Review: D-Link DIR-895L AC5300 Ultra WiFi Router

Ready for the future, full of features, but..

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D-Link’s latest router in their Ultra Performace Series is future looking with no modem in sight. The DIR-895L features no less than 8 antennas to allow for maximum transmission of data between itself and your growing list of WiFI devices. It supports the fastest 802.11 standard, AC5300.

This router is unapologetically future-leaning. Its a router with no modem, which means it looks towards a future when we’re past phone lines and past copper connections. For those lucky enough to live in an area with FTTP NBN, you’ll have a Network Termination Device on the wall where the fibre terminates. Just run a Cat6 cable out of the NTD and into this router to get maximum internet throughout your home.

For those on alternate connection types like ADSL2, looking at upgrading their existing router, you need to know, you will need a modem as well as this router. We’re pretty used to devices performing both functions, so to drop the modem, does seem aggressive, especially given its certainly not a decision driven by price.

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Design

Infrastructure devices are often white or black as to blend in with home decor. D-Link said screw that, here’s a big, bold, bright shiny red router that demands attention.

If you need a conversation piece, slap one of these on your kitchen bench and invite your friends around.

The spider-like design comes from the 8 antennas that screw into the body and if they were enough to draw your eye, the manual suggests you position them at 45 degree angle. There’s a nice snap point where these sit easily at that angle. The consequence of this is that the space you need for this is massive, but you’ll have to weigh that up against the ability to send the signal to maximum distances.

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Features

In most homes, you’ll find a range of devices that want to run on the 2.4GHz frequency. A lot of routers help solve congestion on this frequency with a second 5GHz network. This forces users to make decisions about which devices are going to connect to which network.

D-Link goes about solving this problem in a far better way, the DIR-895L creates a single WiFi hotspot and can automatically handle the switching between network bandwidth. It’s awesome to use so many devices on the single network and not have to think about this problem. After using this on the D-Link, it does make the dual-hotspot solution look ridiculous.

Built into the AC WiFi standard is a technology known as Beam forming, which D-link call Advanced AC SmartBeam. While the bold spider-like design may look ostentatious, those 8 legs help the router to locate devices around it and apply more power to the direction where your devices are calling for more data. Its 2016 and naturally we can be smarter about how we send WiFi data to devices than a simplistic omni direction of years gone by.

Like most modern routers, D-Link allow you to create a guest network, to enable your guests to get online, without opening up an potential infection vector to your devices.

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Performance

Tucked inside that angled body is a 1.4GHz Dual core processor. This processor helps power one of this router’s biggest features, the 4×4 data streams. This means if you’re someone who pushes a number of high quality video streams around your home, or transfer lots of files between devices, you’ll want them to happen simultaneously without issue. That’s what this router provides and is one of its greatest achievements.

On ADSL2 this router provided only a slight boost to internet performance and the extra capabilities felt completely underutilised. Thankfully a good mate (thanks Ryan) recently got the NBN (the FTTP version), so I took the router to test its full capabilities on the fastest connection possible. The results were strange, very strange.

The following screenshot is the NBN running on a Netgear D6300, a relatively cheap router, that runs at AC1600. While speed tests bounced around a bit, it achieved 67.62Mbps down and 33.45Mbps up (seriously jealous of that upload speed). Downloading a 500MB .dat file from iiNet, the file came down at 1.5MB/s, taking just a few minutes for half a gigabyte.

Pre-D-link

Switching out the Netgear for the D-Link DIR-895L, the strangest thing happened. The download speed was significantly lower, almost half the speed, despite costing more than 3 times the price. The upload speed bounced around and at best was around 10 Mbps up, at worst, was ADSL2 speeds at 0.60Mbps up. Really confused by these outcomes as the LAN performance for local file transfers were impressive, internet speeds on the NBN certainly weren’t.

D-link

In testing, I took my phone for a walk down the street and 6 houses down, I still had connection to my WiFi. In practical terms this range is ideal for people in big houses. If you have a 3 story house, or want to access WiFi from the man shed in the back yard, then this is the router for you.

Not all network traffic is equal. That someone browsing Facebook on their phone, should have a different priority on the network to the TV in the living room streaming Netflix. The D-Link software makes it a drag and drop experience to set the order of devices on your network. In reality, you stick your high-priority devices at the top of the tree, then let all your IoT connected devices as standard. The optimisation ensures video streaming, gaming, and VoIP calls run smoother over both wired and wireless networks.

On the back of the router, you’ll find a USB 3.0 port as well as a USB port. Given this router is all about speed across your network, these both really should have been USB3.0. Adding a thumb drive or hard drive to your router, makes the media on the drives available to networked devices. Assuming you place the router in an accessible location, this can often be a great way to distribute files to multiple machines and turns the router into a file server.

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Price & Availability

As you can probably guess from a router slapped with the ‘Ultra Performance Series’ monkia, this doesn’t come cheap. Available now, this router costs a staggering A$699 from JB Hi-Fi.

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Overall

This router is impressive to look at, it’s impressive specs make you want it as long as you don’t mind people asking about the spider sitting next to your kettle. The surprisingly poor results on the NBN connection really makes it hard to recommend given the Ultra price tag. If your need a router that performs well for sending files between connected devices (especially wireless) on your LAN, then this will do a great job, but there’s better alternatives at a far lower price for maximising speed on the NBN.

I understand modems are going away, but I do think D-Link are limiting their potential market by not including one in this device. The prospect of having to power a modem and a router is not an inviting one. Not only does that add to the clumsy wiring on your bench, but also consumes another power point.

7.5
D-Link DIR-895L
The Good
  • Design
  • Networking performance
  • Easy setup
The Bad
  • Size
  • Internet performance
  • Design
    8.5
  • Features
    8
  • Performance
    7
  • Value
    6.5
Categories
HardwareReviews
  • you understand this is a router by design and is supposed to not have a modem built in its why its in the dir range and not the dsl range , did you check with dlink au about the issue you had with the wan side ?