Linksys Offers New Alternative to Money-Sucking Modem Rentals

It's no secret that it's one of the biggest wastes of money in technology: Paying a monthly rental fee to your Internet provider for a cable modem. Linksys is rejoining the ranks of device makers providing you more networking options, with a trio of cable modems that could replace that money-sucking machine you're renting from your ISP.

The CM3008 is a $60 DOCSIS 3.0 modem from Linksys with eight download channels and four upload channels, promising maximum download speeds of 343Mbps. Linksys is also releasing the $130 CM3024 modem, which increases the number of download channels to 24 for a maximum download speed of 960Mbps. A third modem, the CM3016, will be available soon with 16 download channels and a maximum download speed of 686Mbps; Linksys hasn't announced a price on that modem yet.

MORE: Best Cable Modems

Those are a lot of numbers to wrestle with, and it might make you wonder which modem is the right one for your Internet setup. It all depends on the tier of service you're paying for: if, for example, your ISP caps your Internet speeds at 150Mbps or lower, an 8X4 DOCSIS 3.0 modem should be more than enough to handle your networking needs, without requiring you to pay up for a more expensive 16- or 24-channel modem.

And really, buying your own modem should be all about maximizing the money you can save over monthly rental fees. Comcast, for example, charges its subscribers $10 a month in fees if they rent their equipment from the ISP. Opt for a $60 modem like the CM3008, and you've paid for the cost in six months with the rental fees you've saved. Even a more expensive modem can be paid off with a year's worth of rental fees. (ISPs would counter that renting your equipment from them means you can get free repairs should something break.)

I've actually had a chance to test out the CM3008 as part of a forthcoming update to our guide to the best cable modems. And Linksys's newest modem produces identical speeds to the Arris Surfboard SB6141, currently our top pick among modems and available for around $70. Of course, in my experience, nearly every cable modem turns in comparable download and upload speeds, which is why it's only a part of how we evaluate modems at Tom's Guide.

We also consider a modem's design and how visible its status lights are — the former gives you an idea of how the modem will fit into your home while the latter gives you an at-a-glance way to diagnose any Internet issues. At 4.8 x 2.76 x 0.97 inches, the CM3008 is one of the more compact cable modems. Linksys's modem works with a number of major ISPs, including Comcast, Cox, Time Warner and Charter — another factor you'll want to consider when shopping for modems. And pay attention to how long the warranty is when you consider which modem to buy. The CM3008 has a one-year warranty, while several other modems we've tested offer two years.

Note that the new modems from Linksys meet the DOCSIS 3.0 standard, which is supported by nearly every Internet provider. A few ISPs are beginning the transition to DOCSIS 3.1, which promises gigabit speeds — Comcast, for example, began trials in some of its markets last year. But the rollout to DOCSIS 3.1 figures to be a lengthy one — those Comcast trials are only expected to reach five cities before the end of 2016 — so you're safe opting for a DOCSIS 3.0 modem.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.