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Editors' note: The D-Link DIR-655, which was first released in 2007 with Draft-N specs, is one of D-Link's most longstanding wireless routers. The latest firmware upgrade fixes bugs, adds features, and supports the 802.11n specs.
At around $100, the DIR-655 offers basically everything you'd want from a single-band home router. It has fast throughput, a very stable wireless signal, and a generous set of networking features. The router also sports D-Link's SharePort technology, which turns its USB port into a networked one that supports virtually any USB device. If a single-band router is all you need, and it probably is in most cases, the DIR-655 is a good bet. Otherwise, check out dual-band routers that CNET has reviewed, such as the DIR-855 or the Cisco E3000.
Setup and design
The DIR-655 looks like a typical wireless router with a square shape and three detachable antennas sticking up from its back, cluttering the network ports. The router's ports include four Gigabit LAN ports (for wired clients), one WAN port (to be hooked to an Internet source, such as a broadband router), and a USB port. This USB port can be used to host a USB device or to support Windows Connect Now (WCN). WCN is an old but handy technology that allows you to transfer the 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 Wi-Fi Protected Setup button, which is another convenient way to let wireless clients enter 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.
On the front, like most routers, the DIR-655 has an array of blue LED lights showing the status of the router, the LAN ports, the wireless network, the USB port, and the connection to the Internet.
We didn't experience any problems setting up the DIR-655. The router comes with a CD that contains the 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; we were also able to set up an SSID for each frequency. Alternatively, you can use the Web-based interface, which is well-thought-out, responsive, and more comprehensive than the desktop application.
Like most D-Link routers, the DIR-655 is wall-mountable and also comes with a detachable base to enable it to work in the vertical position.
D-Link regularly releases new firmware for its routers, which, apart from fixing bugs, sometimes dramatically changes the feature set of the router. We tested the DIR-655 with its latest firmware, version 1.34NA. Initially, its USB port was designed just to host a USB printer, but starting with firmware version 1.21, the router has a new feature called SharePort. This enables the router's USB port to work as a networked USB port.
SharePort comes with a software application called SharePort Network USB (SNU) 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, SharePort allows the DIR-655 to share virtually any USB device over your network.
SharePort does have a big drawback, however. By making the router's USB port work the same way as a computer's, SharePort makes it so only one PC can access a 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 using the SharePort Network USB software. This makes it a little less appealing than the old print-serving feature, where the printer could be accessed by multiple computers at a time.
We tried the SharePort USB port with multiple devices, including printers and external hard drives, and it worked as intended. We found that you can still share the attached USB device with multiple computers if you just share it from the one computer that has control over it, the same way you would share a folder or a computer on that computer. This seems to be a workaround to spare you from having to install SNU on multiple computers. However, this also means the host computer has to be on for the device to be available to the rest of the network.
Other than that, the DIR-655 offers numerous network features found in other Wireless-N routers from D-Link and a very well-organized Web interface. You can set up manual port forwarding--where you map 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. The router also has an easily customizable QoS feature that helps you prioritize your Internet and network traffic for different services.
Like other new high-end routers from D-Link, the DIR-655 comes with an interesting and useful feature called Guest Zone, which lets you create a separate wireless network to be used by guests or the public. Any wireless client connected to these guest networks gets access to the Internet but not your local LAN resources.
We tested and stacked the DIR-655 against recent routers and it fared really well. Though not the fastest, it is among the top five in terms of throughput performance.
In a close-range throughput test, the DIR-655 scored 50.6Mbps, significantly faster than the Apple Time Capsule, which scored 32.2MBps, but noticeably slower than the TrendNet TEW-691GR's score of 70.7Mbps. At this speed, the D-Link can finish transmitting 500MB of data in less than 80 seconds.
In the long-range test, where the router was put 100 feet away from the client, the D-Link's throughput reduced to 38.4Mbps. In the mixed-mode test, where the router was set to work with both N and pre-N clients, it registered 41.4Mbps.
The router offered decent range and was able to hold a steady connection from up to 270 feet away in our testing facility. Note, however, that 100 feet or less is the optimal distance if you want to stream content, especially hi-def movies, over the wireless connection.
The DIR-655 impressed us with its signal stability. It passed our 48-hour stress test without a hitch. During this time the router was set to transfer a large amount of data back and forth between multiple clients. It didn't disconnect once.
Service and support
D-Link backs the DIR-655 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. We tried the number listed on the Web site and, within less than 10 minutes, were able to get a hold of a support representative, who was friendly and seemed to know the product well.