D-Link DIR-655 Xtreme N Gigabit Router
Editors' note: The D-Link DIR-655, which was first released in 2007 with Draft-N specs, is one of D-Link's most longstanding wireless routers. The latest firmware upgrade fixes bugs, adds features, and supports the 802.11n specs.
At around $100, the DIR-655 offers basically everything you'd want from a single-band home router. It has fast throughput, a very stable wireless signal, and a generous set of networking features. The router also sports D-Link's SharePort technology, which turns its USB port into a networked one that supports virtually any USB device. If a single-band router is all you need, and it probably is in most cases, the DIR-655 is a good bet. Otherwise, check out dual-band routers that CNET has reviewed, such as the DIR-855 or the Cisco E3000.
Setup and design
The DIR-655 looks like a typical wireless router with a square shape and three detachable antennas sticking up from its back, cluttering the network ports. The router's ports include four Gigabit LAN ports (for wired clients), one WAN port (to be hooked to an Internet source, such as a broadband router), and a USB port. This USB port can be used to host a USB device or to support Windows Connect Now (WCN). WCN is an old but handy technology that allows you to transfer the router's encryption key from the router to a Windows computer using a USB key, sparing you from having to remember the encryption key.
On the side, the router has a Wi-Fi Protected Setup button, which is another convenient way to let wireless clients enter the encrypted wireless network. Press this button and you open a 2-minute time window in which other WPS-enabled devices can join the network without you having to enter the encryption key manually.
On the front, like most routers, the DIR-655 has an array of blue LED lights showing the status of the router, the LAN ports, the wireless network, the USB port, and the connection to the Internet.
We didn't experience any problems setting up the DIR-655. The router comes with a CD that contains the D-Link Router Quick Setup desktop software. Following the wizard, we were able to get everything up and running, including connecting to the Internet and other wireless clients; we were also able to set up an SSID for each frequency. Alternatively, you can use the Web-based interface, which is well-thought-out, responsive, and more comprehensive than the desktop application.
Like most D-Link routers, the DIR-655 is wall-mountable and also comes with a detachable base to enable it to work in the vertical position.
D-Link regularly releases new firmware for its routers, which, apart from fixing bugs, sometimes dramatically changes the feature set of the router. We tested the DIR-655 with its latest firmware, version 1.34NA. Initially, its USB port was designed just to host a USB printer, but starting with firmware version 1.21, the router has a new feature called SharePort. This enables the router's USB port to work as a networked USB port.
SharePort comes with a software application called SharePort Network USB (SNU) that you'll need to install on your network computers. The software allows the computer to recognize a USB device plugged into the router as if it were plugged directly into the computer's USB port. For this reason, unlike other USB-equipped routers that support only printers and external hard drives, SharePort allows the DIR-655 to share virtually any USB device over your network.
SharePort does have a big drawback, however. By making the router's USB port work the same way as a computer's, SharePort makes it so only one PC can access a USB device plugged into the router at a time. So, if one person is using a printer that's plugged into the router, others won't have access to it until it is released using the SharePort Network USB software. This makes it a little less appealing than the old print-serving feature, where the printer could be accessed by multiple computers at a time.
We tried the SharePort USB port with multiple devices, including printers and external hard drives, and it worked as intended. We found that you can still share the attached USB device with multiple computers if you just share it from the one computer that has control over it, the same way you would share a folder or a computer on that computer. This seems to be a workaround to spare you from having to install SNU on multiple computers. However, this also means the host computer has to be on for the device to be available to the rest of the network.