaper than the Netgear with a doubling of the RAM, and while not as expensive — marginally — than the Arris, and certainly lacking a bit in the hardware department, but I paid more for future ability to bond upwards of 4 separate lines.”
- Top Internet Speeds for all Multi-gigabit Speed Tiers - Wirecutter recommends this model as the best cable modem for people using Gigabit Internet plans. Built-in DOCSIS 3.1 and DOCSIS 3.0 32x8 capabilities give top Internet speeds for all cable Internet services.
- Save Money - Eliminate up to 168 dollars per year in cable modem rental fees (Savings are shown for Comcast Xfinity and vary by cable service provider.) Approved by Comcast Xfinity and Xfinity X1, Cox, and CableOne for all speeds including Comcast Gigabit services and Cox Gigablast. Not compatible with RCN. No cable modem is compatible with fiber optic, DSL, or satellite services, available from Verizon, AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier, and others.)
- Flexible Compatibility - Pair with any Wi-Fi router you’d like, including Whole Home Wi-Fi or Mesh routers like eero, Google Wi-Fi, and Orbi. A 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet port allows connection of any SINGLE device with an Ethernet port including a router, Windows or Mac computer, HDTV, or game station. This cable modem does not have a built-in wireless router or telephone call capability.
- Proactive Network Security - A broadcom chipset provides advanced security from denial-of service attacks.
- Active Queue Management (AQM) - AQM significantly reduces Internet latency on both DOCSIS 3.1 and 3.0 services, resulting in faster page loads for all Web traffic and enhanced interactive applications like online gaming and video conferencing. The MB8600 also includes a full-band capture digital tuner to enhance speed and save energy.
1. NETGEAR Nighthawk Cable Modem CM1200 – Compatible with All Cable Providers Including Xfinity by Comcast, Spectrum, Cox | For Cable Plans Up to 2 Gigabits | 4 x 1G Ethernet Ports | DOCSIS 3.1, Black
Netgear consistently ranks at the top of gaming hardware listicles because it simply can’t be beat at this price. Both the Netgear Nighthawk router, should you decide to go with both options, and modem are excellent in our book. On the modem specifically: it is compatible with all major cable providers as well as Xfinity by Comcast, Spectrum, and COX. In terms of internet plan speed you get up to 2Gbps, it works with any wireless router, and 4 x1G Gigabit Ethernet ports, with multi-gig port aggregation. It utilizes DOCSIS 3.1, 32×8 channel bonding and OFDM 2×2 and will ensure that you fully eradicate latency while optimizing performance. As one reviewer notes, “Installed it and the first speed test I did it blew my mind with speed of almost 300MB/s DL!!!! Now it is a steady 250MB/s DL speed (+/- 30MB/s) I turn every device and streamed HD videos some ULTRA HD and not one ever buffered. 100% Recommend this product worth every penny.”
- Compatible with all major cable internet providers: Including certification by Xfinity by Comcast, COX, and Spectrum. NOT compatible with Verizon, AT&T, CenturyLink, DSL providers, DirecTV, DISH and any bundled voice service.
- Save monthly rental fees: Model CM1200 replaces your cable modem saving you up to $168/yr in equipment rental fees.
- Built for ultimate speed: best for cable provider plans up to 2 gigabits speed.
- Works with any wifi router: Connect any WiFi router to this modem's ethernet port to support all your wireless devices.
- Versatile connections: 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports give you fast wired connections to your computer, separate WiFi router, printer, game box, and other devices.