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Paul Lilly Jul 30, 2014

D-Link DGL-5500 Review

At A Glance

Low ping

Lowers latency when gaming; fast speeds at close range.

Lagging out

No printer sharing; cant configure Guest networks; lacks beamforming.

A router built specifically for gamers

When it comes to PC parts and accessories, all roads eventually lead to gamers. Intel and AMD both sell unlocked processors so gamers can more easily overclock their rigs for a few extra frames per second; pro gamer Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel has endorsed everything from motherboards to power supplies; there’s gaming RAM; and of course, a whole assortment of accessories designed to give you an edge when smoking your friends on the virtual battlefield. Up until now, one of the few items missing from the list was an 802.11ac wireless router.

The new Mac Pro stole its design from this router—true story.

D-Link gets credit for tying up that loose end with the DGL-5500, a dual-band AC1300 wireless router built specifically for gamers. What makes the DGL-5500 different from all the other 802.11ac models, including D-Link’s own DIR-868L (reviewed in our February issue), is the inclusion of Qualcomm’s StreamBoost technology.

Whereas the majority of modern routers rely on simple quality of service (QoS) rules to prioritize network packets, StreamBoost examines what applications are running and how much actual bandwidth each one needs. It also manages latency because a laggy gamer is a dead gamer. The question is, does it work as advertised?

For the most part, StreamBoost lives up to the hype. We consistently saw lower pings in online games when connected to the DGL-5500 versus our zero-point router, the Asus RT-AC66U. External factors beyond our control also affect ping, so it’s hard to offer an apples-to-apples comparison, but to give one example, our ping averaged around 42ms in Battlefield 4 when using Asus’s router. When switching to D-Link’s model and turning on StreamBoost, our pings hovered around 19ms. After firing up Netflix on a second PC and initiating file downloads on two other systems, the ping stayed around 22–24ms—that’s impressive.

In our evaluation of D-Link’s DIR-868L, we said the fugly web-based interface could use a major overhaul, and that’s what we got with the DGL-5500. It’s much better looking than before and far less complicated to navigate, though it’s also painfully slow when switching between menus. The UI is also heavily biased toward StreamBoost—if you disable the feature, you lose access to the My Network map, which provides a graphical view of all active devices and how much bandwidth each one is consuming.

The DGL-5500 outpaced our zero point router in 802.11n mode on the 2.4GHz band in our three indoor tests. It also did better at picking out uncluttered channels on its own—we use inSSIDer ($20, www.inssider.com) to identify the best channel(s) for testing. However, the RT-AC66U boasts better range and faster transfers in 802.11ac mode on the 5GHz band. It’s worth pointing out the DGL-5500 lacks beamforming, which concentrates the wireless signal at connected devices for longer range and better speeds.

There are other shortcomings, as well—you can’t configure Guest networks, the single USB 2.0 port doesn’t support printer sharing, and the combined speed of both channels is capped at AC1300 rather than AC1750 as it is with D-Link’s DIR-868L. While StreamBoost is a step forward, the router is a step backward in other areas. Note to D-Link: Gamers care about this stuff, too.

$140 [street], www.d-link.com

Benchmarks
 D-Link
DGL-5500 802.11n (2.4GHz)
Asus RT-AC66U 802.11n (2.4GHz)
D-Link DGL-5500 802.11ac (5GHz)Asus RT-AC66U 802.11ac (5GHz)
Bedroom – 10ft (Mb/s) 106
94.3
295303
Dining Room – 15ft, 2 walls (Mb/s) 10494
252297
Entryway – 20ft, 3 walls (Mb/s)
10193
233307
Driveway – 35ft (Mb/s)59.186.6
51.6182
Backyard – 90ft (Mb/s)31.840.2
19.321.2

Best scores are bolded. For information on how we test wireless routers, check out http://bit.ly/MPC_Routers2014.

THE VERDICT

D-Link DGL-5500

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