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Wireless Reviews

Wireless AC1200 Dual Band Gigabit Cloud Router
At a glance
ProductD-Link Wireless AC1200 Dual Band Gigabit Cloud Router (DIR-860L)   [Website]
SummarySecond generation Broadcom SoC-based AC1200 class router with IPv6 support, Gigabit & USB 3.0 port & beamforming
Pros• Good routing feature set
• IPv6 support including firewall and routing conrols
• Fast file copy performance
• Good 2.4 GHz wireless range
Cons• Poor handling of simultaneous up/down routed traffic
• No bridge mode
• Only two status lights/indicators

Typical Price: $91  Buy From Amazon

Overview

We’re busy working our way through the new crop of AC1200 routers. Tim recently reviewed D-Link’s DIR850L and NETGEAR’s R6100 and Scott took a look the TRENDNet TEW-811DRU. This time, I'm looking at D-Link’s DIR-860L.

D-Link has quite a few AC routers in its current lineup. Fortunately, if you dig around a little on D-Link’s website, you ‘ll find a handy chart that helps differentiate their offerings.

D-Link AC product line comparison

D-Link product line comparison

I was somewhat surprised that D-Link would have two AC1200 routers – especially since the feature set on the 860L is virtually identical to what you find on the 850L. Tim included a comparison chart in his review of the 850L that I’m updating here.

As you can see from the chart below, the major differences between the two products are:

  • USB port – the 860L has a USB 3.0 port; the 850L has one USB 2.0 port
  • AC Smartbeam – This is D-Link's marketingese for the beamforming option in the draft 802.11ac specification. Beamforming is supposed to provide a stronger signal to your client devices by focusing the wireless signal. The 860L has it; the 850L doesn’t.
  • Price – D-Link lists the prices as: 850L - $104.99; 860L - $139.99. However, if you check Amazon’s pricing, you’ll find a much smaller difference in price. 850L - $92.15; 860L - $101.99

DIR-860L - DIR-850L Comparison

DIR-860L - DIR-850L Comparison

There are also a couple of differences that don’t show up on this chart. First, and most importantly, the devices use different chipsets. We’ll discuss those differences shortly. Second, the form factors, while similar, are different. While both routers have a truncated cylinder design – what I think of as a Quaker Oats Oatmeal container – the 860L is taller (7.5" vs. 5.7") and slightly wider in diameter.

The rear panel layout for the 860L, shown below, is quite similar to the rear panel on the 850L. The 860L is taller, so there's more space above the USB 3.0 port.

DIR-860L rear panel

DIR-860L rear panel

Inside

As compared with the 850L, D-Link went with a different hardware component configuration in the DIR-860L. Whereas the 850L uses Realtek components for their CPU, Switch, 2.4 GHz and 5GHz radios, the 860L employs Broadcom chips for the corresponding components. Both routers feature 128 MB of RAM and 128 MB of Flash. However, the Gigabit switch as well as USB functions are built into the second generation dual-core Broadcom BCM47081A0 SoC.

Here's the table that Tim developed for the DIR-850L review that compares the components for the two devices:

DIR-850L DIR-860L
CPU Realtek RTL8197D Broadcom BCM47081A0
Switch Realtek RTL8367RB In CPU
RAM 128 MB Spansion S34ML01G100TFI00 (x1) 128 MB Spansion S34ML01G100TFI00 (x1)
Flash 128 MB (Nanya NT5TU64M16CG-AC) (x1) 128 MB Micron MT47H64M16HR (x1)
2.4 GHz Radio - Realtek RTL8192CE (2x2 bgn)
- No amplifiers
- Broadcom BCM43217
- No power amps
5 GHz radio - Realtek RTL8812AR (2x2 agnac)
- Unidentified 5 GHz amps (x2)

- Broadcom BCM4352KMLG
- RF Micro Devices RFFM4501 802.11a/n/ac Front End Module (x2) (Radio is on mini PCIe module Alpha Networks WMC-A02)

Table 1: D-Link DIR-850L / DIR-960L key components

Here's a view of the component side of the main PCB with the heat sinks removed.

D-Link DIR-860L board naked

D-Link DIR-860L board naked

The image below shows the front of the case. Note the coaxial cables that attach the case-mounted PCB antennas to the radio modules. Although it's tough to see in this view, there are four antennas (two for each radio) mounted around the top of the router.

D-Link DIR-860 inside

D-Link DIR-860 inside

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