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The D-Link DHP-1320 PowerLine Router is the first all-in-one router we've seen, and it delivers for the most part. The router offered decent close-range wireless speed and worked well with most HomePlug AV adapters in our testing. It also has an USB port and a decent set of features that can be conveniently managed via its responsive and well-organized Web interface.
On the downside, the router doesn't feature dual-band or support Gigabit Ethernet and comes with just three LAN ports, whereas most wireless routers have four. For the street price of around $85, however, it's a good buy for a home that requires a flexible network and doesn't have intensive networking needs.
Design and ease of use
The D-Link DHP-1320 PowerLine Router looks very much like a regular wireless router, though slightly bulkier, with two removable antennas sticking up from its back. Also on the back you'll find a WAN port (to be connected to an Internet source) and three LAN ports (for wired clients). There's also a USB port, a recessed reset button, the power button, and a switch for changing between router and access point modes.
The USB port can be used with D-Link's SharePort technology, which enables any USB device to work with a network computer as though it were connected to the computer directly, or with Microsoft's Windows Connect Now (WCN). WCN is an old but handy technology that allows you to transfer a router's encryption key from the router to a Windows computer using a USB key, sparing you from having to remember the encryption key.
On the side, the router has a WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) button, which is another convenient way to add wireless clients to the encrypted wireless network. Press this button and you open a 2-minute time window in which other WPS-enabled devices can join the network without you having to enter the encryption key manually. Next to this button is the power-line security button, which creates a secure power-line network with other D-Link or compatible power-line adapters.
On the front, like most routers, the DHP-1320 has an array of little LED lights that show the status of all the ports on the back, as well as the wireless, Internet, and power-line connections.
The most noticeable thing about the router's design is its power supply, which is housed inside the router itself, explaining its larger physical size. This means you can use any standard power cord with the device. This is because the power supply now doubles as a power-line adapter, so the cord also works as a data cable. Once plugged in, the router, while functioning like all wireless routers, also acts as one end of a power-line connection. You just need to plug other HomePlug AV power-line adapters, such as the WD Livewire or the Linksys PLS300, into different power sockets around the house and have yourself a complete power-line network. With other routers, you'll also need another adapter connected to the router itself.
The router comes with a CD that contains the wizard-based D-Link Router Quick Setup desktop software. Following the wizard, we were able to get everything up and running, including connecting to the Internet and other wireless clients and setting up the power-line connections, within just a few minutes. Alternatively, you can use the Web-based interface--which is well thought out, responsive, and more comprehensive than the desktop application--by turning a connected computer's browser to the router's default IP address, which is 192.168.0.1.
As the first all-in-one router we've seen, the D-Link DHP-1320 PowerLine Router obviously has more to offer than other wireless routers. You now have wired, power-line, and wireless networking technology in one place. However, each of these could use some upgrading to be future-proof.
For the wired network, the DHP-1320 doesn't support Gigabit Ethernet, which is a big minus for those who want a fast wired network. Also, the fact that it has only three LAN ports somewhat mitigates the significance of the built-in PowerLine support. This is because while other routers don't have this support, again, they tend to offer four LAN ports. The second minor disappointment is the router's power line, which supports only HomePlug AV standard, which caps at 200Mbps. It would be much better if it supported the new 500Mbps power-line standard, the way the Trendnet TPL-401E2K power-line adapter kit does. And finally, the DHP-1320 doesn't feature dual-band wireless, either, working only on the 2.4GHz band.
All of these shortcomings, however, don't mean that it is no good as a router. The device worked as expected in our testing and it has a nice Web interface and a good set of networking features, including D-Link's SharePort technology.
SharePort comes with a software application called SharePort Utility that you'll need to install on your network computers. The software allows the computer to recognize a USB device plugged into the router as if it were plugged directly into the computer's USB port. For this reason, unlike other USB-equipped routers that support only printers and external hard drives, thanks to SharePort the DHP-1320 can share virtually any USB device over your network.
SharePort does have a big drawback, however: only one PC can access one USB device plugged into the router at a time. So, if one person is using a printer that's plugged into the router, others won't have access to it until it is released by the first user by means of the SharePort Network USB software. This makes SharePort a little less appealing than a traditional print-serving feature that would allow the printer to be accessed by multiple computers at a time.
We tried the SharePort USB port with multiple devices, including external hard drives, cameras, and printers, and it worked as intended. If you want to use this port to host a hard drive or a printer to share with other computers, it is possible. All you have to do is share the USB device via the one computer that has control over it, the same way you would share a folder or a printer that's plugged directly into that computer. This seems to be a workaround to spare you from having to install SharePort Utility software on multiple computers. However, this also means the host computer has to be powered on for the USB device to be available to the rest of the network.
Like other D-Link routers, the DHP-1320 offers numerous networking features. You can set up manual port forwarding--mapping information coming to certain ports to a certain computer in the network--or use the router's preset settings for different applications and services such as instant-messaging software, BitTorrent, IP phone software, virtual servers, and so on.
It offers a comprehensive set of parental control tools including Network Filter, Access Control, Web Site Filter, and Inbound Control. These tools allow you to control the network and limit access to the Internet according to specific criteria; for example, you can prevent a particular computer from accessing adult Web sites, or you can only allow it to run IM programs during certain periods of time only. The router also has an easily customizable QoS feature with which you can prioritize your Internet and network traffic for different services.
Unlike other D-Link routers, the DHP-1320 doesn't offer a guest networking feature that would let you create a separate wireless network to be used by guests or the public. Instead it has built-in support for IP6, a new IP standard intended to replace the existing IP4, which is bound to run out of addresses. Most existing routers can offer support for IP6 via a firmware update.
The D-Link DHP-1320 PowerLine Router performed well in our testing both as a wireless router and as a power-line device.
As a power-line device, the DHP-1320 was the second fastest among HomePlug AV devices we've tested, scoring 45.8Mbps, slower than 56.2Mbps of the Netgear XAVNB2001. Note that on the chart the Trendnet TPL-401E2K was the fastest, but it was the only device that supports the faster 500Mbps power-line standard. The rest only support the 200Mbps HomePlug AV standard.
As a wireless router, the DHP-1320 came in second at 66.5Mbps in our close-range test, bested by only the Cisco Linksys E2000, which scored 74.2Mbps. At this speed, the DHP-1320 can finish transmitting 500MB of data in just about a minute.
The router did much worse in the range test, when it was set to be 100 feet away from the clients, registering only 24.1Mbps, which is about average among 2.4GHz Wireless-N routers. In the mixed-mode test, when it was set to work with both Wireless-N and legacy clients at the same time, it scored 58Mbps, which was again the second-best on our chart.
The DHP-1320 passed our 48-hour stress test, during which it didn't disconnect once. The router also has very long range, up to 300 feet in our testing environment. However, we noticed that its throughput reduced significantly with range. This means that at distances of 75 feet and beyond the router should be used only for mild Internet surfing.
Service and support
D-Link backs the DHP-1320 Wireless N PowerLine Router with a one-year warranty, which is 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 built-in support for power-line technology, the DHP-1320 makes a good wireless router for large homes where a wireless signal can't penetrate every corner. However, the router's lack of high-end features, including dual-band, Gigabit Ethernet, and support for the 500Mbps power-line standard, makes it unsuitable for savvy users or high-demand environments.