D-Link DI-624 XtremeG Review

With the right conditions, and only 802.11g devices available, the DI-624 combined with the DWL-G520 was a solid performer.
With the right conditions, and only 802.11g devices available, the DI-624 combined with the DWL-G520 was a solid performer.
With the right conditions, and only 802.11g devices available, the DI-624 combined with the DWL-G520 was a solid performer.

Highs

  • Excellent filtering options
  • numerous configuration options
  • remote access over the Internet
  • easy setup.

Lows

  • Erratic performance
  • firmware upgrades may create more problems than fixes
  • speeds don't approach advertised 108Mbps.

DT Editors' Rating

Home > Product Reviews > Router Reviews > D-Link DI-624 XtremeG Review

Summary

While the D-Link DI-624 802.11G router is chock-full of features, it also unfortunately suffers from several performance issues. Problems seem to be the luck of the draw as many consumers and reviewers are reporting either excellent results or completely dismal results. With a product lineup this erratic, it’s hard for us to recommend it to anyone.

With more administration and configuration options than any other wireless router we’ve seen and some of the fastest wireless performance on the market (under the right conditions), it may also be hard for consumers to turn down. Parents will appreciate the robust Website and content filtering options of the D-Link DI-624 that can be either turned on indefinitely or scheduled for certain times during the day. Gamers will appreciate the built-in port forwarding options and Xbox live features. And professionals will appreciate the VPN and remote access features that this router offers.

In the end, the promise of wirelessly transferring data at an even faster than wired Ethernet speed turns out to be wishful thinking. We’ve heard some really good things about D-Link’s XtremeG lineup and have also read and experienced some very discouraging problems. If D-Link can sort it out and provide a consistent quality product, it may be worth looking at. But until then, we suggest you wait for the product and the technology to mature.

Introduction

If a 54Mbps wireless transfer speed just isn’t enough for you, several companies are now offering a new technology with 802.11g networks that offer up to 108Mbps throughput. D-Link is one such company, with their DI-624 AirPlus XtremeG 802.11g router based on the Atheros Super-G chipset that touts speeds of up to 108Mbps.

In a nutshell, Super-G works by acting as two 802.11g connections at once. Atheros’ Super-G solution forces the wireless LAN to operate on channel 6, and bleeds into channel 1 and 11 to offer higher throughput. The technology also adds some hardware-based compression technologies that D-Link says provides a significant performance boost in the 2.5GHz frequency range.

But if you know anything about wireless networking – and the marketing of wireless products – you should know that the number on the box is not what you’ll really experience when you take it home and set it up. While the 108Mbps tag looks great from a marketing perspective and it has been proven to help sell the products, that number is the theoretical maximum speed and you should expect to see a significantly lower speed.



The DI-624 features a single antenna and four wired Ethernet ports.

Features and Design

This review centers on the D-Link DI-624 AirPlus Xtreme G wireless router revision C. The model has gone through a few revisions in both aesthetics and performance. Revision C has only one antenna, while earlier versions had two antennas. The model has shrunk in size over the last few months and both revision B and C now add the 108Mbps capability which was first attainable with a firmware upgrade. Our review unit came installed with firmware version 2.28 from November 2003. Since then, there have been a few other firmware releases – including version 2.37 and 2.42 which we tested with. As far as we can tell, only hardware revision C is available in retail now.

The DI-624 is a small gray and silver rectangle-shaped router that features four auto-sensing 10/100 wired Ethernet ports and a 2 ½-inch gray antenna in the right rear of the unit. The omni-directional antenna is removable, allowing for the addition of a more powerful or directional antenna.

As with most SoHo routers, the D-Link DI-624 is managed by a Web-based interface. Point any Web browser on your network to 192.168.0.1 (the default IP address), log in with the admin password and you have access to all of the router’s features. And there are a lot of features – more than the average user will ever need to use.

Those features include:


  • WPA and WEP security
  • Multiple session VPN passthrough
  • URL and content filtering (via block or allow)
  • Schedule-based filtering
  • Detailed logging capability
  • Ability to save system settings to disk
  • Remote management via the Internet
  • Advanced firewall rules
  • Xbox Live compatibility
  • And more – visit our Specifications page for the full list of specs.


Status lights are located on the front of the device, with green LEDs showing activity for the four wired ports, the wireless LAN and the WAN. The front panel also has a green power and status light.

While some routers offer stands to place the device vertically, D-Link does not include one with the packaging. The device can be stood up vertically on its side, but this doesn’t provide as much stability as a stand built specifically for this would. Included in the retail package is the router itself, a 5V DC power adapter, a CAT5 Ethernet cable, a printed installation guide, and a CD-ROM with a full manual and warranty information.

D-Link backs the router up with advertised 7/24 phone and Web support and a 3-year limited warranty. Found online and in retail stores for around $99, D-Link and retailers have been pushing the DI-624 lately with a host of instant and mail-in rebates.

Wired and Wireless Setup

Setup of the DI-624 is straightforward and exceptionally easy. As with most SoHo routers, the device is pre-configured to obtain an IP address from your broadband modem via DHCP. Simply plug an Ethernet cable from your modem into the WAN port on the router and the device should be able to access the Internet in seconds.

Once a client computer is connected to the router, the rest of the setup can be configured with the Web-based management console. Upon accessing the Web-based configuration, you can set the router up by running a setup wizard or accessing each feature manually. Novice and expert users alike will find the setup wizard useful. In a matter of a few minutes, the device can be configured for both wired and wireless access.

Built into the router’s Web configuration console is a robust help system that features in-depth help topics. Add to that a 95-page PDF manual on the CD-ROM, 7 day/24-hour phone support, and a detailed online help and FAQ section, and most users should have enough resources to get their DI-624 properly set up. D-Link also provides a demo of the Web-management application on their Website. If you’d like to give it a test drive, visit the emulator at http://support.dlink.com/techtool/di624_revc/emulator (note that no password is required).



The setup wizard for the DI-624 walks you through the install in a matter of minutes.

Advanced Features Setup

As mentioned earlier, the DI-624 has a host of advanced features, many of which probably won’t be used by the average consumer. But its nice to know that D-Link took the time to add them.

One great feature is the ability to remotely manage the router – and your network – from anywhere on the Internet. This is easily enabled by going to the ‘Tools’ menu and checking the ‘Remote Management’ feature. The default port is 8080, but you can also select ports 80, 88, or 1080. Once the feature has been applied, you can log in from anywhere on the Internet with your admin credentials just by accessing your router’s IP address at the port you specified.

The DI-624 also has a built-in clock and it can also obtain the current time by accessing any Internet time server. The importance of this is that the device allows you to schedule access for a variety of applications.

Say for instance you want to have an FTP server on your network but you don’t want it to be accessible when you are gaming because it will hog your precious bandwidth. The ‘Virtual Server’ settings of the DI-624 allow you to either manually turn on and off access to the FTP computer on your network or schedule a window of accessibility. The time schedule allows you to forward the FTP traffic to the right computer only during the hours you specify. Anyone trying to access the service during the blocked time period will not be able to do so. We set up an FTP server to test this function and it worked flawlessly.

D-Link also provides ‘Parental Control’ content blocking and filtering options that allow you to determine what sites can or can not be accessed, however this service can not be configured for specific times. URL blocking allows you to block specific URLs or URLs that contain certain words. For instance, we added the word ‘soft’ to the list, and the router would not let us access the sites http://www.microsoft.com/, http://www.grisoft.com/, http://www.rarsoft.com/ and presumably any other site with the word ‘soft’ in it. When a site is blocked, the Web browser returns a white page that reads “401 The web site is blocked by administrator”.



The DI-624 allows you to schedule the availability of features such as FTP with a timer.

Advanced Features Setup (continued)

Interestingly, the URL blocking feature worked well for the most part, but there were a few quirks about it. It had no problem blocking most sites, but when we tried to block URLs containing the word “nothing”, there was one site that was able to sneak through. We were able to block most sites containing that word, and even a Google or Yahoo! search for the word “nothing” would time out. But, we had no problem accessing the site AllAboutNothing.net. We’re not sure what this can be attributed to and we were unable to recreate it with other words. The same thing happened with both the “stock” 2.28 firmware, and after we had upgraded to version 2.42. We’re also not sure if the Google or Yahoo search block was intended, as there was no mention of it in the documentation, but some users might find that useful. The downfall of this is that you have to manually type in every bad word that you don’t want people on your network searching for.

We found ‘Domain Blocking’ to be an excellent feature, and one that certainly could be put to use by families with children or in a business environment. The feature allows you to either allow or block sites in a certain domain. For example, we added ‘designtechnica.com’ and ‘microsoft.com’ to our ‘Permitted Domains’ list and network users were only able to access sites in these domains. This function allows you to either allow users to access all domains except those listed in the ‘Blocked Domains’ section, or deny users from accessing all domains except for those listed in the ‘Permitted Domains’ section.

Finally, the filters features allows for blocking Internet access for specific computers on your network, based on IP address or MAC address. This feature can be time-based also, so you can permit or allow specific machines to access the Net for certain time periods.

When testing all of these features, we did notice that the router would hang up after a little while. After adding and removing URLs and hitting ‘apply’ to change the settings over and over again, eventually the router would just hang up and we’d lose our network connection. This did not happen all of the time, and really only when we were trying everything out. But when it did, we’d have to either wait a minute or two, or sometimes even have to manually restart the router to bring it back to life.

Wired and Wireless Performance

We tested the DI-624 along with the Dell Truemobile 2300 and the Compex NetPassage 26G 802.11g routers. We fitted our test computers with various wireless access devices also, such as D-Link’s DWL-G520 AirPlus XtremeG PCI adapter, D-Link’s DWL-G650 AirPlus XtremeG cardbus adapter, Compex’ iWavePort WL54G PCMCIA card adapter, Sonnet’s Aria Extreme 54g PCMCIA adapter, and the internal Broadcom 54g wireless card found in the Compaq Presario R3060 notebook. We also tested on both Windows XP and Mac OS X operating systems. Our tests were conducted in real-world environments; a small office and two different two-story houses in suburban developments. In testing, we used highly compressed files – such as the 508MB demo for the game Far Cry and the 137MB Windows XP Service Pack 1 – so that hardware compression couldn’t have an effect on our tests.

Wired performance was excellent. With our highly compressed test files, we averaged about 55.8Mbps on 15 different transfers and topped out several times at over 75Mbps, with the highest being 75.4Mbps. This was consistent with all of our test machines.

Our wireless test results varied greatly however, as is often the case with wireless devices, and we ran across several issues.

The DWL-G520 PCI slot wireless card worked well with the DI-624 – for the most part. With two different VIA chipset-based motherboards we experienced extreme lockups of our systems. These lockups only occurred when certain applications were running. For instance, with the game Call of Duty, we experienced no problems and were able to play the game online. But with Medal of Honor – Spearhead, we couldn’t even get past the intro movie. The first scene was so choppy that each time we tried to play, the game would crash before the cut scene was over. Once we disabled the wireless Internet, we had no problems. Of course with this “solution” we couldn’t play online.

We experienced this issue again intermittently when we tried to run two different programs at once on another VIA-based system. One such combination was a small timer program to time a download running at the same time as a file transfer. With this combination of processes running, the computer would lock up.

Unfortunately, D-Link’s customer service could not help us online or on the phone and the issue was never resolved. The problem only occurred with a handful of programs and other motherboards and chipsets were fine. The problem seemed to be only with AMD Athlon XP based motherboards with a VIA chipset.

Performance (continued)

When the D-Link wireless PCI card did work, it worked well. In 15 attempts of our test files at about a 10-foot range from the router, our transfer speeds averaged 26.4Mpbs. It topped out at 45.5Mbps, and consistently hit in the high 30’s or low 40’s. This was in XtremeG mode, so you can see how you really won’t be able to attain the 108Mbps speed as advertised.

With the right conditions, and only 802.11g devices available, the DI-624 combined with the DWL-G520 was a solid performer. The “right conditions” is important to note however, as performance dropped with 802.11b devices in range, when the signal had to travel through walls or when a 2.4GHz wireless phone was in use.

Testing with the DWL-G650 PC card also had a host of issues. The software that installs with the G650 is a bit different than what D-Link provides with the PCI card adapter. The “D-Link AirPlus Xtreme G Wireless Utility” as it’s called not only allows you to create your wireless connections, but it also provides real-time performance stats. With both the laptop and the router in the same room, less than 10-feet apart, we thought we’d be able to get a great connection. We disconnected all of our 2.4GHz phones and other electronic devices just to be sure. With the original router firmware and allowing Windows XP to manage the wireless connection, we were able to easily obtain a connection to our wireless network. However, with the 2.42 firmware and the D-Link utility, it took a long time to even get a connection. We would get a connection and it would drop whenever we tried to do access the network or the Internet. Many restarts and wireless disconnects and reconnects later, we were able to obtain a solid connection. This issue plagued us throughout testing after the firmware upgrade.

Once we finally were able to get a good connection and still under the “ideal” conditions, our transfers were slow and erratic. Even at such a close range, ‘Link Quality’ and ‘Signal Strength’ as measured by the D-Link utility were erratic. It was not uncommon to see each measurement bounce from 100% to the 50’s and 60’s and back. Our transfer rate bounced around from as low as 11Mbps to 108Mbps and the actual data throughput was all over the place, with us consistently seeing rates even below 200Kbps.

It’s very hard to get a solid transfer speed when the connection is so erratic, but with several tests we were able to top out at 34.2Mbps. An average would be hard to calculate, but we consistently saw rates in the 10-18Mbps range.

We thought that our original D-Link DWL-G650 PC card was faulty, so we bought another one at a retail store. Unfortunately, the same issues occurred even with the new card. After a brief net search, we found forum posts in this thread and others at Broadband Reports that confirmed what we were experiencing. Users were reporting that whenever the DWL-G650 lost a signal, the “rescan” function of the utility usually would not work.The fix was to reboot your computer, in hopes that the signal would be obtained again. This was quite frustrating to us, and to the posters in the forums, as it happened quite often and there was seemingly no consistent performance. It in-effect, made the DWL-G650 useless.

Several Issues to Address

We really had a tough time completing this review, as the performance wasn’t what we had expected and wasn’t even similar to other reviews of the same equipment found on the Net. We found it hard to believe that other review sites would rate the DI-624 so high, and even give it “editors’ choice’ awards after what we saw. Some sites had some really in-depth testing with positive results. However, other sites seem to have given the product positive reviews based on the plethora of features it has and the promise of 108Mbps transfers, without real world testing. Windows XP will show that you are connected at 108Mbps most of the time, even when your transfer speed is less than 10Mbps, and for some that may have been good enough. We’ll chalk up most of our differences to possible environmental issues (although we took steps to make the environment a non-issue) and to the latest firmware update.

More searching on the Internet finds many consumers that are dissatisfied with D-Link’s Xtreme G networking products. The forums at Broadband Reports and buyer reviews at Amazon.com are full of people expressing their issues with this line of products and D-Link’s support – or lack thereof. Many of the discussions seem to center on the latest firmware upgrades causing more problems than what they fix, and of D-Link support being unable to offer solutions. Customers are reporting that the router often reboots itself when using peer-to-peer applications or making large file transfers. Some users are finding that a convoluted set of steps to upgrade the router firmware and Atheros drivers in place of D-Link drivers for the PCMCIA adapter offer workarounds, but in our opinion this is not acceptable – especially since D-Link hasn’t even addressed these issues on their site or on the forums.

Consider this review a “work in progress” as we’ll continue to test these products and come to a more concrete conclusion on what is causing the problems and what can be done to fix them. We’ll continue to compare the D-Link XtremeG products against competitors and try the latest drivers and firmware. If something changes or improves, we’ll amend this review. If you have any experience with D-Link’s XtremeG line of wireless products, please post about it here in our discussion forums.

Conclusion

While the D-Link DI-624 802.11G router is chock-full of features, it also unfortunately suffers from several performance issues. Problems seem to be the luck of the draw as many consumers and reviewers are reporting either excellent results or completely dismal results. With a product lineup this erratic, it’s hard for us to recommend it to anyone.

With more administration and configuration options than any other wireless router we’ve seen and some of the fastest wireless performance on the market (under the right conditions), it may also be hard for consumers to turn down. Parents will appreciate the robust Website and content filtering options of the D-Link DI-624 that can be either turned on indefinitely or scheduled for certain times during the day. Gamers will appreciate the built-in port forwarding options and Xbox live features. And professionals will appreciate the VPN and remote access features that this router offers.

In the end, the promise of wirelessly transferring data at an even faster than wired Ethernet speed turns out to be wishful thinking. We’ve heard some really good things about D-Link’s XtremeG lineup and have also read and experienced some very discouraging problems. If D-Link can sort it out and provide a consistent quality product, it may be worth looking at. But until then, we suggest you wait for the product and the technology to mature.