D-Link's entry into the first round of Draft 802.11n networking gear, the RangeBooster N 650 DIR-635 router, does little to separate itself from the rest of the Draft N competition. It beat other Draft N routers in both mixed-mode (at 10 feet) and long-range (200 feet) throughput, but it was the slowest of the pack in the maximum throughput (at 10 feet) tests. In the end, the numbers still fall short of the promise of 802.11n, leading us to stick with the same advice we've been giving: sit tight and wait for the 11n specification to be finalized so that you can see how the products based on the final spec perform. If you must have a fast, new router immediately, spring for the . Keep in mind, though: the so-called pre-N or Super G routers need to be used with their companion adapters for maximum performance and will likely not work with products based on the final 11n spec. (As for the Draft N products, vendors are not promising that they'll work with 11n spec products, but unless something drastic happens between now and when the spec is finalized--around mid 2007--a simple firmware upgrade will probably bring current products in line with new products.)
Design-wise, the D-Link N 650 router is fairly standard. D-Link uses a three-antenna configuration, mounted on a black-and-silver box. All three antennas can be bent or pivoted to maximize signal strength. The back of the router offers up the standard ports: four LAN ports for hardwired connections; a USB port; a WAN port for connecting the router to a modem; and a power jack, as well as a pinhole reset button. The front edge houses the standard LEDs to indicate power and network activity, but after experiencing the, the status quo feels sorely lacking. On the upside, the D-Link router does come with a stand for orienting the router on one of its narrow edges, as well as a wall-mounting kit, which can help you both better utilize your space and maximize your router's signal.
Setting up the D-Link N 650 router is straightforward. As with all currently available routers, newbies should first run the included CD, which will walk you through all the steps, from plugging in the cables to powering on and configuring network settings. Old hands can simply connect the cords, power up, and point their browser to the provided default IP address to access the router's configuration utility. For additional assistance, a 90-page electronic manual (on the CD) walks you through every step of the setup-and-configuration process and even talks about using Windows' ZeroConfig utility instead of D-Link's proprietary utility.
As far as security goes, D-Link has done away with the WEP option altogether, offering only WPA and WPA2 security. (As far as we know, the D-Link Draft N router is the only one without WEP support.) If you have an older adapter that doesn't support WPA encryption, you'll have to download a driver and perhaps firmware, as well, for the adapter in order to use it with the D-Link router (or buy a new adapter). One of the nice touches in D-Link's configuration utility is that it translates techspeak into plain English. For example, instead of just giving you the option to turn off SSID broadcasting, it explains what SSID broadcasting is so that you know why you're doing it. Other options include access controls (based on date/time, sites, or applications); a policy wizard that lets you dictate who can access what and when; port-forwarding rules; an SPI firewall; MAC filtering; and DMZ support, among others.