The D-Link DIR-855 Xtreme N Duo Media Router is packed with more features than just about any router on the market, complete with an eye-catching OLED screen you can use for monitoring connections. Powerful Quality-of-Service (QoS) features ensure reliable media streams, and simultaneous 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz support help smooth out any wireless signal kinks. However, given this device’s unusually high price of $330, its performance is a bit lacking.
Like most D-Link routers, the DIR-855 (which includes an easy-to-use setup program) has a clamshell white enclosure, but the most striking feature is its OLED display (even if Belkin was first to market with the idea). You can see which clients are connected, if the Internet is working, and even scroll through options to find out if a new firmware patch is available. The OLED display is a little hard to read and the two buttons are not labeled, so this feature could be easier to use.
Like the TrendNet TEW-672GR, the D-Link DIR-855 uses green technology to power down Ethernet ports automatically when the connected computer is turned off and to go into standby mode when the router is not being used. It also adjusts the amount of power being fed to wired connections based on the length of individual Ethernet cables. D-Link claims these features result in an 80 percent reduction in power use.
To test the DIR-855, we used Ixia Chariot, which transferred four streams of data to and from our Lenovo ThinkPad W700 test laptop. (Unlike other utilities, which merely measure bandwidth speed, Chariot reports actual transfer speed for normal use.)
The DIR-855 ran at 86 Mbps at 5 feet from our access point in mixed 802.11g/n mode (2.4 GHz) using the D-Link DWA-160 Xtreme N Dual Band USB Adapter—slower than most dual-band routers, and below the average of 97 Mbps. Over the A-only 5-GHz band, the connection was much faster—about 105 Mbps—yet still below the router average of 111 Mbps. While the 5-GHz band is less susceptible to interference from microwaves, portable phones, and competing Wi-Fi signals, we expected far better results for mixed N mode.
Still, the slower-than-expected speeds had little bearing on our media-streaming tests. We used a PlayStation 3 all afternoon for watching movies such as Domino and The Bourne Ultimatum streamed from an HP EX487 MediaSmart Server (as standard-def MPEG files) over the mixed-band 2.4-GHz g/n signal. At the same time, we connected a Lenovo ThinkPad W700 laptop and used the 5-GHz band for streaming music and slideshows. None of the files ever paused or stuttered, thanks to the DIR-855’s superior Quality of Service features. We even did a backup at the same time as a movie stream and didn’t notice any problems.
Handy USB Port
Similar to the Linksys WRT610N, the DIR-855 has a USB port for adding a printer or USB storage for making these devices available across your network. We tested this feature with a Western Digital MyBook Studio Edition II, and it worked fine for adding extra storage. The only glitch is that we had to install a driver called SharePort, which was a quick fix. However, there are no settings for user accounts, as you’ll find on a true server.
Sure, the D-Link DIR-855 has an OLED display, green tech, a USB port, and decent performance. But we’re not convinced that all of this router’s extra features are worth twice the price of competing dual-band models. The Linksys WRT610N, at $149, is a better buy for those who crave the fastest Wi-Fi speeds.
5 feet: 86 Mbps (office)
15 feet: 71 Mbps (outside office)
50 feet: 35 Mbps (den)
100 feet: 24 Mbps (upstairs)
150 feet: 10 Mbps (upstairs hallway)
300 feet: 4 Mbps (upstairs far bedroom corner)
5.0 GHz (A/N-only)
5 feet: 105 Mbps (office)
15 feet: 95 Mbps (outside office)
50 feet: 72 Mbps (den)
100 feet: 59 Mbps (upstairs)
150 feet: 49 Mbps (upstairs hallway)
300 feet: 15 Mbps (upstairs far bedroom corner)