D-Link Wireless N HD Media Router 1000 (DIR-657)

Score

Sections

Pros

  • Stylish design
  • Smart bandwidth prioritisation
  • Easy to setup

Cons

  • Limited to single band
  • Poor streaming performance
  • Overpriced

Key Features

  • Review Price: £89.99
  • 802.11n

It is a tough job making wireless routers in 2011. The limits of 802.11n

(available commercially in

Draft‘ form since 2007) mean manufacturers have been limited to the

same core wireless speed standard for nearly five years. As such it is

not only hard to differentiate products from the competition, but also

to convince users they need to upgrade in the first place.

Taking

another stab at both arguments is D-Link with its ‘DIR-657 Wireless N

HD Media Router 1000’, a router which claims to address the biggest

challenge facing wireless today: reliably streaming multimedia content

around the home. The key differentiator here is D-Link’s proprietary ‘HD

Fuel’ bandwidth prioritization technology which the company claims will

identify and prioritise multimedia and gaming packet data to ensure

faster and more consistent performance.
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It sounds good in theory

and D-Link hasn’t skimped in other areas as it attempts to win you

over. The DIR-657 is

DLNA-certified, comes with SharePort allowing any USB device (such as a printer or external HDD)

to be accessed across the network, and also packs an SD card slot

enabling easy sharing of camera and video recorder content. On the

security side of things you’ll find

WPA2/128-bit

AES data encryption, support for

CAPTCHA and D-Link’s now

commonplace one button WPS security setup. Meanwhile adding a little

future proofing, the DIR-657 is

IPV6

ready – the new protocol which will make room for another 340

undecillion Internet

addresses. Of more immediate use D-Link has also outfitted the DIR-657

with four Gigabit LAN ports.

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Despite all this D-Link has taken risks. Surprisingly the DIR-657 uses just a single wireless band (2.4GHz) rather than the two (2.4GHz and 5GHz) typically seen in high spec routers. 5GHz isn’t supported by every wireless device, but it offers faster performance (albeit at shorter range) than 2.4GHz and allows a router to broadcast two networks with independent bandwidth – ideal for separating someone in a household streaming media from another hogging bandwidth with web surfing and Internet downloads.

In addition D-Link has used its ‘N 300’ specification

(offering speeds up to a theoretical maximum of 300Mps) when it has also

long offered an ‘N 450’ spec. Obviously theoretical speeds remain pie in the sky compared to real world performance, but for such a

multimedia focused product it seems strange D-Link hasn’t opted to equip

it with every possible advantage. Consequently our enthusiasm for the

DIR-657 was somewhat muted and for all its headlining features we found

that caution to be well advised.

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Whether using mixed mode

(802.11b/g/n) or locking the router specifically to 802.11n, the DIR-657

delivers disappointing results. At two metres in the fractionally

faster 802.11n single mode throughput reached just 49Mbps when

transferring a 700MB file. This dropped alarmingly to 19Mbps from five

metres away then to just 11Mbps from 10 metres. From 10 metres with a

solid wall and hollow wood door in the way (a more realistic scenario)

throughput dropped to just over 3Mbit. This leaves the DIR-657 some way

behind dual band routers like the

DIR-825 and speeds are unremarkable even for a single 2.4GHz band device.