Test Drive: D-Link AirPlus Enhanced 2.4GHz Wireless Router

By Lonny Paul

Model Number: DI-614+ ($129.99 Street price)

The Texas Instruments ACX100 chipset is being used by D-Link as a basis for their new line of “AirPlus” 22Mbps 802.11b wireless networking products. The AirPlus 2.4GHz Router delivers increased speed, security and tight firewall/access features.

As you’d expect with this so-called “802.11b+” product, wireless connectivity speed nearly double the previous Wi-Fi speed, but better yet, the throughput when interoperating with existing 11Mbps clients is increased as well. Plus, D-Link sells the AirPlus products cheap, passing on savings it gets from Texas Instruments for the chips.

Pros: Low Price Points; higher data transfer than 11Mbps 802.11b; interoperability with existing 11Mbps clients, increasing performance; increased WEP encryption; great security

Cons: Operates on the crowded 2.4Ghz consumer band

Basic Features
The D-Link DI-614+ D- AirPlus Enhanced 2.4GHz Wireless Router provides serious firewall and routing features for Internet users while upgrading the throughput of wireless to real-world speeds of 7-8Mbps. Existing 802.11b clients can benefit from a 15-20% throughput increase with the new chipset as the core of this product. WEP encryption is upgraded to 256-bit with the release of this product, and also uses Packet Binary Convolutional Coding (PBCC) transmission protocol, proving more reliable than the DSSS protocol standard in 802.11b products. Setup is performed from a standard Web-based interface and allows for complete network configuration as well as client management.

D-Link is getting better and better at getting you online quickly when installing a new product. This unit doesn’t differ, however the 192.168.0.x subnet always makes me crazy. It’s obviously the D-Link standard, but I can’t seem to get used to it. Once you’ve reset a client to utilize this subnet, you are pretty much ready to go.

For most environments, especially home or SOHO setups, the configuration of this unit is very straight forward. Being able to act as a DHCP client for your broadband connection, you can literally be online in a few minutes. However in more complex situations, you may have to spend a little time getting online. Extensive options are available for filtering traffic internally and externally. Port forwarding, domain level controls, IP level controls and more are available with this unit. Basic features such as MAC address validation, etc., are also available, plus the enhanced 256-bit WEP encryption protocol.

The new “22Mbps” speed is, of course, double that of the previous 11Mbps standard, but those numbers never reflect the real-world performance of any wireless unit. Testing in a “noisy” environment, the 614+ achieved data transfer rates averaging 7.2 to 7.7Mbps. Considering previous 802.11b speeds of 3.2 to 3.7Mbps, this is truly double. Additionally, when connecting an 11Mbps client to this unit, speed increased to an average of 4.2Mbps. This throughput increase allows you to keep existing hardware in place and reap benefits as well. A US Robotics access point that also uses the Texas Instruments chip set did not appear to have similar performance increases with the 11Mbps clients, so D-Link clearly shines in this area.

All the standard Wi-Fi security features are included in this unit, with a fairly complex firewall configuration available. The new 256-bit WEP encryption protocol will also make some corporate IT guys very happy, being able to better protect their highly sensitive data.

Trudging down the road to 802.11g next year, we have seen the release of the non-compatible 802.11a by D-Link, now they step up the 802.11b speed and provide future compatibility with the upcoming standard. The speed increase warrants its price point, which hovers around the same or lower than existing 802.11b products.

Reprinted from 80211-planet.com.

Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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