D-Link Australia DI-634M
- Not based on a standard, no SPI firewall, little security information in quick start manual
Fast, with better range than regular 802.11g or 108g devices.
Price$ 199.95 (AUD)
Though wireless technology has substantially changed computing in homes and offices, a lack of speed and limited range still plague emerging devices.
D-Link's DI-634M Router and DWL-G650M PC Card adaptor employ a technology called MIMO (Multiple-In, Multiple-Out) to substantially boost both signal strength and range. In essence, it makes clever use of the way radio waves bounce of walls, floors, furniture and other solid objects to boost the amount of data transferred each second. MIMO devices can broadcast from multiple antennae simultaneously. The data from each antenna then bounces off solid surfaces, reaching the final destination at slightly different times depending on the path taken by the signal. The other MIMO device then re-assembles the data into its original order at the other end.
MIMO is set to be a major part of the 802.11n standard when it's ratified in the next year or so, but most major networking companies have jumped the gun and are offering MIMO hardware now. Unfortunately, not waiting for a ratified standard means that there's no guarantee that one vendor's MIMO devices will work with another's - or if they'll work with ratified 802.11n products when they emerge.
D-Link's DI-634M silver casing offers four 10/100-base Ethernet ports, a WAN input, and LEDs on the front panel. A network diagram is also printed on the bottom to help troubleshoot. The Web-based configuration screen is straightforward, and it takes just a few minutes to set up common settings and get up and running. A basic network address translation (NAT) firewall is included, however there is no support for stateful packet inspection (SPI). The unit includes a standard suite of router functions, including a DHCP server along with VPN pass-through, filtering by MAC address IP or URL, and you can even block domains outright.
The packaging includes a quick installation guide however there is no bound manual; only a software version on the supplied CD-ROM. Installation is relatively straightforward though and we only needed extra information as we ran through the security setup. The only reference to setting up security in the quick installation guide is to inform the buyer that security is disabled by default. It's up to the user to consult the CDROM and find instructions on getting it running. Though it's the consumer's responsibility to secure their networks, we can't help but feel D-Link could have done better here.
While most MIMO devices on the market include three antennae, the D-Link model only includes two. Short-range performance is fantastic, and we were able to clock speeds of 41.2mbit/s at close range (2m), which dropped to 21.7mbit/s at 10m, and then degraded only slightly to 18.1mbit/s at 20m. Incredibly, the D-Link unit managed to not only sustain a signal at a range of 45m, but also keep data flowing at 15.2mbit/s for the duration of the 100MB test data packet.
The D-Link MIMO hardware combo offer straightforward setup, with boosted range and transfer speeds over conventional wireless networks. Just bear in mind that you'll need to stick to D-Link adaptors in order to get the most from the device.
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