D-Link DIR-865L (via StarHub)

D-Link DIR-865L (via StarHub)

The D-Link DIR-865L is one of D-Link’s latest routers featuring the new 802.11ac (draft) Wi-Fi standard and Cloud Technology. Two months ago, StarHub (a Singaporean telco) provided me with a review unit to test. As a quick note, my primary router is the Asus RT-AC66U, and my last D-Link router was the DIR-655.

Unlike older D-Link routers, the DIR-865L stands vertically and is rectangular. Newer D-Link routers come in cylinder shapes but this is not one of them. The back of the router provides 4 Gigabit LAN ports, 1 WAN port, 1 USB 2.0 port, the reset button, power switch, and power port. The front shows the Power status and Internet Connection status lights as well as the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button for easy pairing should a device support it. What is pretty neat is the antenna-less design, where unlike other routers, there aren’t any antennas sticking out of the device giving it a good aesthetic appeal.

Setting up the router was easy to do, the labels are sufficient and the web interface is easy to navigate. Opening the router configuration page for the first time will show the D-Link Setup Wizard that will help to setup the router easily. The D-Link web interface has been the same for ages, which is simple to navigate through and gets the job done.

The router provided came with Hardware Version A1 and Firmware Version 1.04 (29 Jan 2013). At the time of this writing I am only able to find Firmware 1.03 on the D-Link support page for the router, though.

All the functionality you’d expect in a router is present. The advanced features that come with the DIR-865L are:-

  • Guest Zone
  • Web file access
  • Multi-language Web Setup Wizard
  • Green Ethernet
  • DLNA Media server support
  • Dual Active Firewall
  • VPN passthrough/multi-session PPTP/L2TP/IPSec

Source: http://global.dlink.com.sg/site_pdtpdfs/DIR-865L/DIR-865L_ds.pdf

Being a Cloud Router (mydlink), the router is securely accessible via the Internet and Mobile Apps available on iOS and Android. This allows remote management of the router which allows the user to:-

  • Remote Management
  • View current upload/download bandwidth
  • View currently connected clients
  • View web browsing history per client
  • Block/unblock client network access
  • Manage wireless network details

Source: http://global.dlink.com.sg/site_pdtpdfs/DIR-865L/DIR-865L_ds.pdf

To use the Cloud functions, a user must register at the mydlink site where they can then log in to manage their router remotely. When I tested the mydlink functionality, it worked without a hitch and I was able to view the details of my network from another network. My only gripe about this is that there is no Windows 8 or Windows Phone app (although there is a 3rd party one for file management) for mydlink at the time of this writing. They should develop one!

The DIR-865L’s single USB 2.0 port is useful for connecting a printer to the network. When I did so on my DIR-655 a few years ago it didn’t work out so well as D-Link’s SharePort technology has various problems such as requiring to manually assign a single computer to the USB port. Although SharePort is still required to connect computers to the USB port on the router, I’m glad to see that some improvements have been made such as the ability to automatically connect to the printer during printing. I would not recommend using an External HDD with the USB port because of speed constraints, but this shouldn’t matter since most people are using Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices that use an Ethernet interface instead of a USB one. The newer D-Link routers have changed to a USB 3.0 port, though. It’s be nice if the 865L also used a USB 3.0 port for faster file transfers.

Wireless-wise, I was unable to test 802.11ac due to the lack of 802.11ac devices available in the market at this time. Nevertheless, the router fared far better than the DIR-655 on 802.11n. The connection remained strong through the walls in my house, which would normally have dropped and disconnected on the DIR-655. Downstairs, the network signal starts to lower but the connection doesn’t drop. This is in comparison to my Asus RT-AC66U which remains strong throughout the entire house. The performance of the wireless is good and I experienced no disconnects or any other problem. I apologize, but a network-based test with numbers isn’t available. The DIR-865L is a Dual Based router and has 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands that help the wireless performance overcome range limitations or network channel interference.

Overall, I found the router to be pretty decent and I believe it to be a good router for both normal and advanced users. D-Link routers, at least for me, have had a good track record and StarHub bundling it with their Broadband plans is a great idea. I still prefer my Asus RT-AC66U over the D-Link DIR-865L though, because of the more advanced features it has especially with USB and network management, and one should note that the D-Link DIR-865L is available for S$299 (though StarHub users can purchase it for S$199) and the Asus RT-AC66U is available for S$329 (prices via HardwareZone.com.sg’s Product Guide, retrieved 19/6/2013).

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