Apr 05

D-Link’s new flagship Wi-Fi router (DIR-895L) is a prime example of the arms race among networking vendors since the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard was introduced.

Manufacturers have been steadily launching new routers, with each iteration touting higher transfer speeds. But these speeds are aggregated across multiple wireless bands and do not reflect the actual bandwidth available for a single client device.

For instance, the D-Link DIR-895L is marketed as an AC5300 router (5,300Mbps), derived by adding the transfer speeds from its three wireless bands. For a single client such as a smartphone or tablet, the DIR-895L will not be any faster than a basic AC1300 router.

But the D-Link’s dual 5GHz and single 2.4GHz bands are useful for homes that are increasingly cluttered with Wi-Fi devices. Older clients that support slower Wi-Fi speeds can be put into their own wireless bands without affecting other faster devices. The router does this automatically via a feature dubbed Smart Connect.

Because of the competition among manufacturers, advanced features often make their way into routers before they are widely adopted. These features usually stay dormant till the manufacturer deems it appropriate to enable them via a firmware update.

Take the Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) feature, which is not yet supported by most Wi-Fi clients. This feature lets the router send data wirelessly to multiple clients at the same time. It is currently disabled on the D-Link DIR-895L.

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Angular in profile, and with eight detachable and adjustable antennas, the red DIR-895L cuts an eye-catching figure. It can be mounted on a wall, though I am not comfortable doing so because the router is relatively heavy.

The DIR-895L has four Gigabit LAN ports at the back, along with a USB 3.0 port and a USB 2.0 port.

Features that you’d expect from a modern router, such as parental controls, guest networks and the ability to share files over the Internet, are all supported.

The router’s web-based interface looks slick and is easy to navigate. By default, advanced features are hidden from users to reduce screen clutter.

However, the router can take varying amounts of time (from 25 seconds to 80 seconds) to save changes made to the settings. The good thing is that the interface always indicates the exact amount of time it expects to take. Still, I was expecting the router’s dual-core processor to run faster.

Performance could be better. The router recorded an average download speed of 501Mbps, which is significantly lower than the top speed of 695Mbps managed by one of its rivals, the Asus RT-AC5300 ($469).

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Jan 08

D-Link is “trying to recapture the high end of the market in terms of performance,” VP of marketing Dan Kelley told me in an embargoed interview last month. I haven’t been able to test D-Link’s new Ultra Performance series of 802.11ac Wi-Fi routers and adapters, but their radical industrial designs are sure to turn heads.

D-Link is showing three new routers at CES this week—the D-Link DIR-895L/R, the DIR-890L/R, and the DIR-885L/R—along with the spherical DWA-192/R USB 3.0 Wi-Fi adapter.

The company is also pushing the price envelope, asking enthusiasts to cough up $310 for the model in the middle of the new range. It should be available for purchase now. D-Link says the rest of the lineup will be available in the second quarter, but it has not released pricing guidance on the other new routers or the Wi-Fi adapter.

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D-Link’s new DIR-885L/R 802.11ac Wi-Fi router is in the center. The flagship DIR-895L/R is on the left and the DIR-890L is on the right. 

The flagship DIR-895L/R is based on Broadcom’s BCM47094 chipset and can operate two independent networks on the 5GHz frequency band (with theoretical TCP throughput to 802.11ac clients of 2165Mbps on each), and a third network on the 2.4GHz band with theoretical TCP throughput of 1000Mbps. It will be outfitted with eight high-power antennas, and it supports MU-MIMO (multiple users-multiple input/multiple output) technology so that it can stream high-definition video and audio to multiple clients.

The DIR-890L, equipped with six antennas, can also operate two independent 5GHz networks, but its TCP throughput maxes out at 1300Mbps to 802.11ac clients. It delivers throughput up to 600Mbps on its third network, which operates on the 2.4GHz band. The four-antenna DIR-885L/R, meanwhile, operates one 5GHz network with throughput up to 2165Mbps, and one 2.4GHz network with throughput up to 1000Mbps. D-Link arrives at its AC5300 label by summing those numbers. (The AC5600 and throughput numbers in the slide below have been revised downward.)

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D-Link’s DIR-895R/L boasts very high specifications, and will likely have a price tag to match when it ships in the second quarter. 

All three of the new routers will feature an all-new user interface that should make it easier to set up and manage your router and network using only a smartphone or tablet—good news for consumers who don’t have a Mac or PC. And all three will support beam forming, D-Link’s QoS engine, and SharePort technology for sharing a USB printer and a USB storage device on the network.

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D-Link’s DWA-192 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter is shaped like a ball. 

D-Link describes its D-Link DWA-192/R as an AC1900 Wi-Fi adapter, but arrives at that label by summing its maximum throughput of 1300Mbps on the 5GHz frequency band with its max throughput of 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. As an AC adapter, it has the same specification as the Asus USB-AC56 adapter (although that part supports maximum throughput of only 300Mbps on the 2.4GHz band).

I suspect the DWA-192/R’s spherical design will render the adapter more omnidirectional, but I’ll have to wait until I can test one. D-Link expects it to ship in the second quarter, but hasn’t announced pricing.

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