About five months ago, we checked out one of the state-of-the-art routers at the time, a top-of-the-line D-Link model that offered plenty of performance, and an interesting cylindrical shape that made it stand out quite a bit from the crop of competitors.
After all, 802.11ac is still a draft standard, but the playing field has narrowed a bit and most routers and manufacturers have reached a plateau in speeds. At CES, we saw some new hardware, but nothing that threatened to blow our socks off for a few months at least.
This is why the D-Link DGL-5500 AC1300 Gaming Router is a bit of an odd duck. It actually takes a step back from the listed specs of the model we checked out before, their AC1750 Gigabit Router.
That said, it does add some nifty technology called StreamBoost that proved pretty helpful, as well as some user interface improvements that were appreciated. And we did notice some increases in range and speed, especially when running the far-more-common 802.11n devices that make up the bulk of our laptops, smartphones, and tablets.
But it’s what is missing the first grabbed our attention, even beyond the slightly reduced specs on the 5Ghz AC band. We liked SmartBeam, or at least the idea, and missed it here- along with the now-absent USB 3.0 port, the change from cloud to local management, and the removal of guest networks.
For many folks, these features won’t be noticed, but gaming routers are usually labeled as they are typically a premium product for those first-movers and early adopters.
The trade-off is the StreamBoost tech, which might sound like a gimmick, but D-Link is clear about the advantages: it isn’t a typical quality of service (QoS) tool, “but a sophisticated Traffic Shaping engine intelligently manages bandwidth in ways traditional QoS engines can’t touch” that is “both app-aware and device-aware”.
When you log in to the router management backend, you are greeted with an interesting visualization mapping your local network, and there are definitely some cool ideas, like the crowd-sourced profile creation and cloud-based updating system.
They might not be fully-baked yet, but gamers will certainly love one thing about this router- it did automatically prioritize traffic smartly, allowing us to stream Netflix and Hulu and games at the same time as downloading some large files, without choking, mostly by reducing download speeds when other intensive and more important tasks are detected.
Thus, it’s best suited for households with multiple folks who might be simultaneously using up your bandwidth, and especially those who are bandwidth-limited.
We have a pretty good pipe, but tried to limit it a bit to simulate potential issues, and did see improvements over other routers when we really pushed our network hard. Granted, on balance, we’d prefer raw speed or range, and maybe even better manual controls (open-source firmware, for instance) but there are certain situations where automated packet analysis is useful at handling traffic bottlenecks.
The D-Link DGL-5500 Gaming Router is reasonably priced at $140, looks good, and is easy to set up available now, online and in stores.