Love the features; hate the performance—and the price tag
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.
You won't find a prettier wireless router, but you'll encounter plenty that are much, much better.
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.
D-Link DIR-685 Xtreme N Storage Router
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.
Benchmarks (NAS Performance)
QNAP TS-109 Pro
PC to NAS small (min:sec)
PC to NAS large
NAS to PC small (min:sec)
NAS to PC large (min: sec)
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.