In his first look the other day at the new D-Link Cobra AC-5300 modem router, our Ray Shaw was dazzled. “Deadly to slow internet” he said. Now we’ve managed to spend a bit more time with it. What does this $749.95 device give us?
In the world of consumer electronics, you know something’s a serious bit of kit when the power cord is thick and it uses a heavy 3 pin IEC C13 power plug into its power brick, instead of the regular little two pin C7.
That’s the second thing I noticed when unpacking the D-Link Cobra DSL-5300 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi Modem Router. The first thing? The cardboard box. It was heavy, dense, with a lift-off lid, filled with thick foam with individual cut outs for each item, not least the eight antennae. It reminded me of the way high-end audiophile equipment is often packed.
But of course, this is not that. This is a device which performs the vital service of connecting the world to all the individual network devices in one’s home, and all those devices to the world.
And we have so very many of them. A quick inventory of my home (and home office) reveals that at least fifteen devices are connected via WiFi, and a further dozen by means of wired Ethernet. If you start using too many of them at once, especially the WiFi devices, communications start to crawl.
The Cobra is well built and large. On my shelf it consumed a space 400mm wide and 270mm deep, and that’s not counting the additional depth required for the cables. Indeed, despite the bold styling, I ended up installing it backwards, with the ports facing the room and the rather more attractive nose pushed into the wall, otherwise it wouldn’t fit on my shelf.
It’s fairly bristling with antennae. The eight of them reach 125mm above the bench.
The screw connections for the aerials are gold plated. There’s a USB 3.0 port on the back, plus a USB 2.0 port. A phone line port for DSL and an Ethernet port for connecting to an Internet gateway for connection to the rest of the world, while four gigabit Ethernet ports cater for the wired network.
The accessories provided with the Cobra are the all-important DSL line filter, an Ethernet cable and a phone line cable.
It does all the usual stuff you’d expect from a modern high end modem: NBN as well as ADSL, DLNA support, WiFi Guest access, “SharePort web access”, VPN and so on. The special stuff it has is largely related to screaming, raw speed. The 5300 in the model name comes from toting up all the maximums in megabits per second of which the unit is capable. There is not dual band but tri-band WiFi, with one 2.4GHz and two 5GHz bands available. Wave 2 MU-MIMO – Multi User, Multiple Input, Multiple Output – allows for dataflows with multiple users and devices simultaneously. Advanced AC SmartBeam guides the wireless connections for maximum efficiency. SmartConnect switches connections to the best available band.
And while not related directly to data throughput, also speeding things up is the 1.8GHz quad core processor, which manages affairs swiftly.
And finally, a bit of quality assurance. D-Link covers the Cobra DSL-5300 with a three year warranty.
The problem with modem routers for most home users is, well, they are scary. Not the looks, although I’m not sure I’d want to see an animated D-Link Cobra in a nightmare. No, it’s the fear that you’ll mess something up. And if you accidently make an error in a setting, and consequently can’t get onto the Internet, your access to help is severely constrained.