Review: D-link Viper 802.11 AC1900 Router

D-Link’s most advanced Modem Router to date is the VIPER Dual Band AC1900 (DSL-2900AL). The VIPER offers AC1900 Wi-Fi speeds and uses Advanced AC SmartBeam technology along with Advanced...

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D-Link’s most advanced Modem Router to date is the VIPER Dual Band AC1900 (DSL-2900AL). The VIPER offers AC1900 Wi-Fi speeds and uses Advanced AC SmartBeam technology along with Advanced Quality of Service (QoS) controls to efficiently distribute bandwidth to end devices. The VIPER significantly increases Wi-Fi performance, allowing users to experience superior speed, coverage, reliability and efficiency.

The VIPER operates on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands at the same time, using concurrent dual-band technology and six internal antennas, all housed in a sleek, stylish design. This means those ugly external antennas are a thing of the past. The dual-band enables users to browse the web, chat, and email using the 2.4GHz band, while simultaneously streaming digital media, playing online multiplayer games, or making Internet phone calls on the 5GHz band. Equipped with high-power internal antennas, the VIPER also eliminates Wi-Fi dead spots so that users can undertake their daily Internet activities from every corner of their home without interruption.

“With more and more Wireless AC end-point devices launching onto the market, including Apple’s new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, consumers require the best and most advanced networking equipment to take advantage of the new applications that these devices are bringing to our everyday lives. Thanks to the VIPER’s blazing fast Wi-Fi speeds and expanded coverage areas, now you can stream multiple High Definition content streams simultaneously to different end point devices around your home, whether these are smart phones, tablets, laptops, desktops or Smart TV’s and Wi-Fi Audio gear.” says Graeme Reardon, Managing Director, D-Link ANZ. “Online gamers, music lovers and video buffs can expect a dramatically enhanced Wi-Fi signal strength that ensures superior coverage and speed to share and stream content to all corners of their home.”

Setup

After opening the box, connecting and powering on the Viper, the easiest way to connect is using the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) which has some security issues, so after setup, I’d suggest you turn it off. If you’re using a modern operating system like Windows 8, you can simply select the WiFi network from the WiFi list and then press the WPS button on the front of the device at the top of the light tree. You’ll then connect and the setup wizard will begin. This is seriously the easiest setup wizard I’ve used for a router configuration. The great thing it forces you to do is change the default admin password, critical in keeping your network secure.

After naming your network and entering your ISP username and password, you’ll be connected in just a few minutes.

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Hardware

In any home you’ll find a mixture of devices with WiFi. While all might support WiFi, there are intricacies in the WiFi standard they support. Really old devices may only support 802.11B/G but hopefully those are reducing in number. More recent devices will support 802.11N and the latest devices will support the best standard 802.11AC. You need a router that will support all of these WiFi standards so whatever device is introduced to your home network, it’ll work. The goal here should be to get as many of your devices to the latest possible standard. This will ensure the network doesn’t have to operate at slower speeds to support the lowest common denominator.

The D-Link Viper supports 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi connectivity (N600 + AC1300). On the back of the device, you’ll also find 3x Gigabit LAN ports and one Gigabit WAN port that could be configured as a 4th LAN port if needed. The WAN port is required if you’re connecting to the National Broadband Network (NBN). This takes us to one of the most important selling points for this router, it’s future ready in a way many aren’t. While my trusty old Billion 7800N router also had a WAN port, it lacks the support for AC WiFi. Your existing router will likely be working fine, but as more devices support AC and the NBN rolls out to more areas, you need a router that’ll service the growing networking needs of you and your family.

You’ll also find USB ports for super simple sharing of files across your home network. There’s a USB2.0 and USB3.0 port which support both storage drives and printers. This seriously couldn’t be easier, plug in the USB drive to the back of the router and then connected machines will see a new location show up in Windows Explorer (or finder on a Mac). By default you’ll need the admin password to access it, but if you trust the users on your network, it’s easy to disable in the settings.

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Imagine you want to access these files when you’re away from home, well D-Link’s got you covered. There’s a couple of options for this, the first is to turn on ‘Enable Remote SharePort Web Access’ which provides you a direct web link to access outside your LAN. The other is FTP access, yep, this router is also a FTP server if you need it.

It’s certainly a scary concept opening your secure home network up to the web, but this is done securely but creating a username and password for each user who needs remote access. While there is a direct link that isn’t secured, I’d suggest you should only ever use the secure https://shareport.local to sign in. Of course you could also solve this file sharing problem by using online storage providers like OneDrive which is rolling out unlimited storage. Until that announcement, the D-Link USB web share meant you could have drives of basically any size connected and shared for free, but now OneDrive offers it, it’s not the same benefit. The D-Link method means you don’t have to upload gigabytes of files to a server.

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Devices

Every household is increasing the number of connected devices that need to be online. As the Internet of Things approaches, it’s clear we’re moving from phones, tablets, laptops and consoles being connected, to TVs, lights, microwaves, fridges, washing machines and more, all requiring IP addresses from your router. As this number grows, you’re router needs to be able to provide connectivity to all of them. Anyone who’s configured Wi-Fi networks for any period of time, will have experienced some difficulties in connecting some devices. This can be related to device conflicts.

Without trying my home network contained 13 connected devices in a household of just myself and my wife. A household that includes 2 parents and 4 kids could be easily double that. This is where the AC1900 part of the Viper becomes important. Like the WiFi standards discussed earlier, 802.11AC also contains many intricacies or sub-standards. D-Link provide an easy guide on the back of the (very well designed) Viper packaging. AC750 will accommodate 5-10 devices, AC1200 will support 10-15 devices, AC1750 is best for 16-25 and AC1900 which the Viper uses supports 16-25+ more.

This means not all 802.11AC routers are created equal and this number is important to pay attention to. This goes some way to justifying the premium pricing for the Viper.

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The following image, taken from the D-Link portal, shows the 13 devices currently on my network.

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Priorities

With our home networks quickly resembling that of a small business, D-Link recognises all devices aren’t of the same importance. In the Features > QoS (Quality of service) section, you can drag and drop connected devices into 3 categories. The highest is given primary access to the network. If you’re dealing with a Skype call, or any live communication, you should place this device in the highest box. The high category is great for devices like consoles that require solid connections for online gaming. Other devices like lightbulbs and audio equipment can be comfortable placed into the Medium priority section.

 

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Mobile support

mydlink is a web portal and mydlink Lite Mobile Apps (available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone devices) enables users to remotely access, view, and manage their device(s). Personally I’ve never had the need to remotely configure my home network, by if you’ve defined a white/blacklist to limit your kids access to the web and need to modify that list, this functionality will be important to you.

 

Updates

During the time spent with the D-Link Viper, a new firmware was released, which made for a great opportunity to test. In years gone by, router upgrades at the firmware level was a serious cross your fingers and hold your breath experience. Thankfully updates are now a breeze with a click of the Apply button, the firmware is downloaded and applied. In a little over a minute the firmware had been upgraded from 1.00.06 to 1.00.12 without hassle. Firmware releases fix security issues and bugs while often increasing functionality.

While the process was simple, what was missing was a changelog of what’s new in the update which would help users to make the decision to upgrade or not.

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Performance

One of the biggest questions you have with a premium-priced router is how much faster will my internet be for the extra money invested. This is the point where we remind you, your mileage may vary based on your connection type and if on copper, distance from exchange, line quality etc. In my experience I used the router on an ADSL2+ connection, which is connected to a micro-exchange about 4 doors down. The theoretical maximum is 20Mbps down and 1Mbps up on Telstra’s ADSL2+. Using the D-Link Viper, a speedtest achieved an average of 19.06Mbps down and 0.87Mbps down. These results are very close to the theoretical maximums and a great result.

Previous speed tests using the 5+ year old Billion 7800N router I regularly achieve an average of 16-17Mbps down so if your buying this router in the hope of extra internet performance, you now have a decision to make. Does the price tag justify the minor 2-3Mbps improvement in speed?

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Price & Availability

The D-Link VIPER Dual Band AC1900 ADSL2/2+ Modem Router is available now for a recommended retail price of $379.95. The device is available at OfficeWorks, eStore, mWave, Scorptech, JB Hi-Fi and many more.

 

Overview

There’s no doubt about it, the D-Link Router is expensive whichever way you look at it. The long list of features performance, and future-looking support certainly goes some way to justifying the almost $400 price tag. At that price it’s hard to recommend this to everyone, but there are certainly network geeks out there who want the best and you’d be hard pressed to find better alternatives for the home or even small business. If you land in that camp, you should absolutely pony up the cash and grab the D-Link Viper, but if you just want internet at home, look for a cheaper alternative.

In Australia we’re all faced with an impending problem. The transition to the NBN is coming, even if we don’t know when, it is coming. When you do get that knock at the door from the NBNCo asking to connecting your house, you will need a router with a WAN port. If you’re in the market for a new router, you have to, get one that will support the NBN or you’ll be wasting your money.

There’s no bones about it, the Viper is a seriously well designed piece of hardware, backed up by a super simple setup process and great software, but if that price was $200, it’d be a no brainer to recommend to all.

More info at http://www.dlink.com.au/viper.

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