I've always been interested in finding the best wireless routers and modems for the best prices.
The Arris Motorola Surfboard SB6183 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem
The SB6183, Arris’s latest DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem, was released in July 2014 (its manufacturer Arris was spun off from Motorola). It is the successor of the Motorola SB6121 and Motorola SB6141.
Like its predecessors, the Motorola SB6183 aims to fulfill the ever-increasing demands for multimedia experience at lightning-fast broadband speed: streaming HD videos, playing online games, shopping, downloading huge files, working, making high-quality free VOIP voice calls, video conferencing, and running peer-to-peer networking applications.
This article is not so much a technical review of the Motorola SB6183, but some quick and easy-to-understand information on this modem and the alternatives to it so that you can decide whether the Arris Motorola Surfboard SB6183 is a suitable cable modem for you.
The SB6183 Can Handle Double the Download Speed of the Preceding Model
The latest DOCSIS 3.0 technology is the key.
DOCSIS, Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification, is the international standard created to ensure seamless high-speed data transfer through existing cable TV (CATV) connections.
Through DOCSIS 3.0 and its design, the Motorola Surfboard SB6183 is able to bond up to sixteen downstream channels and four upstream channels. Motorola's earlier cable modems, the Motorola SB6141 and Motorola SB6121, bond only eight and four downstream channels, respectively.
The data that you download comes through a data channel, kind of like the way water flows through a pipe. Each data channel is the same size. If you combine 16, 8, or 4 smaller pipes into a single bigger pipe, or combine 16, 8, or 4 data channels into a single broadband conduit, you enable a bigger flow: 16 channels will carry twice as much as 8 channels, and 8 will carry twice as much as 4a.
With the 16 bonded download channels in the Arris Motorola SB6183, you are able to get up to 686 Mbps for your downloads. Upload speeds, however, remain the same for the three models, at up to 131 Mbps (see table below).
I have explained the technical aspects in simple and easy layman’s language in my article comparing the SB6141 and SB6121. Check out that link if you are interested.
A Quick Comparison: Motorola SB6183 vs. SB6141 vs. SB6121
|Model||Download Channels||Download Speed||Upload Speed||Amazon Price (May 2015)|
up to 686 MBps
up to 131 MBps
up to 343 Mbps
up to 131 MBps
up to 160 MBps
up to 131 MBps
Does It Make Sense to Buy the SB6183?
The Motorola SB6183 is the most expensive of the three models. Is it worth buying?
It all depends!
First, before you take out your credit card, make sure you use cable Internet, as the SB6183 only works with cable.
Second, check to see if the broadband package you are subscribing to now from your service provider gives you anywhere near the download speed the 6183 can provide. For example, if you are a Time-Warner Cable (TWC) customer, you should be at least subscribing to their 300/20 Mbps Ultimate plan for the 6183 to make sense. Many areas covered by TWC are still running on four-channel bonding; in those areas, you will be unlikely to get any more speed by upgrading from the 6141 to the 6183.
There may be technical infrastructure that needs to be upgraded by the provider if they want to provide this kind of throughput. For example, if you are a Time Warner Cable (TWC) customer, you should be at least subscribing to their 300 / 20 Mbps Ultimate plan. Many areas covered by TWC are still running on 4x1 bonding; if you are in those areas, you will not get any more speed by upgrading from the 6141 to the 6183.
Do You Own or Rent?
The Motorola SB6183 is really top value if you just consider price versus speed. For a small additional investment compared to the 6141, you get double the maximum speed. Clearly, the Motorola SB6183 has more capacity than TWC can even provide at the moment; it should suffice for a long time. Should your provider upgrade its service in the near future to several hundred Mbps, buying the SB6183 means savings (in time, money, and effort), especially if you are the kind of person who just wants to install a modem and then forget about it!
Other benefits of the SB6183 include a 1 GHz-capable tuner that can make use of full downstream bandwidth to capture up to the 16 DOCSIS channels for bonding. It also has a spectrum analyzer and a MoCA reject filter to make sure your MoCA and DOCSIS networks don't interfere with each other.
Comcast Customers, at Least, May Get Better Performance With a Higher-Bandwith Modem
If you are a Comcast customer, you might want to seriously consider the Motorola SB6183 as it may help you get extra "free" bandwidth on your 105 Mbps and 150 Mbps plans. This potential may exist for other service providers as well.
It's true that 4- or 8-channel cable modems can handle contract speeds of 105 or 150 Mbps with no problems, and most customers' modems handle only four or eight bonded channels.
However, most of Comcast’s regions support the 16 bonded downstream channels that the Motorola SB6183 is capable of handling. For technological reasons, if your neighbors are also using Comcast, you can share unused channels with them. When your neighbors are not using their bandwidth, those channels become available, and a DOCSIS cable modem is smart enough to distribute traffic between "free" channels. So when the channel usage of your neighbor drops, your modem's traffic will shift to less-busy channels—thus getting you additional bandwidth!
A Comcast user reported on Amazon that he compared an 8-channel cable modem with the 16-channel SB6183 cable modem.
He got these results with the 8-channel modem:
On a 105Mbps plan, I typically peaked at 105Mbps while maintaining about 95Mbps. On a 150Mbps [plan], I peaked at 150Mbps while averaging about 125Mbps.
And he got these results with the 16-channel Motorola SB6183 cable modem:
[The] 105Mbps plan peaks at 140Mbps and maintains 105Mbps. [The] 150Mbps plan peaks at 180Mbps and maintains 150Mbps.
So this user enjoyed a 10–20% faster downstream speed, with the hardware being the only difference.
There’s no guarantee—this sharing effect won’t exist everywhere or with all providers—just something to think about.
Technical Summary of Motorola SB6121 vs. SB6141 vs. SB6183
Out of Curiosity...
Wireless Routers for Use With Cable Modems
Many people have asked if the Motorola SB6183 (or, for that matter, the SB6141 or SB6121) is able to provide Wi-Fi or wireless access. The answer is no; these are cable modems only. If you need wireless access, then you will need a wireless router to go with your modem.
If you are getting the Motorola SB6183, and you also need a wireless router, then I highly recommend that you get a good one; you don’t want your router to limit what you can do.
ASUS recently released one of the fastest routers in the market, the Asus RT-AC87U. It’s rather pricey but has great features. It’s the world's first router with 4x4 MU-MIMO antenna design. It uses AiRadar universal beam forming so it can cover multiple devices within 465 square meters (5,000 square feet); this helps people with really large houses.
TP-Link has some cheaper, good value wireless routers.
What If You nNeed to Use a Phone With Your Cable Modem?
The Motorola SB6183 is strictly a cable modem only; it has no phone jack.
Motorola makes a telephony modem, the TM822G, which uses DOCSIS 3.0 at eight channels, the same speed as the 6141. You can also use a VOIP box like the Ooma Telo with the Arris TM822G as an add-on solution.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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© 2014 James Causian
James Causian (author) from Huston, Texas on November 30, 2016:
Kelly, it should not be a problem to pair the Asus RT-AC87U wireless router with the Arris SB6183 cable modem.
Kelly on November 26, 2016:
Awesome, helpful article! I purchased this modem and am getting Comcast soon. I am wondering what Comcast-approved router you would recommend pairing with this modem? Unfortunately the Asus-RT-AC87U isn't on Comcast's approved equipment list.
AdWhois.com on October 24, 2016:
Can I just say, this was an amazing article. You answered all my questions on the 6183. Really appreciate how thorough you were!
Tialen on October 12, 2015:
Steve on October 08, 2015:
Any word on DOCSIS 3.1 modems? Comcast has announced they will be rolling out 1/2 Gbit/sec this year and next so I'd expect that we'll be seeing something soon.
I wonder what modem they are using for their test locations? I can't find even one that is for sale.
Joe5 on September 13, 2015:
Hello, I am contemplating switching to TWC and here's my setup. I currently subscribe to ISP that uses U-Verse modem, but isn't AT&T as ISP. I'm only able to connect with 1500/384 as no further availability exists on this ISP(?).
Ok, I have my old telephone jack used for Ethernet connect on the fiber (of obvious At&t lines). My question since I want to purchase modem and the subscription at TWC is for the basic plan of their 10/1, what modem would work for me? I understand from the reviews of the Arris Motorola 6183 or in coming to this hub site, you show that there is no phone connection. I don't need nor really want Wi-Fi and I won't be using the landline jack for a phone (that I know about in the future) so what do you think would be compatible and from the point of modems, it would appear that these Arris models are fine with the TWC, and that's kind the rub (to me or whatever term fits) but it's fiber but yet it's Cable modems that for the most part, they're using on the TWC internet(?) and if as an aside, I don't have the need to bundle and that's At&t's main sell as an almost-must-have. But anyway, I have till Nov. 1 when present Dslextreme ISP runs.
Thanks for your anticipated input, if so*
dennis on September 08, 2015:
Yes bill you can add a voice box to the SB6183 once you also add the required wired/wireless router coming from the output RJ45 Jack of SB6183 to the input of a top quality reliable branded name top performing wired/wireless router like the Asus RT-N56U; all one need do is attach a branded name VOIP ATA(analog telephone adapter) like OBI-100 by Obihai Techologies to any of the LAN ports on the ASUS RT-N56U; set oneself up with a free internet gmail account and then go on Obihai internet portal and configure ones purchased OBI-100 ATA box; the real beauty is it is all absolutely free with not one penny spent ever on even any additional taxes and fees; heck one can even hook up a second OBI-100 ATA box and give oneself a second phone line also as well for free; only thing one has to do upfront is buy the OBI-100 ATA box which lists on amazon for around $42 for each box; no more phone bills AT&T and Sprint, or any other long distance provider for that matter!!
Ed on August 31, 2015:
Hey James - I only have blast from Comcast. I get 93mb download now with my old modem and folks have told me to consider the 6141 or the 6183, not sure which yet. Might go with 6183 to future proof etc. My question is. I only have a Netgear WNR1000 router. Will this work well enough for the kids wifi? Or, must I upgrade that too? Curious of your opinion. Thank you in advance
James Causian (author) from Huston, Texas on June 13, 2015:
I haven't had the chance to test the XB3 modem and as such cannot comment on a comparison between the two models. However right now, the Motorola SB6183 is the fastest consumer class modem in town with 16 download channels; capable of providing potential download speeds of up to over 600 Mbps.
As such it would be a good investment and future proofing especially if you are considering ownership instead of rental. You can couple it with the Asus AC routers in the RT-ACxx range; for example RT-AC66U, 68U or 87U models.
Hope this helps!
Garrett on June 12, 2015:
Great article. Well written and researched. I'm looking into getting Comcast soon. Are you familiar with their newest XB3 modems? I was getting like 127 Mbps on their 105 wirelessly with that modem. Do you think it would still be advantageous for me to get the SB6183 and a router? I'm not finding any good research or information about Comcast modems, and (not surprisingly), any Comcast rep I've talked to has told me their modems are the best. Any info you could provide would be very much appreciated.
Thank you for your time!!
James Causian (author) from Huston, Texas on April 09, 2015:
Yes it can.
Bill on March 29, 2015:
Thank you for the quick response. One last question. Will this modem and the Ooma Telo work with Comcast Xfinity Triple play with VOIP? I know this modem is on the comcast approved list and just want to make sure the Ooma Tel will also work with Comcast's VOIP. Your help again is appreciated.
James Causian (author) from Huston, Texas on March 29, 2015:
Yes you can. Ooma Telo is a good solution to look at. Here is the link if you would like to find out more http://amzn.to/1DaK2rK
Bill on March 29, 2015:
Can you add a voip box to the SB6183? If so, any recommendations for which VOIP box will work best with this modem. Your help is appreciated.
James Causian (author) from Huston, Texas on March 16, 2015:
You are most welcome Joe B. Glad you found the hub useful :)
Joe B on March 14, 2015:
Thanks for your help! Much appreciated.