Arris SB8200 DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem Review

Arris SB8200 is a Portion of the Initial wave of cable modems to support the new DOCSIS 3.1 traffic and the Elderly DOCSIS 3.0 standard (which should ease the transition into the newer technology), Enabling its Customers to Make Use of the fastest download speed available from the ISP and Encouraging bonding of up to 32 download QAM channels and 8 upload channels.

I am aware that the DOCSIS 3.1 standard is not yet prevalent and is just recently being implemented by cable providers, so it may seem that the SB8200 is a bit early (particularly for the consumer market), but, in fact, it arrived just at the right time to help Arris from the SB6190 mess (because of the Intel Puma 6 chipset latency bug) and to prepare for that sweet Gigabit+ download speed we have been dreaming for years.

That having been said, Arris is still the most preferred cable modem by all Internet Service Providers in the US and, should you need to purchase a new modem, even if you haven’t gotten a Gigabit tier, the SB8200 is definitely among the most future-proofed devices on the market (and modems have a tendency to stick around for decades ).

Layout

If you take the last four modems released by Arris (from the older Arris SB6141 and SB6183 into the newest, SB6190 and the latest SB8200), then you can hardly tell them apart because they all pretty much share the identical layout. Arris doesn’t appear to want to modify the plan formula, so, that the SB8200 features the same white, plastic case, coated by a matte finish (does not keep fingerprints). The situation gives the feeling of two distinct pieces, one outside part which wraps around a smaller rectangular bit, leaving narrow canals in-between for a series of ventilation holes.

As newer technologies are being developed and instantly implemented into fresh modems, there is always the danger that the apparatus would overheat (until programmers find the best balance between performance and hardware — it’s typically a lengthy process), however, it appears that Arris took this risk seriously and coated the SB8200, almost entirely, using cut-out which facilitates a much better airflow. On the right side of this modem, there’s a recessed rectangular ring positioned towards the center with several special spaces which help mount the device on the wall (the same pattern can be found on the left side, for attaching, but it lacks the wall-mounting spaces).

Even though it’s nice to have the ability to place the modem someplace else besides your desk and forget about it, I would counsel against placing it on the wall since it can run a little hot and some air vents might be obstructed, so it is ideal to leave it some space to breath (also avoid putting it in almost any enclosed area for the same reason).

The device is still relatively small (measuring just 5.24 x 5.24 x 1.65 inches) and it is a bit lightweight (weighs 2.1 lbs), however, the four feet with rubber pads should add a bit to the equilibrium factor. On the base of the SB8200, it is possible to discover a little label with info concerning the device (such as the Serial Number, the MAC ID and the model name), whereas on the front of the modem, there are four LED lights which show the status of the Power, Receive (if it’s green, there is a high-speed Internet connection using bonded DOCSIS 3.0 stations, and, whether it’s blue, then it uses bonded DOCSIS 3.1 stations ), Send (green — DOCSIS 3.0; blue — DOCSIS 3.1) and Online (green suggests that the modem is connected to the Web ).

The LEDs are less intense than on previous generations (no mild bleed), but, overall, the apparatus still gives the same cheerful vibe that I came to expect from Arris modems.

On the rear of this SB8200 (on a colourful background), there are two RJ-45 Ethernet interfaces (along with two LEDs — if it’s amber, subsequently, there is a 10/100 Mbps data link and, if it is green, then, there’s a GigE data link ), one recessed Reset button (press on the button for 3 to 4 seconds to reboot the modem or press on the button for 10 minutes or more to return the unit to factory default settings), a Cable Connector and the Power Port.

It’s quite uncommon to see two Ethernet ports on a cable modem and also the reason Arris has added them will be to allow the connection of two devices in the exact same time (the ISP has to supply an extra IP address for your second device — ISPs don’t provide additional IP addresses to home users, as far as I’m aware, so only business owners can benefit from this attribute ), but you will find additional potential applications, such as creating a failover system (it’s obvious that you would need another carrier for it to operate ) or link aggregation.

I really don’t believe the SB8200 will go together with the IEEE 802.3ad Link Aggregation to the typical consumer (which creates a single high-bandwidth hyperlink interface by grouping over one Ethernet ports at the physical layer), though it would be interesting to send speeds as many as 2 Gbps using both Ethernet port (dual-link) in precisely the same time on your router.

Hardware

The SB8200 should be able to handle downstream bonded channels up to 32 SCQAM or two OFDM and upstream bonded stations up to 8 SCQAM or 2 OFDMA.

Now, let us discuss a bit the download speeds up to 5Gbps*’ written on the box. As you can see, there is a small asterisk symbol which clarifies that the DOCSIS 3.1 standard supports 5+ Gigabit download rates and the output signal of the Gigabit interfaces is 2Gbps combined. So, this is a clear indication that the SB8200 can go up to 2Gbps, but only through link aggregation (some may argue that in the future the modem might support 2.5Gbps on each port, so that it could technically reach the promoted 5Gbps, but, no, the inner hardware doesn’t support it).

Compatibility and Performance

ArrisSB8200 is still a relatively new device, but it is compatible with all the major Internet Service Providers, including Comcast (Xfinity service) and Cox, while Charter, Time Warner and Bright House should also add it into the compatible modems listing in a short time period (pending status). As always, before buying this cable modem, then you have to make sure it is compatible with your ISP (you could verify their site for a full list of compatible modems or just call them) and, as the SB8200 includes some novelty features, you want to make sure you actually need this type of device and that it is (or will be) appropriate for the data programs that your ISP can supply (1Gbps or more, when it be available).

This brings us into the evergreen dilemma: if you buy your own modem or lease it from the cable provider? As expected, Internet Service Providers are not very happy once you purchase your own modem, so, most will be hesitant to assist you with any difficulty which they could believe is modem-related (if there’s an issue with the relationship, your modem would be the first to get blamed). Furthermore, you might or might not get the latest firmware updates. Purchasing your own cable modem is the cheaper option on the long run because some ISPs have a bad habit of requesting a huge sum each month because of their rentals and you would get your money back in less than an year and a half (occasionally, even sooner).

As I said in the previous section, the maximum theoretical output must be 2Gbps if connection aggregation is involved, but, most folks will want to use it with a 1Gbps download data program, therefore, in reality, you can find an average of 950 Mbps (what a Gigabit Ethernet port can usually deliver). At the same time, even if the 1Gbps speed is not available in your town, you could still benefit from the extra channels, especially if you have difficulties with congested nodes. As a side note, I was thrilled to see that the latency problems that plagued the previous Arris modem have been gone and that occurred because the SB8200 uses a Broadcom processor, rather than the Intel Puma 6.

Arris SB8200 doesn’t have any built-in wireless capabilities and you would require a wireless router to connect it to the modem. At this time any router must do just fine (be aware that an inexpensive one could turn into a bottleneck), but, later on, you might need to check out a router that supports the entire power of this SB8200 (one that handles link aggregation).

Setup

The hardware setup process is straightforward and straightforward: use a coaxial cable to connect the modem to the cable wall socket, an Ethernet cable to attach the SB8200 to a router or computer PC and the power adapter to power up the device. Next, if the activation process isn’t done automatically, you want to contact your service provider to trigger the modem (to check if all is functioning properly, simply open a browser and then type a valid URL).

Afterward, you can visit the Cable Modem Web Manager by scanning the LAN IP address (192.168.100.1) in almost any Internet browser and you’ll be greeted by the Status display, which shows the Startup Procedure status (like the Acquire Downstream Channel, Connectivity State or Boot State) along with the Downstream and Upstream Bonded Channels.

Besides the web-based utility offered from Arris, you can even gain access to a Spectrum Analyzer webpage by visiting 192.168.100.1:8080 and, when prompted to insert the username and password, type admin and password (to access it, you need to use Google Chrome or Safari and you have to make sure the interface is opened rather than blocked by your router). The Spectrum Analyzer is very useful for identifying any cable modem issues on the fly, by displaying a live status of the radio frequency and also by letting you change various parameters (adjust the Frequency, Span, Amplitude, Bandwidth and also the Measurements).

Conclusion

The SB8200 is exactly what Arris needed to help it regain the clients’ trust, it’s a well-built apparatus, it’s great internal hardware, it supports the new DOCSIS 3.1 standard and it guarantees an excellent speed functionality later on.

Now, does the usual consumer really require such a device at this time? At the moment, not really, since DOCSIS 3.1 is just being implemented by the ISPs and to make the most of the 2 vents, you would need to use link aggregation, which is something which should be implemented later on. Overall, this is a really good device and undoubtedly among the most future-proofed cable modems on the market (along with Netgear CM1000), but its price tag makes it more acceptable for tech enthusiasts than the average consumer.

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