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D-Link’s DIR-685 Wi-Fi router generated a lot of buzz at CES this past January. And when we took a gander at its spec sheet, we thought it a contender for Best of the Best in the router category; something that would finally displace the Linksys WRT600N, which is becoming hard to find. Alas, ’twas not to be.
The problem certainly isn’t with the DIR-685’s feature set: This router is absolutely loaded with goodies. The 3.2-inch color LCD can inform you of the router’s status and configuration; present digital photos from Flickr, Picasa, and Facebook; display RSS feeds, such as sports scores, weather reports, and stock quotes; and a lot more (this is one router your significant other won’t insist be hidden in a closet).
Next up, there’s a 2.5-inch internal SATA hard drive bay, which can turn the router into a NAS box (complemented by a built-in FTP server and BitTorrent software). There are two USB ports featuring D-Link’s SharePort technology, which allows you to plug in both an external hard drive and a printer and share these devices with any computer on the network. The router’s four-port gigabit switch automatically powers down any ports not in use to save a modest amount of energy.
The rest of the features are just as valuable, if not as unusual. You can set up a password-protected guest zone, for instance, with the option of limiting access to a set schedule. And there’s both a UPnP server and an iTunes server. Lastly, there’s a Quality of Service engine to help eliminate lag for VoIP and media-streaming applications.
But our enthusiasm over all those whiz-bang features is tempered by the DIR-685’s slug-slow wireless throughput and NAS performance. We’ve been using the aforementioned Linksys WRT600N for comparison for more than a year, but we always retest its performance within a few hours of benchmarking a new contender, just to make sure both products are tested under the same environmental conditions.
The DIR-685 lagged far behind the Linksys in our Kitchen test, where the client is 20 feet away from the router and separated by an insulated wall and a set of plywood cabinets: It delivered TCP/IP throughput of just 45.4Mb/s compared to the Linksys WRT600N’s 98.9Mb/s. The D-Link turned in a particularly poor performance in our Media Room test, where the client is located in a double-insulated room-within-a-room 35 feet from the router, managing TCP/IP throughput of just 4.54Mb/s.
The 2.5-inch drive bay limits your choice of hard drives to notebook models, and D-Link provided us with an 80GB Seagate Momentus 5400.5 hard drive for this evaluation. But we find the router’s lethargic NAS performance more troubling than this physical limitation: The DIR-685 took a full 8:53 (min:sec) to copy a single 3GB file from a PC. Compare that to the Qnap TS-209 Pro II—our Best of the Best NAS pick—which copied the same file in just 2:27.
We won’t complain about a high price tag if a product’s features and performance justify it, but the DIR-685’s $300 price tag—which doesn’t include a hard drive—just rubs us the wrong way.
LCD; internal hard-drive bay; built-in FTP and BitTorrent software.
Expensive; slow wireless and NAS throughput; hard-drive bay limited to 2.5-inch drives.
|D-Link DIR-685 ||QNAP TS-109 Pro|
|PC to NAS small (min:sec)||2:54||0:36 |
|PC to NAS large ||8:53 ||2:27 |
|NAS to PC small (min:sec) ||1:06 ||0:39 |
|NAS to PC large (min: sec) ||5:52 ||2:44 |
Best scores are bolded. We used the contents of Maximum PC's November 2007 CD for the small-file testing, and a single 2.79GB file for the large-file testing. All scores are an average of three transfer trials.
|D-Link DIR-685 || Linksys WRT310N |
|Kitchen, 20 feet (Mb/s) ||45.4||98.9 |
|Bedroom, 60 feet (Mb/s) ||16.4 ||63.6 |
|Media Room, 35 feet (Mb/s)||4.54||14.8 |
|Enclosed Patio, 38 feet (Mb/s)||29.5 ||70.0 |
|Outdoors A, 90 feet (Mb/s) ||No connection ||2.52 |
|Outdoors B, 85 feet (Mb/s) ||0.25 ||0.60 |
Best scores are bolded. Additional test criteria available at http://www.maximumpc.com/article/how_we_test_wireless_routers?OTC-U4P481274081