Design-wise, the D-Link N 650 router is fairly standard. D-Link uses a three-antenna configuration, mounted on a black-and-silver box. All three antennas can be bent or pivoted to maximize signal strength. The back of the router offers up the standard ports: four LAN ports for hardwired connections; a USB port; a WAN port for connecting the router to a modem; and a power jack, as well as a pinhole reset button. The front edge houses the standard LEDs to indicate power and network activity, but after experiencing the user-friendly display on the Belkin N1 router, the status quo feels sorely lacking. On the upside, the D-Link router does come with a stand for orienting the router on one of its narrow edges, as well as a wall-mounting kit, which can help you both better utilize your space and maximize your router's signal.
Setting up the D-Link N 650 router is straightforward. As with all currently available routers, newbies should first run the included CD, which will walk you through all the steps, from plugging in the cables to powering on and configuring network settings. Old hands can simply connect the cords, power up, and point their browser to the provided default IP address to access the router's configuration utility. For additional assistance, a 90-page electronic manual (on the CD) walks you through every step of the setup-and-configuration process and even talks about using Windows' ZeroConfig utility instead of D-Link's proprietary utility.
As far as security goes, D-Link has done away with the WEP option altogether, offering only WPA and WPA2 security. (As far as we know, the D-Link Draft N router is the only one without WEP support.) If you have an older adapter that doesn't support WPA encryption, you'll have to download a driver and perhaps firmware, as well, for the adapter in order to use it with the D-Link router (or buy a new adapter). One of the nice touches in D-Link's configuration utility is that it translates techspeak into plain English. For example, instead of just giving you the option to turn off SSID broadcasting, it explains what SSID broadcasting is so that you know why you're doing it. Other options include access controls (based on date/time, sites, or applications); a policy wizard that lets you dictate who can access what and when; port-forwarding rules; an SPI firewall; MAC filtering; and DMZ support, among others.
On CNET Labs' tests, the D-Link beat all of the Draft N routers in both short-range mixed throughput and at long range, posting scores of 58.82Mbps and 41.04Mbps, respectively. But it fell to the back of the pack on CNET Labs' maximum-throughput tests, with a score of 68.1Mbps. The Belkin N1 router is a more consistent performer, though you only have the option of mixed-mode use. As with the rest of the Draft N routers, these scores are impressive when compared to 802.11g routers, but they're well short of the 802.11n spec's promised speed gains of about 200Mbps maximum throughput at short range. (The estimated real-world throughput is 200Mbps; the theoretical max throughput for 802.11n is about 540Mbps.)
D-Link backs the N 650 DIR-635 router with a standard one-year warranty, short of Linksys's three-year policy and Belkin's incomparable lifetime support. Still, phone support is available 24/7, or you can contact tech support via an online form. If the 90-page manual doesn't give you the answer you're looking for, D-Link's site has FAQs, downloadable drivers, and installation guides. The installation CD also has trial versions of ZoneAlarm, Network Magic, and CA eTrust EZ Antivirus.