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D-Link DIR-857 HD Media Router 3000 Review

802.11n’s last gasp?

In case you’re wondering why we’re reviewing an 802.11n router when the first 802.11ac routers have already reached the market, we have several reasons. First and foremost, the latter didn’t make it to the Lab in time for our print deadline. Secondly, the IEEE isn’t expected to formally ratify the 802.11ac standard until early 2013. The 802.11ac routers on the market today are based on Draft 2.0 of the standard, so there’s a remote chance they could be rendered obsolete when the standard is finalized.

Yes, there are 802.11ac routers on the market, but they’re based on Draft 2.0 of the standard, and the Wi-Fi Alliance did not have a certification program in place at press time.

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D-Link DIR-827 Wi-Fi Router Review

Cool features don’t make up for mediocre performance

D-LINK’S DIR-827 WI-FI router boasts two features that our current favorite router, Netgear’s WNDR4500, lacks: a USB 3.0 port and an SD media card reader. Both products are dual-band models with radios operating on the 2.4- and 5GHz frequency bands, respectively. The DIR-827, however, supports only two simultaneous 150Mb/spatial streams on each band, where the WNDR4500 supports three.

D-Link positions the DIR-827 as a media router, optimized for streaming audio and video and delivering exceptional performance for online gaming. It’s the big brother to the single-band DIR-657 we reviewed in the December 2011 issue. Like that model, this one is fully DLNA compliant and features Ubicom’s excellent quality-of-service engine that assigns higher priority to data packets associated with those types of apps.

We expected the DIR-827 to be slower than Netgear’s best because it’s outfitted with only a 2x2 antenna array (two transmit and two receive), whereas the WNDR4500 boasts a 3x3 array. And while the WNDR4500 costs $30 more than the DIR-827, we didn’t expect D-Link’s router to be more than 50 percent slower in most of our test locations (although the DIR-827 did beat the WNDR4500 when the client was in close proximity).

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EnGenius ESR300H Review

Aside from loading alternative firmware (DD-WRT or Tomato, for instance), the easiest way to upgrade a router’s performance is to replace its antennas. That’s impossible with most of the routers we see these days, because manufacturers are using either nonremovable antennas or they’re putting the antennas inside the enclosure. So we were intrigued to see that EnGenius put upgradeable antennas on its extremely inexpensive ESR300H; this router boasts a street price of less than $45.

As you’ve probably guessed, you’ll give up more than a few features in exchange for that low price tag. This is a single-band router with only a 2.4GHz radio, so we wouldn’t recommend it for deployment in an environment crowded with other wireless routers operating on the same frequency band. The ESR300H also lacks a USB port, so you won’t be able to share a printer or storage device over the network. But the feature you’ll miss the most is a gigabit Ethernet switch—the switch on this router is limited to 100Mb/s. If you move a lot of large files around your network using wired connections, you’ll find this router to be agonizingly slow.

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D-Link DIR-645 Wi-Fi Router Review

 

When you don't need the very best

THE REMARK ABOVE is more than a left-handed compliment. D-Link’s DIR-645 isn’t nearly as feature-packed as our current favorite wireless router, Netgear’s WNDR-4500, but the DIR-645 is nearly as fast on the 2.4GHz frequency band, and it costs almost half as much as Netgear’s decidedly kick-ass router.

If you’ve divided your router requirements into needs and wants, and you’ve determined that a single-band router is all you need, D-Link’s DIR-645 is a good choice. If attaching USB storage to that router is also firmly ensconced in your needs column, on the other hand, you should stay clear of this device. While it's outfitted with one USB 2.0 port that is capable of hosting either storage or a multi-function printer, you must install D-Link’s SharePort utility on every computer on your network that needs to use it. And only one of those computers will be allowed to connect to an attached device at any one time.

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Belkin N750 DB Review

Belkin’s N750 DB offers a better-than-average feature set, but the router’s performance is a mixed bag. At most of our test stations, it delivered very good performance from its 5GHz radio but mediocre throughput from its 2.4GHz radio. Belkin arrives at the N750 model number by adding the 300Mb/s theoretical throughput on its 2.4GHz radio to the 450Mb/s theoretical throughput of its 5GHz radio. This is nonsense, of course, because you can’t bond the two together to achieve throughput that even approaches 750Mb/s.

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D-Link DIR-657 Review

D-Link markets this single-band (2.4GHz) router as particularly well suited for gaming and media streaming, and it is endowed with very good quality-of-service features, but QoS can’t magically render the 2.4GHz frequency band any less crowded. And given our relatively pristine test environment, the best word to describe the DIR-657’s range and TCP throughput is pathetic.

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Trendnet TEW-692GR Review

Trendnet was first‑to‑market with a dual-band USB adapter capable of supporting three 150Mb/s spatial streams on both the 2.4- and 5GHz frequency bands, and now it’s first‑to‑market with a router that does the same.

If you’re just looking for a fast wireless router, the TEW-692GR is a good choice and it’s priced right, too. But if you want a speedy wireless router that boasts all the latest bells and whistles, keep looking.