D-Link’s DIR-655 Xtreme N Gigabit Router comes with the one-two punch of a decent Wi-Fi throughput and a good range to make it a top contender in the networking arena. A quartet of Gigabit Ethernet ports and great QoS support complete the lineup of its strong features. The Quality of Service tool, in particular, helps in fine-tuning the router to prioritize the optimal bandwidths as the situation requires. The DIR-655 comes at a steep one cent shy of 180 dollars, which is quite a lot compared to similar Draft N routers, but buyers will find that they get every penny’s worth with this nifty device.
The DIR-655 appears to borrow certain design aspects of Apple’s Airport Extreme, in that it also employs a sleek 4.6 by 7.6 by 1.2-inch white casing trimmed in black at the edges. Lining the front are blue LED indicators to represent port status. A trio of antennas is attached at the rear of the device, alongside the four Ethernet ports, plus one each for Internet and USB. The USB port can be used to plug in a USB key for Windows Connect Now to tweak the Wi-Fi settings. The Gigabit Ethernet ports are a departure from most wired and wireless routers which comes with Fast Ethernet ports only. A reset button is also situated in the back for resetting the device to its original configuration.
The web-based utility for configuring the DIR-655 allows users to adjust the device’s basic settings, as well as its advanced network settings. Each function is accompanied by tips generated by the utility that will assist the user in the task. He or she may choose from DHCP, L2TP, PPoE or PPTP for the enabled Internet connection protocol. Security options include WEP, WPA and WPA2. Website filters and MAC addresses can also be set up here, as well as rules for multi-connected apps. Users can also put up a NAT or SPI firewall with this utility. Novices at networking are advised to consult the included manual prior to laying their hands on the advanced network controls. These include the controls for port forwarding, virtual-service redirect, and inbound filters.
The Quality of Service, or QoS, mechanism enhances the performance of network games when activated. It does this by giving priority to data transfers pertinent to an ongoing game over other network traffic. The QoS engine manages this automatically, but administrators may also set the priority level manually within the QoS rules screen. There is also a WISH, or Wireless Intelligent Stream Handling, feature that does a similar function over Wi-Fi.
The router’s installation process is quite easy. A manufacturer recommendation is to run the CD-based setup wizard prior to actually connecting the device itself, a procedure that is stressed through a decal located above the rear ports reminding the user to do the installation in that order. While the wizards are helpful in making the process virtually painless, those experienced at setting up routers can achieve the same results using the device’s online interface.
An extensive user guide is also included within the CD installer, along with a trial version of Network Magic from Pure Networks. The 30-day trial will provide users with a sample utility for network monitoring and enable sharing of files and printers on any networked PC. The utility also provides device mapping and security controls like those for altering the encryption and SSID broadcasting. Network Lock is another great security feature of the utility, providing MAC filter controls for instantly blocking network intruders.
In running the wizard that assists in installation, the system first makes checks to the web connection and the network adapter, and then subsequently guides the user via a brief step-by-step installation process. The process starts with unplugging the modem from the power source, followed by wiring it along with the PC to the correct ports at the back of the router. The next step will require the user to plug the modem back to the power supply, and then wait 30 seconds before doing the same to the router, which is the last step. A series of checks to determine connectivity is run automatically by the wizard subsequent to this last step, requests the user for an SSID, before finally optimizing the router settings for the network. The network is up and running after Internet connectivity is established. At this point, the user may choose to install the Network Magic trial utility or simply exit the wizard. The complete routine took a little longer than nine minutes from start to finish.
The DIR-655 can auto-detect and connect client devices that operate using 802.11 standards over Wi-Fi, as well as devices that can be wired to its various ports. The router maintains a strong 300Mbps throughput to connect nearby appliances in 802.11n mode, about twice those of other N standard routers. The throughput decreases as more distance is put between the client device and the router, but even from 100 feet away, which is the maximum range of similar routers, the DIR-655’s signal strength did not go lower than 75 percent in tests, whilst other routers often lose their client devices at the same distance.
Additional tests made showed the DIR-655 to be capable of copying 100MB worth of content in 39 seconds, from fifty feet away. With 500MB, it takes 2 minutes, 41 seconds for the router to complete the job. From the same distance, video streaming is seamless, with excellent visual quality and a synchronized audio. A marked degradation of the same process happens when the distance opens to 100 feet, but it is well noting that router connection remain unbroken at that distance.
The complete set consists of the router along with the installation CD, a vertical stand and an Ethernet cable. The device comes covered by a D-Link warranty for one year, plus the requisite free, twenty-four-hour tech support number.