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D-Link DI-711 Wireless Home DSL/Cable Router
For all your networking nuts, I got a question for you. Why are networks never as fast as promised on the box of a product? Same for everything, nothing is as fast as stated, just a quirk of marketing I guess. Wireless networks are no exceptions. In our previous review of the DWL-1000AP, we found out that a 802.11b wireless network will not perform at the peak 11mbp but it will perform VERY admirably, to the point that it can compete easily with 10Base-T Ethernet without a problem. With 802.11b being so reliable, fast, and easy to use, it's no surprise that more people are catching on and changing their wired networks to wires and it's also no surprise that D-Link is expanding their wireless product selection to cover routers as well as receivers. I can sense that the wireless networking boom will come in a few short months. Even looking at modern colleges, they are setting up massive 802.11b or other wireless networks to cover their entire campus and equipping freshmen PC Cards for their laptops so they can literally have the Internet at their fingertips. There is a lot of money to be made through wireless Internet because of the wire variety of uses it has in both commercial and personal applications. In the business world, it's ideal for connecting isolated and hard to wire areas of the office and also for the constant, everywhere, Internet access. For the home it's the same, no one wants unsightly CAT-5 cable running around the house or apartment and a wireless connection is a great way to get rid of it. Also it's awesome to finish a project while sitting in the tub with the laptop (NOT a smart idea though). Now I might be going off topic so lets get back on track. Today we have a new product from D-Link in our chop shop. It is a 802.11b Wireless Home DSL/Cable Router.
The idea behind this product is obviously to introduce wireless networking into the home and allow wireless connections to integrate with wired connections. It's a step forward in technology for use in households. This is a product made to help people implement a wireless network in their homes along with their wired network. D-Link has been aggressively introducing new and better networking products in the wireless section for the past few months and it keeps improving and getting easier so that's a big plus for D-Link and their ongoing support for new technologies. Other companies such as Linksys, Sohoware, etc… have products but not near the selection available for different people as D-Link have.
The principal of a router is simple. Since there is only one IP given to an account, the router is connected directly to the broadband connection and then it internally splits the IP's into internal IP's (as opposed to the one external IP you get) and each of the internal IP's are given to a computer on the network. As you can see, all the PC's connected to the router share the same ISP provided IP but they have different internal IP's so the router can differentiate them from one another and make sure that signals go to the right place. The only reason why there are different internal IP's is that so the router can keep track of which computers are using the Internet and what signals are going to which computers. This works both ways. When sending something to the ISP, the computer, lets say PC1 (internal IP 200.20.20.01) sends an email, the data will go to the router and then the router will send it with the external IP (206.12.656.20) and when someone replies, the data will go to eh external IP and then to the router and the router knows which computer the data will go to because of the internal IP. So to sum it up in a clamshell, routers basically route the data from the ISP to the counters and vice versa. Go figure. Looking at the diagram above, you can basically tell that the router can split the connection between wireless and wired computers. It's true; the wireless receivers also get their own internal IP thanks to the built-in Access Point in the DI-711. Basically, this device is a standard D-Link router with a D-Link Access Point, if you bought this stuff separately, be prepared to spend $100 more. It's a good idea that D-Link decided to merge the 2 products together.
Why Do You Need A Router?
Most people who own routers like it for one main reason… it saves them money. How? First off, most ISP's that provide DSL/Cable Internet Access only gives you 1-2 IP's included in your service plan. You have to pay $5-25 more if you want more IP's. This is really a downside of broadband but an acceptable practice since most ISP lose money per IP because of the maintenance charges if they didn't charge for them. If you don't have a router and have 4 computers in the house, you might be paying $25 more a month for 2-3 extra IP's. If you do have a router bought for $200, you will save money by not having to pay for the extra IP's and also have added features such as a firewall.
Looking through the specs, you will notice that the router supports both 802.11b wireless as well as 802.3 traditional Ethernet. This is so you can connect a PC to the router with standard CAT-5 cable or connect a hub/switch to the router for multiple PC connections. The DI-711 supports the full range of protocols in addition to some unique ones such as NAT (Network Address Translation), DHCP, and Virtual Server.
Network Address Translation is a very important feature nowadays in the world of the Internet with IP hackers and the like. What it basically is is NAT lets your router look like your computer in the eyes of anyone who is watching your IP. The router using NAT takes the main external IP (look on diagram) from the ISP and splits it into multiple INTERNAL IP's for use on the computers on the network so hackers will only see your router instead of your computers. NAT is the reason why routers are always advertised to support up to 253+ computers.
DHCP is basically made for easy networking without all the manual IP assignments of old. Remember LAN parties where everyone assigns you an IP and you have to manually enter it in and hope it works? That was because there was no DHCP servers in the LAN. The DI-711 with a DHCP server built in automatically assigns IP addresses to computers. This is a true meaning of plug and play. Once connected to the network, turn on the computer, and viola! The Internet, LAN access, everything works like how it's supposed to without any tampering on your part.
The transfer speeds are variable depending on the conditions of the home that the connection is being sent to and also on what type of standards your country supports. From 5.5-11mbps to 1-2mbps (802.11), the router supports it and is even backwards compatible with 802.11 legacy products.
Another novel feature in the router is the ability to configure and maintain the router through a web-based interface accessible through any computer connected to the router with Internet Explorer or Netscape.
D-Link has always done a good job with documentation. In this specific package there was the router itself, all the required cables, a fold out easy installation guide, and a standard manual along with more documentation on the CD. It's good to know that a company still puts out resources on printing all of these. Upon examination of the DI-711, we all agree that it's designed very well and looks to be fairly durable but we would have liked it better if it were made of some sort of metal so it could stand up to the abuse it would get at LAN parties. The DI-711 has 5 LED's in the front (STAT - Status, LAN, WAN, WLAN - Wireless LAN, PWR). There are dual antennas on the rear that are adjustable to any position you want since this unit can be mounted on walls. IN the rear, there are 4 ports, LAN, WAN, serial port, and Power port. The LAN is where you connect your PC or your existing LAN and WAN is where you connect the broadband modem to the router.
Installation basically went without a hitch, as soon as my modem was plugged into the router and my computer was plugged into the LAN, I started the router and computer up, fired up the Internet and everything was fine. Then I took it a step further and slapped a DWL-650 Wireless PC Card into a laptop and started that up. Instant Internet access again through the nifty DHCP server in the router. So without a reboot or extra software installation, the 2 computers could both access the Internet and share files with each other. This is true plug and play.
We tested the router in 2 different configurations. As the router was meant to be used, we used it with one wired computer as well as 2 wireless computers. We went a step further and we connected the router to a 4-port switch and also to 2 wireless computers. First off, we wanted to check if the firewall on this router is really as good as marketing says it is. For this we headed to dslreports.com and used their Port Scan tool ( http://www.dslreports.com/scan) to check for any vulnerability and also a security scan ( http://www.secure-me.net/) to extensive testing of our network's vulnerability. We looked at firewall settings beforehand through the router's web-based management and we didn't see a firewall configuration screen anywhere. When we went through the testing, we noticed that the network connection did not slow down at all. It was just like a direct connection to the modem. Of course I didn't expect any slowdowns. The tests went through successful and the only port that was open was the ftp port, which I enabled so the test was 100% successful.
We then tested the latency between the wireless computers and between the wireless and wired computers. When using the router between the 2 wireless computers, we would get ping rates of fewer than 80 during games and when we didn't use it, it went slightly down to 75, not noticeable in games at all. Between wired and wireless computers was the same thing, no difference at all. But when we compared the results to 2 wires computers, the ping was 10% higher in wireless networks. Not enough to make a difference when the ping is so low anyway.
The router did a good job of what it's supposed to do, make it easy to split IP's between computers and also to make it easy for computers to share files, Internet connection, and printers. The built-in access point has similar performance to the DWL-1000AP which it probably is. We had no problems with configuration at all. The included 40-bit encryption is disabled by default but can be enabled through the setup. With the encryption on, it's very unlikely you're going to have eavesdroppers on your network.
Network speed between computers is great, When testing access speeds across the network with Sandra's Network Benchmark with a Win2k and a Win98SE machine, we hit the standard 9100kB/s and sometimes got to 10668kB/s between the 2 wired computers connected the router through the switch and then 1120-1200 through the wireless computers, equivalent to standard 10Bast-T Ethernet.
Of course we had some problems like we do with all products. Sharing an IP isn't always the greatest thing in the world. We had problems using Net2Phone, which I had with an earier router, here's my quote: "Also, there was another thing that we couldn't do with the router. We were trying to make calls from the Internet to telephones using Net2Phone (IP telephony). Although we could make the calls, we couldn't hear the person we called but they could hear us. This was because we were sending a signal out to their phone using our ISP IP but when they replied and said something back, the data went to the ISP IP expecting to reach a computer but it hit the router instead and the data got "lost". This is a known issue and might not be fixed anytime soon." Other than that issue, we didn't have big problems with standard Internet activity.
Pros & ConsPros/Cons
D-Link has done a good job on this router. With elite combination of a Access Port with a good router makes this a very good combination device and for those who don't wish to use the DWL-1000AP because of security issues, this is what they should use. Performance through the wireless network is admirable and the connection of the wireless devices is a lot stronger, maybe because it has 2 antennae but for whatever reason, using this device was more of a pleasure than our Editor's Choice winning DWL-1000AP. We have had a lot of problems with routers in the past because of poor documentation but this unit has excellent support for those who are not as technologically proficient (such as the beginning home user who this unit is targeted at). So if you need a product that offers good security and performance along with an access point, this is a great product that I am recommending with a 9/10.
Rating: 9/10 SystemLogistics
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