Design and ease of use
The DIR-615 has a traditional wireless router design. Its two antennas and ports are located on the back. Generally, we prefer to see these antennas on the sides of the router, away from the ports, for easy access.
All of the router's ports — including four LAN and one WAN port — are regular 10/100 Ethernet. Meaning if you want to use the router for wired connections, you can't take advantage of the higher gigabit Ethernet (up to 1000Mbps) found in other Wireless-N routers.
It was easy for us to get the DIR-615 up and running. The router comes with Quick Router Setup software on an included CD that walks you through the set-up via a few simple steps, including illustrations on how to set up the hardware. The manual is also contained on the CD.
Alternatively, plugging the router in launches its web interface by pointing a computer's web browser to the 192.168.0.1 IP address. The web interface, which is shared with that of other D-Link routers, is one of the most intuitive and responsive on the market. It allows for accessing and managing the router's networking features.
The DIR-615, as expected from the AU$89 price, doesn't have a lot of wireless features found in high-end D-Link routers, such as Dual-Band, GuestZone (which enables you to make a separate wireless network for guests), or SharePort (which allows for use with USB devices). It does have a long list of networking features and a very responsive and intuitive web interface.
D-Link incorporates a Capcha with the log-in of the web interface. This provides more security, but if you hate having to read the distorted text, which is how the Capcha determines that the input is not generated by a computer, this could be a nuisance. The DIR-615 offers numerous network features found in other Wireless-N routers from D-Link. You can then set up manual port forwarding — where you map information coming to a certain port to another computer in the network — or use the router's preset settings for different applications and services such as instant messengers, BitTorrent, IP phone software, virtual servers, and so on. It also offers a comprehensive set of parental control tools including Network Filter, Access Control, Website Filter, and Inbound Control. These tools allow you to control the network and limit access to the internet by specific criteria, such as setting a computer to only allow access to instant-messenger services during a certain period of time. The router also lets you customise its firewall to allow some services, but not others.
For security, the router features virtually all encryption standards found in wireless routers including all the variations of WEP and WPA. It also supports Wi-Fi Protected Setup, a feature that allows for quickly adding wireless clients to the network without having to manually type in the encryption key.
The DIR-615 didn't blow us away with its performance but more than met our expectations, considering how much it costs.
Among Wireless-N routers we've reviewed this year, the DIR-615 is by far the most affordable; however, its performance is in no way the slowest. In CNET Labs' throughput test, where the router was set up to offer its best performance, the DIR-615 scored 33.2Mbps, slightly faster than the Apple Time Capsule. At this speed, the DIR-615 can finish transmitting 500MB of data in about two minutes.
On CNET Labs range test, the DIR-615 did slightly better by being faster than both the Time Capsule and Apple's new AirPort Extreme Base Station, at 21.7Mbps.
The DIR-615 also successfully passed our mixed mode test, where it was set to work with both Wireless-N and legacy wireless clients at the same time. The router achieved 25.8Mbps, which is about 5.8Mbps faster than the Apple Time Capsule.
Overall, the DIR-615 performed well in our tests. The router could hold up a stable connection up to 70 metres away in our testing environment. It also passed our 48-hour stress test, in which the router is set to perform continuous heavy data transfer between clients, without any hiccup.