Forget boring old routers from a bygone era. The D-Link Whole Home Router 1000 DIR-645 ($89) has one of the most unusual designs we've seen in years. Shaped like a cylinder, this value-priced router stands out in the crowd with large, easily accessible buttons on the front. Yet, the cylinder shape is more than just eye candy, as it helps eliminate dead spots for home- or office-wide coverage.
Where most routers have a forgettable boxlike shape, the cylindrical design of the DIR-645 really stands out. The tall device, at 7.6 inches and 4.6 inches in diameter, gives the all-black router a distinct look. Large buttons on the front of the router let you turn the power off and activate the WPS automated setup mode for Windows.
The DIR-645 is easy to configure using a CD setup program. We had the DIR-645 up and running in about 10 minutes after adjusting a few minor settings such as its SSID name. There is no app for mobile devices, though. And, you can't configure the router using a Web-based install program. To tweak advanced settings, you type in the IP address of the router, but this process can be confusing for anyone new to routers.
Features and Security
Unlike older dual-band routers from D-Link, and the upcoming D-Link HD Media Link 2000 DIR-827, the DIR-645 is a 2.4-GHz single-band router. That means you can connect from just about any device, including laptops, the Apple iPad and your phone. However, the 2.4-GHz radio on this router is more susceptible to interference than the 5-GHz band, which is not supported. The DIR-645 still has four Gigabit ports, and a USB port, but to use the latter, we had to install a separate utility to configure the drive volume.
The DIR-645 supports the latest security standards such as WPA2 and WPS, a push-button Windows setup. (This mode lets you add the router in Windows and enter your security passcode.) The router also supports IPv6 as well as guest accounts so visitors can jump on the Internet using a simple password. However, the DIR-645 does not support a VPN, iTunes streaming or any self-healing features.
Using IxChariot, the DIR-645 clocked in at 92 Mbps from 5 feet away. That data rate beats out the Cisco Linksys E4200v2 (90 Mbps) and the Netgear N900 (80 Mbps) from this range. However, at 150 feet, the D-Link's speeds dropped to 64 Mbps, falling below the E4200 (88 Mbps) and the Netgear (70 Mbps). Then again, the Engenius ESR600H turned in a lowly 42 Mbps from that distances. Nevertheless, the DIR-645 maintained a good connection around an entire house.
We downloaded a 3GB file in 5 minutes, two minutes slower than the Linksys E4200v2 but faster than the Belkin N900 (7 minutes). A 2GB, 400-item folder of music, video and photos took 4 minutes and 30 seconds to transfer, more than twice as long as the Linksys and the Netgear N900, but more than twice as fast as the Engenius ESR600H.
In our quality-of-service test, which is intended to see if the router let us play a video and download files at the same time, we had no problems. We watched an episode of "Modern Family" on Hulu.com, downloaded a movie with iTunes download and downloaded several large files at the same time. We tweaked some QoS settings, and the iTunes download went from 2 hours to 3 hours. That's a good thing, because it meant our Hulu video stream never stuttered and a Skype call worked perfectly.
The D-Link DIR-645 is a unique router for those who are tired of the boring boxy design. At $89, it's also much less expensive than dual-band routers, and offers fairly good performance. Those looking for better performance and coverage may prefer a dual-band router like the Cisco Linksys E4200 ($199) or Netgear N900 ($179). But if you're on a budget, the DIR-645 is a sound choice.