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D-Link Xtreme N Storage Router DIR-685 review: D-Link Xtreme N Storage Router DIR-685

Extra features: We like the router's network storage feature as it is one of the most comprehensive among routers that offer it. To use this feature, you'll need to purchase a 2.5-inch SATA hard drive and insert it into the router's drive bay. You then will be prompted to format the hard drive via the router's LCD onscreen menu. We tried an 80GB Samsung hard drive and it took about two minutes for the formatting to complete.

After that, we could access the router's storage just like we would access another networked computer. The router fully supports the SMB standard, which means you can just browse for it using Windows Explorer. By default, there are no restrictions and the storage can be fully accessed by anyone; however, you can apply restrictions to this via user accounts you can create from within the Web interface--a standard way to apply storage restriction found in most NAS servers.

The router's network storage also offers advanced NAS functions including support for iTunes and UPnP media streaming. It even supports BitTorrent downloads, which means the router can download files by itself without having to leave any computer on. We tried out all of these features and they worked well. What didn't seem to work well was the photo frame. While it was easy to navigate and associate the photo frame feature with a folder on the internal hard drive, the frame itself is just too small to be noticed. We feel most people would have no idea it's a photo frame even when there are photos displayed on it. We found that the LCD is more of a gimmick than a fully thought out feature.

Performance
We were happy with the DIR-685's wireless performance but disappointed with network storage performance.

The router's wireless performance was among the fastest single-band Wireless-N routers we've reviewed. In our throughput test, the router registered 51.7Mbps, just a bit slower than the 55.4Mbps of the top performing Belkin N+. At this speed, the DIR-685 can transfer 500MB of data in about 77 seconds.

The DIR-685 topped our charts on the range test with 46Mbps and on mixed mode, where it was set to work with both Wireless-N and legacy wireless clients, and it was also the fastest one at 40.6Mbps.

It was a different story with the DIR-685's NAS performance. We compared the DIR-685 with NAS servers we've reviewed and the DIR-685 was by far the slowest at only 46.6Mbps on the write test and 76.5Mbps on the read test. These were even slower than the scores of the Apple Time Capsule, which were 81.2Mbps and 114.2Mbps for write and read tests, respectively.

Nonetheless, if you just want to use the photo frame and casual document sharing, the router's network storage would suffice. For heavy media streaming purpose between multiple clients simultaneously, however, we wouldn't recommend the DIR-685's network storage at all.

CNET Labs NAS performance tests (via Gigabit Ethernet connection, in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read  
Write  
HP MediaSmart Server LX195
393.7 
341.8 
Synology DS209+ (RAID 0)
375 
256.3 
Synology DS209+ (RAID 1)
322.3 
240 
Apple Time Capsule
114.2 
81.2 
Maxtor CentralAxis (Single Volume)
55.5 
54.6 

CNET Labs 2.4GHz Wireless-N performance tests (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Mixed Mode  
Range  
Throughput  
D-Link Xtreme N Storage Router DIR-685 (2.4GHz)
43.2 
46 
51.7 
Linksys WRT320N (2.4GHz)
40.8 
32.6 
45.3 
D-Link DIR-825 (2.4GHz)
55.04 
40.4 
57.44 
Belkin N+ Wireless Router (2.4GHz)
36.16 
29.44 
55.44 
Linksys WRT400N (2.4GHz)
38.2 
37.4 
40.1 
Linksys WRT610n (2.4GHz)
27.04 
28.8 
35.76 
Apple Time Capsule (2.4GHz)
20 
20.3 
32.2 

Overall, the DIR-685 performed well in our tests. It could hold up a stable connection from up to 300 feet away in our testing environment. It also passed our 48 hour stress test, where the router was set to perform continuously heavy data transferring between clients, without any hiccup. However, we did notice when the network storage function was at work, the router's Web interface and its LCD's menu would take a long time (a second or two) to respond.

Service and support
As with all of its new routers, D-Link backs the DIR-685 with a one-year warranty, which is standard for wireless routers these days. At the company's Web site, you will find a wealth of support information including firmware, manual downloads, FAQs, and a searchable knowledgebase. You can also seek help through the company's toll-free technical support phone line, which is available 24-7.

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