D Link DIR 645 – Whole Home Router 1000

Front ViewThe Whole Home Router 1000 Wireless N Router (DIR-645) is the newest consumer router from D-Link designed to handle large home networks.  It utilizes “SmartBeam” technology that is supposedly able to send focused beams of bandwidth to individual wireless devices simultaneously, which effectively delivers uninterrupted connectivity to any device, anywhere in your home.  Also included is an active USB SharePort™ Plus for streaming USB devices, and with 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports, you can connect your favorite entertainment devices as well, and give you up to 300 Mbps speed and advanced QoS bandwidth prioritization you need for seamless HD video streams, high-performance gaming, and VOIP calls without annoying glitches or lags.

 

This is not your average router, which is evident in its design (round cylinder, instead of the usual box-shaped routers).  This is a D-Link Green router, which is as good for your wallet as it is for the environment.  According to D-Link, the Whole Home Router 1000 is designed to conserve energy, protect our environment from harmful substances and reduce waste by using recyclable packaging.  D-Link Green devices provide eco-friendly alternatives without compromising performance.

 

Sounds good?  Let’s find out if it delivers. 

 

I will be comparing it to my D-Link DIR-655, which currently serves as my primary wireless router, and which has been working well for over two years now.  I consider the DIR-655 to be one of the best routers for wired or wireless networking.  I was pleasantly surprised that the DIR-645 was on par with many features, better in some yet lacking in others.

 

Back View

4 Gigabit Ethernet ports; USB SharePort

The router administration for this DIR-645 is almost identical to the DIR-655.  A few minor changes, but overall the same features, functions, and controls.  As a stand-alone wireless router, it worked flawlessly.  I configured it manually (without the disk installer) via web browser, changed the Router IP address, range, and other settings.  It took less than 10 minutes to complete the setup from unboxing to having a functional wireless router.  Using the disk took a bit longer (a little over 15 minutes), but it got me to nearly the same state as my manual configuration, plus a few minor tweaks on the router setting.  The disk setup is user-friendly, and works properly for setting up the router.  I tested other features (QoS engine, advanced firewall, routing, WISH, etc.) for a few days only, but they all seemed to work just as well as the DIR-655.

 

Data transfer when hard-wired (using Cat 5e network cables) were nearly identical between the two units.  I won’t get into this too much more.

 

Next, I tested the wireless feature of the DIR-645.  I used a DIR-655 as the DHCP router (with the wireless off), and connected the DIR-645 and another DIR-655 configured these two as wireless access points.  This is a relatively simple setting change, but I only recommend it if you are tech-savvy.  Because the router functions are handled by a single router upstream of the test routers, I can test the wireless connections purely and separately from the router features.  Both routers are connected using Cat5e cables (for gigabit connectivity).  The two routers are on the main floor of the house, placed about three feet apart on top of the same bookshelf (to simulate the same conditions).  I enabled 802.11 mixed mode (g,n), wpa2 security mode, set at channel 6, transmission rate set at “best”, and channel width at auto 20/40 MHz (to test both n and g connections).

 

I used several computers to test these units:  1) WinXP Pro Dell X1 laptop with internal 802.11g Intel wifi, 2) same laptop with D-Link DWA-160 Extreme N USB Adapter, 3) Macbook Pro 17-inch with Airport, 4) Dell XPS via D-Link DWA-140 (where I store my movies), and 5) an IBM Thinkpad T43..  I bypassed the disk installer for the computers and did a manual configuration.  I searched the available wireless network, found the router SSID for both wireless “AP” units, typed in the password for network security (a definite must-do in San Francisco), and I was wirelessly connected.  All connected well, and I get at least 24 Mbps speed in the farthest corners of my house, and well above 80 Mbps speed anywhere on the same floor as the router (using WinXP Pro wireless connection setting).  Using large video files (150 MB to 2 GB large) I got about 10 MB/s transfer using wireless N (at Auto 20/40 MHz and mixed g+n wireless).  With the DIR-655, I got about 8 MB/s, but this is with mixed g+n wireless connection.  When the DIR-655 was set at wireless n only, it got up to speed with the DIR-645.  Obviously I have a long way to go with testing, but I am pleased to see that this DIR-645 can perform just as well as my DIR-655.

 

When I brought my laptops upstairs, the signal for this DIR-645 was just as strong (if not slightly stronger) than the DIR-655.  Also, the theoretical speed calculated by WinXP Pro was faster when connected to this DIR-645 than the DIR-655.  Again, these are theoretical calculations by the computers.

 

Both wireless routers streamed DVD quality videos with no problems.  However, the one major difference is in performance when streaming HD videos (1080 at 12+ MBps video rate), and I have to give it to the DIR-655 for performance.  When streaming HD videos onto any of the computers in the living room, there was a little stuttering with this DIR-645 that was not seen with the DIR-655.  I’m not really sure why this was the case, given that the DIR-645 had a faster raw data transfer rate.

 

Bottom line is that this unit (the DIR-645) has equal or better theoretical wireless connectivity than the classic DIR-655.  I sat in my living room (about 100 feet and a few walls from the wireless routers).  This was true for a Macbook Pro laptop, a Dell X1 laptop, and an IBM Thinkpad.  The download and upload rates were similar when connected purely as wireless G or wireless N.  In mixed mode (G+N), this DIR-645 seemed to perform better.  The DIR-655 dropped to wireless G throughput in mixed mode, whereas this DIR-645 seemed to better handle a mixed mode connection with theoretical connectivity (WinXP wireless tool indicator).  I’m not really sure why this is the case, since this router does not seem to be dual band (although most dual-band routers run at 2.4 and 5.0).

 

Overall, this DIR-645 performed just as well as my DIR-655 in terms of wireless connectivity.  Highly recommended.

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About Ask Conrad
I am a University Professor. A Neuroscientist by trade, and a technophile/geek on the side. My work and research is heavily dependent on computers and state-of-the-art technology. I like Jazz and Bossa Nova. I play the piano, guitar, and ukulele.

3 Responses to D Link DIR 645 – Whole Home Router 1000

  1. Thawee says:

    Good morning,

    Thank you for responding to my wireless router question that I posted under your Amazon review of the D-Link DIR 645 router, I appreciate you taking the time to write such an informative response 😉

    You asked me the following questions and I’ve written the answer following each question:

    -What is your budget? Some of the nice wireless-N routers start well below $100, while others go for as high as over $200. Up to $100 would be fine, above that I’d need to justify any real benefits.

    -What is your DSL/Cable speed? If you are running at 1.5 MBps or slower, then it will not make much sense spending a lot of money on features that will not be utilized. I use Cox Communications for the cable TV & internet service and my plan claims a download speed of up to 18MBps and an upload speed of up to 4MBps.

    -Where will the router be placed with respect to this TV? Next to the TV on the floor (the TV sits on a 24″ high table.

    -How many peripherals are you planning on connecting wirelessly? Probably just 2, the TV and my laptop. I suppose it could go to 3 with another laptop but that’s maybe unlikely.

    I like the look of the DIR 645 rounter you reviewed but I was a bit concerned about the stuttering 1080 HD streaming download that you mentioned.

    Yep, the Sony HX820 TV is a beautiful unit but not without its quirks ;(

    Thank you for your help.

    Best regards,
    TW

  2. Ask Conrad says:

    @Thawee

    If your router will sit next to the TV, I would recommend just using an ethernet cable and directly connecting the TV to the router. This will eliminate any potential connection issues going wireless. A wired network will give you a more consistent and faster connection, and will leave the wireless traffic for your laptop(s). Wireless-N is rated at 300Mbps max transfer, while the gigabit connection is at 1000Mbps.

    For you, I would recommend a wireless-N router with gigabit ethernet. WIth a gigabit router, make sure you get either a Cat5e network cable to connect the TV to the router. Cat5e cables are sufficient for gigabit networking (Cat6 cables cost more, and does not provide a significantly faster connection than the cheaper Cat5e cable). If you decide not to use the ethernet connection, having the wireless router sitting next to the TV will greatly reduce dropped wireless connections, so that will help out as well.

    These routers hover around $100, and at this price point I would recommend the following:

    D-Link DIR-645 – I was quite impressed with the D-Link DIR-645 in terms of strong signal strength and sustained connection (as reviewed on this article), as well as many other features. These are currently going for about $90 through Amazon as of today. You can also connect printers, USB drives, and media NAS Servers through the SharePort Plus USB 2.0 port. This lets you stream music and videos from any USB device onto your TV (if your TV supports this) and laptop. What this router doesn’t have is the dual-band wireless-N feature. But given your setup, you will not need the dual-band if you directly connect the TV to the router. FYI, I am currently using this wireless router at home, and although it has not received the same accolades as its predecessor (the DIR-655), I think it is just as good a wireless-N router as the DIR-655. I have no problems streaming Netflix and Amazon Videos through Sony BluRay Players (BDP-S580 and BDP-S770… knock-on-wood) in our bedroom upstairs on the other side of the house from the wireless router. When I stream hi-quality HD videos from my NAS media server, I get perfect quality when I am on the same floor as the router. If I am in the bedroom, I occasionally get some stuttering of movies if I stream to my MacBook Pro.

    Netgear N600 – This is about the same price as the DIR-645 (about $95 through Amazon), but from a different yet reputable company (Netgear). You can add a USB hard drive to this router and share it over your home local area network (LAN). What the N600 has is a “guest” network access, which will allow you to give your guests/friends a separate and secure WiFi internet-ONLY access without giving access to your shared hard drive, printer, etc. I helped my neighbor setup this router at his home, and he says he says he streams HD videos (Netflix, Hulu, home media server) to all areas of his house with no problems. This was about two years ago, and he has never needed to reboot the router. The router is setup in the den on the first floor, and he gets a strong signal all over his house and the backyard.

    Linksys E3200 – This is just a tad above your budget ($105 at Amazon). Everything about this router is great, but I’ve heard that it is somewhat hit or miss: If they work, they keep going without requiring a reboot. If it doesn’t work from the start, immediately return to the vendor (especially if you go through Amazon, whose customer support is excellent). However, their support is notoriously bad, and has been their Achilles heel. You can also use the USB port to share storage (USB hard drive) or printer, like the other two. But, I’ve heard that the USB port is limited, in that 3TB drives are not yet supported. I helped my coworker setup this router for his home last summer, and he has been quite happy with it. No reboots, works exceptionally well (unlike his previous router), he watches HD streaming videos and HD movies from a home media server with little issues.

    I think any of these three routers will work quite well for you. Please let me know what you end up with, and how it works out for you. And if you have any more questions, just let me know.

    Note: There are other cheaper routers that are similarly rock-solid, like the Medialink wireless-N router (but is not gigabit-capable) and goes for $50 in Amazon. This is an amazing router, but you may see some stuttering if streaming HD videos because of the slower wired speed (100Mbps).

    • Thawee says:

      Hi,

      Thank you for the expansive information and recommendations! I think I’ll go with your first choice, the DIR-645 as it will fulfill my needs perfectly and as you say, with a hard wired ethernet connection to the TV that will provide more bandwidth than a wireless connection and no dropped connections. I also like the clean aesthetic design of the unit with no rabbit ears 😉

      FYI, the cable modem I’m using is a Cisco DPQ3212:

      http://www.cisco.com/en/US/docs/video/at_home/Cable_Modems/3200_Series/4019777_B.pdf

      Thank you so much for your wonderful assistance and expertise, I greatly appreciate it.

      I saw on your blog that you review hard drives and so you may be interested to know that I was the founder and inventor of the Fortress ultra-rugged, portable, hard drives. Unfortunately the economic collapse in 2008 killed off the company due to lack of sales/funds (it hurt!) and shortly thereafter my partner who handled the electronics side of the design unexpectedly passed away so that was the final nail in the coffin, so as to speak. It was a fantastic product and lived up to its claims, able to withstand a non-operating drop of 7 feet onto concrete without damaging the hard drive. It was also great for operating in high vibration environments such as helicopters and would read/write without any errors. Plus the deign was very pleasing and the build quality unsurpassed, absolute Rolex quality 😉 I was very proud of it. The website is still up as I like to offer support for existing owners so you can see some photos of the unit: http://www.4tress.com

      Best regards and best wishes for the new year!

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