Review Price £89.99
Software & Verdict
As a result we found the much hyped HD Fuel technology to be fighting a losing battle. Streaming 1080p HD content is fine within five metres, but at 10 metres you'll be restricted to 720p and without a completely clear path obstructions will quickly limit you to standard definition. All of which means the DIR-657 isn't solving its primary task: extending the range of reliable media streaming. This isn't to say HD Fuel doesn't work, simply that the DIR-657 doesn't provide enough throughput at range to give it a chance.
Furthermore the omission of dual band capability is a mistake. Firstly because 2.4GHz and 5GHz dual band routers typically achieve greater throughput – particularly at range - and secondly because they can simultaneously broadcast two wireless connections each with independent bandwidth. With the DIR-657 restricted to broadcasting just a single connection all wireless activity is forced to fight for space and it makes simultaneous media streaming for two users totally impractical. Looking further ahead at present DIR-657 firmware is currently at v1.00, but it is hard to see how software improvements could fully resolve these hardware limitations.
On the upside while we found the DIR-657 fails to live up to its name as a media specialist, those without pressing range concerns will enjoy the fact D-Link's software is as comprehensive as ever. In addition to the wide array of security features, the DIR-657 can also create a guest network, provide network filtering, parental controls, support WISH (Wireless Intelligent Stream Handling) for custom traffic prioritisation and metre Internet usage – particularly handy if you have a limited monthly download allowance. The DIR-657 is also a snap to setup thanks to the simple install wizard on the bundled software and it features D-Link Green power saving technology to keep the bills down. If you hadn't noticed, the design of the DIR-657 makes it something of a looker as well.
Sadly though we have to finish on negative. While we wouldn't hesitate to recommend the DIR-657 for casual users or those with small flats (and thin walls) where range isn't a concern, D-Link scares off this demographic with an £89.99 RRP. This makes the DIR-657 nearly twice the price of many single band routers and more expensive than most dual band routers. Even without the other issues, this would be a deal breaker.
In an age of HD video and Cloud computing, the limitations of 802.11n continue to haunt all manufacturers of home wireless equipment. D-Link has attempted to teach the old dog new tricks, but unfortunately with the DIR-657 it has chosen the wrong ones. The omission of dual band means wireless performance is not up to scratch and consequently no amount of clever traffic prioritisation technology can fix it. Furthermore while we'd like to recommend the DIR-657 based on its slick software and good looks, its asking price is sky high. We get what D-Link was trying to achieve, but unless the first firmware updates can pull off miracles next time we'd like more substance with the style.
Scores In Detail