Date: May 23, 2007
Author(s): Greg King
We are taking a look at D-Links latest Draft-N router, the DIR-655, which is upgradeable to the latest 2.0 standard. We are also throwing their DWA-652 Draft-N notebook card in for testing as well.
With broadband internet saturating more and more homes each and every day, the idea of a home network becomes more and more enticing. As many households have more than one PC, the easiest and most popular way to share the homeâ€™s internet connection, as well as provide easy access to files on all connected PCs, is through a home network.
As simple of an idea as this is, there are plenty of choices out there, each with their own slew of advantages and disadvantages. The most popular by far is the wireless network. With notebook PCâ€™s as prevalent as they are; it only makes sense to setup a wireless home network if you are going to take the time to set one up in the first place.
However, with a wireless setup, when not done correctly, you PC can be virtually wide open to anyone motivated enough to get into it. Better yet, anyone in a decent distance from your access point can get onto your network and “leech” your internet. While laws are starting to crop up addressing this, itâ€™s quite easy and I have personally been guilty of “sharing” broadband with careless neighbors.
One company who has been at the bleeding edge of the home networking push as been D-Link. With a wide variety of products ranging from power over Ethernet adapters, switches, hub, routers and network attached storage devices, if you need it, they make it. To keep up with the industry, they have recently released their newest Draft-N router, the DIR-655.
With its Apple white look and its 4 gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, the DIR-655 appears to deliver the goods. However, with the IEEE still undecided on the fate of Draft-N, will a purchase of this router, using the N technology be a wise buy? As we delve deeper into the workings of the DIR-655, we aim to find out if it will be worth your hard earned cash.
Arriving in its retail packaging, the D-Link Xtreme N Gigabit router comes with all the needed information either on the front of the box or the back. On the front, we can see a bold claim that it apparently can operate up to 14 times the speed and 6 times the range of an equivalent wireless G product. We also see that the DIR-655 is certified to work with Windows Vista.
On the back, there is a comparison chart comparing the D-Link router against routers from brand “L” and brand “N”. Hmmm, I wonder who that could be. Also found on the back is an exhaustive list of different features of the router.
Once opened, there is a large orange sheet with the D-Link support number should problems come up during installation. Along with the support sheet, there is a setup disk, a power adapter, an Ethernet cable, a stand to allow the vertical mounting of the router, a set of screws should one decide to mount the router on the wall and the router itself.
Examining the disk, it is basically a quick setup guide for those how might be new to network setup. On the tri-folded disk jacket, there is a space to write in your wireless SSID, your security key as well as your password. This provides a convenient place to store your networks information.
Next up, unboxing the router and also the N notebook card.
While nothing extravagant, the DIR-655 ships with all the needed accessories to get you going.
Moving onto the DIR-655 itself, the glossy white finish give the router a classy look and the triple antennas on the back should provide a strong enough signal for almost anyone. With a single logo on the top, the DIR-655 has a clean look that should fit in almost anywhere.
Along the front, there are a number of lights to signify power, activity status, internet status, WLAN, WCN (USB wireless network setup) and 4 wired port LEDs.
Looking around at the back, there is a large yellow sticker covering up the ports and stating that before you connect anything to the router, the setup disk should be ran first.
When removed, we see the four gigabit Ethernet ports positioned between two of the three antennas.
Moving over, we get to the internet port. This is where the cable from the modem is going to go into. Beside it is a USB port. This can either be used as a print server port as well as a place to use your wireless network setup thumb drive. To the right of the USB port, there is a reset button and the power jack.
On the bottom of the router, there are four rubber feet and a pair of holes that will allow the DIR-655 to be mounted onto a wall with the provided screws and drywall sinks.
As stated earlier, if space is limited on your desktop, or you just prefer the vertical look, the DIR-655 can be stood up on its side and with the aid of a stand, the router can be used in a vertical position.
D-Link also send our way their latest Draft-N wireless card. The D-Link DWA-652 is a wireless Draft-N notebook adapter that simply plugs into a vacant PCMCIA slot on your notebook. This device, as well as the DIR-655 router, is compatible with existing 802.11g and 802.11b networks.
Finally, let’s jump into installation and testing.
Before installation of the router, I followed the directions found on the yellow sticker. The first screen that pops up is one that allows you to view the manual, install the router as well as install Adobe Acrobat on your PC. If you do not have Acrobat installed, in order to view the manual on the disk, Acrobat must be installed.
The next screen will give you the option of continuing in French or English.
From here, itâ€™s basically a click next and see what it does sort of thing. The first thing it does is make sure the router is powered on and the PC is connected to it. The next thing it does is check for an internet connection. Without a connection to the internet, the setup process will come to a halt here. Not having anything but dial up where I live at the moment, this was a frustrating discovery. It will then prompt you to check your connection to make sure it is in fact connected. If there is indeed no connection, the installation via the disk is through.
Without the ability to use the disk, we are going to go about this the good old fashioned way. To connect to the DIR-655, by default, you have to enter in 192.168.0.1 in your web browserâ€™s search bar. When prompted for a username and password, the user is “admin” and there isnâ€™t a password. This can all be changed in the setup but by default, there isnâ€™t a password.
Once connected, we are greeted with this screen. From here, we can setup our wired and wireless networks as we see fit.
In the advanced tab, we really start to see the value of D-Linkâ€™s deep feature set of the DIR-655. It is here that one can open ports, forward ports, control the firewall settings, administer parental settings, set up Wireless encryption and setup custom routes on the network.
In the tools tab, it is here that the administrator password can be changed, the system time can be updated manually or by copying the time on the PC, update the firmware, run a diagnostic test as well as have emails sent to your email address should any changed be made to the router.
On the status tab, we can view the entire rundown of the machines attached to the router, view the log file and view the computers connected to the router wirelessly.
On the final tab, there is a vast amount of help topics should a problem arise. These help topics cover every setting of the router and should provide answers for all but the most in depth problems.
Without delving too deep into the menus, which could easily be spread across dozens of pages, it should be said that for most, and by most I mean 80% of all users, these settings will mean nothing for them. However, there are the power users who will find the QoS features of the DIR-655 quite handy. With QoS, priority levels can be given to certain tasks.
Gamers can setup the DIR-655 to focus primarily on gaming traffic across the router while giving lesser needed traffic such as video or audio streaming, web browsing and VOIP a much lower priority level. This ensures a smooth gaming, or video experience.
Setting up the wireless network was simple and in no time I was up and going. The one problem I did run into was with the D-Link wireless connection manager not playing well with Windows Zero Config. This wasnâ€™t exactly D-Links fault, but rather 2 different wireless managers fighting for control. The workaround was easy and was done by simply stopping the Windows Zero Config service in the management window.
This service was also set up to start manually, and not automatically when Windows starts up. Once this was done, the network was up and going without problems. The Draft N network provided a noticeably faster wireless networking experience and for the most part, was hassle free.
When I started testing of the DIR-655, my primary concern was not about the router itself, but Draft-N in its entirety. While still not a standard, N 2.0 was recently named Draft-N 2.0 and with a simple firmware update, the DIR-655 was brought directly into the latest pre-standard draft of N. While a normal G network can connect at 54 MB/s, the N network was connecting at 130 MB/s. This is a considerably faster connection speed and when streaming audio and media, the experience was a smooth one.
With itâ€™s excellent styling, Draft â€“N 2.0 compliance and gigabit ports, the D-Link DIR-655, as well as the DWA-652 wireless card, earns a 9 out of 10. The DIR-655 has easily replaced my tried and true Linksys Wireless G router. If youâ€™re interested in the latest wireless technology or just want a fast wireless N router, the D-Link DIR-655 should be at the top of your list and for this, it earns an editorâ€™s choice as well.
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