When buying a cable modem one of the most important things to look out for is the DOCSIS version it supports.
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Nowadays, as most people use their internet to do things like watch videos and play games, and ISPs offer faster services, it is important that you have a box that can handle the speeds on offer.
One way to do this is to buy a modem that supports DOCSIS 3.0. This version is faster than previous versions and as such perfectly suited to the way we now use the internet.
Alright, before we get to the review round-up, let's go through some technical jargon...
What is DOCSIS?
DOCSIS stands for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification and was first introduced to the world in 1997. It is the technology that powers broadband cable modems and as such is something that you likely have used, even if you didn’t already know about it.
It is generally faster and has an overall increased performance when compared to the previous iterations of the standard: 1.0 and 2.0.
What About DOCSIS 3.1?
While 3.1 is the most recent standard (offering speeds potentially of up to 10Gbps), it currently has a very limited availability. Because of this, 3.0 is the current king of high speed cable internet in the battle.
What Are The Advantages of Using 3.0?
The main advantage is the fact that if you have a fast internet connection, you are more likely to be able to use the full available data speed than if you use an older standard. This can also future proof your setup.
The latest version offers faster data speeds than older versions. As such if you have high speed internet from your ISP, modems supporting older versions may well be bottlenecking the speeds you are actually able to use.
Check out the difference between the technology in this very simple real world test...
Buying the latest standard also means that you will be more set for the future. As internet speeds raise higher and higher, it will become more likely that you will need a faster modem, to take advantage of higher numbers of bundled channels.
What Features Should I Look Out For?
The number of channels on offer
One way version 3.0 improved the data speeds it offered is by allowing multiple channels to be bundled together. Because of this, these modems are able to offer faster speeds both on the upstream and the downstream. Note that each channel offers up to 43Mbps.
When it comes to the number of channels available, DOCSIS 3.0 will allow at least four channels on the downstream (the stream of data coming from your ISP), although this can increase to up to a massive 32 channels. On the upstream there will usually be four channels.
The reason that more channels are important, is that the more channels you have the more bandwidth you will be able to get from your ISP. It is worth noting, however, that even if your modem offers a gigabit of bandwidth, the maximum you use will be the maximum you get from your ISP.
While we've been talking about the technology associated with cable modems only, you also have the option of buying a modem/router combo. This means that your modem will be able to share its signal over wifi and Ethernet without the need to buy a separate router.
If you already have a wifi router or you want a really top of the range product then you might not need a modem/router combo, however, many people will like the convenience of having both their products in one device.
Prerequisites To Using The Latest Standard
Ok, so it supports very fast internet, in the hundreds of Megabits per second. However, before splashing out on a top of the range offering, you should make sure your ISP is offering you speeds that will take advantage of this functionality.
Likewise, just because a modem supports te latest standard, it doesn’t mean it won’t bottleneck your connection. An older, slower 2.0 box, could potentially slow down your internet if your ISP offers speeds greater than this.
Note that DOCSIS is backwards compatible. Version 2.0 services will work on the most recent of releases. Of course, the service will likely be a bottleneck in speed, due to 2.0's limitations.
Best DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modems
This next section will take a look at some of the different buys available on the market.
1. Arris Surfboard SB6190
- Super fast download speeds of up to 1.4Gbps and upload speeds of up to 262 Mbps.
- Supported by 32 download channels and 8 upload channels.
- Works with many cable broadband ISPs including Time Warner, Cox, and Charter. Check against your ISP service!
This cable modem is capable of achieving amazing speeds over its 32 download channels. This gives you the potential to download large files, or sync your Dropbox is super-fast time.
Great if you are serious about your internet speeds and your ISP provides super fast download speeds, or if you want to future proof your home network.
If your ISP doesn’t offer fast enough speeds, you won’t be able to take advantage of what the modem has to offer, which means you could be better off with a cheaper modem.
2. Zoom 5341J 343Mbps 8x4
- Download speeds of up to 343Mbps and upstream speeds of 143Mbps.
- Supports 8 channels on the downstream and 4 on the upstream.
- 2 year warranty.
This is a decent modem that should be more than fast enough for many people. While it doesn’t have as many download or upload channels as the Surfboard SB6190 above, it still offers a decent 343Mbps download speed and upstream speeds of 143Mbps.
As well as its solid speeds it is also has a two year warranty meaning you know it should be a good investment if you are thinking about buying a modem instead of renting one from your ISP. Speaking of which, it works with many top cable ISPs including Comcast, Cox and Time Warner Cable (Check against your ISP service!).
Finally, it has a stylish black design which means it should fit nicely into most homes. All in all, this offering from Zoom should be a good fit for most people out there.
3. Arris Surfboard SBG6700AC (includes Wifi AC Router)
- Download speeds of 343 Mbps and upload speeds of 131 Mbps.
- 802.11ac wifi router with top features (dual-band wifi and gigabit Ethernet).
- Works with most ISPs including Comcast, Time Warner, and Cox. Again, check against your ISP service!
Unlike the above two, this modem is also a wifi router. This makes it perfect for people who also need to buy a router or who want to save a bit of space in their home.
Both the router and the modem functions have loads of high end features. The modem offers fast download and upload speeds that should be suitable for all but the fastest internet packages out there.
Meanwhile, the wifi router is dual-band for reduced congestion and provides wireless LAN network data rates of up to 1600Mbps cumulative over its two bands. It also offers gigabit Ethernet connections.
4. TP-Link TC-7620 (16x4)
- 686Mbps download speeds over 16 download channels, as well as 143Mbps upstream speeds on four channels.
- Compatible with Comcast, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable.
- 2-year warranty and 24/7 support.
This effort from TP-LInk offers the second fastest theoretical speeds out of the four on the list.
If you have any problems setting it up, TP-Link offer 24-hour technical support and a 2-year warranty, which offers a little "piece of mind".
Its low price means that buying this, instead of renting from your ISP will allow you to start saving money faster, all the while continuing to get very fast internet speeds.
To conclude, DOCSIS 3.0 allows faster data speeds than DOCSIS 2.0 and should allow you to get the most from the speeds offered by your ISP.
Because of this, when buying a modem, you should check the speeds your ISP offers and buy one that matches these speeds or you run the risk of slowing down your internet. Of course, if you want to future proof your modem then it is also possible to buy one that offers faster download speeds.
Out of the modems in our list, the fastest (theoretically speaking), is the Arris Surfboard SB6190. Again you should check your internet speeds before buying this as you may find you don’t get fast enough speeds to take advantage of its massive 32 download channels.
It is also worth checking out cable router combos. These can save you the hassle of having to buy a separate router which can both save you space and in some instances, also money.
If you have a question, or anything else discussed in this article please leave a comment below!