D-Link RangeBooster N650 (DIR-655) review

4.5 out of 5
£117.50

For

Performance potential, looks, pricing

Against

Requires matching adapters to attain peak performance

The RangeBooster N series is not new, but the processor inside the DIR-655 is and it’s the fastest yet which means you get the quickest and most reliable moving of data between the Internet and your local area network devices when compared with other routers in the range.

Throw the QoS StreamEngine into the mix, delivering enhanced quality of service to ensure the smoothest and most responsive online gaming and internet telephony experience courtesy of Wireless LAN Intelligent Stream Handling (WISH) technology, and you really can’t go wrong. This works by reducing the effect of competing traffic on the network when gaming or making those calls, automatically giving priority to data being used for such applications and reducing jitter and lag.

Want more? OK, how about four Gigabit Ethernet switch ports to hardwire devices such as network attached storage boxes, or the "good neighbour" policy which prevents interference with other legacy networks when detected nearby with an automatic reduction in the amount of radio spectrum used.

Security is standard, and comes at the touch of a button thanks to the use of Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) automatically generating encryption keys and network names. It really does both simplify and secure, which we like rather a lot.

This router is very quick and simple to set up, even for a networking novice. We tried it with just such a newbie and it took them precisely 20 minutes from opening the box to browsing the web. If you know what you are doing already, it’s possible to cut this time back even further – our reviewer was up and running online within 10 minutes!

As with all such routers though, the proprietary tie-in means that you’ll need the appropriate adapters to get the best performance from computers on the network. Although you can use any "Draft-N" specification adaptor, you will get the best out of it using a perfectly matched D-Link adapter in our experience.

We tested using the DWA-645 notebook adaptor and were more than pleased with both the range and throughput it delivered. That said, compared to the other Draft-N routers on the market performance is pretty much the same. It’s when upgrading from a standard 802.11g router that you’ll get the speed (up to 14x faster) and range (up to 6x farther) shock.

Talking of shocks, we got one when we took this out of the box because it is that rarest of things: a wireless router that actually looks good enough not to be hidden away in a corner somewhere. In an iPod white, with a hint of black striping, livery (even the triple external antenna are white) and the having the slimmest of profiles this is one bit of hardware that wouldn’t look out of place next to your living room media centre PC or Xbox 360.

The next shock, is that this is also one of the first routers to be fully approved to work with Vista, so there is no added hassle with downloading drivers to get it to work if you happen to be an early OS adopter (and if you are, and your router doesn’t work, how are you meant to get online to download the updated driver in the first place one might ask?) Vista users will be able to make full use of Network Explorer and Network Map features, Xbox 360 users will appreciate the Xbox Live service compatibility, and everyone will like the around about a hundred quid street pricing.

Verdict

Good looking, good performance, good pricing. Could this be the wireless router of your dreams? The answer is a definite yes, until a better dream arrives later in the year that is…