D-link DIR 685 Storage Router – A, photo-frame and NAS
Color screen, 2.5-inch internal hard drive bay, Framechannel and BitTorrent support, 2 USB ports
The D-Linkis a aggregate of an 802.11n wireless , a digital photo anatomy and a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. It also has air-conditioned appearance like a built-in BitTorrent downloader and the ability to appearance a variety of content on the awning by affairs it from the internet.
Design and Build
Theis unlike any ordinary router and looks rather cool with its upright posture. The overall build quality is quite decent. The front face bears a 3.2-inch LCD display. It is meant to also double up as a photo frame other than displaying information. But here lies the problem – 3.2 inches is a little too small to be viewed clearly from a distance. Thus, you can only admire photos if the router is kept right next to you. Also, the glossy pane covering the display offers a slightly irritating glare.
There are touch-sensitive buttons at the side of the display. They were alright, but the UI is to accusation (more on that later). There’s also a WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Security) button. At the back, we accept the regular array of ports: 1 WAN, 4 LAN, 2 USB and one power. There’s aswell a side-door through which a 2.5-inch laptop harder drive can be amid into the device, which is the different aspect of the device. It supports up to 500GB HDDs. There’s an banish button at the added ancillary to get the drive out.
Features and User Interface
The DIR-685 is an 802.11n wireless router. Unfortunately, it only supports the 2.4 GHz spectrum. Some other routers in the market have support for 5 GHz frequencies. The basic advantage of 5 GHz is that there’s less interference from other devices than 2.4 GHz (on which many cordless phones operate). As mentioned above, it supports a 2.5-inch internal hard drive – which is great. We were able to easily read/write data to the drive over all the PCs connected to the router.
The only flaw we observed is that the device supports drives only in the EXT3 file format. Linux fans would know right away that EXT3 is a popular file format used by many OS distributions. So neither can you just pop in any FAT32 or NTFS drive in there and use it, nor can you remove that EXT3-formatted drive and use it directly with Windows. But assuming that one wouldn’t be swapping drives so often, it’s something users can live with.
Moving on, let’s take a look at the User Interface on the device. It is operated using the touch buttons at the side. The main issue with it is the UI’s laggy behavior – which makes it somewhat irritating to use. On the other hand, the coolest thing about the UI is FrameChannel. It is an online content delivery service right to your device. You have to register at their website and then select from an array of widgets. Thus, you can have Facebook/Twitter updates, Facebook photos, RSS feeds, Blog updates and a lot of other stuff streaming on to the DIR 685’s screen. This feature makes best use of the screen in our opinion; now only if the device had a bigger screen.
The Statistics menu will show current internet upload/download activity. The Photos tab will let you slideshow photographs, but only from the internal hard drive. It is silly to see that you can’t just connect a USB media device at the back and view photos from it. There are a few things missing from the UI. For example, it does not display the progress of your BitTorrent downloads – which would have been nice. It would have been nicer if it let you control downloads directly via the router.
The router’s interface (accessed via a web browser) is easy to use. It has the regular array of options and settings like a regular wireless router. The built-in BitTorrent manager lets you download files directly to the hard drive – without the need for the PC to be on. This is indeed a cool feature for those who like to suck the life out of their unlimited internet connection. But the interface is pretty basic. There is no option to schedule downloads or select individual files from a torrent. Also, it is surprising to see that there’s no regular manager for downloading files from HTTP websites.
Lastly, the two USB ports at the back let you connect a storage device, scanner or printer – which can then be used over the network. But you can’t simply access it directly via Windows Networking. You need to install a bundled utility called SharePort. We would’ve rather preferred a simple plug-and-play solution.
We tested the device in three zones. We used Wireless Monitor software to test the network strength of the device. Zone 1 was when the test laptop (a Dell Studio 14) was kept next to the router, where it gave 95% range. Zone 2 was when the laptop was kept in an adjacent room about 40 feet away. Here it gave 50%. The third zone was in another section of the office, roughly 75-80 feet away. Here the signal strength ranged between 25 to 30 percent. Thus we can say that the router provides decent signal range.
We transferred a 50MB test file between the router’s internal hard drive and the laptop in the first zone to determine speed. It gave us a fair download rate of 2.6 MB/s, but the upload speed struggled at just 0.27 MB/s. Thus copying data onto the built-in hard drive was fast. But copying data from the hard drive to our test laptop was very slow.
The D-Link DIR-685 works well as a wireless router and offers a fairly wide range. Some of the features like Framechannel and BitTorrent support are well appreciated. But priced at Rs. 15,000, the DIR-685 is priced almost three times more than regular Wi-Fi 802.11n routers. It may be a unique product – but for its asking price, it is not even close to perfect. The photo frame feature didn’t really appeal to us due to the small screen size. That, along with the DIR 685s other shortcomings and its high price tag forbid us from recommending it.