D-Link Wireless AC1750 Dual Band Gigabit Cloud Router (DIR-868L) review

D-Link's newest pre-draft 802.11ac router, the Wireless AC1750 Dual Band Gigabit Cloud Router (DIR-868L) does not deliver performance as powerful as some competing routers, but it's an improvement over D-Link's previous 11ac router.

D-Link’s newest pre-draft 802.11ac router, the Wireless AC1750 Dual Band Gigabit Cloud Router (DIR-868L) does not deliver the powerful performance of some competing 11ac routers I’ve tested, but the device offers good enough performance and adds some feature improvements over D-Link’s lackluster introductory 11ac router—the Amplifi Cloud Router 5700 (DIR-865L).

Specs
One noticeable difference between the DIR-865L and the 868L is the physical shape. The DIR-865L is a traditional square router. The DIR-868L has a cylindrical housing reminiscent of a large coffee grinder. The design is very similar to another D-link networking product I’ve tested, the D-Link Amplifi DAP-1625 Wi-Fi Booster. This shape is intended to enhance a D-Link feature called AC SmartBeam, D-Link’s version of beamforming—a technology that helps wireless performance by guiding a wireless signal to the wireless clients. The height of the DIR-868L also is conducive to housing high-power amplifiers. The router measures 8.5 by 3.5 by 4 inches (HWD). The front panel has two LEDs: One indicates power status and the other, WAN activity.

The 868L is a dual-band router, supporting up to a theoretical 450 Mbps at the 2.4GHz band and up to 1300 Mbps at 5GHz. It has four Gigabit LAN ports, a Gigabit WAN port, one USB 2.0 port for connecting external storage and printers. The device also supports WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup).

Setup
There are two setup options for the AC1750:  You can either use a Web-browser-based setup wizard or you can perform a QRS Mobile setup. The latter uses D-Link’s QRS Mobile app for Android or iOS to allow setup of the router from a smartphone or tablet. 

The router ships with a Quick Connect guide that includes a QRS code. You scan the code from a smartphone and your phone’s browser is redirected to Google Play or iTunes to download the D-Link QRS mobile app. Unfortunately, no Windows Phone version is yet available. Once the app is installed, you connect to the router with the phone using the preconfigured SSID and passphrase. That information is printed on a small card that slips in and out of a slot at the bottom of the router.

Once I had the app installed on my Android phone, tapping it open displayed a welcome screen that guided me through setting up the router. From this screen, I could set my own wireless network passphrase and change the admin password to the router—as you should always do.

After using the app to configure the router that way you want, the app applies the changes and throws the router a reboot—or at least it’s supposed to. Although I saw confirmation of a reboot in the app’s interface, as I stared at the router it never rebooted. I confirmed my smart phone and router were connected to the same Wi-Fi. They were, but the app was unable to reboot the router and apply the changes I made.

So, after all that, I had to go through the browser-based setup anyway. The app not only did not work, but it seems like a time-waster since you have to go into an app store, download, install, and then set up the router. I prefer connecting a laptop or tablet and just using the browser to configure it.

Interface and Features
D-Link’s interface has not changed since I had the D-Link DIR-655 Gaming Router back in 2007. The interface is adequate but looks dated and cluttered and could use a refresh. It is, however, still feature-packed as I noted in the review of the DIR-865L. D-Link’s routers have always been a favorite among gamers and techies because of advanced capabilities such as QoS that, according to my testing, really does improve buffering time and lag. Other advanced features include robust IPv6 support, the ability to enable IPv4 or IPv6 multicast streams, virtual servers and inbound filtering rules.

I was pleased to see that one feature I’d previously found not up-to-par when reviewing the DIR-856L has improved: the mydlink app. This app allows you to remotely manage the router. When I last tested it, I had problems just signing into the D-Link cloud service the app uses. This time I was able to sign in and easily associate the DIR-868L to the remote management cloud service. The mydlink app and service are convenient for managing the router and monitoring connections remotely from a mobile device or PC.

A Decent Performer
The DIR-868L also outshines the Amplifi 5700 router in performance. That isn’t surprising, since the DIR-868L is the more robust of the two, with enhanced amplifiers and the new cylindrical design to help boost performance.

Still, it’s not as speedy as a couple of other 11ac routers I’ve tested. In 5GHz 802.11N mode, the DIR-868L managed a respectable throughput rate of 120 Mbps, but that’s topped by  Linksys’s Smart Wi-Fi Router AC1600 EA6400, which managed 150 Mbps at the same distance of 15 feet.

However, the DIR-856L sustained throughput better than the Linksys device. By the time I reached 30 feet from the router testing throughput with a wireless client, the DIR-865L only dropped to 112 Mbps, whereas the Linksys router has a bigger drop at 30 feet down to 129 Mbps.

I’ve also seen much better throughput in 5GHz 802.11ac mode from the Edimax AC1200 Wireless Concurrent Dual-Band Gigabit Router and Trendnet’s AC1750 Dual Band Wireless Router (TEW-812DRU). At 15 feet away from each router in testing, the DIR-868L clocked 104 Mbps, fairly slow when compared to the performance of the Edimax router at the same distance—186 Mbps, and Trendnet’s router (also our current Editors’ Choice for 11ac routers), which blazed at 285 Mbps—an incredible performance number in our RF-interference heavy testbed.

The DIR-868L did better than most of the 11ac routers in 2.4GHz Legacy mode, with the only router besting it in the same mode being Apple’s latest Airport Extreme.

D-Link Wireless AC1750 Dual Band Gigabit Cloud Router (DIR-868L) throughput comparisons at 5 GHz

D-Link Wireless AC1750 Dual Band Gigabit Cloud Router (DIR-868L) throughput comparisons at 2.4 GHz

D-Link Showing Improvements in Latest Router Crop
I’ve been somewhat disappointed with the performance and some of the newer apps and features of D-Link’s last few routers. The standard feature set is always solid, but it seems as though the company took some missteps with the remote management app and now with the new QRS Mobile app for setup. Even more worrisome: I haven’t been seeing the performance I expect from D-Link’s routers lately, especially when I remember the excellent performance and reliability of its gaming routers in past years.
However, the DIR-868L shows marked improvements. You can get decent performance from the DIR-868L, and it certainly is not light on features. It has arguably the most robust native IPv6 support among consumer routers. I also liked its ability to sustain throughput as you move a wireless client further from the router. Still, when rating it among 802.11ac routers, there are better performers, such as the Trendnet AC1750, which also has a beefy feature set. D-Link’s Wireless AC1750 Dual Band Gigabit Cloud Router (DIR-868L) earns three and a half out of five stars for an 802.11ac router;  Trendnet’s AC1750 remains the Editors’ Choice among consumer routers.

Specifications
Device Type Router
Networking Options 802.11ac, 802.11ac

Verdict
D-Link's newest pre-draft 802.11ac router, the Wireless AC1750 Dual Band Gigabit Cloud Router (DIR-868L) does not deliver performance as powerful as some competing routers, but it's an improvement over D-Link's previous 11ac router.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc