The D-Link AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi DIR-890L/R Router is easily the most eye-catching router I've seen, but the sci-fi looks aren't the only thing about it worth your attention. In my testing, it was fast and easy to use, with an exceptionally stable Wi-Fi signal. It also doubles as a capable network storage server when hosting an external hard drive.
Unfortunately, at $310 or AU$400 it's the most expensive router in its class without delivering any real advantages over it competitors. (A UK price has yet to be announced, but that converts to about £200.) In fact, its Wi-Fi range, features and configuration levels are even inferior.
Like all tri-band AC3200 routers, the DIR-890 is generally overkill for most users, but if you live in a relatively small home, have lots of Wi-Fi-compatible devices and want a powerful and easy to use device, you'll likely be happy with it. For those who want more configuration and features, however, I'd recommend theinstead.
Powerful hardware, radical design
Rocking a completely unique design, the D-Link DIR-890 looks like more like a drone than a router. Brilliant in race-car red, it's the most attention-seeking networking device I've seen.
Measuring 15.2 by 9.7 by 4.7 inches (38.7 by 24.7 by 11.9cm) and sprouting six antenna, it's also huge as routers go. And unlike its peers, the DIR-890's antennas are not detachable. So, don't count on replacing them with high-gain or third-party antennas to increase your range.
Similar to the Asus RT-AC3200, the DIR-890 is powered by a Broadcom dual-core 1GHz processor. On the back are the usual amount of network ports (four Gigabit LAN ports and one Gigabit Internet [WAN] port). It also has one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 port that you can use to host a printer or an external hard drive. On the front, it has an array of lights running in a vertical line that show the status of the Internet connection, the Wi-Fi networks, and the two USB ports.
As a tri-band router, the D-Link DIR-890 has three separate built-in access points (APs): one 2.4GHz AP to support all 2.4GHz 802.11n/g/b Wi-Fi clients, which caps at 600Mbps; and two 5GHz APs to support 5GHz 802.11ac/n/a clients, capping at 1,300Mbps each. Combining all of them, the router has a total bandwidth of 3,200Mbps at any given time. Since a client can connect only one of those bands at a time, its top theoretical speed to a client remains 1,300Mbps at most, which is the same as an AC1900 router. (For better understanding of Wi-Fi standards, check out this handy feature.)
Keep in mind that the second 5GHz band is used only when there are multiple clients trying to connect to the router, which is extra helpful with clients of different Wi-Fi standards (802.11a, 802.11n or 802.11ac). In this case, fast clients will connect to one band with the other clients hooking up to the remaining bands, allowing each of them to run at their fastest speed without adversely affecting each other.
You can use the DIR-890 either as three separate Wi-Fi networks (one for each band) or combine all three into a single network in the Smart Connect mode. With the latter, which is also the default setting, the router will automatically connect each client to the optimal band.
Easy to use, limited Web interface
The DIR-890 is very easy to use, coming pre-configured with a Wi-Fi network and password. All you have to do is plug it in and connect it to an Internet source, such as a DSL or cable modem. Then, after you connect a client to the network, run a Web browser to launch the wizard that will walk you through a few step to finish setup (if you like, you can change the Wi-Fi network name and password). After that you can get to this interface by pointing the browser to the router's default IP address (192.168.0.1) and you can find the setup wizard from the Settings menu of the Web interface.
The DIR-890 uses the new interface we first saw in the, which has its pros and cons. I like that the new interface is more polished and intuitive than on previous D-Link routers. Instead of the old granular menus, it now has just four category buttons: Home, Settings, Features and Management. Except for Home, which shows a visual network map, when you mouse over the buttons you'll see a drop-down menu with the sub-settings of the category.
This means from any part of the interface, you can quickly access any different part, without having to first exit the current section. The icons also do exactly what you think they will do. For example, on the network map, which is a great way to view your entire network, you can click on connected clients (each has its own type-representative icon) to interact with them. There's also a Quality of Service (QoS) feature that allows you to quickly drag and drop connected clients to a different slot for Internet access priority (Highest, High and Medium).
On the downside, though, the QoS is limited to putting only one client in the top priority spot, and you can't prioritize them based on other categories, such as the type of Internet traffic (download, surfing, voice over IP) or applications (games, media streaming and so on).
The interface also has limited configuration options and lacks depth, for both settings and features, throughout. For example, you can only reserve or unreserve an IP address for a client (such as a computer) when that client is connected to the router, and there's no way to manually edit the reservation list. That makes it hard to not only know which IP address belongs to which computer, but also it's impossible for you to move an IP address of a crashed computer to another without resetting the router. Also, in my experience, I could only reserve the IP addresses for about 10 clients.
Still more settings are limited. You can only create only 15 port-forwarding rules and 15 Web filtering rules. The Web filtering rules work in a very rigid way -- you can either allow all users to access up to 15 websites (and nothing else) or block up to 15 websites. There's no way to block certain clients from certain websites during a certain time.
On the whole, the new interface is great for home users who want something simple and easy to use. Savvy users, however, will find it lacking.