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D-Link DIR-868L 802.11ac Cloud Router - Performance and Verdict

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
D-Link DIR-868L Cloud Router

Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

D-Link DIR-868L - Performance

802.11ac performanceWe had high hopes for the D-Link DIR-868L and by-and-large they were met. Our tests showed some barnstorming wireless ac speeds when transferring files with the D-Link.

Testing at our usual distances of 2m and 10m line of sight plus 13 metres between two solid walls the D-Link DIR-868L Cloud Router recorded speeds of 34MBps (272Mbit), 31.2MBps (249.6Mbit) and 24.5MBps (196Mbit). This was when transferring data within the home network, letting us max-out the router's speed.

All are far in excess of any fibre optic broadband speeds and provide local network speeds fast enough to enable multiple streams of 4k video let alone 1080p. These speeds make the 868L our second fastest wireless ac router to date, just behind the retested Linksys EA6700, which clocked 36.7MBps (293.6Mbit), 35.2MBps (281.6Mbit) and 28.8MBps (230Mbit) in an identical test scenario.

5GHz 802.11n performanceAnd what the much hyped 802.11n SmartBeam performance? At 5GHz its speeds of 20.7MBps (165.6Mbit) at 2m and 19.4MBps (155.2Mbit) at 10m were actually topped by the EA6700, which managed 24.5MBps (196Mbit) and 22MBps (176Mbit) respectively, but it blew away the Linksys at arguably the most important distance of 13m with two solid walls recording 14.1MBps (112.8Mbit) verses the EA6700's fairly poor 7.7MBps (61.6Mbit).

In fact the 14MBps figure at 13m is the fastest 5GHz n speed we've recorded from any router, besting (surprise, surprise) D-Link's original wireless ac router, the 865L.

The good news continued on the wireless n 2.4GHz band as well hitting speeds of 11.5MBps (92Mbit), 10.1MBps (80.8Mbit) and 3.3MBps (26.4Mbit) at 2m, 10m and 13m. At 2m and 10m these again were records besting the EA6700 at 2m (9.1MBps) and 10m (9MBps) though interestingly not the EA6700's predecessor, the EA6500, at 13m (3.9MBps). All in all though this means the 868L is not just a great router for 802.11ac wireless, but one that will deliver a sizeable performance boost to your existing 802.11n equipment.

We also got reasonable speeds from the DIR-868L's USB 3.0 port. Dragging files from USB connected storage produced speeds of 4.9MBps (39.2Mbit) which remains some way off the 7.1MBps benchmark of the EA6700, but still the second fastest USB network speeds we have had. That said these figures do illustrate that USB network speeds (whether 2.0 or 3.0) are still a long way down on what can be achieved over a Gigabit Ethernet connection.

Incidentally D-Link restricts the 868L's USB 3.0 port to USB 2.0 by default saying it interferes with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. We didn't see any evidence of that with USB 3.0 enabled, but it is something we will keep an eye on in future USB 3.0-enabled routers.

Should I buy the D-Link DIR-868L?

Based on its performance alone, the answer to whether you should buy the D-Link DIR-868L is a resounding 'yes', and sweetening this further is that the 868L retails for £30 less than the EA6700 at £139.99, comapred to £169.99. D-Link products also traditionally fall faster in price online than Linksys models.

That said there are some caveats. The EA6700 does remain the faster wireless ac router and mydlink is significantly less developed that Smart WiFi. As such we find ourselves still slightly inclined to lean towards the Linksys EA6700. But there is only a hair's breadth in it. For all intents and purposes D-Link has produced a router every bit as appealing as Linksys's benchmark and consequently we highly recommend it.

Verdict

The D-Link DIR-868L takes all the best elements of previous D-Link routers and wraps them into a single package. As such it has superb wireless ac performance, class leading wireless n performance and tops it off with an appealing price tag. The company's mydlink cloud platform does still need to develop though and we'd like to see a second USB port and activity lights on the Ethernet ports, but otherwise this is truly superb product.

Overall Score

8

Scores In Detail

  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Usability 8
  • Value 9

David Horn

July 29, 2013, 12:15 pm

Yeah, the new designs *look* funky, but they also make it absolutely impossible to wall-mount the router or stuff it in a small wiring cabinet. And, to be honest, once there are 8 cables dangling out the back of it, all funkiness is gone anyway.

Pbryanw

July 29, 2013, 9:28 pm

Hi, thanks for adding the new transfer rate graphs for all speeds & distances. I'm just wondering if you could explain the halving in speed in the 10M 802.11.ac graph and the general unevenness of the graph (compared to 2M) - is this normal?

Also, thanks for all the router reviews on TR, and I hope they will continue.

mothergoose85

July 30, 2013, 9:11 am

This could be a great companion to the Sky router (which I have....sigh).

If it supports that special linux OS (can't remember the name of it for the life of me right now) it could also completely replace your sky router. Which would be nice if you have fibre and already have the Sky router and OpenReach modem.

Gordon Kelly

July 30, 2013, 1:22 pm

It's a fair point. I do say it stops wall mounting, but if it is placed in the centre of your home the practicality of the cylindrical design is probably worth it.

Gordon Kelly

July 30, 2013, 1:25 pm

Pleasure - we feel routers don't tend to get the attention they deserve given the vital role they play for all our tech gadgets so we're looking to methodically test all the major new routers and those from major ISPs.

We run multiple tests at every distance so we try to grab shots which are representative in terms of the average speeds we have been getting. Typically as distance increases performance will fluctuate more, but as ac transfers files so quickly even a dip for a few seconds can look huge on the graph. Performance is solid at all distances and we will be sure to comment on erratic graphs if it is a factor - as we did with the Sky Hub.

Gordon Kelly

July 30, 2013, 1:27 pm

There's no built in modem to most third party ac wireless routers (including this one) so you'd need the Hub but yes it should solve your range troubles (though obviously your actual broadband speed is a separate thing). Given WiFi is a standard all routers should work with any platform.

mothergoose85

July 30, 2013, 1:32 pm

That's a fair one Gordon - I forgot it doesn't have a modem.

I've found that the cabled speed for my broadband is absolutely fine - I've got 40mb so it doesn't max the 100mbs ethernet. The lack of gigabit ethernet really annoys me due backing up to my NAS.

Gordon Kelly

July 30, 2013, 4:56 pm

The lack of Gigabit was a real penny pinching decision. I'd personally be upgrading for that alone. There's a review of Asus ac router (RT-AC66U) going up in the next 24/48 hours and it is right up there with the D-Link and Linksys so wait for that then make a decision from those three (we have other reviews coming, but they are the stand out trio).

mothergoose85

July 31, 2013, 9:11 am

I see what you did there ;-)

I think I'd go for d-link as I trust them, my NAS is d-link too and I've got the myCloud thing setup reasonably well. It is a handsome looking thing as well, it'll sit on my desk (the Blue Lounge Studio Desk) so something small and cool like the d-link is a bonus.

mothergoose85

August 4, 2013, 8:58 am

Gordon Kelly - for the sake of completeness, when I mentioned earlier about putting a custom Linux OS on the router, I was thinking off DD-WRT. Couldn't remember the name for the life of me (obviously this is moot because this router doesn't actually have a modem).

Seeing as the Sky router is a bit pants, it would be cool if TR did a review of modem routers that could be a viable alternative to the Sky one - as long as you don't tell people how to work around Sky's "you must use our router" policy then I'd imagine you would be in the clear?

James Steer

August 4, 2013, 9:54 am

Could you please soak test the wireless routers you review, as I often find they perform well over short periods of time, but overheat and slow down or even crash after 4-5 hours of sustained streaming to multiple devices.

Vince

October 28, 2013, 8:23 am

I bought a DSL-2890AL which I believe is just an DIR-868L with a built-in modem. According DLink this model will be released soon in the Europe. Btw I'm in Australia

dgianchandani

August 20, 2014, 6:24 pm

I have had nothing but issues with the DIR-868L which I bought about 4 months ago as it has AC-Wireless speed. There is NOT a better wireless coverage, I used to have 3 year old DLINK DIR-825, same dropouts as with 868L as with DIR-825, no extended wireleass coverage . Now having issues with Firmware, where 1.07 revision was giving out multiple IP address to the same "wireless DHCP" client, and then all of sudden as I've configured to give only 50 DHCP IP address on the router (for security reasons), the IP address are given out to the same devise 10+ times as thus no Valid client/device can attach, here is an example
(unknown)192.168.1.9000:00:00:00:00:0036 Minutes
So upgraded to 1.08 as per the release notes states

=================================================
DIR-868L Revision A Release Notes
=================================================
Firmware 1.08B07
Date: 07/30/2014
Release Notes:
-Fix CE adaptively issue with updating Broadcom Patch
-Fix WAN DHCP Renewal bug
--

Still not fixed, called up DLINK support and got escalated to Level 3- still no resolution, DLINK support actually suggested downgrade to 1.07, clearly a Language Barrier as the calls get routed to Manila or Philippines, they state in Southern California, asked about the weather its nice did not mention it actually rained the much needed rain ..

Please consider another product, and not of DLINK, even when on Support or when you are trying to set it up it will time out after like 60 seconds and there is no way to change the time out - during setup I was typing in "mac" reservations and it would time out - very OLD configuration interface with little updates - the MAC reservations would be great to get around this issue, but the table is only able to hold like 30 entries - that has not been updated in the last 5 years, same table as in DIR-825 or even the older DIR-655
Buy a different Vendors product as with this you will have issues and no one on DLINK side understands Networking and or DHCP - and Firmware 1.08 was to fix this issue .. clearly very complicated for DLINK (again firmware 1.07 has the same issue, don't know if downgrading to 1.06 will help or introduce more issues ... )

(unknown) 192.168.1.90 00:00:00:00:00:00 16 Minutes
(unknown) 192.168.1.96 00:00:00:00:00:00 16 Minutes
(unknown) 192.168.1.111 00:00:00:00:00:00 17 Minutes
(unknown) 192.168.1.113 00:00:00:00:00:00 19 Minutes
(unknown) 192.168.1.112 00:00:00:00:00:00 17 Minutes
(unknown) 192.168.1.114 00:00:00:00:00:00 19 Minutes
(unknown) 192.168.1.119 00:00:00:00:00:00 55 Minutes
(unknown) 192.168.1.109 00:00:00:00:00:00 17 Minutes
(unknown) 192.168.1.108 00:00:00:00:00:00 17 Minutes
(unknown) 192.168.1.106 00:00:00:00:00:00 16 Minutes
(unknown) 192.168.1.105 00:00:00:00:00:00 16 Minutes
(unknown) 192.168.1.74 00:00:00:00:00:00 16 Minutes

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