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Super compact and available in four color options, the D-Link Wireless AC750 Dual Band Gigabit Cloud Router (model DIR-818LW) is perfect for anyone who cares about matching their gadgets. That is, if matching gadgets is all they care about.
Truth be told, the new D-Link AC750 lacks what's most important in a home router: the fast Wi-Fi performance and the long wireless range, normally found in regular-sized routers.
That makes the DIR-818LW only suitable if you have a small apartment and you're looking for a cheap router -- it's priced at just $80. But even then, it's a better idea to get one of these good N600 routers. Or, if you don't mind spending more, check out these top 802.11ac routers instead.
The DIR-818LW is almost small enough to be a travel router. The new version shares the same cylindrical design as the DIR-868L but is about a third of the size. Unlike the processor that's available only in black, the new router is now available in white, orange and teal. It's also wall-mountable. If you're looking for a networking device that matches the color of your newly painted wall, the DIR-818LW is a good find.
Despite its small physical size, on the back the DIR-818LW still has four Gigabit LAN ports and one Gigabit WAN port (the much bigger and similarly-shaped Apple AirPort Extreme has only three LAN ports). It even comes with a USB 2.0 port to host a storage device. On the front, it has two indicator lights, one for the power status and the other for your Internet connection. These lights stay green when everything is good, and change to amber when something needs attention.
Out of the box, the router comes with a label stuck on its front that shows the pre-set Wi-Fi networks and passwords. Inside the box, there's another small D-Link Wi-Fi Configuration card with the same information. Now you just need to connect the router to power, hook its WAN port to an Internet source (such as a broadband router) using the included network cable, and you're good to go.
If you want to further customize your network, you'll need to access its Web interface.
The way to access the DIR-8181LW's interface is similar to that of most routers -- see CNET's How-to on this topic. Basically, from a connected computer, point a browser to the router's default IP address, which is 192.168.0.1. By default, the password is left blank.
The interface is similar to that of the majority of D-Link routers released in the past five years, very well-organized and self-explanatory. In fact, it's one of my favorite among routers' interfaces. Though small, the new router has all of the common features found in home routers, including two guest networks (one for each frequency band), IPv6 support, QoS, Firewall, Web content filtering, Dynamic DNS, port forwarding, and so on. The router can also host a storage device via its USB port, for data sharing and media-streaming needs. In my testing, however, the performance of the USB port wasn't fast enough for the router to be used as a viable network storage solution.
What makes the DIR-818LW different from the routers of other vendors is the included cloud feature. Basically, you can use the router's interface to link it with a free MyDLink account. After that, you can access the router's settings by going to the MyDLink portal from anywhere in the world. You can also use the My D-Link Lite mobile app (for iOS and Android) for the same purpose. I find the use of this cloud feature a convenient way to check on your home network when you're on the go. Note, however, that this feature only allows for accessing and changing a few basic settings of the router. For full access, you will still need to use the Web interface, which can be made available via the Internet if you know how to configure the Dynamic DNS feature.
The DIR-818LW is a true dual-band router that supports the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard. However, it has the low-end of the Wi-Fi spectrum. On the 5GHz band, it supports the lowest tier (single stream) of 802.11ac with the top speed of 433Mbps. On the 2.4GHz band, it supports the second tier (dual-stream) of 802.11n with the top speed of 300Mbps -- read more about Wi-Fi standards here. These are the theoretical speeds -- the real-world speeds of a Wi-Fi connection is always much slower than advertised speeds.
With its current specs, despite support for the new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, the DIR-818LW, at best, is about as good as an N600 802.11n router, something that was cutting-edge five or six years ago.
As expected, the DIR-818LW didn't blow me away at all with its performance. At close range, it registered sustained real-world speeds of just 136Mbps and 36Mbps on the 5GHz band and 2.4GHz band, respectively. When I increased the range to 100 feet, it scored just 41Mbps and 8Mbps, respectively.
The router didn't have very long range, either. Technically, I could detect its signal from quite far away but effectively the range is about 120-feet away. Further than that and it's either hard to connect to or to have a stable connection.
Within this range the route offered stable Wi-Fi connections in my testing. In a 24-hour stress test, where it was set to work with multiple Wi-Fi clients, on both bands, to transfer a large amount of data back and fourth, the router didn't disconnect once.
Note that I tested the router at CNET's offices, where there are walls and many Wi-Fi devices that are out of my control. Generally, walls shorten the reach of a Wi-Fi signal, and other Wi-Fi devices create interference. As with all Wi-Fi routers, your results may vary depending on where you live.
I also tried out the router's USB port with a portable drive and found that, even via a Gigabit wired connection, the data rate -- somewhere around 48Mbps to 56Mbps -- wasn't fast enough for the router to be a robust network storage solution. You'll need to get a dedicated NAS server for this.
The D-Link Wireless AC750 Dual Band Gigabit Cloud Router is a bit of a dilemma. It's not powerful enough to be a great home router. On the other hand, it would make a great travel router, but it's still a bit too big physically. In the end, it would do well only in a small home. But even then, for $80 you'll get a much better deal with a good N600 router, such as the Asus RT-N56U . I'd only recommend it if you can get it cheaper -- Amazon is currently selling the white version for around $60.