Editor's note: The rating and/or Editors' Choice designation for this product has been altered since the review's original publication. The reason for this is simply the general improvement of technology over time. In order to keep our ratings fair and accurate, it's sometimes necessary to downgrade the ratings of older products relative to those of newer products. (12/14/04)
When we first reviewed the D-Link DI-624 AirPlus Xtreme G router a year ago, we were unimpressed, but that was then, and this is now. The new DI-624 is about half the size of the original and twice as fast. It also comes with an improved quick-installation guide, a more comprehensive manual, stronger security features, and an excellent support package that includes a long, three-year warranty. Few routers are as easy to set up as the DI-624, but if the thought of typing an IP address into your browser's address bar makes you sweat, then consider the less powerful but easier to use, Microsoft MN-700. On the other hand, if you're looking for a fast router with excellent range and a bushel of features, such as a configurable firewall, parental controls, top-notch wireless security, and VPN pass-through support, then look no further. With a current street price of about $70, the DI-624 is a great buy for both home and small office networks.
For a router with such an advanced feature set, the D-Link DI-624 AirPlus Xtreme G router is easy to set up. The package includes everything you'll need: the router; a CD-ROM containing a manual and warranty info; an Ethernet cable; and a 5V DC power adapter. The new DI-624 is compact, about the size of a medium-size paperback, and its bottom panel doubles as a mounting bracket, making it easy to attach to a wall or the ceiling. Unfortunately, the DI-624 doesn't come with a stand for vertical positioning, which is a feature we like in the Netgear WGT624.
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The new DI-624 has shrunk to about half its original size.
The hardware setup is a snap, literally. Connect the DI-624 to your broadband modem with the cable that came with your modem, use the Ethernet cable in the package to connect the router to your computer, and you're done.
Although D-Link doesn't offer an automated configuration routine like the one you'll find with the Dell Wireless 2300 and the Microsoft MN-700, the DI-624's network setup is about as easy as it gets; it's one of the smoothest setup routines we've seen. The printed quick-installation guide walks you through every step of the installation process, with screen shots and instructions for both Mac OS X and Windows XP that show you how to connect to the DI-624's browser-based configuration tool. The browser-based tool itself includes a five-step setup wizard that automatically detects your Internet connection and configures security for your wireless network. The explanations and instructions in the printed quick-installation guide seamlessly complement the wizard, addressing each step in the process.
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You can swap out the DI-624's omnidirectional antenna for a directional one.
The D-Link DI-624 AirPlus Xtreme G router is chock-full of features for both homes and small offices. Auto MDI/MDIX ports in the router's Ethernet switch eliminate the need for costly crossover cables and make the DI-624 easy to connect to other hubs and switches. The router also comes with a removable antenna, so you can expand your coverage area by adding an antenna. The router also features parental controls that include URL filtering, domain blocking, and access scheduling by day of the week and time of day. If you play games over the Internet, you can use the DI-624's special gaming mode, which adjusts the firewall to allow for network entertainment. For connections that demand even less restrictive access, such as videoconferencing, you can use the router's DMZ feature, which lets you place a single computer outside the router's firewall. If you telecommute, the DI-624 also supports VPN pass-through for both PPTP and IPSec.
With a firewall that is more configurable than most we've seen, the DI-624's security is top-notch for a consumer router. You can turn the firewall on and off, a feature missing from the Microsoft MN-700 and one that can be important for troubleshooting and allowing certain types of connections. You can also create a list of rules that let you allow or deny specific types of traffic between your internal network and the Internet. For example, you can block UDP traffic from the Internet targeted for a specific port on one of your computers.
The DI-624 heaps on wireless security features. The router supports not only 64- and 128-bit WEP encryption, but also WPA and ironclad 802.1x authentication via a "--="" rel="nofollow" class="c-regularLink" target="_blank">&siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ewebopedia%2Ecom%2FTERM%2FR%2FRADIUS%2Ehtml" target="_blank">RADIUS server.
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A label on the bottom of the DI-624 tells you if it is the newest hardware version.
The D-Link DI-624 AirPlus Xtreme G router is one of the best-performing routers we've seen. Like the Netgear WGT624, the D-Link DI-624 comes equipped with an Atheros AR5002 chipset, the secret to its blazing throughput and great range. If you already have a DI-624, you can upgrade the router's firmware to the latest version to take advantage of the new performance enhancements. The so-called 108Mbps firmware is currently available only for DI-624s with a label on the bottom that reads "H/W Ver.:C1."
At close range, the DI-624 clocked in at 44.4Mbps. That's about twice as fast as a typical 802.11g router and just under the Netgear WGT624's speed of 47.1Mbps. The DI-624 also matched the WGT624 in range, surpassing other 802.11g performers with a record-setting 225 feet. We were less impressed with the DI-624's performance in a mixed environment with 802.11b devices. Here, the router was able to eke out only 11.6Mbps at close range, noticeably less than the 18.2Mbps demonstrated by the Dell Wireless 2300.
|CNET Labs maximum throughput tests (Longer bars indicate better performance)|
|CNET Labs throughput tests with mixed b/g clients (Longer bars indicate better performance)|
We tested a DI-624 with C1 version hardware and firmware version 2.28. For more information on how we test, see the CNET Labs site.
D-Link offers a long, three-year warranty for the DI-624 AirPlus Xtreme G router--much longer than the one year Netgear offers on its WGT624. In addition, D-Link offers toll-free 24/7 phone support for the life of the product.
We're also impressed by the wealth of resources for the router on the D-Link Web site, including free firmware upgrades, an installation guide, a manual, and warranty information. Another nice touch D-Link has added to its online support is an emulator that lets you test-drive the DI-624's browser-based configuration tool.