D-Link DGL-5500 Gaming Router review: Promising router badly in need of new firmware

Secondly, the priority list itself is very badly designed. Once StreamBoost is turned on, the interface arbitrarily puts all connected clients in a numeric order with No. 1 as the top priority. If you have multiple computers in a network, rearranging this list to match your desired priorities is usually a must, but unfortunately not easily. This is because you can move only one client at a time and only one step at a time. For example, if you want to move a computer from 3 to 1 you have to first move it to number 2, and then from 2 to 1. In other words, if you have 10 computers in your network and need to move the one at the bottom to the top, you will have to move it 10 times. It would be much less frustrating, especially in a large network, if you could just drag and drop the clients at will.

The DGL-5500's StreamBoost feature has an awkwardly designed priority list.
The DGL-5500's StreamBoost feature has an awkwardly designed priority list. Dong Ngo/CNET

Also, I found it a little problematic that all the connected clients are put on this one priority-hierarchy list once StreamBoost is turned on. This means there's no way for you to put a few clients at the same level of prioritization.

Other parts of the interface weren't well thought out, either. The visual network map, which is very helpful in general, doesn't always show all connected clients, and the interface at times freezes up or lags during a transition.

In all, while the new Web interface seems much richer and more advanced than the old traditional D-Link interface, it needs a lot of polishing. For now it's a little confusing and frustrating to use. Hopefully this will be improved via a firmware update.

No remote access
While the awkward StreamBoost design was manageable, I couldn't fathom why the DGL-5500 didn't have built-in support Dynamic DNS (DynDNS) services. DynDNS associates your WAN IP address with a meaningful, easy-to-remember URL. This enables you to easily set up remote access to the router's Web interface, as well as set up over-the-Internet application servers within your network, for free. For hard-core gamers and advanced users, DynDNS support is a must, because you then can run your own game-related server at home, such as TeamSpeak. The lack of DynDNS makes things a lot harder and also doesn't make sense. Most, if not all, routers I've reviewed have this feature. D-Link told me that it will add DynDNS in the next firmware updates, however, and personally, I wouldn't consider using this router at all until then.

To add injury to insult, the DGL-5500 is not classified by D-Link as a cloud router, meaning it also doesn't work with D-Link's Mydlink portal (the DIR-868L supports both Mydlink and DynDNS). All this makes this router the most unfriendly to Internet-based remote applications that I've seen.

Performance
The DGL-5500 is the first 802.11ac router I've reviewed that supports only the second tier (dual-stream setup) of the AC standard, meaning its top speed when used with AC-enabled clients is just 867Mbps, not 1.3Gbps. For more on Wi-Fi standards, check out this post .

CNET Labs 802.11ac performance (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range  
Throughput  
D-Link DIR-868L
221 
271 
Netgear R6300
208 
331.32 
Trendnet TEW-812DRU
192.4 
263 
Asus RT-AC66U
178.5 
339.2 
AirStation WZR-D1800H
144 
233.6 
D-Link DIR-865L
135.2 
199.2 
D-Link DGL-5500
113.8 
157.8 
Cisco Linksys EA6500
113 
244.5 
Belkin AC 1200 DB
57 
162.6 

A bit of a disclaimer: I tested the DGL-5500 router at CNET's offices where there are walls and many other Wi-Fi devices that are out of my control. As with all Wi-Fi routers, your results may vary depending on where you live.

CNET Labs 5GHz Wireless-N performance (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range  
Throughput  
Linksys EA4500
176.8 
186.8 
D-Link DIR-857
172.4 
214.6 
Asus RT-AC66U
166.6 
208.2 
D-Link DIR-868L
161.5 
178 
Trendnet TEW-812DRU
160 
195.3 
Asus RT-N66U
155.3 
181.8 
Netgear R6300
144.8 
178.8 
D-Link DIR-865L
121.6 
147.6 
AirStation WZR-D1800H
120 
172 
Apple AirPort Time Capsule
117.7 
182.2 
Cisco Linksys EA6500
105.7 
124.6 
D-Link DGL-5500
97.6 
156 
WD My Net N900 HD
74 
195 

That said, in my testing, the router's performance was quite good but not as good as you'd expect from a device that costs so much. For the AC standard, which only works on the 5GHz frequency band, I tested it with both a generic AC media bridge and a D-Link USB DWA-182 AC adapter, and the speeds, though quite fast, were slower than other AC routers give. More specifically, the router gave a sustained speed of 158Mbps over a short distance (15 feet) and 114Mbps long distance (100 feet away). These numbers were about those of a regular 5GHz 802.11n router and about the slowest among AC routers I've reviewed. Again, since the DGL-5500 is the only dual-stream AC router on the chart (all others are three-stream), it was normal that it didn't score comparably. Whether this was the typical performance of a dual-stream AC router will be determined when more dual-stream AC routers are reviewed.

CNET Labs 2.4GHz Wireless-N performance (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range  
Throughput  
D-Link DIR-868L
55.6 
63.3 
D-Link DGL-5500
41 
58.6 
WD My Net N900 HD
16 
58.1 
Asus RT-N66U
45.5 
55 
Trendnet TEW-812DRU
37 
52.8 
Netgear R6300
41.6 
51.2 
Cisco Linksys EA6500
33.6 
48.8 
D-Link DIR-857
29.6 
47.8 
Netgear WNDR4500
31.1 
45.3 
Asus RT-AC66U
15.2 
36.8 
Belkin AC 1200 DB
9.6 
33.5 

When working with regular 802.11n clients, the DGL-5500 generally did below average on the 5GHz band, with sustained speeds of 156Mbps and 98Mbps for short and long ranges, respectively. On the 2.4GHz band it did better compared with others, scoring 59Mbps and 41Mbps for short and long distances, respectively.

The DGL-5500's Wi-Fi range wasn't impressive, either, with the range on the 2.4GHz band, some 270 feet away, being much longer than that of the 5GHz band, which was just about 220 feet. The router's effective range, however, was just about 100 feet.

In stress tests, where it was set to work continuously with multiple Wi-Fi clients for a long period of time, it passed easily on the 5GHz band. On the 2.4GHz band, it showed the first disconnection after just about 7 hours. This is not a big deal since the client was reconnected immediately, but other routers can go for 24 hours or more without disconnecting at all.

Conclusion
The D-Link DGL-5500 isn't ready for prime time and right now StreamBoost is the router's only feature of note. Interested parties should wait until D-Link significantly updates the firmware, hopefully improving both performance and the clunky Web interface. A beefy price cut should also be a prerequisite before purchase.

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About The Author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews networking and storage products, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.