One of the first dual-band routers to hit the shelves, the D-Link DI-764 gives you your cake and lets you eat it, too. This nifty networking device combines three networking hubs in one: a four-port Ethernet switch, an 802.11b access point, and an 802.11a access point. It also promises enhanced performance over standard wireless products with its 802.11b+ and 802.11a turbo modes. But unfortunately, our tests didn't support the claims on D-Link's packaging. Still, the DI-764 will satisfy small and home businesses looking to build a hybrid wireless network.
The $399 DI-764 resembles a cigar box, measuring 9.25 inches long by 6.25 inches wide by 1.50 inches high. In addition to the two-toned, silver-and-black router, the box includes an Ethernet cable; two rubber feet; an electronic manual on CD; and an illustrated, five-step quick-installation guide. Like most consumer wireless routers, the DI-764 requires little or no networking experience to set up; using the quick-installation guide, we spent less than 30 minutes getting the router up and running. If you get stuck, the helpful electronic manual contains basic information on wireless networks, a troubleshooting section, and tips on using the Windows XP network setup wizard.
To configure the router, simply open your Web browser and type in the provided IP address. The Web-based configuration wizard helps you choose basic settings such as your network name, connection type, and WEP level of encryption. The DI-7640 also offers more-advanced options, but we found the configuration screens poorly organized and a bit confusing. For example, D-Link lists most of its security settings under generic headings such as Home and Advanced.
With a little patience, you can find some useful features buried within the various configuration screens and menus. For example, you can set up Internet-accessible virtual servers on your home network and use them to offer e-mail or file-sharing services to friends and family. Plus, the router's Special Applications feature lets you run games that require multiple connections--you can't work all the time, after all. If you have trouble running certain Internet applications, you can also place one computer in a DMZ outside your firewall with unrestricted access.
For parents worried about the seedier side of the Internet, the DI-764 offers useful filtering capabilities. The configuration screen for filters lets you deny Internet access to certain MAC or IP addresses. You can even enable the filters to work during certain days and times of the week--say, if you don't want your child surfing the Web on school nights. You can also block connections to specific URLs or domains, but the filters work for only outbound connections.
As a bonus, D-Link throws in Zero-Knowledge Systems' Freedom software, which blocks ads and helps manage cookies. And as a D-Link customer, you can also subscribe to the entire Freedom Security and Privacy Suite for a special introductory rate. Check the company's Web site for details.
The DI-764 includes the standard WEP encryption levels built into most 802.11 products and throws in a couple more. The 802.11b interface gives you a choice between 64-, 128-, and 256-bit keys, and the 802.11a interface lets you choose between 64-, 128-, and 152-bit WEP encryption. But don't be fooled--WEP is intrinsically weak, regardless of the bit count. Instead of increased key lengths, we would rather see D-Link turn WEP on by default, as does the Microsoft MN-500 base station.
On the upside, you can enable and configure the DI-764's firewall via the Web-based configuration tool. Using the firewall rules, you can allow or deny very specific kinds of traffic based on IP address, protocol, and port range. The DI-764 also offers pass-through support for IPsec and PPTP, so you can securely connect to a VPN server.
Like the D-Link AirPlus DWL-900AP+, the DI-764 houses an enhanced Texas Instruments 802.11b chip that claims data rates of 22Mbps. That's twice the throughput of standard 802.11b equipment, right? Wrong. In CNET Labs' tests, the DI-764 pushed through 4.9Mbps on its 802.11b interface and 6.5Mbps in 22Mbps mode, an increase of only 25 percent.
If you need greater throughput, the DI-764's integrated 802.11a access point offers bandwidth up to 54Mbps. In our tests, however, the DI-764 peaked at 20Mbps, slightly slower than the Linksys WAP51AB wireless dual-band access point and the Intel Pro/Wireless 5000 LAN dual access point. Still not enough? If you use D-Link wireless adapters, you can also run your network in Turbo mode, which claims 72Mbps of bandwidth. But again, our tests showed substantially lower throughput, averaging only 21.1Mbps.
In informal tests, the router demonstrated good range, slightly better than the Linksys. Still, we experienced distances between 200 and 250 feet in our office environment, much shorter than the 328 feet indicated on the box.
Measured in Mbps (longer bars indicate better performance)
Measured in milliseconds (shorter bars indicate better performance)
For practical throughput tests, CNET Labs uses NetIQ's Chariot 4.3 software as its benchmark. For wireless testing, the clients and routers are set up to transmit at short ranges and at maximum signal strength. CNET Labs' response-time tests are also run with Chariot software using the TCP protocol. Response time measures how long it takes to send a request and receive a response over a network connection. Throughput and response time are probably the two most important indicators of user experience over a network.
D-Link backs the DI-764 with a decent support policy. It comes with a three-year limited warranty, which is slightly above average for the industry. However, most vendors have started offering warranties within this range. D-Link's toll-free, 24/7 phone support just adds icing to the cake. The Web page for the DI-764 puts everything you need, including firmware updates, manuals, FAQs, and e-mail support, right at your fingertips.