Now that draft-802.11n wireless routers are becoming more prevalent we’re also finally seeing the move to Gigabit Ethernet as well. Netgear’s RangeMax WRN854T was the first to deliver high speed network ports and now its D-Links turn with its new RangeBooster N 650. With most vendors touting wireless speeds of up to 300Mbps, Fast Ethernet ports would simply cause a complete bottleneck between wireless and LAN users. Furthermore, the vast majority of new PCs now come with Gigabit LAN ports as standard so it makes perfect sense to reap their benefits.
D-Link’s routers have been through more than a few design changes over the past six months and it now takes a leaf from Netgear’s book as the DIR-655 is yet another slab of clinical white plastic. At the rear you have the four Gigabit Ethernet ports and an RJ-45 WAN port, which will require an external cable or ADSL modem with an Ethernet port for Internet access.
D-Link has trouble deciding whether to standardize on a USB port. We first saw it in the DIR-635 where its use was completely undocumented, it disappeared on the DSL-2740B and now it’s back again. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can stick external storage in it as its sole purpose is for loading USB flash drives with wireless configuration files created using the Windows Connect Now configuration wizard.
We ran this on an XP SP2 laptop where it asks for an SSID, offers to automatically create a WEP or WPA encryption key and then copies a file to a USB flash drive. When prompted, you stick it in the router and wait for the USB LED to flash three times indicating that the file has been downloaded and the router reconfigured. This worked fine during testing but make sure the access point is enabled first otherwise it won’t take the new settings.
General installation is handled nicely by the CD-ROM based wizard which hunts down the router, checks your Internet connection and offers to set up the wireless access point. The web interface is easy enough to use and D-Link scores highly for the sheer range of features on offer. Up to 24 virtual server and port forwarding entries are supported, you can control access for all systems with a MAC address list and prioritise specific application traffic with QoS (quality of service) rules.
Wireless security measures include WEP and WPA/WPA2 encryption plus SSID masking and MAC address filtering and WISH (Wireless Intelligent Stream Handling) adds a new dimension to prioritising wireless traffic. You can leave it to look after traffic such as audio and video streams, set it to automatic where it favours traffic such as VoIP over high demand traffic or you can add you own rules for ranges of IP addresses.