D-Link DIR-825 Xtreme N Dual Band Gigabit Router
Price: $189.99 list
Pros: Two wireless broadband networks for both Web surfing and video streaming; more robust 5GHz signal; easy setup; printer sharing; automatic bandwidth prioritization.
Cons: Installation wizard doesn’t play on Macs; tech support staff not well versed on Macs.
As a home’s networking needs change, so must the routers that support it. With streaming digital video becoming common in more households, consumers are finding that demanding video downloads can put a strain on their bandwidth, resulting in uneven throughput. Enter the D-Link DIR-825 Xtreme N, which provides two wireless networks in one box.
The strength of the Xtreme N is that it provides two networks with different signals. There’s a 2.4GHz signal and a 5GHz signal. Use the 2.4GHz, which is more likely to suffer interference, for standard surfing and e-mailing. Use the 5GHz, with its more robust signal, for video downloads and gaming. Both offer 802.11 a/b/g/draft n compatibility.
While D-Link is taking steps to demystify home networking for average users, we’d like to remind them that there are plenty of Macs in the home. We like that there’s an easy software wizard on the included CD, but it’s only for Windows users. There are text instructions for Mac and Linux users.
Connecting to the router isn’t hard, especially for people who have done so before, and making the basic settings is routine. We’d love to see a company create an acronym-free interface for novice users, however.
We experienced a small problem in getting our connection to work, and discovered that D-Link support isn’t well versed on Macs. We called the free support line and a specialist, who was clearly reading from the same troubleshooting guide we’d already seen, told us that the Xtreme N could only be set by physically connecting it to a Windows computer. That was clearly wrong, so we used our PR connection to get in touch with a top support rep. He helped us clear up the problem in seconds—power-cycling the cable modem and router was all we needed to do—but that’s something the first rep should have known.
Whether connected to the 2.4GHz or 5GHz connection, we experienced seamless connectivity with no issues at all. We found the 2.4GHz signal was able to reach farther, though. A wireless home printer placed only five feet past one computer wasn’t able to see the 5GHz signal and could only communicate with the host computer when both were on the 2.4GHz channel. Streaming video on the 5GHz, though, while surfing on the 2.4GHz (as intended), produced flawless results.
D-Link’s marketing team appears to have jazzed up the product with some marketing-speak, which is always amusing. That’s why the Xtreme N offers “HD Fuel.” We’re not exactly clear on what that is, but it ties into the built-in quality-of-service (QoS) engine that prioritizes some traffic above others, to offer better video streaming and VoIP calls, for example.
You’ll get WPA or WPA2 security with the Xtreme N, and configuring it is simple with the browser controls. You can also connect a printer to the router so that you can share it among your network, although doing so requires installing the included SharePoint client, which only works on Windows computers. The router comes with 30-days of free support, but you can add an extra 60 days by registering within the first 30.
While pricier than many routers on the shelf, the Xtreme N is a perfect choice for video-enthusiast households. Give it a try and watch your streamed movies play smoothly every time.
Troy Dreier is a regular contributor to Wi-Fi Planet, PDA Street, Intranet Journal, and Laptop Magazine. He also writes a weekly consumer technology column, which is published in the Jersey Journal newspaper and distributed by the Newhouse News Service. His first book, CNET Do-It-Yourself Home Video Projects: 24 Cool Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do was recently published by McGraw-Hill.