Monday, January 16, 2012

Best Cable Modem via Canadian Shopping Bots

For the longest time I've been renting a cable modem from my ISP for about $5-6/month. As DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems (capable of 400Mbps D/l and 108 Mbps U/l) have become widely available I've decided to upgrade my cable modem and also purchase it.

My ISP is charging me $32.95 + taxes for a total of $37.23 for 25-40 Mbps download (promised 12) and only 0.5 Mbps upload. This includes 10h dialup and it’s grandfathered from a regular offer of $43.95; however, the modem rental ($4.95 + tax) takes it all the way up to $42.80. This test was done while performing a torrent download:

my-download-upload-speed

 

Their highest speed is the Platinum tier, which has a 50 Mbps for d/l and 1 Mbps for u/l for $43.95+taxes = $49.66. To take advantage of such speeds, a DOCSIS 3.0 modem is necessary as my existing SB5100 can only go to speeds up to 30 Mbps. Common DOCSIS 3.0 speeds are listed in the table below.

D/s channels D/s DOCSIS D/s EuroDOCSIS U/s (4 ch)
4 171.52 (152) Mbit/s 222.48 (200) Mbit/s 122.88 (108) Mbit/s
8 343.04 (304) Mbit/s 444.96 (400) Mbit/s 122.88 (108) Mbit/s

There are quite a few cable modems that incorporate a router, but having purchased a great router already (review), I looked only at simple DOCSIS 3.0 modems: Motorola SB6121, RCA DCM475, Linksys WCM300 and Cisco DPC3xxx. My existing router is a Gigabit router and even though its uplink is not, that can be hacked from the DD-WRT firmware. If, however, you have an older router, you might want to consider getting a router-modem combo.

  SB6121 DCM475 WCM300 DPC3000 5341
Manufacturer Motorola RCA Linksys Cisco Zoom
MSRP (USD) $99 (85) $130 (70)   (70) $109 (76)
D/l channels 4 8 8 4 4H, 8J
Amazon stars 4.5 (263) 3 (3)   4 (8) 3.5 (61)
PDF (goo.gl/) eKwZH sA0RJ BYLtG rIK8B 8e1jt

Of these, only the DCM475, WCM300 and 5341J appear to be capable of 8-channel bonding, which would mean double download speed in the future when it will be used. On the other hand, they are quite difficult to come by and are less popular. However, the DCM475 is actually part of the Teksavvy starter kit on sale at CC (link below), yet for the moment it is back-ordered. Both DCM475 and SB6121 were plagued by firmware issues at one point (the former from the factory, the latter due to both factory and Rogers), but that seems to have been resolved in the meantime. Each has its fans, but Motorola seems to be more popular and more widely supported.

On the strength of its Amazon ratings I decided to go with Motorola. This is an excellent opportunity to do a quick comparison review of Canadian shopping bots. The earlier version, SB6120, is sold on eBay by Sabba for about $50-60 + $12 shipping.

bots

I searched each bot for “Motorola Surfboard” as “surfboard” alone as a search term might have returned sporting equipment. Also, searching for “SB6121” would’ve missed SB6120 which is almost identical. These are the results:

shoptoit.ca

- http://www.shoptoit.ca/search?search-term=motorola+surfboard

It found NewEgg’s offer and also a few others less relevant. It has many other categories of products and has been operating since 2005.

surfboard-shoptoit

shopbot.ca

- http://www.shopbot.ca/m/?m=motorola%20surfboard

This bot found more results and sorted quite well by relevance – something it’s been doing since 2004. The interface was also much cleaner:

surfboard-shoppot

pricegrabber.ca

- http://www.pricegrabber.ca/search_attrib.php/page_id=14/form_keyword=motorola+surfboard/rd=1/skd=1

It expanded to Canada after it started out in USA, but lately it fell behind its Canadian competitors. This venerable engine found the NewEgg promotion and not much else:

surfboard-pricegrabber

pricecanada.com

- http://pricecanada.com/search.php?key=motorola+surfboard&Search.x=0&Search.y=0&top_cat_id=0&search_type=ALL

An outgrowth of a forum, this bot had only one result: an SB5101 which is not what I was looking for and some ugly AdSense was displayed right at the top of the page (cut out from screenshot):

surfboard-pricecanada

DealGenius.ca

- http://www.dealgenius.ca/search?keywords=motorola+surfboard

Formerly Wishabi, it licenses its engine (albeit with less features) to CanadaPost.ca/shopper and Bing.com/shopping. It had excellent results, clean interface, overall winner:

surfboard-dealgenius[3]

PriceBat.ca

- http://www.pricebat.ca/search.php?q=motorola+surfboard

Focused on electronics, it returned 10 results containing mostly older versions of the modem. The only SB6121, the $89 deal from NewEgg, was listed as the very last and did not make in our screenshot.

surfboard-pricebat

AllShopping.ca

- http://www.allshopping.ca/search/motorola%20surfboard/

This spammy engine, much like a few others also in .ca (ShopRover and ShoppingSearch), returned only US results. Many of its results come actually from eBay (each eBay item counting as one full result).

surfboard-allshopping

In conclusion, the nicest and simplest bot seemed to be DealGenius, followed by ShopBot and ShopToIt. We ended up buying the SB6121 from NewEgg.

Sources / More info: wiki-docsis3, DCM475-vs-SB6121, ne-sb6121, sb6120, sb6121, cc-starter, rogers-d3, rfd-cc, rfd-acanac, rfd-sb6121$75

5 comments:

  1. The problem, according to Teksavvy, is that Rogers refuses to push through any firmware updates. So if you get a Motorola SB6121 from an online source, you may be getting a unit with an outdated firmware version and they (Rogers) will NOT update the firmware. This is not in Teksavvy's hands. At the time of this post, you must have firmware version 1.0.6.1. In short, you'll be stuck with a great modem that can't be used and will be faced with either letting it collect dust on your shelf OR lose money in having it shipped back. I've been going back and forth with Newegg.ca, Amazon.com & various eBay sellers but apparently none of them know the firmware version of the product they're putting out. Another option is to "hack" the firmware yourself, but of course you're taking a risk in damaging the unit. the question is, is it worth it? In my humble opinion, no it isn't. I'm not happy (at all) about settling with the DCM475 offered by Teksavvy. I'd much prefer to get the SB6121 but unless I can walk into a retail outlet and easily pick up (and if necessary return) the modem, I'm not willing to risk it. I even started a thread about this at : http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r26929415-Where-can-I-find-the-Motorola-SB6121-Firmware-1.0.6.1-. It's a lousy situation that the end user has no say in.

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  2. I have already purchased the modem and it works fine, see the next post up (click Newer Post below). The firmware is actually one click lower, as shown. The modem works, though not as well as I'd like it to.

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  3. Yousaf M. Shaikh2/25/2012 8:08 pm

    If you don't mind my asking, are you with Teksavvy or with Rogers? I know it's the same network, but I'm just curious. Also....WHEN did you purchase this? I'm just trying to understand WHY Teksavvy would say if the wrong firmware version is on the unit it won't work properly. Alternatively, the lacklustre performance you're experiencing could be due to the firmware issue. My understanding is that once the modem is hooked up IF Rogers was pushing the firmware update, it would be done immediately.

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  4. I'm not using either Rogers or Teksavvy, but I'm using cable internet from Rogers under a different reseller. You might be too focused on firmware - that's not something you can control and besides, new firmware might actually solve old bugs and introduce new ones.The $32 I pay get me about 40 Mbps (12 guaranteed) d/l and 0.5 Mbps /ul - this is what I get when I measure while no torrenting takes place. Here's what I get with torrenting. What makes you think I'm getting "lacklustre performance"? Does anybody offer a better deal?

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  5. Yousaf M. Shaikh2/26/2012 2:32 pm

    I assumed your modems performance was not as good ("lacklustre") because in an earlier post you said : "The modem works, though not as well as I'd like it to." Based on your latest post though, the numbers seem impressive.  :)
    You might be right about me being too focused on the firmware but that's only because Teksavvy told me (several times) that if the firmware isn't 1.0.6.1, then there might be problems with getting it to work. And with MY luck it won't work, then I'll lose money in having it shipped back. I've had my 5101 for approximately 8 years without problems. I'm very comfortable with Motorola products, but now I feel like I've got little control over what hardware I'll be running.

    ReplyDelete

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