Comparison of Motorola Modems

by Fred Decker

    Motorola's cable and DSL modems are widely used by Internet Service Providers across the country, either for outright purchase or leased as part of your monthly Internet bill. You can also purchase Motorola modems through major electronics retailers such as Radio Shack, if monthly payments don't appeal to you. There are several types of Motorola modems available, falling into a few broad categories.

    5100-Series Cable Modems

    Motorola's 5100-series cable modems are immediately recognizable, with their compact size and contoured cases. They're designed to stand vertically, on their thin edge, to minimize their use of desktop space. Each modem in the series features a line of five LED lights down the front, showing at a glance whether the modem is properly connected and transferring data. They connect to the using a standard 10/100 base T Ethernet connection, the kind found on almost all computers. Modems in this series support data transfer speeds of up to 34Mbps, suitable for most cable Internet purposes.

    6100-Series Cable Modems

    Cable modems in the 6100 series are visibly distinct from the 5100 series, with a thicker and more square-off appearance. These modems support version 3.0 of the Data Over Cable Service Internet Specifications, usually abbreviated as DOCSIS 3.0, while the 5100 series support the older DOCSIS 2.0 specification. When DOCSIS 3.0-compliant service is available from cable providers, these modems enable Internet connection speeds of over 100Mbps. They also feature a newer, higher-speed Ethernet connection to the computer, which supports data transfer at gigabit speeds -- approximately 10 times faster than a conventional Ethernet cable.

    DSL Modems

    Although cable Internet offers higher speeds, performance declines as the ISP adds subscribers. Some users prefer DSL broadband from their telephone company, which offers lower but more consistent performance. Motorola's product line includes several DSL modems. They're compact units, which sit flat rather than standing on edge like their cable counterparts. These DSL models include a firewall as part of their design, providing hardware-based protection against denial of service attacks and some other forms of malware. Motorola's DSL modems support data transfer rates of up to 24 mbps, suitable for use with most ISPs.

    Router Features

    Although any Motorola modem provides a quality high-speed connection to the Internet, homes containing more than one Internet-capable device need a way for everyone to connect. Accordingly, several of Motorola's cable and DSL modems include built-in router circuitry. Selected models have four separate Ethernet jacks, allowing that many computers or other devices to access the Internet through wired connections. All provide versatile wireless connections, a better option for home users who would prefer to avoid running lengths of cable. A properly configured modem with wireless can provide seamless Internet access to all users throughout your house.


    Motorola's cable and DSL modems are compatible with computers running most current operating systems, including Mac OS X and Windows versions going back at least to XP and Windows 2000. Other operating systems, such as Ubuntu Linux and older versions of Windows, will also work although they're not officially supported. Some DSL models are sold specifically for connecting to AT&T, something to be aware of if you connect through a different ISP. To connect to the modem, your computer must have either a conventional or high-speed Ethernet connection, or a wireless networking card installed.

    About the Author

    Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer who has written and blogged on food-related topics since 2007. Previously he sold computers, insurance and mutual funds. Decker was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.