Review: D-Link DIR-651 gigabit wireless N router

DIR-651 front view

DIR-651 WIRELESS N 300 GIGABIT ROUTER

The D-Link DIR 651 Wireless N Router is one of the new releases of consumer routers from D-Link.  It is D-Link’s attempt to create an entry-level gigabit wireless-N router for the consumer.  Key word is “attempt.”

Is it note-worthy, or not-worthy?  Read on…

The only major upgrade on this unit is the gigabit Ethernet port (-vs- high-speed from previous model, the DIR 615). It does NOT have an active USB SharePort(tm) for attaching USB devices (external HD, shared printer, etc).

DIR-651 wireless N router (back view)

DIR-651 gigabit wireless N router

The router administration for this DIR-651 is almost identical to the DIR-655 (my current wireless router for 2+ years, and currently my yardstick for wireless routers). A few minor changes, but overall the same features, functions, and controls. I configured the device manually (without the disk installer) via web browser, changed the Router IP address, range, and other settings. It took less a bit over 15 minutes to complete the setup from unboxing to having a functional wireless router. Using the disk took a bit longer (a little over 20 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.

Data transfer when hard-wired (using Cat 5e network cables) were nearly identical to the DIR-655, and data transfer speeds were relatively fast. I won’t get into this too much more.

DIR-651 retail package

DIR-651 gigabit wireless-N router

As a stand-alone wireless router, I was a bit disappointed with its out-of-the-box functionality (or lack thereof). One major drawback was the ineffective/lackluster QoS service for bandwidth prioritization. Network traffic seems arbitrary, whether it be VoIP or movie streaming. Another major negative was that it consistently dropped wireless connection, even though the signal strength indicates a strong connection between router and laptop. With a strong (>56 Mbps) connection, it cannot handle streaming a standard (DVD quality) movie. Finally, the DNS router function was also highly problematic (it will occasionally prevent internet access). Out of the box, the product failed as a stand-alone wireless N router.

After playing with the router, the only workaround I found to make this unit barely acceptable as a wireless N router required the following tweeks:

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– Turn off QoS option. This defeats the purpose of this router which totes that it can “organize and prioritize your network traffic so your video streaming, gaming, and VoIP calls run smoother over both your wired and wireless network.” This is straight from their website.
– Turn off Advanced DNS Services (If you can get to this feature at all). The option to change this setting was not available until I performed several resets on the unit. Software/firmware glitch?
– Turn on DNS Relay under Setup/Networking.
– Setup DHCP reserved IP addresses for all devices connected to this router. This is easy enough, but is not as straightforward for the average user.
-Make sure the devices are set to auto obtain an IP address. I have a few devices where I specify the IP address on the devices themselves (several wireless APs are set up this way).
– Set Firewall settings to Endpoint Independent for TCP and UDP.
– Ensure Mutlti-cast Streaming is enabled under Advanced/Networking
– Use either single mode G or mixed G and N.
– Use WPA2 security mode and cipher type to AES (if your device support this).

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These did the trick for me. Currently, the “updated” firmware (1.10NA) available through D-Link is the same firmware as what came on this unit.  However, when I used the firmware from the website, it somewhat fixed most of the major problems associated with this router.  I’m not really sure why, but there it is.  There were still some network issues, like not seeing ANY of my NAS drives OR my shared folders on several PCs. Disabling the firewall partially solved this issue, but it is so frustrating to have to troubleshoot so much.

Next, I tested the wireless feature alone (independent of the router function), by making a few setting changes. With the router feature disabled, and using this device as a wireless access point, this device worked absolutely perfectly. At mixed wireless G+N, it was able to maintain a strong signal throughout the house, downstairs and upstairs. The signal strength was not as strong as the DIR-655 or the DIR-645 routers, but those are more expensive and supposedly has a stronger wireless signal due to more antennae. This was verified in the tests, where I placed the three routers side-by-side in the middle of the house, and tested the signal strength throughout the house. I would give the DIR-655 and DIR-645 the top signals in all the rooms, and this DIR-651 at approximately 60-80% of the signal of the other two. I was able to connect various wireless G/A/N devices with no drop in signal for days. So it seems that most of the problems that I encountered had to do with the router features of this unit.

Bottom line is that this router has a long way to go with fixing its problems. Once all these issues are squared away with firmware updates, this wireless device can be a decent wireless-N router upgrade from the older wireless B/G devices.

Another major con is the lack of a USB port (SharePort) for sharing a network printer, drive, or other peripherals. It is almost a common feature in many of the newer wireless routers. Not everyone uses it, but at least it can be an available feature for future upgrades.

If you are looking for an out-of-the-box functional wireless-N router, I cannot recommend this DIR-651 (yet). Unless you want the headache, or just have a thing for pain. It can work, but you either have to update the firmware, or you have to make a lot of setting changes to make it work (YMMV). If you are looking for a decent configurable AP to add to your system, and if you have the technical know-how, then this unit is acceptable. But for the price, there are lots of better models out there. I give it a strong 1.5 stars (rounded up to a weak 2 star rating).

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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 Review: D-Link DIR-651 gigabit wireless N router

  1. Hi, just wanted to tell you, I liked this post. It was helpful. Keep on posting!

  2. Stephen says:

    What n router do you suggest for out-of-the-box functionality?

    • Ask Conrad says:

      Hi Stephen,

      I’ve had great success with the D-Link DIR-655 ($75 at Amazon) for 1) out-of-the-box simplicity and 2) reliability (I am still using this router at home). The D-Link DIR-645 is also a good alternative (please check out my review).

      The other routers I can highly recommend are:
      – ASUS Black Diamond (RT-N56U; $125 at Amazon)
      – MediaLink Wireless-N router ($50 at Amazon)

      If you need the latest-and-greatest wireless-n routers (dual-band, media streaming, DLNA, etc.) I can suggest a few other routers, which will run upwards of $150-200. If you don’t need the advanced functionality (and price) of these routers, stick with the three above.

      -Conrad

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