The DOCSIS 3.0 modem has been around for quite some time and its reach has spanned over both the the entry-level segment (4×4 and 8×4 downstream / upstream channels) to the higher-end side where the modems can theoretically support Gigabit tier Internet data plans (24×8 and 32×8). I know that the DOCSIS 3.1 modems have already entered the market, but, unless you have access to Gigabit speeds (and most do not) these devices don’t offer much over the high-end DOCSIS 3.0 modem, except maybe for a better behaviour if you live in an area with congested nodes (and these cable modems do come with a higher price tag).
Since there are so many DOCSIS 3.0 modems available, choosing the best cable modems is no easy feat, as there aren’t major differences between the top modems from a technical point of view and the most differentiating aspect can only be the compatibility range. Of course, the Puma 6 chipset issues are still very much relevant even today, in 2018, so I would steer clear of these devices until a proper fix will come (unfortunately, that includes all 32×8 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems).
Since nowadays, everybody is connected to the Internet and modems have become mandatory, you can find one cable modem in everyone’s home, as well as in every business office, no matter its size, being the first device which connects to the Internet Servers.
You could take the easy route and get a modem from your Internet Provider along with the data plan, but, ISPs have developed a bad habit of delivering underwhelming cablee modems and asking a rather high rental fee. This means that buying your own cable modem is usually the wisest thing to do.
Depending on your Internet data plan you could settle for something relatively cheap or go for the more high-performing modems capable of supporting 16×4, 24×8 or even 32×8 channel bonding. It’s important to know that this article doesn’t aim at choosing the most expensive modems, but the ones that are really popular, have proven their value over time and could remain relevant for at least 2 years into the future (you will most likely recover your investment in about a year anyway).
Note: None of these DOCSIS 3.0 modems have built-in WiFi capabilities, so you will need to separately purchase a capable router to go on par with the modem’s performance.
1. Arris SURFboard SB6183 DOCSIS 3.0 Modem
The Arris modems are among the most supported and most preferred by all the ISPs in the US and before, you couldn’t go wrong with selecting any modem from their available offer (until the SB6190 which has the problematic Intel Puma 6 chipset). Sure, the SB6141 was the more popular device (due to its longevity), but the SB6183 has managed to catch up quickly and it has actually managed to overthrow its predecessor.
When put besides other modems from the competition, the Arris SB6183 is the most cheerful of them and overall, the design gives a rather fresh vibe. The case itself is white, with a glossy finish, rounded corners and enough vent holes to ensure a proper airflow. One thing that most of us will appreciate is the small size of the modem (which measures 8.5×2.5×7.8 inches and weighs 22.4 ounces), so it won’t be an inconvenience when it comes to space. Also, you get two options in terms of positioning: the standard upwards position or you can wall mount the SB6183 (a preferred option for small business offices, but you must be aware that it can overheat).
The front of the modem is where you’ll find four LED lights responsible for Power, Receive, Send and Online and on the back you can find the RJ-45 Ethernet port, the Coaxial Cable connector and a Power connector. As a side note, there have been some complaints that the LED lights are a bit too bright. But, this may have been the intention of Arris from the beginning, as the colourful back, the white glossy finish and the glowing LED lights deliver a very pleasant visual experience.
Inside the case, the Arris SB6183 packs 1GB G-die DDR3 SDRAM, 64-Mbit 3.0 V SPI Flash Memory and a dual thread processor, clocked at 600 MHz (Broadcom’s BCM33843 SoC) with 16×4 DOCSIS channel bonding, which ensures a maximum theoretical download speed of 686 Mbps and a maximum upload speed of 131 Mbps.
Obviously, you won’t ever reach this speeds, as it doesn’t take into account the possible network congestion or any other type of interference that might occur. Also, you need to make sure that your ISP supports the 16 downstream bonded channels and the 8 upstream bonded channels to get the most from your modem.
Now, I have tested the modems capabilities using a 300 Mbps download and 65 upload data plan and, in terms of downstream speed, the Arris Motorola SB6183 peaked at 300 Mbps and averaged at 247Mbps. Afterwards, I tested the upstream performance and the modem averaged at 56 Mbps.
In terms of compatibility, the ARRIS SURFboard SB6183 can be used with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, RCN, Cable One and Charter. But, before purchasing this specific model or any other modem, it is very important to make sure it is supported by the ISP of your choice (by checking the website list or by directly calling them).
The SB6183 was built with energy efficiency in mind, so you will get a better energy bill than before. Also, modems have a tendency to be quite hot (especially during the summer), so make sure you don’t obstruct any of its air vents.
Furthermore, the SB6183 allows you to access a web-based interface (by typing http://192.168.100.1 into a browser of your choice) and monitor the settings and the status of your modem. After entering the interface, you can access the Status tab, the Product Info, the Event Log, the Addresses tab, Configuration and Help.
2. TP-Link TC7650 DOCSIS 3.0 Modem
What first started as a reaction to the expensive networking products, TP-Link has managed to turn into a form of market price regulation, so people that can’t afford the latest technology, can still have a taste of how a high-end device should perform. Surely, the cable modem marketplace was never really overcrowded and the prices have usually stayed within reach, but I’m still glad to see that TP-Link decided to have a try and create the best DOCSIS 3.0 modem: it has made its entrance with an 8×4 DOCSIS 3.0 device called the TC-72610, but I’m going to focus on the latest and more powerful 24×8 cable modem, the TP-Link TC7650.
While other modem manufacturers went for the usual, rectangular black body, the TC7650 decided to adopt a slightly different approach. Similarly to the Arris Surfboard series, the TC7650 stands vertically, but, while not as cheerful and with vibrant colours, you do get an elegant, premium looking device, lacking any sharp corners, the case simply curving around (resembling a flatter cylinder), highlighting a series of small round vent holes on both sides and revealing a glossy straight part in the middle which slides on the top side to create a narrow canal which also exposes a series of ventilation cut-outs.
The modem is a bit larger than its siblings, measuring only 8.2 x 5.5 x 2.9 inches, but you shouldn’t worry about stability, because it has a properly sized circular footprint that should keep the device from budging.
On the front of the TP-Link TC7650 (on the glossy side), underneath the TP-Link logo, there is a series of LED lights aligned vertically, which show the status of the Power, Downstream (if the LED is white, it means that the modem has synchronized one channel, otherwise, if it’s green, then it has synchronized with more than one channel – flashing indicates that the modem is scanning for downstream channels), Upstream (similarly to the Downstream LED, but in regards to the upstream channels), Internet (if the LED is flashing, then the DOCSIS 3.0 modem is attempting to connect to the Internet) and LAN (if it’s flashing, the port is receiving and sending data).
On the rear side, you can find a dedicated area which is home to a recessed Reset button (accessible with a paperclip – press and hold the button until all LEDs turn on for a moment), the LAN port, a cable port (coaxial) and the Power port.
The TP-Link TC7650 features channel bonding of up to 24 downstream channels and eight upstream channels, which translates into a maximum theoretical downstream rate of up to 1,029 Mbps and a maximum theoretical upstream rate of 216 Mbps. Now, in real life conditions, you won’t really see this speed rates. Using a 300 Mbps data plan, the TP-Link TC7650 was able to reach a peak downstream speed of 300Mbps and afterwards, it averaged at about 294Mbps, so, if used with any data plan with speeds under 500 Mbps, this modem should do just fine (if you have a full Gigabit Internet data plan, I suggest you give a try the newer DOCSIS 3.1 cable modems).
In terms of compatibility, TP-Link TC7650 can be used with all the major cable ISPs, working with XFINITY from Comcast, Spectrum and Cox. The compatibility with Charter and Cable ONE is still in progress.
Setting up the modem is very easy, all you have to do is connect it to the Internet cable and, using an Ethernet cable, connect the modem to a computer, and open a browser page. This way, you will be automatically redirected to the ISP self-activation page (you need to have the Serial Number and MAC address ready – which can be found on the printed label on the bottom of the modem). To access the Web-based utility (for more advanced configurations) you need to go to 192.168.100.1, where you’ll be prompted to enter a new password. The interface has two main tabs: Basic and Advanced and each has its own sub-tabs.
Under Basic, you can access the System Information, which consists of the Device Info and the Network Info. Under Advanced, you get access to the System Tools, the Connection Status, the Account Management and System Log. The modem can also be configured and monitored remotely using TFTP.
3. Netgear CM600 DOCSIS 3.0 Modem
Netgear is one of the most popular manufacturer of networking devices in the world, having a lot of success with its wireless routers (especially from the Nighthawk series) and it seems that Netgear wants to replicate the same success by conquering the cable modems market (which is dominated by the Arris modems, for now). To do so, Netgear has released some budget-friendly solutions and it also aimed at the top with its CM1000 DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem, but this is not the device that I want to talk about, but the 24×8 DOCSIS 3.0 modem called Netgear CM600, the successor of the CM500 (I know that the CM700 promised to be the better modem, but, unfortunately, it does come equipped with an Intel Puma 6 chipset, so it has no place in this article).
While Arris SB6183 is the most cheerful of the bunch, the Netgear CM600 definitely aims at a more classy appearance and it does offer a bit more elegance from the design point of view. The case of the CM600 is fully black, covered by a black matte finish and, while it adopted a polyhedron-shape approach, it still has soft rounded corners. Also, the overall design is quite similar to that of the CM1000, being almost entirely covered by the same small triangular orifices and it has a similar large base to ensure the stability of the device. As usual, we are dealing with a device of small proportions (which measures 8.7 x 5.3 x 2.4 inches), so it won’t take too much space and it is quite sturdy.
The sturdiness is delivered, part from its weight (1.0 lb) and part from the aforementioned built-in foot platform (along with its small silicone covered feet). it may not come as a surprise, but there is no possibility to mount the modem on the wall (I know that Arris SB6183 offers this possibility, but it does pose a challenge to maintain a proper temperature if you cover any of its vent cut-outs).
On the front of the CM600, there’s a glossy piece of plastic which is occupied by the LED lights responsible for showing the status of the Power (if the LED is red, then the modem is at risk of overheating), Downstream (solid amber indicates that one downstream channel is locked, while solid green indicates that two or more downstream channels are locked), Upstream (similarly to the downstream, but regarding the upstream channels), Internet (if the LED is blinking green, then the modem is synchronizing to the CMTS) and Ethernet (green shows that a device is connected at 1,000 Mbps, while amber indicates a 10/100 Mbps connection). The rear side of the router is home to the RJ-45 Ethernet LAN port, a recessed Reset button, a Coaxial cable connector, the Power adapter input and a Power On/Off button.
If you turn the modem upside down, there will be a label on which is printed the serial number, the MAC address (which you will need to communicate it to your ISP), the user name and the password (used for logging into the interface).
Inside the case, the CM600 is equipped with 128 MB of RAM, 8 MB NOR flash memory and a Broadcom BCM3384 SoC, with 24×8 DOCSIS 3.0 channel bonding, translating into a maximum theoretical downstream data transfer speed of up to 1,029 Mbps and a maximum theoretical upstream speed of 216 Mbps. Furthermore, I have tested the CM600 using real life conditions (a 300 Mbps data plan) and the modem was able to reach a peak speed of 295 Mbps and had an average download speed of 287 Mbps.
Sure, the 24×8 bonded channels of the Netgear CM600 are more than enough to handle a sub-Gigabit Internet speed (and in 2018, every ISP will provide data plans over 100 Mbps to go with it), but there may be people who want more, who feel that a 24×8 modem may still not be future-proof enough. If you are one of those persons and have the plan to switch to Gigabit data plans in the near future, then the CM600 will not be enough and you may want to switch to a DOCSIS 3.1 modem and, thankfully, Netgear has developed the CM1000, which is a bit pricier, but definitely more future-proof than CM600.
In terms of compatibility, the Netgear CM600 will work just fine with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, RCN and Cable One. Like said before, with the other modems, you need to make sure that before you purchase the CM600, it is compatible with the ISP of your choice (call them or check their official website).
Additionally, Netgear offers a way of managing the CM600, by accessing a web-based utility interface (open a browser of your choice and go to http://192.168.100.1 – you need to enter the admin as the user name and password for the password). The interface (Netgear Genie) is very similar to how the router UI looks, but, obviously, with less options.
There are two main sections, Advanced and Basic, the Advanced section giving access to the Hardware and Firmware Version, the Serial Number and the CM MAC. The Basic section shows you the Cable Connection, so you can set the Frequency, as well as see info about the Downstream and Upstream Bonded Channels.
4. Zoom 5370 DOCSIS 3.0 Modem
While, Arris routers are the most preferred modems by ISPs, there are some other devices that can offer a solid performance and which can stand their ground against their competition. One of these modems is Zoom 5370, a successor to the reasonably popular Zoom 5345, but at the same time, more powerful and more stable.
Zoom took the conservative route when designing the 5370, as the modem doesn’t really stand out from the crowd from the design point of view. But, the good news is that the 5370 feels solid and the materials are of high quality. The Zoom 5370 features a rectangular case covered by a black matte finish (does not retain fingerprints), soft rounded corners and some grill vents that facilitate a proper airflow can be found of the left and the right side of the device. The 5370 is a bit smaller and lighter than the Arris SB6183, measuring 5.4 x 1.5 x 6.9 inches and weighing 10.4 ounces, but thanks to the solid built-in stand, it should be stable enough and ensure that it doesn’t budge after the cables are connected. If space is of paramount importance, you won’t be able to wall mount the modem, the only position available being upwards.
As with other modems and routers, the front part of the Zoom 5370 is home to the status LED indicators which show the status of the Power, Downstream, Upstream, Online and LAN. The back of the modem is where you’ll find the Gigabit Ethernet LAN port, a recessed Reset button, a RF Coaxial Cable port, a Power connector and a ON/OFF button. On the right side of the 5370, you can find a label with printed info containing the IP address, the username, the password and the CM MAC address (which you’ll need to communicate to the ISP, so you can activate the modem).
Since what’s on the inside is what matters, the Zoom 5370 comes equipped with a Broadcom BCM33843D chipset and it uses a maximum of 16 downstream and 4 upstream channels (DOCSIS 3.0), which means that it features a maximum theoretical downstream speed of 686 Mbps and a maximum theoretical upstream speed of 123 Mbps, if using all the 16 download bonded channels and the 4 upload bonded channels. Otherwise, if using only one channel, the maximum theoretical speeds decreases to 43 Mbps (downstream) and 31 Mbps (upstream).
Since these are only theoretical speeds, you won’t really reach them, so I tested the Zoom 5370 using real-life conditions. Testing the modem using a 300 Mbps Internet data plan, it delivered an average download speed of 250 Mbps (it peaked at 300 Mbps) and an average upload speed of 57 Mbps.
From the compatibility point of view, the Zoom 5370 should work fine with Time Warner, Cox, Comcast and some other less popular ISPs. This is why it is very important to check the list of compatible modems from the Internet Provider’s website or just call them and ask directly. Furthermore, make sure that the ISP allows you to make use of the full power of your modem and that there are no speed caps for this specific model.
After installing the modem, the Zoom 5370 offers the possibility of accessing a web-based management interface (by typing 192.168.100.1 into a browser window). The interface itself is rather simple and allows access to certain tabs: Software, Connection, Security an Event Log, which should make for an easy way of maintaining and configuring the modem.
5. Arris SURFboard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 Modem
Arris Motorola SB6141 is without a doubt, one of the most popular modem on the market, but it has been surpassed by its successor, the SB6138. It doesn’t feature all the newest technologies, so if you want a truly future-proof modem, I’d say to go for the SB6183 (even though it is a bit pricier) or even better, the DOCSIS 3.1 modem, SB8200. Anyway, it seems that all the ISPs love it, most users praise it, so let’s see what’s this all about.
In terms of design, Arris didn’t make radical changes towards its SURFboard modem series, so you won’t see major changes between the SB6121, SB6141 or SB6183. The case is white, with rounded corners, a glossy finish and vent holes on the left, top and right side of the modem. Overall, the SB6141 has a fresh appearance and the same cheerful feeling as its successor (we can see the inspiration) and so far, this design choice has worked out just fine for Arris. The modem is of small proportions (measuring 6.4×2.0×8.7 inches), but it is not as light as other modems you can find on the market (weighing 24 ounces). The standard position is upwards (you cannot put the modem horizontally), but if you value your space and want to mount the modem on the wall, know that you can do that (perfect for small offices – but it does make it easier for the modem to overheat).
The front of the SB6141 is occupied by five status LED lights, which are responsible for Power, Receive, Send, Online and Link. The rear side of the SB6141 is home to an RJ-45 Ethernet port, a Coaxial cable connector and a +12VDC Power connector. Turn the modem upside down and you can find a label with specific ID info about the modem, the serial number and the MAC address (HFC MAC ID), which you’ll have to communicate to your ISP in order to activate the modem.
Inside the case, the Arris SB6141 features 32 MB of RAM (Winbond W9725G6JB-25), 8 MB of storage memory (Macronix MX25L6445EMI-10G) and a Texas Instruments TNETC4830 chipset, with 8×4 DOCSIS channel bonding, which translates into a maximum theoretical downstream speed of 343 Mbps and a maximum theoretical upstream speed of 131 Mbps.
If you take into consideration the network congestion and any other factors, it becomes clear that these speeds cannot be reached. So, I tested the modem using a 300 Mbps data plan and the results were pretty good. The SB6141 peaked at 300 Mbps and the download speed settled for an average of 245 Mbps and the upload speed constantly revolved around 54 Mbps.
In terms of compatibility, Arris SB6141 can be used with basically all ISPs from US (Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter, RCN, Cable One and so on), but if you’re in doubt, it’s always better to check out the modem compatibility list from the Internet Provider’s website.
Furthermore, you can access the web-based configuration interface by typing http://192.168.100.1 into a browser of your choice. The interface is simple and clear and it gives you access to Status, Signal, Addresses, Configuration, Logs, Open Source and Help.
6. D-Link DCM-301 DOCSIS 3.0 Modem
It may not come as a surprise that the last modem from this list is a device from D-Link and rightly so, as the Taiwanese Company is one of the most successful networking products manufacturer in the entire world. So, there are high expectation and the DCM-301 seems to be capable to raise up to them.
Similarly to the Zoom 5370, D-Link hasn’t taken any chances when it designed the DCM-301, the modem having quite a conservative appearance. The case itself is completely black, covered by a matte finish (does not retain fingerprints), with soft rounded corners and a series of vent holes on top, as well as some vent grills on the sides (to ensure that the case if properly ventilated).
Unlike the other mentioned modems, the D-Link DCM-301 can be positioned horizontally, which is the default position or vertically, by installing the stand. When kept horizontally, the modem makes use of its four feet to maintain a high degree of stability, but because it’s relatively small (measures 5.9 x 4.5 x 1.3 inches) and very light (weighs 8 ounces), it may feel a bit unstable while being kept upwards. If space is very important to you and may want to wall mount this modem, unfortunately it does not have this feature implemented.
On the front of the modem, you can find the D-Link logo and there are six status LED lights that curve from the top. The LEDs show the status of Power, Downstream, W/DS, Upstream, Online and LAN. On the back of the DCM-301, you can access the RJ-45 Ethernet port, a recessed Reset button, a Coaxial Cable Connector, the Power port and a Power button. If you turn the modem upside down, you’ll be able to see a label on which is printed the CM MAC address (which you’ll have to communicate to your ISP in order to gain access to the Internet).
On the inside, the DCM-301 is equipped with 32 MB of RAM (Winbond W9725G6JB-3, clocked at 333.0 MHz). Furthermore, it is important to know that the D-Link DCM-301 features 8×4 channel bonding (8 downstream and 4 upstream). Similarly to Arris Surfboard, the DCM-301 is a previous generation modem, but it is still relevant and will remain for at least a couple of years (and even more, depending on the ISP and the Internet data plan you choose).
Now, the D-Link features a maximum theoretical downstream speed of 343 Mbps and a theoretical upstream speed of 131 Mbps. Sure, there is no chance we will ever see those speeds, so let’s see how it fares in real life conditions. Using a 300 Mbps data plan (65 Mbps for upload), I tested the downstream speed of DCM-301 and measured an average of 210 Mbps (and it peaked at 245 Mbps). The upload speed was around 43 Mbps.
In terms of compatibility, the D-Link DCM-301 isn’t really on par with the Arris modems, but it is still compatible with Comcast, Cox, Bright House Networks, Time Warner, SuddenLink Communications and RCN. I noticed that it may not be supported by Charter, so make sure to check if your ISP supports the modem before actually purchasing it.
Similarly to the other modems from this list, D-Link gives you access to a web-based management utility, by inserting 192.168.100.1 into a browser of your choice and by typing the username and password to log in (it’s admin and password).