Friday, July 30th, 2021 • Welcome to the 💯 No-Nonsense Tech Zone! • 😷 Get Vaxxed 💉!

ARRIS SURFboard S33 Modem Review: Solid and Flexible with Minor Caveats

The ARRIS SURFboard S33 DOCSIS 3.1, first announced in November 2020, sure is an interesting Multi-Gigabit cable modem.

For one, it’s super cute, at least compared to the squarish design found in previous ARRIS SURFboard modems. And then, it can handle up to 2.5Gbps of broadband speeds and two static IP addresses.

Similar to the case of the Netgear CM2000, the SURFboard S33 is probably not a great choice for those having a sub-Gigabit internet connection.

(And, in fact, if your download speed is slower than 300Mbps, definitely don’t get it — you want a DOCSIS 3.0 modem in this case!)

But if you have (close to) Gigabit or faster download speeds, or want to stay future-proof, this modem is an excellent buy.

With a $200 price tag, the ARRIS S33 is a more sensible investment than the more expensive Netgear counterpart. Make sure, though, that you have a Wi-Fi router that has a matching WAN speed.

Dong’s note: I tested the ARRIS SURFboard S33 with a Comcast cable plan. While the modem works with almost all cable Internet providers in the U.S., the information expressed here typifies an Xfinity experience.

ARRIS Surfboard S33 Modem and Power Adapter
The ARRIS Surfboard S33 is a cute little cable modem.

ARRIS Surfboard S33 DOCSIS 3.1 Multi-Gigabit Cable Modem

$198.00
8.2

Performance

9.0/10

Features and Setup

7.0/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Fast and reliable performance, up to 2.5Gbps of broadband speed
  • Compact and nice-looking design
  • Can handle two status IP addresses
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • No WAN Link Aggregation
  • Runs a bit hot
  • Cryptic single status light
  • Terrible mobile app

ARRIS SURFboard S33: A little modem with big options

I had a little pleasant surprise when taking the ARRIS SURFboard S33 out of its packing.

The modem was much smaller than the photo suggested. Indeed, it’s the most compact Multi-Gig modem I’ve seen, measuring just ‎5.14 x 1.8 x 4.74 in and weighing in less than a pound.

The S33 has a new curvy design to match ARRIS Wi-Fi 6 broadcasters, namely the SURFboard mAX Pro and SURFboard mAX. It comes with rounded corners and looks like a piece of decor.

A typical cable modem at hearts

On the inside, though, the S33 is a typical DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem. It comes with a service coaxial connector and two network ports. One is a 2.5Gbps Multi-Gig port, and the other is a standard Gigabit port.

This is where it gets interesting. Here’s how you can use these ports:

  • One at a time at their max speed:
    • 1Gbps port for a Gigabit or slower broadband connection.
    • 2.5Gbps port for a Gig+ or faster connection, up to 2.5Gbps of download speed. (This port is compatible with sub-Gigabit plan, too.)
  • Two at the same time if you have a connection that includes two static IP addresses.

Unfortunately, the ARRIS SURFboard S33 doesn’t support WAN Link Aggregation. Specifically, you can’t use both of its network ports to deliver a 2Gbps connection. For that, you’ll need to use the SB8200.

That said, the table below shows how the S33 differentiates from its older cousins.

ARRIS SURFboard S33: Hardware specifications

SURFboard S33SURFboard SB6183SURFboard SB6190SURFboard SB8200
Max Download SpeedUp to 2.5Gbps and 1GbpsUp to 686 MbpsUp to 1 GbpsUp to 2 Gbps
DOCSIS 3.0 Specs
(Downstream x Upstream Channels)
32 x 816 x 432 x 832 x 8
DOCSIS 3.1-readyYesNoNoYes
Applicable Cable Internet Speed Plan2.5Gbps400Mbps600Mbps2Gbps
Gigabit Port1112
Multi-Gig Port1000
Multi-Gig Broadband-readyYesNoNoYes
Built-in Wi-Fi GatewayNoNoNoNo
Digital Voice-ready
(Telephone)
NoNoNoNo
Dimensions‎5.14 x 1.8 x 4.74 in‎5.25 x 2.17 x 5 in‎7.15 x 4.5 x 6.11 in‎5.13 x 1.7 x 5.25 in
Weight14.4 oz1.5 lbs1 lb 1.59 lbs
Warranty2-year2-year2-year2-year
Cost
(at publication)
$200$90$90$150
ARRIS SURFboard S33 vs other ARRIS SURFboard modems

Like all DOCSIS 3.1 modems, the SURFboard S33 can function as a top-tier DOCSIS 3.0 modem.

Keep in mind, though, that you should use it as such only when you have a download speed of around 400Mbps or faster. That’s because certain low-speed cable plans require a DOCSIS 3.0 modem to work.

On top of that, the S33 is designed to work with a Wi-Fi 6 router, preferable one with a Multi-Gig WAN port. If you have an aging Wi-Fi 5 router, it might be a good idea to upgrade it or stick with a DOCSIS 3.0 modem.

See also  Cable Modem Explained: How to Swap an ISP-Provided Gateway with One

ARRIS SURFboard S33: Detail photos

ARRIS Surfboard S33 Power Adapter
Out of the box, the ARRIS SURFboard S33 comes with a power adapter.

ARRIS Surfboard S33 Front in hand
The new modem is quite compact and cute.

ARRIS Surfboard S33 Backside
On the back, the ARRIS SURFboard S33 includes a 2.5Gbps and a 1Gbps port. You can only use these two ports simultaneously with a cable plan with two static IP addresses.

ARRIS Surfboard S33 Front
The ARRIS SURFboard S33 cable modem’s front. Note the status light under the SURFboard logo.

ARRIS Surfboard S33 Underside
The underside of the ARRIS SURFboard S33. Note the MAC address required for manual activation and the ventilation openings.

ARRIS Surfboard S33 Service Port
The ARRIS SURFboard S33’s service connector is where you screw a coaxial cable into.

ARRIS Surfboard S33 Front Rigth
The ARRIS SURFboard S33’s overall design resembles that of the SURFboard mAX mesh hardware.

ARRIS Surfboard S33 Top
The ARRIS SURFboard S33’s top. Note the ventilation grills.

ARRIS Surfboard S33 Next to SB6141
The new and cute ARRIS SURFboard S33 is next to the old and ugly SURFboard SB6141 modem.

ARRIS Surfboard S33 Box
The ARRIS SURFboard S33’s retail box.

Cryptic status light

Unlike most cable modems, including older SURFboard models with multiple status lights, the S33 comes with a single large LED light on the front. This light changes its color to show the modem’s conditions.

Specifically, it has three colors:

  1. Amber means the modem is off. This is the color of the plastic.
  2. Green means the modem is on and:
    • Flashing: A firmware update is in process. (Make sure you leave the modem alone and don’t unplug it.)
    • Blinking: Searching for signal. This can means there’s no signal at all.
    • Solid: Modem is working in DOCSIS 3.0 mode.
  3. Blue is only available in solid and means the modem is working well in DOCSIS 3.1 mode.

I’m not too fond of this status light design and find it necessarily cryptic. For example, folks can easily mistake flashing for blinking. So, this light sure will make troubleshooting the WAN connection harder.

However, the light did work as intended in my trial, so you only need to remember the specificities above. Hint: stick a note with the information on the side of the modem itself. It’ll come in handy.

Standard setup process

Like other cable modems, the ARRIS SURFboard S33 comes with a web user interface, accessible via the 192.168.100.1 IP address. The default username and password are admin and password. And there’s the ARRIS SURFboard Manager mobile app, too.

However, you need neither for the activation, at least if you use it with an Xfinity cable plan. In my case, everything went the same as I described in this detailed post on how to install/replace a cable modem.

(I did try the app out briefly, and it was quite terrible. It’s a good thing that it’s not necessary.)

Worse comes to worst; you only need to connect the hardware — service port to the service line and one of the modem’s LAN ports to your router’s WAN port. Then call the provider’s support line and give the technician the modem’s MAC address on its underside to have it activated on your account.

The only time using the web interface is necessary is when you have a (business) cable plan, and you want to assign the static IP addresses to the modem’s two ports. I couldn’t try this out since it didn’t apply to my Xfinity account.

Other than that, like the case of other modems I’ve tested, the interface only shows you the broadband connection information, which is only useful when you need to troubleshoot a non-working connection.

In short, it won’t take long for you to install the modem yourself.

ARRIS SURFboard S33: Fast, reliable, and hot

I used the S33 for more than a week and had no connection issue with it.

My Xfinity cable plans caps at 900Mbps download, and the modem delivered exactly that. I had no way to test whether it could deliver more, but I have no reason to doubt that it can.

That said, again, if you have a cable plan that’s Gig+ or faster — but no faster than 2.5Gbps — the ARRIS SURFboard S33 will get the job done, even well done.

One thing to note is that this little device ran a bit hot in my trial. It wasn’t hot enough to cause concerns — at least in my case — but sure hotter than other larger modems I’ve used.

ARRIS seems to have slightly overlooked the potential overheating issue in trying to make the S33 a compact (and cute) device.

As a rule, you should leave the modem (and Wi-Fi router) in an open space with good ventilation. If that’s the case, you have nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if you tend to tuck your stuff away in a tight closet, pick another modem instead.

Conclusion

For the price point, the ARRIS SURFboard S33 is an excellent cable modem for anyone who has a cable Internet place of 500Mbps download speed or faster.

Just make sure your provider supports it and that you also have a Wi-Fi 6 router plus a well-ventilated spot to place it.

If you have older equipment or a slower broadband speed, check out the Netgear CM600 instead.

See also  Best Wi-Fi 6 Routers of 2021: Pick One for Your Home Today!
☕ Appreciate the content? Buy Dong a Ko-fi!

10 thoughts on “ARRIS SURFboard S33 Modem Review: Solid and Flexible with Minor Caveats”

  1. I have recently purchased a Netgear 2050v. I also have Comcast gig -1200. This modem will be connected to my Asus rt-ac68u router. Am i not going to be able to receive my 1200 because of the WAN connection on my Asus rt-ac68u. Thanks, Tom Weeks

    Reply
  2. Hi Dong

    I curious about your thoughts on how to compare the S33 vs your review of the MB8600. I’m also in the Bay Area and am on Xfinity with 1200mbs down/ 40 up service. Trying to make an informed decision about next upgrade. Much appreciated.

    Reply
  3. I’ve been running the S33 for about 6 months and love it. It’s tied to the ASUS AXE11000 via the 2.5 port and I get excellent throughput. I haven’t had any overheating issues for what it’s worth.

    Reply
  4. I am really curious on your thoughts on the S33 next to the SB8200. I do like the idea I can run a dedicated line to a particular device(Apple 4K Gen2) and then run the secondary to my ASUS AX-88U for everything else. I just purchased the S33, but now I am contemplating on returning the S33 for the SB8200. I have Suddenlink 1Gig internet. Your thoughts??

    Reply
    • I don’t think that applies to your situation, Derrek. You can only use two ports on the 82000 if you use Link Aggregation (which doesn’t seem like your case) and on the S33, only when you have two static IP addresses. In short, either will make no difference in terms of ports, but the S33 will make sure you get 1Gbps in full (when you use its 2.5Gbps port.) So keep it.

      Reply

Leave a Comment