The Xtreme N Dual Band Gigabit Router DIR-825 is D-Link's latest router on the market. We view it as a worthy successor to the DIR-655 for the addition of true dual-band capability (simultaneously supporting 5GHz and 2.4GHz frequencies) and SharePort technology that turns the router's USB port into a networked port that supports virtually any USB device. Its performance is merely acceptable and its range is poor compared with other Wireless-N routers, including other D-Link units, but we nonetheless recommend the DIR-825 for its stability, SharePort feature, ease of use, and the fact that you can get it for about $140--a very good deal for a true dual-band router.
Setup and design
We didn't experience any problems setting up the D-Link DIR-825. The router comes with a CD that contains the D-Link Router Quick Setup desktop software. Dutifully following the wizard, we were able, with minimal mouse clicks, to get everything up and running, including connecting to the Internet and other wireless clients, as well as setting up an SSID for each frequency. Alternatively, you can use the Web-based interface, which we found to be well-thought-out, responsive, and more comprehensive than the desktop application.
The DIR-825 looks just like the DIR-655, minus the third antenna. The two antennae, however, are still attached to the back of the router where all the ports reside. This is a cluttering and long-standing design trait found in all D-Link's Wireless-N routers. Nonetheless, with the omission of the middle antenna, it's much easier to get to the DIR-825's ports than the DIR-655's.
Like most D-Link routers, the DIR-825 is wall-mountable and also comes with a detachable base for it to work in the vertical position.
The router has an array of LED lights on the front that show the status of the network port on the back as well as that of the wireless and Internet connection. On one of its sides, there's a Wi-Fi Protected Setup button that helps quickly connect WPS-enabled clients to the wireless network.
Despite similarities in appearance, the DIR-825 is much more advanced than the DIR-655. It's the second router from D-Link that supports true Wireless-N dual-band, capable of broadcasting simultaneously in 5GHz and 2.4GHz frequencies. (The first was the DIR-855, which we reviewed earlier this year). The DIR-825 is the first, however, to feature the SharePort technology that allows the router's USB port to work as a networked USB port. SharePort comes with a software application called SharePort Network USB that you'll need to install on your networked computers. The software lets the computer recognize a USB device plugged into the router as if it were plugged directly into the computer's USB port. Unlike other USB-equipped routers that support only printers and external hard drives, SharePort lets the DIR-825 share virtually any USB device over your network.
SharePort does have a drawback. By making the router's USB port work the same way as one of a computer, only one PC can access a USB device plugged into the router at a time. So, if one person is using an external hard drive that's plugged into the router, others won't have access to it. This makes it a bit less appealing than the NAS feature (as found in the Linksys WRT610N), where a hard drive can simultaneously be accessed by multiple computers.
We tried the Seagate FreeAgent Xtreme external hard drive with the DIR-825's USB port and the moment we plugged it in, the SNU utility in all the computers in the network prompted that a new device has been plugged in and asked if it should connect to it. Once we selected the computer and connected to the drive, the utility on other computers showed that the hard drive had been taken and gave an option to message the host computer to release it, which would happen if the user at the host computer agreed. We were also able to share that hard drive (as though it was connected to the computer directly) and made it available for the rest of the network to access at the same time, the same way you would share a folder on that computer. This seems to be a workaround for the above-mentioned weakness.
Like other D-Link's USB wireless routers, the DIR-825's USB port supports Windows Connect Now, another quick way to connect wireless client to the network by using a USB thumbdrive to transfer the encryption key. Last but not least, the USB port can also support a 3G USB adapter to provide access to the Internet using an EV-DO cellular signal. This allows for the DIR-825 to work as a mobile router as well as a regular broadband router.
Other than that, the DIR-825 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 a certain port to a certain computer in the network--or use the router's preset settings for different applications and services such as instant messengers, BitTorrent, IP phone software, virtual servers, and so on. It also 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 by specific criteria, such as you can set a computer to only allow access to instant-messenger services during a certain period of time. The router also lets you customize its firewall to allow some services but not others.