While networking companies continue to innovate with features like mesh networking (see my review of the eero Home WiFi System) for raw, unadulterated performance and an abundance of configuration options, the AC5300 router is where it’s at for 2016 and beyond.
We’ve been fortunate to have checked out a number of AC5300 devices this year (from TP-Link, ASUS, NETGEAR and Linksys) and have been impressed by the breakthrough speeds on offer… if not the sometimes kooky hardware design. Today, we complete the set of AC5300 launch devices with the D-Link AC5300 Ultra Wi-Fi Router (DIR-895L).
Officially priced at $379.99, the device can be found online at Amazon for under $320 at the time of writing. That puts it in a competitive position against the majority of its competitors – the $359.99 ASUS RT-AC5300, $349.99 NETGEAR AC5300 Nighthawk X8 & Linksys Max Stream EA9500. Only the TP-Link Archer AC5400 has it beat, currently on offer at an extremely competitive $269.
Bear in mind that from a hardware standpoint, the internals of each of these devices is similar. Some manufacturers use the term AC5300 to market their devices, others AC5400 (rounding aggregated maximum speeds up rather than down) but we can treat them equally here.
The DIR-895L is a tri-band device, supporting 4×4 data streams, with available speeds up to 1,000 Mbps in 2.4GHz, 2,166 Mbps at 5 GHz and 2,166 Mbps on the second 5 GHz band. It’s built around the 1.4 GHz dual-core Broadcom BCM47094 processor with 256 MB RAM (half of that equipped on the NETGEAR and ASUS devices, and equal to Linksys). The wireless networks on all of these devices are driven by a Broadcom BCM4366 Wi-Fi chip.
Above the hood, you’ll find six rather spiky looking external antennas around the sides plus an additional two antennas at the back of the device. The standard four Gigabit LAN/one WAN port combo is in effect (similar to ASUS/TP-Link but less than Linksys and NETGEAR which offer eight and six respectively) and there’s a USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 port for peripheral sharing.
From a features perspective, you’ll again find a similar selection to other AC5300/5400 outers on the market today. The line-up includes the usual suspects, plus the addition of MU-MIMO and Broadcom’s Smart Connect band steering feature with which we’ve seen mixed results. You won’t find all of the configurability you get from an ASUS router, for example, but pro users can opt to flash the router with the DD-WRT open source software – a veritable Pandora’s Box of tweakables.
What’s in the Box?
The black and red packaging that holds the D-Link router previews the aggressive styling of the device itself.
Inside you’ll find:
- D-Link AC5300 Ultra Wi-Fi Router
- Quick Installation Guide
- Power Adapter
- Ethernet Cable
- Wi-Fi Configuration Card
- Mounting screws and wall plugs
If you’re the type that loves the sleek lines of a fiery red Ferrari or the angles of a stealth bomber, then this router has been designed for you. Clearly, the chrome-effect red chassis is targeting the gaming crowd – it’s beautifully finished and delivers that goal well. But, for everyone else, this router is going to stick out like a sore thumb in your home. While most of the networking giants have toned down the aggressive styling of their range topping routers recently, D-Link’s bright red AC5300 model remains all-in.
With modern trends supporting hardware that integrates more smoothly into home interiors (see Google Home, Google WiFi, eero and others) the DIR-895L may see itself relegated to the kids’ bedroom or a gamer’s desktop.
The angled front face of the router includes a vertical clear stripe, which is where you’ll find the device’s status indicators. Power, Internet, 5 and 2.4 GHz network plus USB 2.0 and 3.0 indicators are included. Around the back, you’ll find the ports alongside a power button, reset button as well as a physical switch that can set the device in a router or extender mode. The latter really is the only external feature that stands out – styling aside.
Getting Up and Running
D-Link’s confguration wizard doesn’t take too long to run through at all. Once the the router is plugged in, it’s fires up a wireless network (you’ll find the security details on a label stuck to the inner packagaing as well as the included Wi-Fi Configuration card). Once you’re connected, open up a browser to set your Wi-Fi details. The router will automatically detect your Internet connection, save your settings and you’re ready to proceed in less than five minutes.
The latest firmware is v1.12.B10 and, according to the release notes, should improve Wi-Fi stability (hopefully addressing a swathe of criticism about the device currently on Amazon.com) and adds iQoS support (bandwidth prioritization for connected devices) and VLAN features.