The D-Link HD Media Router 1000 (DIR-657)

There’s nothing quite as frustrating as a spotty or intermittent Internet connection, especially when you’re on the brink of slaying a dragon in World of Warcraft, closing a sale over Skype, or in the middle of the "The Bourne Supremacy"’s chase scene. When your virtual life depends on access to uninterrupted bandwidth, the last thing you need is someone drastically reducing your bandwidth by starting to download a huge file like a PowerPoint presentation. The D-Link Amplifi HD Media Router 1000 (DIR-657) is a member of D-Link’s new Amplifi line of products and features HD Fuel technology designed to deliver uninterrupted, prioritized bandwidth to wired and wireless devices on your home network, so you never have to suffer another network hiccup.

HD Fuel ensures that video and audio streams have access to enough bandwidth to produce high quality results by automatically prioritizing bandwidth requests from your applications. Access to bandwidth can also be prioritized manually. HD Fuel protects the bandwidth of the device serving streams and the devices receiving them. In addition, the HD Media Router 1000 supports the latest Wireless N protocol, delivering up to 300Mbps throughput — the fastest currently available. In my testing, I was able to establish connections at the full 300Mbps from anywhere in the house and even in the backyard, roughly 150 feet from the router.

The HD Media Router 1000 is an attractive, streamlined unit. It lacks external antennas, belying the fact that it’s a full-featured wireless router, complete with four gigabit Ethernet ports, sophisticated firewall, content filtering capabilities, and easy-to-use security that ensure your network remains private. Its four gigabit Ethernet ports are complemented by WAN and USB ports, a wireless protocol security (WPS) button for automatically establishing secure connections, and a reset button as well as an SD card slot. The SharePort Plus USB 2.0 port allows you to connect printers, scanners, storage devices, and even Android and iOS-based devices such as an iPhone or iPad to your network, while the SD card slot lets anyone on your network access or upload HD video and photo files stored on SD cards.

The HD Media Router 1000 is full-featured, but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to use. In fact, setting it up is a simple matter of connecting it to a DSL or cable modem, running a software utility locally or online by pointing your browser to the default IP address, and then following the configuration wizard’s prompts. While the process is easy and straightforward for casual users, the unit has enough features to satisfy sophisticated users and small businesses. For example, it offers the ability to regulate access to your web server, email, or VPNs. It also provides media server support, and even parental controls for limiting access to certain web sites from specific computers on the network.

For a small business that wants to offer remote workers access to the company network, the HD Media Router 1000 provides excellent virtual private networking support. Both IPSec and PPTP sessions are supported, as are multiple concurrent sessions, so several workers can access the network simultaneously. Setting up these features is simple and well documented.

Some VPN protocols, such as PPTP, L2TP, and IPSEC as well as streaming protocols such as RTSP or SIP, don’t work well with network address translation, which is often used in small-to-medium business networks to prevent outside users from communicating directly with PCs inside a network. The HD Media Router 1000 lets you implement specific rules enabling you to get good results with these protocols.

Users concerned about cyberintruders breaking into their network to steal data or disrupt service will appreciate the unit’s advanced firewall, which can block unauthorized users while directing legitimate ones to the appropriate server on your network. The firewall lets you run your own web and email servers as well other types of business application servers.

Setting up a secure connection is as simple as pushing a button on the router (or clicking a button in the management software’s interface) and starting the connection on a new computer. A USB key can also be used to set up a secure connection without having to enter long strings of letters and numbers. A guest network option is available, which allows you to let guests connect to the Internet, but not to other resources on your network.

For parents and businesses that want to limit access to certain web sites, the HD Media Router 1000’s firewall also provides powerful filtering capabilities. For example, you can limit access to certain computers, block access to specific web sites at certain times of day, or block access to certain sites altogether. It’s also possible to set rules for specific applications. This lets you prioritize VoIP and other applications that need a lot of bandwidth to function properly, or limit online game play and music or video streaming to after hours, so they don't interfere with essential activities.

Priced at around $130, the Amplifi HD Media Router 1000 offers a very full feature set for either home or small business networks, with an excellent firewall, great range, and an easy configuration process. Its Wireless N 300 connectivity and Gigabit Ethernet ports are capable of high speeds, allowing the HD Media Router 1000 to deliver the fastest speeds currently available from consumer equipment.

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