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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.
D-Link’s cylindrically shaped DIR-645 router houses a six-element sectorized beam-forming antenna.
What’s even worse is that the router doesn’t provide enough voltage at its USB port to spin up even modern mechanical hard drives. Western Digital’s 500GB, USB 3.0 Passport drive would spin up momentarily, but then drop off the network almost as quickly. On the third hand, if NAS is that important, you’ll be happier with the genuine article than with any router-hosted solution we’ve tried. The same goes for networkable multifunction printers, which we did not test. In any event, we didn’t deduct more than half a point from our verdict for SharePort’s storage device shortcomings.
The DIR-645’s unusual cylindrical design accommodates the router’s sectorized beam-forming antennas. A sectorized antenna radiates its signal in a horizontal pattern in some portion of the circumference of a circle, while a beam-forming antenna typically delivers higher gain to cover a wider area than an omnidirectional antenna. D-Link claims the DIR-645’s six-element antenna will deliver consistently good performance in most any room in a home and eliminate dead spots, too.
Our testing backs up those claims. Although the DIR-645 is capable of producing only two 150MB/s spatial streams simultaneously, it performed almost as well as our zero-point router—Netgear’s WNDR-4500—which produces three 150Mb/s spatial streams. In fact, the D-Link outperformed the Netgear at two locations, including our second outdoor spot, where the client is about 70 feet from the router.
The DIR-645’s price tag reflects its single-band nature, but D-Link doesn’t shortchange you on other features. You can set up a guest zone and choose between allowing guests on to your host network or limiting them to Internet access. And D-Link provides both iTunes and DLNA servers in addition to the usual UPnP server. Quality-of-service tweakers will need to create their own rules, however, and this router has the same, tired web-based user interface that D-Link has relied on for years.
If your budget is tight and your airspace is quiet enough for a 2.4GHz router to thrive, D-Link’s DIR-645 delivers a strong price/performance ratio.
Fast performance, especially at long distance; DLNA and iTunes servers.
Operates on only 2.4GHz frequency band; one underpowered USB port; unintuitive web-based UI.
|Netgear WNDR4500 |
|Bedroom 1, 10 feet (Mb/s)||130.0||149.0|
|Kitchen, 20 feet (Mb/s) ||157.0||131.0|
|Patio, 38 feet (Mb/s) ||94.2||107.0|
|Home Theater, 35 feet (Mb/s) ||68.0||71.2|
|Outdoors, 85 feet (Mb/s)||32.7||29.8|
|TCP Throughput (Mb/s)||942.0||930.0|
|PC to NAS, small (sec) ||WNR||125.3|
|PC to NAS, large (sec) ||WNR||373.0|
|NAS to PC, small (sec) ||WNR||418.7|
|NAS to PC, large (sec)||WNR||104.0|
Best scores are bolded. TCP throughput measured using JPerf. NAS tests consisted of copying a single 2.79GB file and a folder containing 659MB worth of files and folders to and from a USB 3.0 drive attached to the router. N/C indicates no connection at that location. Additional benchmarking methodology at bit.ly/r5USfH.