Fast transmission rates; strong radio signal
You no longer have to wait for the Draft N specification to become final—D-Link’s DIR-655 Xtreme N Gigabit Router delivers solid performance and some neat features. It costs a bit more than most wireless routers out there, however.
Good wireless throughput and above-average broadcast range are just two reasons why D-Link’s DIR-655 Xtreme N Gigabit Router should be at the top of your networking wish list. You also get four high-speed Gigabit Ethernet ports and an impressive Quality of Service (QoS) configuration tool to help you prioritize bandwidth usage for specific applications. At $179.99, the DIR-655 costs more than other Draft N routers, but it’s worth it.
Taking a page from the Apple AirPort Extreme’s design book, D-Link has housed the DIR-655 in a shiny white 4.6×7.6×1.2-inch casing with a band of black trim around its edge. A series of blue LED port-activity indicators run along the front of the router. Three removable antennae are mounted on the rear of the unit, along with the Gigabit Ethernet ports, an Internet port, and a USB port for configuring your wireless settings via Windows Connect Now and a USB key. The Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1,000Mbps) ports are a nice touch, considering that most wireless/wired router combos offer only Fast Ethernet (10/100Mbps). You’ll also find a reset button that returns the unit to its factory settings.
The DIR-655′s Web-based configuration utility lets you tweak basic and advanced network settings, while providing hints and tips for using each function. Here, you can choose from a selection of Internet connection protocols, including Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP), Point-to-Point Over Ethernet (PPoE), and Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP). You can also enable Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), and WPA2 security features; set rules for applications that require multiple connections; set up Media Access Control (MAC) address and Web-site filters; and configure network-address-translation (NAT) and stateful-packet-inspection (SPI) firewall settings. Some of the more advanced settings—such as port forwarding, inbound filtering, and virtual-server redirection—require a working knowledge of their capabilities, so read the detailed manual if you’re unfamiliar with them.
When enabled, the QoS engine, powered by Ubicom’s StreamEngine technology, will help boost gaming performance by prioritizing game-specific network traffic. You can let the QoS engine handle the load automatically, or you can manually set priority levels in the QoS engine rules screen. Additionally, the Wireless Intelligent Stream Handling (WISH) feature can prioritize application-specific streams over your wireless network, such as those used by Windows Media Center systems or game consoles.
Installing the router was fairly easy. D-Link recommends running the setup-wizard CD before you connect the hardware. In fact, the company went to the trouble of placing a “Run CD First” sticker over the device’s rear ports to ensure compliance. If you’re relatively knowledgeable about setting up routers, however, you can skip the wizards and use the Web-based interface to set up the device.
The installation CD also contains a comprehensive user manual, as well as a 30-day trial version of Pure Networks’ Network Magic utility, which allows you to monitor network activity and set up printer and file sharing from any PC on the network. It also maps all connected devices in your network; you can change security settings such as encryption and Service Set Identifier (SSID) broadcasting. Especially handy is the Network Lock feature, which provides a quick and easy way of using MAC filtering to prevent intruders from accessing your network.
The installation wizard automatically checks the network adapter and your Internet connection, then walks you through a five-step installation routine. Step one requires you to disconnect the power from your cable/DSL modem, while steps two and three show you how to connect your PC and cable modem to the color-coded ports on the router. (Animated diagrams make the process easy to follow.) Step four instructs you to plug in the modem’s power supply and wait 30 seconds before proceeding to step five, in which you connect the router’s power supply. The wizard then runs several connectivity checks, prompts you for a Service Set Identifier (SSID), and configures the router. Once the Internet connection is verified, the installation is complete. You can now opt to install the Network Magic utility or exit the installation program. The entire process took less than 10 minutes.
The router automatically identified and connected to our Lenovo ThinkPad X60 laptop, which has a built-in 802.11a/b/g/n wireless PCI adapter. It also assigned IP addresses for our HP 7300 printer and a desktop PC, both of which were plugged into wired ports. The laptop connected in 802.11n mode by default and maintained a 300Mbps connection while it was in the same room as the router. In comparison, the recently reviewed Buffalo Wireless-N Nfiniti Dual Band Router only provided half the throughput (144.5Mbps) at the same location. At a distance of 25 feet from the router, our throughput wavered between 243Mbps and 270Mbps; at 50 feet, it held steady at 108Mbps with 98 percent signal strength to the router’s access point. At 100 feet, our throughput measured between 2Mbps and 54Mbps, but the signal strength never dipped below the 75 percent mark, a vast improvement over the Buffalo device, which completely lost its signal at 100 feet.
Transfer speeds were good. It took 39 seconds to copy a 100MB folder from a distance of 50 feet, and 2 minutes and 41 seconds to copy a 500MB folder from the same point. Video streaming was even better—we streamed Eric Clapton’s “Sessions for Robert J” video from a distance of 50 feet, and the video was smooth and clean, while the audio remained synced to the video. Once we hit the 100-foot mark, however, the stream failed consistently, though we remained connected to the router. (Each time it failed, the throughput had dropped to around 2Mbps.)
In addition to the installation CD, the DIR-655 comes with a vertical mounting stand and an Ethernet cable. D-Link covers the router with a one-year warranty, which includes around-the-clock toll-free support by phone.