Netgear has always been a major player in the networking world, having a large array of highly successful routers and it seems to be a company that just knows how to appeal to the general public. The modem that caught my eye was the Netgear CM500 DOCSIS 3.0, a good contender to the best modem, right next to the ARRIS SURFboard SB6183, the former having the advantage of featuring a better price tag.
The Nighthawk router series has been the company’s major success so far, with Nighthawk R7000 being considered one of the best choices when considering an AC1900 router, so it was only natural that Netgear would also try to dominate the cable modem market.
But why do you want a new cable modem when you have the old one rented from your ISP? Imagine this scenarios: you pay for high download and upload speeds and because the modem doesn’t keep up you get less than you should. Unfortunately, this is a common scenario, you pay a high monthly fee for you modem (from 5 to 10 dollars) and you also get a mediocre device, at best.
So, if you don’t want your cable modem to be the bottleneck of your network you need to consider having a good, reliable one (which is the first device that connects to the Internet Servers). The next thing to consider is the router, as similarly to the modem, it can deliver an underwhelming behaviour. So, it’s important that your modem and router are on par with the Internet data transfer.
That being said, let’s see how the Netgear CM500 performs.
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The modem comes in a nice package and, inside the box, you can find a Netgear CM500 unit, a Quick Install Guide (containing the necessary instructions), a Power Adapter and one Ethernet cable (Standard Category 5).
In general, I am pleased by the design style that Netgear implements with most of its devices, being either routers or modems (although the VPN router Netgear FVS336Gv3 didn’t look that great) and the Netgear CM500 doesn’t disappoint in terms of appearance.
Sure, it feels less joyful than the Arris modems, but at the same time, it’s more elegant, featuring a black plastic case, with a glossy finish and soft, rounded corners. Netgear CM500 adopted the same upwards position that we found with most modems, having two feet along the bottom, which curve and continue upwards, creating a recessed zone in the middle of the device, giving the impression of two separate slices. Overall, the Netgear CM500 looks strikingly similar to the Sony PlayStation 4.
The size of the modem won’t create any inconvenience (it measures 8.8×7.2×3.8 inches and weighs 24 ounces) and, because it sits upwards, it won’t eat up any space from your desk or shelf. Now, since the vents are on the recessed zone at the top and the bottom of the CM500, you won’t really need to worry about obstructing the airflow, but still, keep in mind not to put anything on top of the modem.
The front of the CM500 is home to the status LED lights, responsible for Power (green means the modem is powered, red means the device is too hoot and can overheat), Downstream, Upstream, Internet and Ethernet (green means you got a 1000 Mbps connection, amber means a 10/100 Mbps connection and blinking red or amber means the port is processing the traffic).
The back of the router is the place where you’ll find the Power adapter input, a Gigabit Ethernet port (RJ-45), a recessed Reset button (use a paper clip to access it) and a Coaxial cable connector. Switch the modem upside down and you can find a label with the MAC address, the serial number, the default IP address and the default username and password (it’s usually admin and password).
In terms of hardware, the CM500 is well equipped and it doesn’t disappoint performance-wise. Inside the case, the modem features 128 MB of RAM, 8 MB NOR flash memory and the CPU was a bit of an odd ball, as I could not find anything about it on the Netgear website. So, after some research, it seems that the CM500 is equipped with a Broadcom BCM33843 16×4 SoC.
Netgear CM500 is a DOCSIS 3.0 modem (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification), this being an international telecommunications standard which allows for high speed data transfer over a cable TV. Similarly to ARRIS SURFboard SB6183, the CM500 handles 4 upload channels and 16 download channels at the same time.
Compatibility and Performance
Netgear CM500 is compatible with all the main Internet Service Providers (of USA), like Comcast, RCN, Time Warner Cable, Cox and Cable One. Still, before going ahead and purchasing a new modem, make sure your ISP allows you to buy and use your own device and if it will be compatible with their service. This can be done by either checking the ISP’s web page and find the list of supported cable modems or by directly calling them (this is the better option).
Furthermore, the CM500 is compatible with all the popular Operating Systems, like Microsoft Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8 and 10, Mac OS 10 or higher and any other OS that can run a TCP/IP network.
Now, in general, you will find that modems support a maximum of eight downstream channels. But, as said before, Netgear CM500 features 16 bonded downstream channels and 4 bonded upstream channels. This translates into a maximum theoretical downstream speed of 686 Mbps and a maximum theoretical upstream speed of 131 Mbps.
Sure, it is enjoyable to have a 16×4 modem in your home, but it is obviously important to have a data plan with a high enough speed to match that of your cable modem. I kept on saying that you don’t want your router or cable modem to be the bottleneck of your network, but, at the same time, you don’t really need powerful devices that you will never use at their full potential (although they usually are future-proof). Also, make sure that your ISP can actually make use of all the 16×4 bonding channels. So far Comcast and TWC can deliver this performance.
So, using a 300 Mbps data plan, we have tested the Netgear CM500 and it managed to peaked at 287 Mbps and averaged at around 230 Mbps when downloading. The upload speed averaged at around 50 Mbps.
Just like the Arris SURFboard SB6183, the Netgear CM500 doesn’t possess any WiFi capabilities, so it is recommended to purchase along a capable router. There are lots of reviewed routers on MBReview.com, but to name a few I would recommend either Netgear AC1900 R7000 or ASUS RT-AC68U, as they seem to perform the best and the customers seem to be the most pleased with any of these routers.
A common problem for modems is the overheating possibility and Netgear CM500 has the same issue. Yes, unfortunately, the CM500 is one of the hotter devices out there (maybe because of the small and few airflow vents?).
If you’re using Comcast, you can take advantage of the Comcast Xfinity’s self-activation process, which is really straight forward. All you need to do is close all your web browsers, launch a new web browser, which will automatically redirect you to the Xfinity self-activation page (if not redirected enter: https://www.comcast.com/activate), provide your credentials and just wait for the process to be done (doesn’t take more than 15 minutes).
Otherwise, if you still can’t connect to the Internet after the setup or you have another ISP, just contact the Internet Provider and follow the needed steps to complete the modem configuration.
Managing the Netgear CM500 is a simple process, all you have to do is open a browser window and go to https://192.168.100.1. Afterwards, provide the username and password and you’re in.
The interface, called the NETGEAR genie, has two sections, Basic and Advanced, the first showing the Cable connection, where you can set the Frequency, see the Bonded Downstream Channels and the Bonded Upstream Channels.
The Advanced section displays the Hardware and Firmware Version, the Cable Modem Serial Number, the CM Certificate and the CM MAC. Also you get two buttons, one for Factory Reset and the other for Reboot.
In the end, the Netgear CM500 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem features a good performance, is good looking and will be an enhancement to your home network. Also, the advantage of having your own cable modem is that it removes the monthly rent fee (you can recover your investment in less than a year).
Sure, there are a few shortcomings, but considering the price and the performance it can deliver, the CM500 is a top choice.
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Mark is a graduate in Computer Science, having gathered valuable experience over the years working in IT as a programmer. Mark is also the main tech writer for MBReviews.com, covering not only his passion, the networking devices, but also other cool electronic gadgets that you may find useful for your every day life.