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Wireless Reviews

Introduction

At a Glance
Product D-Link Xtreme N Gaming Router (DGL-4500)
Summary Dual-band single radio Wi-Fi Certified 802.11n Draft 2.0 router based on Atheros XSPAN silicon
Pros • Gigabit WAN and LAN with excellent routing speed
• High simultaneous sessions
• Automatic QoS for Internet uplink and WLAN
• Useful front panel
Cons • No matching dual band cards available from D-Link
• Couldn't get WPS to work

I don't know what it is with dual-band draft 11n routers and D-Link, or the obsession that people seem to have with them. But, judging from my mail, some people are really anxious to find out how this router checks out.

So as to not keep you in suspense, I'll give you the bottom line up front. If you liked D-Link's single-band draft 11n DIR-655 [reviewed], then you'll like the DGL-4500. Whether you want to pay $60 - $70 more for a nice, but not essential, OLED display and the ability to use the less-crowded 5 GHz bands (assuming you have the wireless client adapters to match) is the main issue you'll have to decide.

Overview

The 4500 comes in the same plastic enclosure as the DIR-655, but it's in the de rigeur black instead of white, because black is what all gamers (the intended audience for this product) crave, right?

The usual array of front panel lights has been replaced by an OLED display, which I found to be more useful than the one on the Belkin N1 Vision router [reviewed]. Figure 1 shows a summary of the information categories available.

DGL-4500 Front Panel
Click to enlarge image

Figure 1: DGL-4500 Front Panel

Actually, the display image in Figure 1, which I grabbed from the User Manual, doesn't represent the one you get with the latest 1.02 firmware. Figure 2 shows another shot of some of the detailed displays, which looks more like what you get with the current firmware.

More OLED panel displays
Click to enlarge image

Figure 2: More OLED panel displays

You can get all sorts of status and configuration information, including average throughput of Internet and LAN wireless and wired connections. I checked the speeds against those reported by IxChariot during my testing and found that the 4500's readings tended to be a bit high. But they are certainly accurate enough to give you an idea of how fast your connections are running.

But, like the N1 Vision, navigating the menus was a bit annoying. Instead of the hard-to-press keypad of the N1 Vision, the 4500 provides only two buttons. One is for moving among the main menu categories, while the other is used to enter a category. The buttons were easy enough to press, but I kept hitting the wrong one and entering sub-menus that I didn't want. The navigation experience is like that on some of the monitors and displays that I've used...frustrating, but you eventually get the job done.

Note that the display blanks after about a minute of no button presses. So if you want to keep a constant eye, say, on your wireless or Internet bandwidth use, there's really no way to do it. Again, I have the same complaint as on the N1 Vision—no network activity indicators. So there is no quick way to determine whether you have a valid Ethernet link, or whether someone (or something) is using the Internet when they shouldn't be.

Connectors on the rear panel (Figure 3) include four 10/100/1000 LAN ports, one 10/100/1000 WAN port and power jack. All ports are auto MDI / MDI-X, which means they'll figure out how to connect to whatever you plug into them. There is also a reset-to-factory-defaults switch and USB port.

DGL-4500 Rear Panel
Click to enlarge image

Figure 3: DGL-4500 Rear Panel

Unlike the Linksys WRT350N [reviewed] and WRT600N [reviewed], the USB port isn't used to attach a drive for sharing over your LAN. It's just there to support the flash-key based Windows Connect Now (WCN) method, which hopefully will fade to black now that the industry has agreed upon Wi-Fi Protected Setup. Note that all three antennas use RP-SMA connectors for easy upgrade.

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