After testing dozens of modems here at Networks Hardware, there’s one thing we can tell you for sure: high-performance modems are tricky.
They usually come at a price that’s hard to justify for just a modem. Once you add the price of a separate router (which you’ll need), you start noticing cheaper options make more sense.
The S33 breaks that assumption. It offers unbelievable performance at an acceptable price, and it definitely caught our eye.
Let’s dive in.
The SurfBOARD S33 is a DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem. In order to use it, you’ll need to subscribe to a compatible cable ISP that supports DOCSIS 3.1.
We recommend you pair the S33 with an internet plan faster than 200 Mbps. Otherwise, you’ll be better off with a DOCSIS 3.0 modem.
But that is the bare minimum, which still doesn’t do justice to the S33 (and its price).
To really get this thing going, you’ll want to pair it with an internet plan of at least 500 Mbps.
Ideally, you’ll use the S33 with a Gigabit internet plan or faster. It’s here where it truly shines.
Keep in mind the S33 is just a modem, so you will also need a wireless router to get Wi-Fi going, or to connect more than a couple of devices.
Let’s take a quick look at its detailed specs; then, we’ll discuss more about its performance and features.
SurfBOARD S33 Specs
|Standards||DOCSIS 3.1 & DOCSIS 3.0 32×8|
|Top WAN speed||2500 Mbps|
|Ports||One 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port, one Gigabit Ethernet port & one coax port|
|Top internet plan supported.||2500 Mbps|
|Supported ISP’s||Armstrong, Atlantic Broadband, Comcast Xfinity, Charter Spectrum, Cox, GCI, Grande, Mediacom, Midco, Suddenlink, WOW, Sparklight, Optimum, RCN, Wave|
|Not supported ISP’s||N/A|
|Dimensions||5.14 x 1.8 x 4.74 inches|
You can find the S33’s complete spec sheet at Arris’ official website.
Performance – 4.8
The SurfBOARD S33 might not look like a Nighthawk modem, but it performs just like one.
Featuring two LAN ports, it has you covered from all fronts. To use them both, your ISP or Internet plan must support two static IPs.
One port is 2.5 Gbps, and it’s capable of handling internet connections and download speeds up to 2,500 Mbps. At the time of this writing, that covers even the fastest cable internet plans available.
Unfortunately, no link aggregation is present. So each Ethernet port works as a stand-alone link and they can’t be combined.
Now, remember, the fact that the S33 can handle these types of speeds does not mean it’s what you’ll get.
You need to pair this modem with an internet plan of at least 500 Mbps in order to make it shine. And if it’s Gigabit or faster, even better.
If your plan is slower than 500 Mbps, you can save some money by going with another modem while keeping the same performance.
Design – 3.6
There isn’t anything inherently wrong with the S33’s design.
As a matter of fact, we really liked its size. For such great performance, the S33 is uncommonly small.
It will fit almost anywhere and barely take any space. The vertical orientation definitely helps add to that.
But there are some things that could be better.
For starters, the status light.
Arris has stepped away from its past designs with multiple status lights. The S33 features a single, big status light that changes color according to its connection status.
And while it works as intended, it’s big and bright enough to light up an entire room at night. Plus, the different blinking speeds and colors will definitely be confusing until you learn what they all mean.
The modem itself is also bright white, which is not bad per se but might look off when paired with other high-performance devices like a Nighthawk router. Usually, devices in this league are sleek and black.
It really comes down to personal preference: does the small size make up for the old-school looks for you?
Compatibility – 4.8
As long as your ISP supports cable internet and DOCSIS 3.1, you should be good to go.
The Arris SurfBOARD S33 is compatible with most, if not all, major cable ISPs like the ones below. However, keep in mind the S33 might still be compatible with your ISP even if it’s not on the list.
Always double-check compatibility before purchasing any modem or router.
- Comcast Xfinity
- Astound Broadband (Grande)
- Astound Broadband (RCN)
- Astound Broadband (Wave)
- Breezeline (formerly Atlantic Broadband)
- Optimum (in some areas)
- Suddenlink (careful on plans slower than 200 Mbps)
For more info on approved modems for each ISP, go here.
Setup – 4.1
No complaints here. The S33’s setup is as straightforward as you’d expect:
- Connect the coaxial cable to the router.
- Connect the power cord.
- Turn on the modem.
- Connect the modem to a computer via ethernet, or connect it directly to your router (if you connect it to a router, make sure to connect a device to the router).
- Open a web browser. Browsing anywhere should redirect you to the activation page.
- Enter the modem’s MAC address (usually found at the bottom or back of the device) and any other requested info.
Or, you could call your ISP and have them register the MAC address over the phone if you prefer.
You can also download the “SurfBOARD Central” app from the App Store or Play Store and set up the modem with the help of the application.
But we found it clunky and a bit confusing, so we deducted some points here as Arris likes to recommend the app as the setup method. A quick call to your ISP might be your best bet.
For more info, check out our guide to setting up a cable modem.
Value – 4.1
There are two opposing points of view here. Hence our middle-of-the-road rating.
For those with Gigabit and faster internet plans, the S33 is great value. It’s compact, has multiple ports, it’s darn fast, and has a 2-year warranty.
Other modems like the Netgear CM2000 offer similar performance (and it only has 1 Ethernet port) for 1.5x times the price.
For those with slower internet plans, let’s say 500 Mbps or less, it’s just an unnecessarily expensive modem. You could get a much cheaper device that performs just as well at these speeds, like the Netgear CM1100.
Arris SurfBOARD S33 Reviews
Reviews for the S33 are generally very positive. It’s no mystery why. An acceptable price paired with great performance usually ends with a happy customer. Add to that the compact design, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
They’re not all perfect, though. Many users note that the S33 runs constantly hot, so be mindful of where you place it. Preferably, it should be somewhere with good ventilation.
Given its small footprint, especially compared to similar performing models from other brands, we would say it’s acceptable for it to run a bit hot.
The easy setup is also a common theme amongst reviewers, though none of those who mention it appears to have used the SurfBOARD Central app.
Here are some alternatives to the Arris Surfboard S33.