Budget-minded Wi-Fi users know one thing: a cheap router is usually stripped of bells and whistles. The D-Link RangeBooster N Dual-Band DIR-628 has two glaring omissions: two antennas (instead of three) and four 10/100 Fast Ethernet ports, instead of those that support Gigabit Ethernet. Otherwise, this router is similar to D-Link’s flagship Xtreme N Duo Media DIR-855, which costs about $180 more. The DIR-628 isn’t the fastest dual-band router for less than $150, but if offers good dual-band performance for a reasonable price.
Design and Features
The DIR-628’s small footprint of only about 8 x 5 inches means you can tuck the router unobtrusively under a desk or on a bookshelf. The reversed SMA antennas are replaceable, so you can add higher-powered models such as the Hawking HAI7MD for about $40 each to add another 100 feet or so to the signal. However, the DIR-628 isn’t as sleek as the Linksys WRT610N, which costs about $30 more.
Even though it’s more of a budget model, the DIR-628 is still outfitted with the latest WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and WPA2 security encryption features, Quality-of-Service technology that ensures your media streaming is smooth and stutter-free, and a built-in firewall.
Setting up the DIR-628 is a breeze. A quick installer CD made sure the Internet port was working, and we were up and running in only two minutes. There’s no extra network control software like there is with the DIR-855, however. In a break from the budget mindset, though, the DIR-628 supports WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) so you can type in a PIN (located on the bottom of the router) to configure security in Windows XP and Vista.
Like the Linksys WRT610N, the DIR-628 lets you connect over the 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz band at the same time. That means that you can use the faster 802.11n standard and beef up the aging 802.11a, which is less prone to interference. In our Ixia Chariot test (which helps predict performance by simulating realistic load conditions), the DIR-628 topped out at only 88 Mbps in the 2.4-GHz band (intended for data sharing between computers), likely due to the two antennas that scatter the signal in a 2 x 2 pattern instead of 3 x 3. For this test we used D-Link’s DWA-160 Xtreme N Duo Dual Band Draft 802.11n USB Adapter, which costs $99.99.
In the 5-GHz band, which is intended for VoIP and media streaming to set-top boxes such as the Apple TV, speeds maxed out at about 112 Mbps from 5 feet. Coverage was decent but not great: The DIR-628 connected up to 400 feet in the 2.4-GHz band, and 300 feet in the 5-GHz band. Still, that’s enough for an average-size home.
Comparatively, the Linksys WRT610N reached faster speeds of 126 Mbps in the 2.4-GHz band, and 120 Mbps in the 5-GHz band. It also connected further away in the 2.4-GHz band, at an average of 7.5 Mbps. However, the Linksys couldn’t connect at all in the 5-GHz band from 300 feet away from the router, whereas the D-Link DIR-628 mustered 2 Mbps from that distance.
5 feet: 88 Mbps
50 feet: 42 Mbps
100 feet: 21 Mbps
300 feet: 10 Mbps
600 feet: no signal
5 feet: 112 Mbps
50 feet: 62 Mbps
100 feet: 39 Mbps
300 feet: 2 Mbps
600 feet: no signal
For $117, you’re getting a versatile router that operates in both the 2.4 and 5-GHz spectrum. However, when you consider that the Linksys WRT610N costs just $30 more but hits the 120-Mbps speed milestone in both bands—which means faster network backups, high-def streaming, and swapping massive files—it might be worth the splurge. But as long as you can live with its somewhat slower speeds, the DIR-628 is feature-packed and more budget-friendly.