The D-Link DCM-301 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem was released by the Taiwanese manufacturer as a reaction to the more popular Arris Motorola cable modems.
D-Link is a very successful manufacturer of networking products and in 2008 it became the worldwide market leader for WiFi product shipments. This says a lot about what D-Link can deliver and the marketing strategies it has undergone to stay relevant in a fierce competition (like the case of D-LINK DIR-880L, a late router, but at a cheaper price than the other, similar devices).
Now, there is clearly a problem with how cable modems are perceived, from one side we have the Internet Service Providers, which usually help you to ‘skip the headache’ of buying additional products, by giving you a modem along with the Internet data plan (and throw in, maintenance and support), but sometimes at a really high monthly fee (5 to 10 dollars) and the other side, the people who decide that they can buy their own modems and save some money along the way.
The last choice does look better than the first, but there could be some inconveniences that you may have to face, like the possibility that and your cable modem will be blamed if something goes wrong with the connection and also, the fact that ISPs are less willing to help you (after all, they lose the monthly fee).
If you have a quick look over the lists of compatible cable modems from different ISPs around the USA, you will notice that, in general, Arris Motorola and Netgear modems are the more preferred variants. So, D-Link had to do a lot more than create good hardware, it also had to hope that the device will be approved by the most popular Internet providers. And it did, up to a certain point.
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The D-Link DCM-301 comes in a nice package and inside the box, you can find the D-Link modem unit, an Ethernet cable (Standard Cat 5), a Quick Install Guide, a Power Adapter and a small Stand.
The DCM-301 isn’t flashy or colourful, adopting more of a conservative design. This isn’t a bad thing, as the modem looks nice, featuring a rectangular black case, with a matte finish, soft, rounded corners and lots of vent holes on top and some vent grills on the sides (which curve around the modem). Looking at the front of the DCM-301, it reminded me of the old DVR players. Underneath the case there are four feet that help a lot with stability (and this is a big problems with small networking devices).
In terms of position, D-Link gives you two choices, either the standard horizontal stance or the vertical position, which can be accomplished by installing the stand. The horizontal position gives the modem a bit more justice in terms of appearance, especially because of the two straight lines that run from the top to the bottom. No matter the way you choose to put the DCM-301, make sure you don’t obstruct the airflow (as overheating will have a heavy impact on the life of the device).
D-Link DCM-301 can’t really be considered a big modem and it’s quite light, measuring 5.9×4.5×1.3 inches and weighing only 8 ounces. Taking this into account and the fact that it can be positioned either vertically or horizontally, space won’t really be a problem. Unfortunately, it cannot be wall mounted (which is a shame as many small businesses would have taken advantage of this feature – kudos for Arris SB6183).
On the front of the DCM-301 is printed the D-Link logo and six status LED lights curve along from the top of the modem. These LEDs are responsible for Power, DS (solid green means a successful non-bonded connection), W/DS (solid green means a bonded connection), US, Online and LAN. On the back of the modem you can find an Ethernet port, a recessed Reset button (press and hold for 10 seconds using a paper clip to restore the modem to the default settings), a Coaxial Connector, a Power port and a Power button.
Turn the modem around and there’s a label on which it’s printed the CM MAC address (you’ll need it later to communicate it to you ISP in order to activate the DCM-301).
Inside the case, the DCM-301 is equipped with 32 MiB of RAM (Winbond W9725G6JB-3 clocked 333.0 MHz). Unfortunately, so far, I wasn’t able to find out what type of chipset this modem has (stay tuned for a future update with all the info).
D-Link DCM-301 is part of the DOCSIS 3.0 family (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification), meaning the modem allows high speed data transfer over a cable TV. Additionally, the DCM-301 is a 8×4 modem, so it can handle 8 downstream bonded channels and 4 upstream bonded channels. Sure, there are other 16×4 modems on the market, which definitely will deliver a better performance, but, depending on your data plan, the D-Link DCM-301 should suffice (and it is a bit cheaper).
Compatibility, Performance and Setup
The D-Link DCM-301 is compatible with almost all the popular Internet Service Providers from the US, like Time Warner, Comcast, Cox, Bright House Networks, SuddenLink Communications and RCN. At the moment I created this article, the DCM-301 was not compatible with Charter. In any case, it is a general rule that before you purchase a new modem, make sure that it is compatible with the ISP of your choice. You can do this by checking out the list of compatible modems from the Internet Provider’s website or by calling them and asking directly.
D-Link DCM-301 will also work with all the popular Operating Systems from the market, like Microsoft Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7/8/10, Linux, Unix and Mac. Also, it is compatible with any other OS that can run a TCP/IP network.
As said before, the DCM-301 is a 8×4 modem, meaning it is exactly what you’ll need with what most ISP can deliver in terms of Internet speed. Sure, a 16×4 modem would be a bit better and clearly more future-proof, but a 8×4 is exactly what you would need right now and it will be the norm for a while, as ISPs aren’t really in a hurry to upgrade their technology. Comcast, Time Warner and some others have better Internet plans and support 16×4 modems (and more), but the prices are exorbitant and you will get the high performance only in certain areas.
The maximum theoretical downstream speed is 343 Mbps and the upstream speed is 131 Mbps. Since these are only theoretical maximum speeds, you won’t ever reach them, as it doesn’t take account the possible congestion or any other external factors. Furthermore, I have tested the modem to see how does it fare in real life conditions, using a 300 Mbps data plan (65 Mbps for upload). The DCM-301 managed to peak at 245 Mbps and had an average download speed of 210 Mbps. Afterwards, I measured an upload speed of 43 Mbps.
The D-Link DCM-301 doesn’t have any built-in WiFi capabilities, so, in order to spread the Internet all around your house wirelessly, you’ll need to purchase a separate WiFi router. Now, it is important to choose the right one, as more often than not, the router can be the bottleneck of your network. Since the DCM-301 is a relatively high performing modem, I would suggest a good router, like Asus RT-AC68U, TP-Link C9 or Netgear R7000.
Note: One interesting fact to mention is that the DCM-301 has a spectacular boot time, meaning it will take about 30 seconds from no power to fully functional.
Setting up the DCM-301 is done as with any other modem in its class, you have to connect the coaxial cable from your wall (the one from your ISP) to the modem’s CATV port, plug the power adapter into a wall outlet and insert one end of the Ethernet cable into the modem’s Ethernet port and the other to the WAN port from your router. Lastly, you will have to communicate to your ISP the MAC address (printed on a label located on the bottom of the modem).
Accessing the web-based interface can be done by typing 192.168.100.1 in a browser of your choice and afterwards, inserting the username (admin) and password (password) when prompted on the login page.
Overall, the DCM-301 is a well built modem, it features a good performance and it is on par with most modems on the market. The only problem is that you have to make sure that the DCM-301 is on the ISP’s list of compatible modems.
In the end, if you decide to purchase a new modem, chances are that it will perform better than the rented one (which have a bad habit of being underwhelming) and the D-Link DCM-301 is one of the best choices on the market from both the performance point of view and regarding the price.
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