A blazing fast tri-band Wi-Fi router, but lacks features considering the price tag.
The D-Link Cobra DSL-5300 is not an aesthetically pleasing Wi-Fi router. The weird triangle shape, the colour, the eight (yes, eight!) external antennas fit into absolutely nobody’s home decor, unless they live in a dungeon where it can co-ordinate with the other arachnids. With that out of the way, we can take a proper look at the technical features of this high-spec unit.
Inside the DSL-5300 is an NBN FTTN VDSL modem, a four-port Gigabit Ethernet switch and three discrete Wi-Fi radios. One for 2.4GHz and two for 5GHz. Why two 5GHz radios? Consider this scenario: Six devices in your house, all on 5GHz. Instead of all six using the one radio, the devices are automatically spread across both radios, three on each. This reduces the load on a single radio and if you have heaps of devices contending for Wi-Fi time simultaneously, there can be a noticeable improvement.
As you’d expect from a flagship Wi-Fi router, the DSL-5300 supports the cutting edge of wireless technologies. 802.11ac? Of course. Wave 2 MU-MIMO so your devices can send and receive data from the router simultaneously? Got it. Beamforming, project a stronger signal direct to your device, rather than a circular pattern? Yep. SmartConnect, for automatically connecting your device to the most appropriate wireless band? For sure!
All those radios give the DSL-5300 a combined “marketing speed” speed of 5300 Mbps. Of course, you will never see that speed in the real world. When copying files off a Synology NAS hooked up via Gigabit Ethernet to a laptop with an 802.11ac 3x3 Wi-Fi card, approximately 10 meters away in a separate room, the transfer kicked along at a steady 100MB/sec – saturating the Synology’s Gigabit connection. With an 802.11ac 4x4 Wi-Fi card, speeds would presumably be even better.
Paired with those radios is a quad core, 1.8GHz CPU - one of the fastest CPUs available in a Wi-Fi router. Unfortunately, all that CPU grunt is wasted, as the DSL-5300 has a relatively poor set of features compared to other high-end Wi-Fi routers. The Netgear D8500 is the only other tri-band Wi-Fi router with a built-in VDSL modem on the market right now, making it the main competition for the DSL-5300.
Regrettably for the DSL-5300, the Netgear D8500 has many more features, like a smartphone app, Netgear Cloud file access, support for creating the faster and more secure OpenVPN-type VPN servers, advanced parental controls via Netgear’s partnership with OpenDNS, superior QoS with automatic configuration and if your hardware supports it, Ethernet port aggregation for increased LAN bandwidth. To top it all off, it has seven Gigabit Ethernet ports compared to the DSL-5300’s four. Both units, however, are lame compared to Asus and its superior router firmware, but Asus is yet to release a tri-band router with a built-in VDSL modem. Oh well.
That said, the features the DSL-5300 does have, work fine and are easy to configure in D-Link’s clean and simple interface. There’s all the Wi-Fi configuration settings you could ever want, a guest network, a basic QoS engine, a simple firewall, URL filtering, dynamic DNS, a rudimentary PPTP VPN server and file sharing (FTP, Samba & DLNA) via the USB 3.0 port.
For most people, a tri-band Wi-Fi router is an unnecessary expense. At a street price of $649, compared to $459 for D-Link’s DSL-4320L, you’d need to have a damn good reason to spend that extra $190 for that third radio, as that’s all you really get extra on the DSL-5300. Sure, there’s a faster CPU, but with the lack of features, particularly when compared to the Netgear D8500 for $619, what’s the point?
There’s nothing bad, or wrong with the DSL-5300. In-fact, it’s blazing fast! But it simply isn’t that much better than the alternatives to justify the expense. Unless you have dozens of Wi-Fi devices, get a solid dual-band Wi-Fi router instead and enjoy the spare cash in your pocket.