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The D-Link DIR-880L is the latest to join a growing crowd of high-end AC1900 routers, and it might be the best D-Link has to offer home users to date.
In my testing, the DIR-880L proved to be a great router with excellent range, fast Wi-Fi data rates and stable signal. My biggest complaint is that its USB 3.0 port takes a long time to mount a plugged-in external hard drive. The new and polished Web interface also poses a learning curve for those used to working with D-Link's previous routers.
All things considered, the DIR-880L is the newest member of the best 802.11ac routers on the market, totally worth its competitive price of $190 in the US, £135 in the UK, and AU$300 in Australia.
Traditional design, easy to setup
The DIR-880L eschews the cylindrical design found in recent D-Link routers, such as the DIR-868L. Instead it comes in the traditional squarish shape with tapering front. The router has three detachable antennas that go on its back, which isn't ideal since they may be in the way when you want to access the routers' ports, which are also on the back. The router is designed to stay flat on a surface but is also wall-mountable.
The router comes with four Gigabit LAN port (for wired clients) and one Gigabit WAN port (to connect to an Internet source, such as a broadband modem). There's also the power port, a recessed reset button and an on/off button and a USB 2.0 port. The router has another USB 3.0 port placed on its left side. You can use these USB ports to host a printer (preferably USB 2.0) and a storage device (USB 3.0).
On the front, the router has an array of LED lights which show the status of the ports as well as that of the Internet and Wi-Fi connections.
The DIR-880L is ready to use right out of the box thanks to its pre-configured Wi-Fi network, with the information printed on a label attached to its top. Using that information, all you need to do is plug the router into power, connect its Internet (WAN) port into your broadband modem and you're set.
If you want to further customize the router's features, including change the names of the Wi-Fi networks to your liking, you need to access the router's Web interface. To do this, from a connected computer, point the browser to the router's default IP address, which is 192.168.0.1.
The first time you launch the interface, you'll be greeted by a short wizard that walks you through a few steps, including making a password for the interface itself, which will be required next time you need to access it.
Totally new Web interface
The DIR-880L comes with a new and much more polished interface than previous D-Link routers. Aesthetically, this is quite pleasant, but practically there will be a learning curve for D-Link fans. It's an improvement for those getting this router as their very first D-Link though.
The interface is now organized completely differently from previous D-Links. Instead of the granular menus, it now has four category buttons on top, including Home, Settings, Features and Management. Except for Home, which shows a visual network map, when any other buttons are clicked or hovered over they show a drop-down menu that contain the sub-settings of the category.
This new way of organizing items makes it faster to access different settings, since you can jump from one to another very quickly, without having to first exit the current section. But if you're used to the old interface and know exactly where things are, the new one will be a little hard to figure out.
On the plus side, the new interface does make certain tasks much easier. The visual network map, for example, is a great way to view your network, and allows you to click on a connected client -- each has its own type-representative icon -- to perform a few tasks on that client, such as assigning a permanent IP address blocking it from accessing the network.
The Quality of Control feature now allows you to quickly drag and drop connected clients different slot for Internet access priority (Highest, High, and Medium), and spares you from having to manually customize the settings.
I noticed, however, that the new interface now lacks depth in terms of customization. On the Wi-Fi setting, for example, there's no option to use either TPIK or AES in the Wireless Security mode. Or, in the Dynamic DNS feature, you only have the choice of either the dyndns.com service or entering the server manually. Previously, in older D-Link routers, there were more pre-loaded options for what Dynamic DNS you want to use. Overall, this is not a big problem -- in fact, for home most users, these changes actually will make life easier for you. And for a savvy user, in the end, the DIR-880L allows you to set up the network exactly how you want it.