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Wireless Reviews

AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Router
At a glanceAC Router Performance
June 2015
ProductD-Link AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Router (DIR-890L/R)   [Website]
SummaryAC3200 class router with Gigabit Ethernet ports and USB 3.0 storage and printer sharing.
Pros• IPv6 WAN support
• UPnP/DLNA media server
Cons• No way to tell which 5 GHz radio clients are connected to
• No WPS controls
• No wireless bridge modes

Typical Price: $176 Buy Direct

Introduction

Updated 3/11/16 - Corrected RAM capacity

D-Link's ULTRA series fire engine red routers made quite a splash at their CES 2015 introduction. Their unique manta-ray styling and imposing size are engineered to make you think they're the most powerful Wi-Fi routers around. But flashy physical design is one thing and performance another. So let's see if the DIR-890L/R AC3200 ULTRA Wi-Fi Router got game.

Like other AC3200 routers, the DIR-890L/R uses Broadcom's XStream "tri-band" architecture. AC3200 technical details are in MU-MIMO vs. XStream: The Coming Battle For Wi-Fi Airtime. The short story is AC3200's key feature is its potential to squeeze higher total throughput out of multiple 5 GHz devices. XStream doesn't bring range improvement to the party and maximum link rates are the same as AC1900 class, i.e. 600 Mbps in 2.4 GHz and 1300 Mbps in 5 GHz.

Important note: You need 3x3 AC1900 class devices to achieve the maximum link rates stated above. The only AC1900 client you can buy is ASUS' PCE-AC68 PCIe desktop board. Most mobile devices are AC580 or N150 (1x1) and support much lower maximum link rates.

The 890L/R earns bragging rights to being the physically largest router yet. The photo below compares it to an ASUS RT-AC3200. It's easy to see the D-Link has a deeper footprint than the ASUS. Width-wise, however, they're about the same. The D-Link's peaked body makes it the tallest router I've seen yet, if you don't count antenna height. If you do, the ASUS easily wins that contest.

RT-AC87U (left) and ASUS RT-AC3200 (right) bottoms

DIR-890L/R (left) and ASUS RT-AC3200 (right)

The D-Link's bottom and upper rear have plenty of ventilation holes to aid its passive cooling design. It also has two mounting screw slots that orient its connector panel toward the ceiling, should you decide to wall mount it.

The callouts for the LED panel mounted on the "roof" ridge are shown below. These are the only indicators on the product and don't include link or activity lights for any of the LAN ports.

DIR-890L/R front panel callouts

DIR-890L/R front panel callouts

All Ethernet ports are Gigabit and you get one each USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports.

DIR-890L/R rear panel callouts

DIR-890L/R rear panel callouts

Inside

The DIR-890L/R has essentially the same Broadcom XStream design as all other AC3200 class routers to date. The view below is after a large heat spreader plate and inner RF can tops are removed. The gallery below has more pictures showing various states of disassembly. All photos come from the FCC filing internal photos document; D-Link didn't bother requesting short term confidentiality for it.

The 5 GHz low band (left) and 2.4 GHz radios (right) at the bottom of the photo feed three dual-band antennas on the left side of the router (facing front of router). The high-gand 5 GHz radio gets its own three 5 GHz antennas on the right side. All antennas are not removable.

DIR-890L/R inside view

DIR-890L/R inside view

I was not able to see the exact 2.4 and 5 GHz power amplifiers used in the DIR-890L/R because the FCC photos were not clear enough. The 5 GHz amplifiers are likely Skyworks 5003L1, which seem to be the go-to 5 GHz amp for now.

Like other AC3200 designs, there is a PLX PEX8603 PCIe switch to form an extra PCIe port needed for the third radio. It sits above the 2.4 GHz radio at center right, presumably to minimize 2.4 GHz interference. Note the shield surrounding the USB 3.0 port at photo top right. All key components are summarized in Table 1.

Updated 3/11/16 - Corrected RAM capacity
  D-Link DIR-890L/R
CPU Broadcom BCM4709A
Switch in BCM4709A
RAM 256 MB 512 MB
Flash 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - Broadcom BCM43602
- 2.4 GHz power amp (x3)
5 GHz radio - Broadcom BCM43602
- Skyworks 5003L1 5 GHz Power Amps (x3)
NOTE: There are two 5 GHz radios.
PCIe PLX Technology PEX8603 3-lane, 3-port PCIe switch
Table 1: Component summary

Here's the gallery with more inside pix.

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