D-Link Gaming Router AC1300 (DGL-5500) review

D-Link's DGL-5500 (with a just-released firmware update) offers performance superior to past D-Link 11ac routers. The new Streamboost feature did give video streaming a true boost in testing. However, the refreshed web-based interface needs some enhancements.

It’s been tough following D-Link’s goal with its latest 802.11ac router. The first crop of routers seemed to rely more on gimmick than substantial features such as good performance. We had the D-Link Amplifi Cloud Router 5700 (DIR-865L) the gimmick there being the “cloud”—which offered up a mess of a cloud service to remotely access into a home network. Then there was the D-Link Wireless AC1750 Dual Band Gigabit Cloud Router (DIR-868L). One of the hooks with the AC1750 was the ability to setup the router from a mobile device using QR codes, an awful idea that did not work as advertise.

So D-Link has had a rocky start launching successful draft 802.11ac routers. Introducing D-Link’s latest 11ac router: Gaming Router AC1300 (DGL-5500). This time, the featured attraction is the inclusion of Qualcomm’s Streamboost technology, designed to optimize gaming and media streaming experiences. I can state, the DGL-5500 (with a just-released firmware update) offers performance superior to the aforementioned D-Link routers. Also, Streamboost did give video streaming a true boost in testing. However, the refreshed web-based interface needs some enhancements.

Specs and Design
D-Link brings back the cylindrical “coffee grinder” shape to the DGL-5500 that was the same form factor as the AC1750 router. It’s uses Qualcomm’s 11ac chipset and is a dual-band device; supporting up to 450 Mbps at 2.4GHz and 867 Mbps at 5GHz.

Those specs are kind of strange to me. I typically have not seen “up to 867 Mbps at 5GHz” specs in premium dual-band routers (and at $175, street price, this can be considered a premium price router). I have seen specs of up to 300Mbps throughput on 2.4 GHz and 867Mbps on 5GHz from smaller wireless hardware vendors such as Amped Wireless and Edimax. D-Link has already shipped to market an AC1750 router which supports up to 1300Mbps at 5GHz. I’m not sure why the DGL-5500 only supports up to 867Mbps at 5GHz and D-Link is not going with up to 1300Mbps—especially considering this is a router targeted for gamers. I can say, I got better performance with the lower-spec’ed DGL-5500 than with the AC1750, though.

The front of the router has two LEDs: one for power and one for the Internet connection. Five Gigabit Ethernet ports are on the rear, as well as a power button, and USB 2.0 port (another disappointment, how about USB 3.0, D-Link?)

Setup
The DGL-5500 ships with a quick install guide. Setup is easy: connect your broadband modem to the DGL-5500′s WAN port, connect a computer to one of the D-Link router’s LAN ports, and boot everything up.

The router is ready for configuration once the LEDs on its front turn green. At this point you can open a web browser to dinkrouter.local and that will launch a wizard to assist you in finishing setup.

Features and Performance
The DGL-5500 has all of the features that I’ve seen in past D-Link routers including WPS, NAT, SPI firewall, UPnP, support for DMZ, content filtering, and VPN passthrough.

The key feature in this router is Qualcomm’s Streamboost. It is designed to automatically adjust and control Internet bandwidth for each detected application and device on the network using a technique called Traffic Shaping. It does work in testing. My time from clicking play on a video in Netflix , to having it buffer and play, with three other devices connected to the DGL-5500 was cut in half from having Streamboost disabled and then enabled.

What I don’t like is how invasive Streamboost is in the interface. The newly-designed interface, opens to a very cool network map which shows how all of the devices in your network are connected and how much traffic each device is sending and receiving. If you disable Streamboost, you don’t see this network map, nor can you get any other statistics on traffic in your network. Ideally, you should be able to see all of this information, with Streamboost on or off.

I also find the animated icons on the new UI to slow down performance when you are in the interface and making settings adjustments. It was high time for D-Link to update its traditional orange-and-white  router management interface, but it could still use some tweaks.

Performance was among the best of D-Link’s router of late, we’ve tested, however it still lags behind other 11ac router, not only in speed, but in range.

The DGL-5500 started out strong at 5GHz 802.11ac mode when testing a wireless client close to the router (at a distance of 5 feet) at 182 Mbps, beating even our current Editors’ Choice router at the same distance, the Netgear Nighthawk, which registered 169 Mbps at the same distance. However by the time testing was done at 15 feet , the DGL-5500 slowed to 154 Mbps, while the Nighthawk’s throughout upped at 174 Mbps.

This was a consistent pattern I saw testing in the 5GHz band although the router did better at 2.4GHz. This is not to say that the DGL-5500 does not have decent performance in 5GHz. It does, and should easily handle video and gaming traffic. It’s not just the best we’ve seen among high-priced 11ac routers.

Click here for 5GHz performance results.

Click here for 2.4GHz performance results.

Good, But Room for Improvement
D-Link is taking strides to make enhancements in its routers. The DGL-5500 is its latest effort, and it is the best of the recent 11ac routers from the company. Die hard D-Link fans will find the DGL-5500 endearing, and it’s a good router, but a few UI adjustments need to happen. It’s a 3.5 out of 5 star earner with the current Editors’ Choice being the Netgear Nighthawk.


Verdict
D-Link's DGL-5500 (with a just-released firmware update) offers performance superior to past D-Link 11ac routers. The new Streamboost feature did give video streaming a true boost in testing. However, the refreshed web-based interface needs some enhancements.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc