D-Link is one of the first networking manufacturers to have released an AC3200 tri-band router (after Netgear revealed the Nighthawk X6), aiming to give the home users a taste of the latest technologies.
The problem is that the consumer market is often at a disadvantage, because technology evolves at a faster rate than it can handle, therefore, we have tri-band routers, claiming speeds next to AC3200, AC5200 and even AC7200 or routers with the built-in MU-MIMO feature that come at expensive prices and we either cannot use them (due to the lack of compatible wireless adapters) or simply don’t need them.
Most people will be happy with an older generation AC1900 router, but, there are others that are in need of a more powerful device, which can handle a huge network of diverse clients and need a large space to be covered without being bothered with countless wireless repeaters (that cut the speed in half). These people need a strong backbone for their network.
Surely, a MU-MIMO router will have a better throughput than a tri-band router, but, the latter is specifically targeted towards networks with lost of wireless devices, so, in order to maintain a proper stability, instead of getting only the usual two bands (2.4 and 5GHz), you get an additional 5GHz radio band. That being said, let’s have a look at the D-Link AC3200 DIR-890L.
While other router manufacturers usually find a winning design formula and use it again and again (Linksys WRT series), D-Link is known to have taken some risks when it came to the appearance of their devices. But, despite knowing that, the D-Link DIR-890L took me by surprise with its design choice. The DIR-890L features a weird angular case (that reminds me of those headcrabs from Half Life or the tiny green stink bugs – Acrosternum hilare), covered by a red glossy finish. The red outer shell sits on a darker matte plastic section from which the six antennas are pointing upwards.
The bases of the four side antennas also double as feet and, you guessed it, they aren’t removable. The router is covered by lots of vent holes on the front (creating a nice v-shape), on the back (puncturing the red glossy finish) and on the whole surface of the bottom, except for the label with printed info (miscellaneous info, including the default IP address, username and password).
Overall, the design of the DIR-890L is definitely extravagant and whether you like it or not is a matter of taste, but, there is a problem with the D-Link AC3200 DIR-890L: it has a huge footprint. That’s right, its dimensions are 15.23 x 9.73 x 4.7 inches and it weighs 2.20 lbs, rendering the router the largest I have tested so far, so finding a spot to position it will be a challenge. By default, the router sits horizontally on a flat surface, but, while routers of higher aesthetic value can be put it in the centre of attention, because of its enormous size, the DIR-890L will sit better on the wall or even, better, on the ceiling (to give your guests a scare). Now, don’t get me wrong, I fully understand why a tri-band router needs to be bigger (more internal hardware, need for better ventilation), but while the tri-bands Netgear Nighthawk X6 and Asus AC3200 both were large devices, D-Link beats their size by a ‘mile’.
The top of the router is cut in half, revealing a narrow grey plastic that holds the array of LED lights responsible for SS (will be solid white when a USB 3.0 device is connected), USB 2.0, the 5GHz radio (during the WPS process, the LED will blink quickly), the 2.4GHz radio (during WPS, it will blink quickly), Internet (white indicates a connection; if it’s orange, it means that there is no connection to the Internet) and Power. As you may have noticed that D-Link hasn’t included any LEDs for the Ethernet connections, so you can’t see a live status of your ports. I assume this is part of the minimalist trend, but it has proven to be an inconvenience to many users.
On the rear of the DIR-890L, underneath the diamond shaped vents, there is a series of ports and buttons: a USB 3.0, a USB 2.0, a recessed Reset button (use a paperclip and press and hold the button for 10 seconds in order to return the router to factory default settings), a small WPS button (press it to perform the WPS pairing), four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports (could have been more, considering the size of the device), the Internet WAN port, a Power button and a Power port.
Note: The package contains the DIR-890L Wireless AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Router, a Power Adapter, an Ethernet cable, a WiFi Configuration Card and a Quick Install Guide.
Similarly to the Asus AC3200, the D-Link DIR-890L uses the Broadcom XStream ‘tri-band’ technology and inside the case, it is equipped with a dual-core 1GHz Broadcom BCM4709A0 CPU, backed by 256MB of RAM (EtronTech EM6GD16EWXC-15H) and 128 MB/32 MB (Spansion S34ML01G100TFI00/Macronix MX25L25635FMI-10G) flash storage.
Furthermore, for the 2.4GHz wireless performance, there is a Broadcom BCM43602 SoC and the 5GHz wireless performance is handled by two Broadcom BCM43602 SoCs, with Skyworks 5003L1 5GHz Power Amplifiers (x6).
Some people were a bit skeptical about the processor and were wondering if only 1 GHz and 256 MB of RAM are enough to handle the tri-band performance. The answer is yes and also, let’s not forget that the other tri-band routers have the same setup (TP-LINK Archer C3200, ASUS RT-AC3200 and Netgear R8000).
The maximum theoretical throughput of the D-Link DIR-890L is 600Mbps using the 2.4GHz radio band and 2,600Mbps (1,300+1,300) using the two 5GHz radio bands.
Performance and Connectivity
Right now there seems to be a competition between the XStream tri-band and the MU-MIMO technologies, the first targeting large homes or small businesses with a huge amount of devices that need to be switched between the three radios, while having a stable, but sometimes modest throughput. The latter uses a different approach: it aims to serve as many clients as possible at the same time instead of serving only one client at a time (the round-robin concept). Since there aren’t many devices with a compatible MU-MIMO wireless adapter, this technology still has a long way before it will be widespread and common. Until then, since MU-MIMO routers are usually very fast, they are marketed as being suitable for gamers (they need a stable network, while transferring large chunks of data and maintaining a low latency).
Obviously, the D-Link DIR-890L falls into the first category, so, instead of 2 radios, there is an additional 5GHz band for a better handling of your wireless clients. The way the Xstream tri-band technology works is by using the Smart Connect feature, which automatically sorts all the connected devices and puts them in the proper network (takes into account the network congestion and the signal strength). By default, the D-Link DIR-890L assigns the same SSID and password for all three bands, which allows the Smart Connect feature to do its wonder, but, you can always change the SSID and create individual names and passwords for each network, if you don’t like the automatic switching between the bands.
I have already seen how the Smart Connect worked with the Asus AC3200 and, because it was implemented too aggressively, clients would connect and disconnect all the time (right now, this issue has been solved to a certain degree with the latest updates). D-Link kept the Smart Connect feature at a more proper level and although I have experienced a few disconnects, during a longer period of time, devices would connect to to the proper network smoothly, without me noticing (what’s weird is that sometimes it assigns AC devices on the 2.4GHz radio band).
The D-Link DIR-890L also features the Advanced AC SmartBeam, which is a form of the Beamforming technology, that has the role to focus the signal directly towards the connected wireless devices in order to maximize the speed and range, instead of broadcasting the wireless signal everywhere and hope that it will reach your devices.
In order to test the full potential of the D-Link DIR-890L/R, I used a 3×3 client device (a MacBook Pro). So, using the 2.4GHz radio band, at close range (around 5 feet), I measured a maximum of 131 Mbps. Afterwards, I increased the distance to 15 feet, where I measured up to 113 Mbps and at 30 feet, the router delivered a maximum of 89 Mbps. Lastly, at 100 feet, the speed dropped to about 29 Mbps. So far, the 2.4GHz wireless performance is bit more than the average, so let’s see if the 5GHz performance is better.
So, I switched to the primary 5GHz radio band and, at close range (about 5 feet), the router delivered a maximum speed of 589 Mbps. After I increased the distance to 15 feet, I got an average of 470 Mbps and at 30 feet, the speed decreased to 260 Mbps. Lastly, at a longer range (100 feet), the router managed only 98 Mbps. The 5GHz wireless performance is a mixed bag, because, while at close range it did extremely well (better than Asus AC3200), at a longer range, I experienced a rather big signal drop.
In order to test the storage performance of the D-Link DIR-890L/R, I took a 1.5GB folder, which contains multimedia files (videos, photos, books) and I recorded the writing and reading speed. Surely, it’s not on par with the likes of Linksys WRT1900ACS, but the DIR-890L managed 48.5 MBps for reading the folder and 25.7 MBps for writing it.
The setup process of the D-Link DIR-890L is easy and straight-forward, all you have to do is open a web browser and either enter https://dlinkrouter.local or the IP address, https://192.168.0.1 (if the Setup Wizard doesn’t launch automatically). From here on, you are guided step-by-step into configuring your router: if not done automatically, you may need to manually enter the ISP info, choose the Internet connection type (DHCP, PPPoE or Static IP), create a WiFi network SSID and a password, create an Admin password and register a mydlink account (for the mydlink Lite app). The mydlink Cloud app allows you to access and configure your network remotely, from everywhere in the world (you can see the status of the network, change the settings, monitor the traffic, block access and more).
After finishing the initial setup, you can access the interface and further configure your router (you will be prompted to enter the Admin password). The interface is very simple and minimalistic, with four main tabs on top: Home, Settings, Features and Management, each with its corresponding page. The Home page displays the current status of your network, including the Internet connection and the router (you can click on them to see their status and go to settings, in order to configure them), as well as the connected devices (you can insert Parental Control rules on the fly). The Settings tab contains a series of sub-sections: the Setup Wizard, the Internet (choose the Device Mode, the Internet connection type, Host name, the DNS servers, MTU, MAC address close and access the IPv6 settings), the Wireless (change the settings of each of the three networks or create separate Guest networks), the Network (change the Network settings, configure the DHCP Server and the Advanced Settings), the SharePort (allows you to share any type of file by connecting a USB drive directly to the router; here, you can also create users and give them access levels) and mydlink (here, you can register a new account).
It is a bit weird that you cannot change the Admin username as it creates some security concerns, but you do get the option can create an additional of 9 users.
The Features tab has the following sub-sections: the QoS Engine (features three separate priority blocks – Highest, High and Medium – in which you can drag and drop your devices), the Firewall (Enable DMZ, SPI IPv4, Anti-Spoof Checking, IPv6 Simple Security and Ingress Filtering, PPTP, IPSec, RTSP, SIP, and you can create IPV4 and IPV6 rules), the Port Forwarding/Virtual Server, the Website Filter (here, you can create a maximum of 15 rules and restrict the access to certain websites and even block specific keywords), the Static Route (create up to 15 IPv4 and IPv6 rules, each), Dynamic DNS and Quick VPN (enable the L2TP over IPSec and choose the authentication protocol and the MPPE). The Management tab has the following sub-sections: Time and Schedule, System Log, System Admin, Upgrade and Statistics.
The D-Link DIR-890L/R is a capable router and one of the first to use the tri-band technology, but there are some good things and bad things to consider before purchasing it. First of all, regarding the design choice and the size, while I think it looks pretty cool with its glossy red top, some people may not like it. Secondly, the 5GHz wireless performance is great at close range, but it’s just above average at longer range and lastly, the interface problem. Sure, the interface looks clean and minimalist, so it’s just fine by today’s standards, the problem is that it doesn’t feel finished and it’s clearly rushed. Furthermore, while the DIR-890L/R is a consumer router, it comes at an enterprise price.
Check the products here:
D-Link AC3200 Ultra WiFi DIR-890L/R
- Good WiFi Performance
- Interesting Design
- Tri-Band Router with Smart Connect
- Reasonable Storage Performance
- The antennas are non-removable
- The router is too large
- Very expensive
- Unfinished Web-Interface