802.11n, 4x 10/100/1000Mbit/s Ethernet ports
D-Link’s DIR-645 is certainly a break from router convention. Instead of being a short and squat box with stubby aerials, it’s a round glossy black cylinder. According to D-Link, it also has something special inside to help improve wireless speeds – what the company calls SmartBeam technology.
Instead of the conventional two or three omnidirectional aerials on top, the DIR-645 has six directional antennae inside its shell. These are designed to communicate with wireless devices on your network and focus power output to the devices that need it, improving coverage and range while avoiding interference. This approach is in contrast to that taken by many high-end routers, which use the less-congested 5GHz band to improve performance – the DIR-645 is 2.4GHz only.
SmartBeam certainly seems to work. When tested with a Centrino 2 laptop, the DIR-645 emerged as the fastest router we’ve ever seen, just outstripping Buffalo’s GigaStation WZR-HP-G450H. At 1m range it transferred files at 50.4Mbit/s, compared to 48.8Mbit/s for the Buffalo router. At 10m we saw 46.6Mbit/s compared to 44.3Mbit/s for the Buffalo and in our 25m test, where some routers can’t even hold a connection, the DIR-645 could transfer files at 18.5Mbit/s, compared to 18.4Mbit/s for Buffalo’s WZR-HP-G450H. Turning on the channel-bonding turbo mode just slowed things down, so we left the router in 20MHz mode.
However, when we tested the router with D-Link’s own DWA-160 USB adaptor (£33 inc VAT from www.amazon.co.uk), our transfer speeds slowed right down – we only saw 13.1Mbit/s at 10m range and a crawling 2Mbit/s at 25m. This is in stark contrast to the WZR-HP-G450H, which could transfer files even faster with its own dongle. We tried the router again with a Dynamode WL-700N-MRT adaptor, which is £6 from www.scan.co.uk. With this adaptor we saw 56.1Mbit/s at 1m range, 54.8Mbit/s at 10m and 15Mbit/s at 25m ranges, which is a massive improvement if still not quite up with the Buffalo router's huge 25.8Mbit/s at 25m range.
The DIR-645 is easy to set up and configure. It doesn’t have a built-in modem, so you’ll need to plug your ADSL or cable router into the DIR-645’s ‘Internet’ port with an Ethernet cable. Once you’ve done that, you just need to plug your PC or laptop into D-Link’s router over Ethernet and run the setup CD. This checks for internet connectivity, prompts you to set an admin password for the router and takes you through setting up WPA or WPA2 encryption for your wireless network. Every step is explained in detail, making the whole setup process easy; the only strange part is that you have to disable your Windows firewall before the setup will run, but you can turn it back on afterwards, and you’ll be protected by the router’s own firewall throughout the setup process.