D-Link DIR-865L Wireless AC 1750 Dual Band Cloud Router

This router from D-Link makes a decent investment thanks to its cloud-based features, support for 802.11ac and good performance on the 5Ghz band.


6.8
CNET Rating

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The D-Link DIR-865L Wireless AC 1750 Dual Band Cloud Router is the first wireless router from D-Link that supports the new 802.11ac (aka, 5G Wi-Fi), and is the second cloud-based router we've reviewed from D-Link. It proved to be a good 802.11ac router that also offers support for Wireless-N and legacy clients. Its cloud-based feature, though currently rather limited, also makes it convenient for remote users to manage their home network while on the go.

The DIR-865L is far from perfect, however, as I found its 802.11ac speed slower than that of some other 802.11ac routers. On top of that, it shares the now common drawback of all 802.11ac routers: the performance on the 2.4Ghz band could use some big improvement. One last thing: the router doesn't have the useful HD fuel QoS feature found in other D-Link routers, such as the DIR-857.

That said, it still makes a decent investment for those with lots of 5Ghz Wi-Fi clients. For better performance and more features, you should also check out similarly configured routers, such as the Asus RT-AC66U or the Netgear R6300.

Design

The D-Link DIR-865L looks very different from previous D-Link routers; it has a square shape and sits vertically. The router comes with a relatively narrow base on one side that's, nonetheless, heavy enough to keep it grounded on a surface without toppling. With all of its antennas hidden inside, the router manages to remain compact, despite the fact that it is a high-end router.

On the back, the DIR-865L comes with four LAN ports (for wired clients) and one WAN port (for the internet connection). All of these ports are Gigabit, which is also a bonus and also somewhat a requirement if you want to have a home network with heavy traffic, such as streaming movies from between devices. Also on the back, there's a USB 2.0 port to host an external storage device, a recessed reset button and an on/off button.

On the front, the router has two round LED lights that show the power and internet connection status, as well as a Wi-Fi Protected Setup button, which initiates a two-minute window when other WPS-enabled devices can enter the router's Wi-Fi network. In our trial, the router's WPS function was hit and miss, however, not working well with all WPS-enabled clients.

Similar to other routers from D-Link, It's very easy to set up the DIR-865L: you plug the router into an outlet and connect its WAN port to an internet source (such as a cable modem) with the included network cable. Use another cable to connect a computer to one of the router's LAN ports. Now, from the connected computer, launch a browser and you will be greeted with a set-up wizard that walks you through the process via a few simple steps.

Editors' note: with the initial firmware, the router only works well with Internet Explorer and might not work with other browsers. This is no longer the case once you have updated the router to the latest firmware. You'll have to download the firmware and update manually, since in my trial, the automatic update function of the router's web interface didn't detect the availability of the new firmware.

Features

The DIR-865L is the first 802.11ac router from D-Link, and, like the rest of the 802.11ac routers we've reviewed, it's basically a N900 router plus it has support for 802.11ac on the 5Ghz band. An N900 router, by the way, is a true dual-band Wireless-N router that offers the top 450Mbps Wi-Fi speeds on each of the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz frequency bands. This means the router will work with all existing Wi-Fi clients, and when you get 802.11ac-capable devices, it will support those, too.

Needless to say, the router also supports common features found in high-end routers, including guest networking (with two networks, one for each band), support for IPv6, port forwarding, QoS and so on.

Other than that, the router offers features that have been collectively available in other D-Link routers, including a well-organised web interface, OpenDNS-based parental controls, an extensive web-filtering engine, cloud features and support for a storage device for data sharing and media-streaming needs. Unfortunately, it doesn't offer HD Fuel, which is a very nice feature that's available in other D-Link routers. HD Fuel automatically detects media streaming, voice over internet protocol (VoIP) and gaming internet traffic, and prioritises bandwidth. The router does comes with a comprehensive QoS engine that you can customise manually, however.

The DIR-865L comes with many features, including a comprehensive QoS engine that advanced users can customise to tailor the internet bandwidth to their liking.
(Credit: Dong Ngo/CNET)

To make up for this, the DIR-865L comes with a different feature that HD Fuel routers don't — the router is cloud enabled, allowing you to mange a home network via the internet, using a browser or mobile app. It's very easy to enable via D-Link's mydlink portal. Create an account, then add your router. You can use one mydlink account to manage multiple devices, including a D-Link IP camera and other D-Link cloud routers, such as the DIR-605L.

In our trials, the cloud features worked very well. It could easily view the status of the DIR-865L and its connected clients in real time. We could also quickly block or unblock a connected client. It couldn't manage all of the router's settings, however. In fact, only a few of its settings were available to the cloud feature. To completely manage the router, you'll need to resort to its web interface, which is generally only available within the local network. Mobile users can download and install the mydlink Lite mobile app for iOS and Android devices; it offers similar levels of management.

The DIR-865L's web interface is very similar to that found in all D-Link routers released in the last few years. It's well organised, responsive and easy to work with, especially for those familiar with D-Link routers. For new users, there's the context-based help, which automatically appears on the right side of the page and explains what each item means.

The router's OpenDNS-based parental control allows you to manage web filtering from anywhere over the internet. To use the router with OpenDNS, first you'll need to sign up for a free OpenDNS account. After that, from within the router's web interface, select OpenDNS as the method of managing the parental control feature. You will then be asked to associate the router with the OpenDNS account with a few mouse clicks, and that's it. The router can now be managed from anywhere in the world when you log into your OpenDNS account at OpenDNS.com.

This parental control feature is kind of a hassle. It would be much better if the feature was incorporated with D-Link's cloud features, allowing you to also manage it using the mydlink portal.

The DIR-865L's USB port can be used with any external hard drives formatted in either FAT32 or NTFS, and in our trials, it was able to power all bus-powered portable drives. You can then easily and securely share the drive's contents with machines on the local network. You can also stream digital content stored on the drive with network media streamers. We found that the performance of the router's storage feature was just fast enough for casual data sharing and media streaming, and it's recommended that you get a dedicated NAS server if you have serious network storage needs.

Apart from being a router, the DIR-865L can also be used as a media bridge, meaning it can work as a Wi-Fi client and bring wireless connection to Ethernet-ready devices. When used as a media bridge, the router's WAN port will act like another LAN port, enabling the DIR-865L to bring Wi-Fi to up to five Ethernet-ready clients.

The router's cloud features allow users to manage their home network while on the go, via a browser or mobile apps.
(Credit: Dong Ngo/CNET)

Performance

The DIR-865L didn't blow us away with its performance, but it wasn't bad, either. We tested the router with both 802.11ac, using only the 5Ghz frequency band, and Wireless-N clients. Since there aren't many 802.11ac hardware clients on the market, we actually used a second unit of the DIR-865L as a media bridge and in a close range throughput test with 802.11ac, the router scored 199Mbps, which was fast, but slower than others 802.11ac routers we've reviewed. When we increased the distance to 100 feet, the router registered just 135Mbps.

When used with existing Wireless-N clients, the router did much better on the 5Ghz than it did on the 2.4Ghz band. On the 5Ghz band, the router scored 148Mbps in a close-range test and 122Mbps at 100 feet. On the 2.4Ghz band, however, it only showed 36Mbps and 22Mbps for the close-range and long-range tests, respectively.

It's important to note that the router was tested at CNET headquarters in San Francisco, where there are many Wi-Fi devices that might interfere with the router's signal, and low performance on the 2.4Ghz band has been consistent for most recent routers. At this same location, the DIR-865l still offered very long range, up to 280 feet away, on both bands.

The router also passed the 24-hour stress test; during this time, it didn't disconnect once.

The DIR-865L's network storage performance didn't have much to impress. We tested the router with a portable drive, via Gigabit connection, and it scored just 34Mbps and 61Mbps for writing and reading, respectively — only enough for mild data sharing and media-streaming needs.

CNET 5GHz Wireless-N performance score (in Mbps)

  • Range
  • Throughput
  • 178.5339.2
    Asus RT-AC66U (with AC client)
  • 208331.32
    Netgear R6300 (with AC client)
  • 166.6208.2
    Asus RT-AC66U
  • 135.2199.2
    D-Link DIR-865L (with AC client)
  • 144.8178.8
    Netgear R6300
  • 121.6147.6
    D-Link DIR-865L

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

CNET 2.4GHz Wireless-N performance score (in Mbps)

  • Range
  • Throughput
  • 45.555
    Asus RT-N66U
  • 41.651.2
    Netgear R6300
  • 26.650
    Belkin N750 DB
  • 15.236.8
    Asus RT-AC66U
  • 22.136
    D-Link DIR-865L

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

CNET NAS performance score (in Mbps)

  • Read
  • Write
  • 88131.9
    Asus RT-N66U
  • 114.281.2
    Apple Time Machine
  • 82.772.3
    Netgear R6300
  • 126.469.6
    D-Link DIR-857
  • 60.533.6
    D-Link DIR-865L

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Conclusion

With fragmented internet-based features and average performance, the D-Link DIR-865L Wireless AC 1750 Dual Band Cloud Router is a decent router for the money.

Via CNET.com

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