For all intents and purposes, the D-Link DI-524 AirPlus G router is the same product as the . They share most features: convenient brackets and rubber feet for positioning the devices so that their antennas are free and clear of obstruction; detailed product guides for supereasy setup and network configuration; impressive security features, including WPA support and flexible firewalls; and unusually long, three-year warranties. But there's one big difference between the two: the DI-524 claims a bandwidth of 54Mbps, while the latter lists 108Mbps. True, you'll achieve the DI-624's 108Mbps only by syncing up with other D-Link Xtreme G products. But on networks with other Xtreme G products, the DI-624 still performed nearly twice as fast as the DI-524 in CNET Labs' maximum throughput tests (the two attained parity in our Labs' mixed-mode tests). Since some stores offer rebates on the DI-624 that make it the same price as (or cheaper than) the $69 DI-524, we say go for the former and get much more bang for your buck. The D-Link DI-524 AirPlus G router looks nearly identical to its slightly larger and faster sibling, the . The DI-524 includes two nice design elements intended to get the antenna out in the open to strengthen its signal: brackets on the bottom for wall mounting and detachable rubber feet for standing the device on its end. The antenna also bends 90 degrees and rotates 360 degrees, helping you extend your range in just the right direction.
D-Link bundles the usual component suspects with the DI-524 AirPlus G router: a CD with documentation and software; an AC adapter; a slightly short, 68-inch Ethernet cable (we'd prefer at least 84 inches); and a printed quick-installation guide. All of the terms and procedures in the DI-524's guide are thoroughly described through text, diagrams, and screenshots, making device setup quick and painless.
The DI-524's browser-based setup wizard automatically detects your Internet connection type. Once it senses whether your connection is dynamic, static, PPPoE, or PPTP, it walks you through setting up the DI-524 for your network type. The wizard also includes the instrumental steps of establishing an SSID and a WEP key. The guide ends with a clear explanation of how to connect the DI-524 to an existing network using either Windows XP or Mac OS X.Aside from one digit in its name and a slower 54Mbps maximum data-transmission speed, the D-Link DI-524 is essentially the 108Mbps DI-624, so it shares most of the DI-624's useful features. For starters, the DI-524 keeps your data safe and secure through 64-bit and 128-bit WEP encryption, letting you choose up to four WEP keys for the device. It also offers 802.1x authentication and WPA support, which includes both periodic key changes via TKIP (temporal key integrity protocol) through a RADIUS server and PSK (preshared key) collaboration. Like the DI-624's Ethernet switch, the DI-524's switch supports auto MDI/MDIX ports, facilitating smooth connections with other switches and hubs. You can also unscrew the router's antenna in order to add one that's more capable of delivering your desired coverage area.
The DI-524 is the Fort Knox of wireless router firewalls. It includes domain and URL blocking, which keep unwanted sites away from the kids and thwart unwanted ads, VPN pass-through for remote employees who need access to the corporate network, and the ability to schedule device access by day and time. The firewall also allows for permissible breaches under certain circumstances. For example, you can opt to remove firewall protection from a specific computer on your network through the router's DMZ (short for demilitarized zone) setting. Initiating Game mode lets your computer become a wireless host for games such as Warcraft III. You can also turn off the firewall if you want to permit unrestricted Internet access.In CNET Labs' maximum throughput tests, the D-Link DI-524 AirPlus G router earned a mediocre maximum speed of 23.1Mbps. That's a more impressive score than those from the likes of other routers such as the Linksys WRT54G, which earned a slower 15.6Mbps. But the DI-524's maximum speed is slow compared to that of another D-Link router, the , with its 44.4Mbps. However, the two achieved exactly the same 11.6Mbps score in our Labs' mixed-mode tests--again, that's faster than the Linksys WRT54G but nowhere near the 18.2Mbps mixed-mode speed.
For more details on how we test networking devices, see the CNET Labs site.