I usually keep my eye out for bargains in this business. Often my competitors will have sales on items were their pricing is at or just above my wholesale cost, so it makes it worth my while to just purchase from them as opposed to buying through distribution. Last week there was just such an opportunity. Future Shop had the DLink Extreme N DIR-655 Router on for 60.00 off. This was not much more than what my wholesale price was, and because I was looking at getting a router that supported QoS for my home network this one looks like it had everything I wanted.
I was extremely happy with my previous router but it was starting to date itself. This was a Nexland 400 PRO ISB. Nexland routers were never very popular and they were purchased by Symantec several years ago as they were the manufacturer for Symantec’s own Raptor firewall appliances. This router had been very stable and fast, and I can’t even remember the last time I had to reset it! It didn’t offer the QoS features and with the increase in devices that I have added to my network this was becoming important. For wireless access I have been using a Netgear WG602 V2 Access Point that has also been very reliable. It is located in roughly the centre of our house and provides a pretty good signal everywhere.
Friday AM, I went to my local Future Shop and picked up one of these routers. My plan was to plug it in, configure it for my home network then move it over later in the day. The three main features I wanted to take advantage of on this router were the QoS, the gigabit Wan and LAN ports and the extended range offered by the Wireless N draft standard. Wireless N draft (the standard is not yet ratified) allows for higher data connection speeds than 802.11G and up to 6 times the range of Wireless G. QoS, stands for Quality of Service and gives network priority traffic to certain applications on your network, such as Multimedia and VOIP phone. In essence it sees network traffic for these types of devices and gives their data packets higher priority to the network. Ideally VoIP traffic and Video would get higher priority than email or web browsing. This is important in our house because I use Microsoft Media Center Extenders and my business phone line is with Vonage. I have several machines with Gigabit cards and use Gigabit Switches in the house so the 2000 Mbs per second would come in handy for large file transfers as well. The DLink DIR-655 has all of these features so I thought it would be a good fit.
The router itself looks very slick, almost like an Ipod. It is shiny white with three detachable antennas, and green LED lights on the front (Hardware Version A2 features blue LEDs). I also noticed that the router came with the latest firmware that was on the DLink Support site. Firmware is code that controls the router and allows the manufacture to fix things via firmware updates. The router has the standard WAN port for your Cable or DSL modem to plug into, a USB port for configuration and 4 LAN ports on the back to connect to computers and switches.
I immediately ignored the sticker on the back of the router covering the LAN ports telling me to install the software first. I have configured between 50 and 75 routers over the years and I prefer using the built in Web interface in the router than installing unnecessary software on my PCs. I plugged a network cable into a LAN port, connected the other end to my backup Dell D600 laptop running XP Home and checked the network address of the Ethernet card. I then used IE 6 to access the routers home page. By default this router was configured for 192.168.0.1 but my own network uses a different network segment. Because I have machines assigned with static IP addresses it is easier to change the router than it is to change all of the devices. I accessed the router and boom the LAN connection dropped and restarted. OK try it again. Same thing. I tried everything I could think of to stabilize the connection (setting duplex and card connection rates) all to no avail. I called DLink support and spent about an hour on the phone with them trying to get it working. Still couldn’t get it to stay connected long enough to do configurations. I was being transferred to DLink second level support when I got cut off and the phone went dead.
I packed the router up and went back to Future Shop to exchange this one thinking it might be a bad one. They replaced the router and I went back home with the new one. This time I tried to configure it and it was more stable. I removed my Nexland router, plugged in the DLink and then the fun started happening. It appeared that the connection to the Internet would reset itself every couple of minutes. It would only be for a couple of seconds but never the less it would reset. I called DLink support again, spoke to first level support and they couldn’t do a lot then (I also got cut off twice) they patched me through to second level. I was advised to turn off UPnP on the router which I did, which stabilized the connection somewhat. I actually got a connection to the Internet for about 14 hours (OK it was overnight). The next day I tried to connect via my Netgear Wireless G PCMCIA card and poof the router rebooted again. Not good.
By this point I had enough and tried to put my old reliable Nexland Pro router back. Connected everything plugged it in and uh-oh, the LAN light was flashing red. This means that the hardware diagnostics failed. I tried everything I could to get it running, attempting to reset to factory defaults didn’t work nor did anything else I tried so I guess it has finally given up.
Instead I installed a Linksys Business Class Wireless router that I had in stock. This router is the WRV 200 G router with Rangebooster. It is designed for small business and features QoS, VLAN, and multiple SSIDs for wireless. I have had some pretty good results in client sites with these as they seem to be fairly stable once upgraded to the latest firmware and I always try to keep one or two in stock. I had this router set up and configured in less than 5 minutes and it has been good so far.
AS for the DLink, I took it back to another Future Shop store and exchanged it for another one. I was really willing to get this one to work. Brought it home, tried connecting via my laptop and again, it would drop the LAN connection every minute. I thought I could backwards flash the Firmware to an older version, but unfortunately I can’t even keep it connected long enough to upload the firmware files. Also the unsecured wireless network appears and disappears on all the wireless cards I have tried connecting to it.
After three tries I am finally giving up on this router. This one is going back to Future Shop shortly. In fairness I have again reported issues to DLink Tech Support via email but I am not holding my breath waiting for a response. I am still waiting for a response to an inquiry I made last week regarding one of their DNS-323 NAS devices. I have read fairly good reviews of this router on line. It seems people who have them working, like them. I just can’t get one working.
In the end I would not advise Sysguy Client’s to get this router based on the experiences I have had, especially at the regular 199.99 price tag. This may be related to a bad batch of these routers that was manufactured and sent to the same distributer. If you are willing to try, ensure that you can take the router back to wherever you purchase it from for a refund if you run into the same problems.
I think I will stick with the few routers that I know work well, I have had good results with the following routers:
Linksys WRV-200 Business class not easily available in stores
Netgear WGT-624 (One I get the fewest calls about)
Belkin Super G (Stable and a nice feature set)
If I hear anything back from DLink I will post it here.