D-Link DIR-857 HD Media Router 3000 review: D-Link DIR-857 HD Media Router 3000

The router's interface is very similar to that of other D-Link routers, well-organized, responsive, and easy to work with, especially for those familiar with D-Link routers. New users might find it a little overwhelming because of the amount of settings and features that can be customized. However, they will get used to the new interface relatively fast thanks to the context-based help, which automatically appears on the right part of the page and explains what each item means.

The new router supports all features commonly found in a router of its type, including IPv6, port forwarding, Quality of Service, and Web filtering. In addition, it comes with some of D-Link's distinctive features, including HD Fuel, SharePort Plus, and OpenDNS parental controls .

HD Fuel is the highlight of the D-Link's HD Media Router family. In a nutshell, it's a special Quality of Service (QoS) setting that automatically detects the HD media-streaming signal from the Internet and prioritizes bandwidth for the client that's requesting it. This helps make HD streaming, such as viewing Netflix or YouTube, a much better experience. HD Fuel works similarly with online gaming and VoIP applications. D-Link is one of the first networking vendors to focus on making life easier for users by offering customized QoS, starting with the GamerLounge DGL-4500 router, which prioritizes traffic for games. Lately, other vendors have taken the same approach, such as WD with FastTrack Plus QoS (first introduced in the My Net N900 HD), or Cisco with the EA series that also has a focus on prioritizing traffic. In my trials, HD Fuel actually worked very well. It automatically reduced the speed of file downloading, which initially was hogging all the Internet bandwidth, when I started streaming YouTube on another computer. This feature works better and more clearly when you have a high-speed broadband connection that can handle HD streaming from the Internet.

The OpenDNS parental control feature allows users to manage Web filtering from anywhere over the Internet. To use the router with OpenDNS, first you'll need to sign up for a free OpenDNS account. After that, from within the router's Web interface, select OpenDNS as the method of managing the parental control feature; you will then be asked to associate the router with the OpenDNS account with a few mouse clicks, and that's it. The router can now be managed from anywhere in the world when you log in to your OpenDNS account at OpenDNS.com.

When hosting an external hard drive, the DIR-857 can also work as a streaming server, making digital music, photos, and videos stored on the connected hard drive available to networked DLNA-compliant media streamers and iTunes. You can also share documents with multiple computers the way you do with NAS servers. You can't restrict access to the hard drive, however, meaning that everyone will have full read and write access to all data stored on the hard drive. In my testing, the router worked with all desktop and portable external hard drives I used with it, including ones that offered 2TB of storage space or more. The router's USB port provided enough power for any bus-powered portable drive.

Other than external hard drives, the DIR-857's USB port works with the included SharePort utility software to support any USB device. The software enables the computer to recognize a USB device that's plugged into the router as if it were plugged directly into the computer's USB port. This is a nifty feature that spares you from having to move the device around, since most USB devices are generally designed to work with only the computers they're plugged into. With certain USB devices, such as a printer or external hard drive, SharePort Plus even allows multiple computers to access the connected USB device at the same time.

The DIR-857 was the fastest N900 router I've seen on the 5GHz frequency band. In the close-range (15 feet) test, it topped the chart at 215Mbps, significantly faster than the runner-up. In fact its score was very close to that of the first 802.11ac router on the market, the Buffalo AirStation WZR-D1800H, which was 234Mbps. When I increased the distance to 100 feet, the DIR-857 still averaged an impressive 172Mbps, fastest on the chart, even faster than the Buffalo AirStation.

Things weren't the same on the 2.4GHz band, however. The D-Link now registered just 48Mbps and 30Mbps for the close-range and long-range test respectively. These scores aren't too bad but were in no way close to the scores of some of its peers. Note that generally you should use the 5GHz band for intensive tasks, such as media streaming, and the 2.4GHz for casual Internet surfing.

It's worth noting that I tested routers at CNET's office where there are always a lot of other Wi-Fi and wireless devices that operate on the 2.4GHz frequency band that I have no control over. In that same environment, the D-Link showed decent range, some 270 feet away. Realistically, however, you should use the router within 150 feet or so to get stable Wi-Fi connections with high data rates.

The DIR-857 pass my 24-hour stress test without any hiccups. During this time it was set to transfer a large amount of data back and forth between wireless clients, on both bands, and it didn't disconnect once.

Like the DIR-827, the DIR-857 didn't impress with its storage performance. Despite support for USB 3.0, which should be about 10 times the speed of USB 2.0, when coupled with an external hard drive the DIR-857's network storage performance via a Gigabit Ethernet connection wasn't faster than that of other routers that use USB 2.0. At 70Mbps for writing and 126Mbps for reading, its performance was average among routers with similar features. These numbers, however, were high enough for general data-sharing and media-streaming needs.

NAS write performance (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Cisco Linksys E4200v2
WD My Net N900
Apple Time Capsule
D-Link DIR-857
D-Link DIR-827
Netgear WNDR4500
Netgear WNDR4000
Netgear WNDR3700

2Hz Wireless-N performance (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Asus RT-N66U
Cisco Linksys E4200v2
Trendnet TEW-692GR
Netgear WNDR4500
D-Link DIR-857
Belkin N750 DB
Netgear WNDR4000
WD My Net N900 HD

5GHz Wireless-N performance (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
D-Link DIR-857
WD My Net N900 HD
Belkin N900 DB
Cisco Linksys E4200v2
Asus RT-N66U
AirStation WZR-D1800H
Netgear WNDR4500
Trendnet TEW-692GR

Service and support
D-Link backs the Amplifi HD Media Router 3000 DIR-857 with a one-year warranty, fairly standard for most home routers. At the company's Web site, you will find a wealth of support information, including downloads, FAQs, and a searchable knowledge base. You can also seek help through the company's toll-free technical support phone line, which is available 24-7.

With stellar performance on the 5GHz frequency band and a nice set of features, the Amplifi HD Media Router 3000 DIR-857 would be an excellent buy if you're seeking an advanced router for your home network, especially if you do a lot of media streaming.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Weight 12.1 oz
  • Data Transfer Rate 900 Mbps
  • Connectivity Technology wired
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