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D-Link DIR-868L review – still a high performance 802.11ac router in 2015?


Rating: ★★★★½


  • Still blazingly fast even by today’s wireless-AC standards – up to 40MB/s transfer speeds at close range over 802.11ac
  • New router firmware drastically improved since original router release
  • Excellent value for money


  • Can be confusing to set up as a standalone wireless access point
  • Lack of some more advanced features like VPN support and Time Machine Backups

RRP: £139.99, best price at time of writing £81.99 on Amazon 

In late 2013, D-Link announced, in my opinion, what was their first decent set of wireless-AC routers to hit the market. The D-Link DIR-868L arrived to the party as the high end model at the time – boasting six internal antennas and the newly introduced with the standard “beamforming” technology that allowed wireless signals to in theory be concentrated between the wireless router and connected clients.

Benchmarks from Trusted Reviews, CNET and others all said that the router delivered very impressive transfer speeds over both wireless-N and wireless-AC.

Two years on and the router is still live and in production according to D-Link. However, it has fallen in price considerably since its original release and had various updates and revisions. The question is, two years on – is this still a fantastic router with an even better price tag? Let’s find out.

Setting up the router looks fairly easy but you do have to think a little carefully. For me, I was replacing an old but trustworthy Airport Express which was getting an ethernet feed in from my router downstairs. Now my Airport was smart enough to realise that if I connected the ethernet connection to it’s WAN port, it still could detect there was another LAN in place and gave me the choice of whether I set up a new LAN or use the existing one from the router downstairs. As my NAS is plugged in upstairs and I wanted to share that across the house, I definitely wanted to use the existing LAN. That was all very easy and automated with the Airport.

It’s not quite so simple with the DIR-868L. If you plug your ethernet feed into the WAN port, it will forcefully create a new WAN even if you manually give it commands not to and there seems to be very little way of getting around it, aside from connecting your ethernet feed to a LAN port instead. This is fine and dandy, but the router then won’t believe it is connected to the internet. Swings and roundabouts. I’m yet to find a way around this issue yet, but it’s a minor concern as the router does otherwise function normally once you cross that bridge.

Once you’re up and running, it’s very easy to get connected and start reaping the benefits. When you connect to the router for the first time, it prompts you to configure your own wireless network SSIDs and passphrases if you wish, as well as a custom router admin password. The router of course also supports WPS for easy connection. Great to see router manufacturers are prompting users to set their own passwords rather than leaving the defaults in place.

Performance from the router is still, even by todays standards, very impressive. In my benchmarks (WD MyCloud large file transfer over wireless-AC), I was getting around 38MB/s transfer speeds constantly at around 1m range. At 4m range, this was still around 28MB/s and at 10m range with two brick walls in-between I could achieve around 12MB/s transfer speeds (which is still around 96Mbps). According to CNET, one of the best performing routers of 2015 is the Linksys WRT1900ACS, and they reported that at around 67MB/s transfer speeds at 4m. That’s fantastic – but you’ve got to bear in mind its price tag is approximately £230 on Amazon – almost three times the price!

So can the D-Link DIR-868L still win from a value point of view? In my view, yes – without a doubt. At around £80 it offers what are still considered very high benchmarks and if you’re looking to move your home onto a wireless-AC network, this could be a fantastic starting point. It’s also worth noting that since the original reviews were written back in late 2013, D-Link have given the router’s interface a complete makeover from it’s very dated looking original admin panel – the new interface is much more effective. In addition, you’ve got features such as remote management, USB 3.0 device sharing/streaming support through a built in multimedia server and four Gigabit LAN ports for high speed device connections. For the more technically minded, it is also supported by DD-WRT – great if you wish to push the router to the max and gain even more functionality.

Overall, for the price, it’s a fantastic device with a unique design and very high performance. If you’re looking to move to wireless-AC on a budget, this is a big contender.

Buy now from Amazon 

Buy now from eBay UK

3 (Three) “Mi-Fi” looks very interesting…

If you’re a big reader of the news from the rather large tech world, you may well be aware that UK mobile operator 3 (Three) are planning to launch a very cool new level of mobile internet.

They are dubbing it Mi-FI, but it is basically your own battery powered router for your 3 mobile broadband package.

It is [apparently] very simple to use – you just slot some batteries in, together with your 3 mobile broadband SIM, and then switch it on. From what GEEK! understands, it will then find the nearest internet connection from available GPRS, EDGE, 3G, and HSDPA connections in your area. As soon as it can connect to a network mast, it will start firing out a Wi-Fi connection that all of your Wi-Fi enabled devices can connect to.

The device itself will be available over the internet from September 17th and will be in 3 stores across the country from September 18th.

As for pricing, see below (quoted from ISP Review)

•‘Broadband 5GB 1 month’ is a one month contract which includes 5GB of data for just £15 a month. With this deal the wireless modem costs just £69.99.
•For an upfront charge of £99.99, Mobile Wi-Fi will also be available as a ‘Ready to Go’ kit. The deal includes a wireless modem and 3GB worth of data which can be used over a 3 month period. After the data has been used up, the modem can be used on a Pay As You Go basis.

So there you have it – looks exciting in my opinion. I wouldn’t say it was brilliant value, but if you’re a frequent user of mobile internet it is probably well worth the cost. I’m looking forward to seeing it in 3 stores.

Guide: A simple way to make a WEP key

There are too many people around who have their wifi routers unsecured. Why? Well there are horrible people out there who think it’s right to connect to your wifi. Believe it or not, it’s stealing and if you are caught you will get in trouble.

It’s a really good idea to set up a security key for your wifi. It is simple to do and will save you a lot of hassle. OK, if you live in the middle of a field in a rural area, chances are that there won’t be any wifi-jackers (that’s what I call them) anywhere near you, but you never know.

I get questions from quite a few people about making a good, secure wifi key that’ll keep those unwanted wifi-jackers away. Most routers automatically set up a WEP key when you set them up, but they can be hard to remember and annoying when you need them regularly.

I say the same thing to everyone – there is an easy way to create a simple easy to set a key to remember. An important date you you (such as a birthday) and and another important 2 digit number (such as your house number). I suggest you have it like this:


KEY: D – Day, M – Month, Y – Year, H – House number.

So, if my birthday was on the 12th of June 1978 (it isn’t, seriously!) and my house number was 9, I’d set it like this: 1206197809.

You won’t forget it, I promise. As long as you remember the structure you’ll be fine. I find it a really simple way to make a good, secure WEP key. As long as you don’t tell anyone else that it’s the structure of your security key, you won’t get any unwanted intruders chewing up all your bandwidth and getting you into trouble with the law.

Review: 9DBi Wireless Router Antenna

I managed to dig out some money lately to buy a few gadgets and bits of kit, so you’ll probably see a few reviews on various items in the next few days. But first of all, I’ve got this 9DBi wireless router antenna.

I bought it simply because the little antenna that came with my D-Link DSL-2640B doesn’t quite cut it in my house. For some reason, the signal it emits just isn’t powerful enough to cover the whole of my small house, so I decided it was time for an upgrade.

After a quick search around on eBay, I found this. It is really a pretty good deal at just £6.99 so if you are having signal problems, I suggest you get one.

Most routers generally come with either built in antennas or removable ones. You are lucky if you have a removable one, because you can upgrade it. Sadly, built in antennas aren’t replaceable so you’ll just have to live with the poor signal range or just buy a new router.

If you do have a removable antenna on your router, you’ll be glad to know that you can use a wide range of different antennas. The most common type of antenna that is fitted to most routers by default is omnidirectional. This means that they broadcast in all directions – great if your router is in the center of your house but not so great if its in the corner of the house since a good 30-40% of your wireless power will be wasted going through the wall out of your house. You can get antennas that point in one direction, but these are less common and more expensive. Unless you’re really desperate, I’d suggest you stick to omnidirectional.

Another thing you’ll need to understand is the rating of the antenna. Most routers come with an antenna of about 3-5DBi which is fine for a small modern house. However you can get antennas up to about 9DBi which are much more powerful. Bare in mind they are much bigger than 3DBi antennas and you won’t be impressed if you want don’t like the look of your gadgets. F0r example, the one I now have (see eBay link above) is 37.5cm high so it will be quite hard to hide.

They are definitely worth the upgrade though. I am very impressed with mine, as the signal range is much better and I get much fewer disconnections which is good. The only thing I’m a little puzzled about is that my router says to lower the transmit power of the router if I install a high gain antenna – but why should I, doesn’t that just defeat the point of buying a more powerful antenna? Little odd.

Anyway, so yes, if you do experience wireless signal issues try getting a new antenna. Check that you can replace your antenna before you buy one for obvious reasons. If you can, you might find this makes a big difference.

Review: D-Link DSL-2640B ADSL2+ Wireless Router – A brilliant budget buy!

I hate the supplied Tiscali router. It sucks. Port forwarding is stupid, there’s no DynDNS support, and overall it’s just a cheap piece of crud.

So, I decided to go and buy a new one. I needed to ideally stick to a budget of around £50, so I had a search around.

It wasn’t easy to find a router for under £50. I found out that routers are much more expensive than you think. I was rather surprised to be honest. If I’d have upped my budget  to £60 I would have probably found the task much easier – and I was thinking of doing so, until I found this.

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