Review: D-Link AC3150 Ultra Wi-Fi Router (DIR-885L/R)

Multi-device Performance

The D-Link DIR-885L is equipped with Broadcom’s Smart Connect band steering technology. When enabled, the router transmits a single SSID with clients automatically placed on the 2.4 GHz or faster 5 GHz band, optimising aggregate speeds. Having tested the feature on quite a few routers over the last twelve months, I’ve found it can boost speeds by around 70% – a significant enhancement.

The issue is that Smart Connect can be somewhat of a crap shoot. I’ve tested some routers that include the feature and have seen very little benefit (the ASUS RT-AC3100 is a notable example). On others, the subsequent boost is dramatic.  Why there’s a difference, I can only speculate.

While our 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz benchmarks are conducted using a single device connection, we connect five devices to the router in this test and run the iPerf3 benchmark simultaneously on each client. Average speeds will always vary depending on the class of wireless clients connected – here we look for a boost in speeds when Smart Connect is enabled.

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The good news is that Smart Connect on the DIR-885L really delivers. With the feature disabled, the average aggregate speed from the router (the sum of the individual average speeds of each client) came in at 473 Mbps. That’s pretty respectable (bit notably higher than the DIR-895L’s 372 Mbps). With Smart Connect enabled, I saw a 60% boost in aggregate speeds. 755 Mbps is a very good result, given the failure of the ASUS RT-AC3100 to muster any kind of boost. Importantly, the result was higher than that AC5300 tri-band DIR-895L, which costs over $400. Sure, the best AC5300 routers can reach aggregate speeds over 900 Mbps, but this remains a solid result.

USB Performance

Our tests conclude with USB performance. Here we connect a USB 3.0 external hard drive to the router and test read/write speeds. If you’re going to use your router to support network storage, you want the fastest data transfer speeds available – especially for media streaming.

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Once again, the D-Link router performed very well indeed, with read/write speeds of 79/53 MBps proving the DIR-885L is more than a capable performer. You should have no concerns hooking up a USB 3.0 hard drive to the device for network sharing and media streaming.

Summary

Given the disappointing performance of the D-Link DIR-895L last year, I was prepared for the cheaper AC3200 DIR-885L to be a flop. But while it may look similar, this model has a very different engine under the hood. It’s a lower specification, in theory, but I was pleasantly surprised with its performance.

While I’m not a fan of the aggressive, teenage-angst-serving design, the DIR-885L is an accomplished device with very strong performance across wired and wireless connections. In many tests, it beat its more powerful big brother and was more than a match for competing devices from ASUS and TP-Link.

However, from a features perspective, it lacks the bells and whistles of some competitors (notably ASUS) and TP-Link’s Archer C3150 offers better value overall. That said, D-Link has packed everything mainstream families need to run a busy home network, with a clear and simple user interface that’s a real pleasure to use.

D-Link’s networking kit can sometimes be hit and miss, but the D-Link AC3150 Ultra Wi-Fi Router is a real gem.

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