PROS / This cable modem is compatible with nearly all major cable internet providers.
CONS / You won't find a reset button or a power button on this modem.
VERDICT / The Arris Motorola SB6141 is the best cable modem for most people, thanks to its high ISP compatibility and great performance.
While there may not be as many cable modems to choose from as, say, wireless routers, you can still get a cable modem that's better than others. The Arris Motorola SB6141 is the best cable modem in our lineup, earning our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award. The SB6141 simply offers the best balance between ISP compatibility, performance, standards and design over all of its competitors. This DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem is fast enough that you don't need to worry about it being the bottleneck in your home network. It's also robust enough to last you for several years.
The SB6141 is compatible with nine of the 10 largest cable internet providers in the United States. That's an excellent range of compatibility that few other cable modems share. You can use the SB6141 on all four of the biggest cable companies: Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter and Cox. What this means for you is not only that you can most likely upgrade to the SB6141 relatively painlessly, but also that you can hang on to this cable modem and continue to use it if you change internet providers in the future.
Even though the cost of a new cable modem may look like a lot of money upfront, it will absolutely save you money down the line – especially if you can continue to use it with other internet providers. The SB6141 costs around $100. Renting a modem from your ISP can cost as much as $10 a month. In that case, you will break even in 10 months. If you can continue using the SB6141 for longer, then that's all money you have saved. Especially when many home internet plans are already expensive, shaving some of the monthly cost off can go a long way toward making your bank account happier.
For most people, the SB6141 won't be the bottleneck in home internet speeds. This cable modem features 8 x 4 channel bonding, which means that it has eight downstream data channels and four upstream data channels. This translates into a maximum theoretical download speed of 343 Mbps and an upload speed of 131 Mbps. These are much faster than the internet plans most people have. In order to get faster internet speeds, you'll need to look to different technologies, like fiber – which the SB6141 won't work with. Cable internet just doesn't provide enough speed yet to max out the SB6141's capabilities.
We were impressed with the SB6141's housing. It's made of strong, rigid plastic that can take a beating. The housing is even fairly scratch-resistant. Normal wear and tear won't reflect visibly on this cable modem. With the sturdy housing, the device doesn't have much flex to it, which is a good thing. The housing protects the printed circuit board, where the modem's processor and other important components are. Overall, the SB6141 is well ventilated, with medium-sized vents on three sides.
On average, the SB6141 managed to reach full functionality from an unpowered state in about 36 seconds. That's a bit on the slower end, compared to the other cable modems we reviewed, but it's certainly not the slowest. Both the Netgear CM400 and the Zoom 5341J had faster boot speeds than the SB6141.
Operating temperature is where the SB6141 really shines. Thanks to its well-designed housing, this cable modem averaged 87.5 degrees Fahrenheit across our temperature tests. That's the lowest operating temperature we recorded for all of the cable modems on our lineup. What this means is that the SB6141 is efficient with the power it draws from your wall outlet. Lower operating temperatures can help expand the life expectancy of any electronic device, including cable modems.
If you're in the market for a new cable modem, then you've probably seen the term DOCSIS. It's an easier way of saying Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification. Essentially, it's the language that your internet provider uses to speak to your cable modem and provide you with internet access. DOCSIS 3.0 is the latest version of the language, or standard.
The major improvement DOCSIS 3.0 brings is the ability to combine many data channels into one. The channel bonding we mentioned earlier makes DOCSIS 3.0 many times faster than DOCSIS 2.0. The SB6141 uses DOCSIS 3.0 in order to achieve its impressive upload and download speeds. The SB6141 uses DOCSIS 3.0, which gives you access to some of the fastest speeds you can get on cable internet. Of course, the actual speed you get for your internet depends on the tier of service you pay your internet provider for.
There are some other standards that you should consider when looking at the latest cable modems. CableLabs and UL are both independent, third-party organizations that test consumer products to ensure that they do what the manufacturer claims. CableLabs certifies products that adhere to industry standards for communication. That means a CableLabs-certified cable modem should have no problem communicating with a CableLabs-certified wireless router. UL focuses more on safety and ensuring that the products meet all industry standards in that regard. The SB6141 has certifications from both of these organizations.
Even though most people don't have gigabit internet speeds, it's still a good idea to make sure that your cable modem has a gigabit Ethernet port. This is the port that allows your cable modem to talk to your wireless router. The SB6141 has a gigabit Ethernet port, which means that this cable modem is unlikely to be the bottleneck in your home network's speed.
It's surprising how few cable modems come with a power switch. The majority of them make you rely on simply unplugging the modem if you don't want it powered on. While that's not a big deal, having a toggle for power is a much more elegant solution. The SB6141 does not have a power button. What's more, it doesn't even have a reset button. This means that you have to unplug the SB6141 and then plug it back in every time you want to restart it. That's only a minor annoyance, to be sure, but it's still worth considering.
Another idea you should consider is how much it costs to run your cable modem constantly. Most people plug the modem in and then completely forget about it. The SB6141 can cost as much as 85 cents per month to keep on 24/7. While that may seem like a small amount, it can add up when you combine it with other devices you don't normally think about – like a wireless router. In the typical home, there are many devices than need constant power or to be charged often. The costs can quickly add a significant amount to your monthly electrical bill.
Help & Support
Arris offers a two-year warranty for the SB6141, which is more than enough time for you to notice any factory defects. Because cable modems are relatively simple devices, if yours works for the first couple of weeks, then you probably don't have much to worry about for several years. You can contact technical support through email if you need to. However, keep in mind that you may want to contact your internet provider before contacting the modem's manufacturer. More often than not, the problem lies with how your internet provider communicates with your modem, not the modem itself.
The Arris Motorola SB6141 strikes an excellent balance between compatibility, performance, standards and design. While it doesn't have some of the physical features we like to see in the best cable modems, the SB6141 is a great choice for most people. The low operating temperature, high ISP compatibility and high speeds make the SB 6141 the best cable modem on our lineup.