Should You Buy the Arris Motorola SB6183 Modem?
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
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 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?
For the cable modem that you are using now, do you
If you are renting your modem now, buying a modem of some kind is a no-brainer. It should pay for itself in less than a year.
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
The fastest consumer DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem at the time of writing. Consider it if you intend to subscribe to a cable internet plan that provides high throughput. It supports 16 channels for downloading, with a total capacity of 686 Mbps and four channels for uploading. Based on the selling price of around $90 today (by the way the Amazon May 2015 selling price was around $150), this is a steal. As such I would highly recommend that you get this modem over the other two.
Out of Curiosity...
Which DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem Have You Decided On?
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 WiFi 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. This article describes how routers work and how to buy a home wireless router.
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.
The Asus RT-AC87U wireless router pairs very well with the Motorola SB6183 and SB6141. If you are looking for a powerful wireless router to go along with either the SB6183 or SB6141, then the Asus RT-AC87U is a good choice.
The RT-AC87U is fast but if you need an even faster wireless tri-band router, then you should check out the Asus RT-AC5300!
What if you need 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.
Gateway, MoCA Devices
What about a gateway, i.e., a combination of a modem and router in one box? What about a MoCA-enabled device? In another article I discuss alternatives like this to the Motorola SB cable modems.
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