Who says an old wireless router can’t learn new tricks? Small, independent or local businesses have some specific needs, but pretty much always end up buying a commodity residential router off the shelf and wind up with limited configuration options.
For an average retail shop with an internal network and maybe a register, this might be fine, but more and more locations are offering free wi-fi and having customers connect using a variety of devices.
And since our editor runs a coffee shop in one of the busiest areas of New York City, we had the perfect testbed to check out a new router focused on helping similar businesses boost their social media footprint.
The idea is simple: set up the D-Link Wireless AC1750 Dual-Band Gigabit Cloud Router (the DIR-865L) and you can easily configure it so that free wireless access is available to customers, provided they check-in to your Facebook page first. Automatic sign-in means it’s not a hassle for customers either.
You can easily have a couple of other traditional networks as well, with password protection, to offer to those folks without Facebook pages or for employee use.
We replaced a traditional 802.11n router, and connected it to our cable modem, and went through a few simple steps to give it access to our Facebook page.
We liked that you’re able to also allow an access code to bypass logins even for the open, unlocked network, and create different passwords for the other networks.
Plus, you can set up a time limit- an hour or a day for example- that allows much better control of your network’s traffic. For most routers, default settings have computers reserve an IP address for a long time and cycle them slowly; here D-link has made some great if minor, improvements in the out-of-the-box configuration.
Most of the features are pretty traditional on newer dual-band wireless routers, from the four-gigabit ethernet ports to the SmartBeam technology that boosts range.
After a month or so with the DIR-865L, we noticed a few small issues, largely with occasional firmware problems during resets or power cycling and some confusing settings with somewhat lacking instructions.
But the hardware has been quite solid- it’s not quite the fastest router on the block, and we wouldn’t suggest it for cutting-edge gamers, but at 450 + 1300Mbps on the two bands is quite competitive.
The DIR-865L originally came out last year, but thanks to some new software, has gained a new lease on life. And the Facebook integration is actually pretty smart, giving business owners the ability to offer promotions and directly market.
We’ve seen hundreds of new check-ins to our business page, from actual customers, and it’s been more stable and less likely to need rebooting than most other routers- important for a cafe where customers rely on wi-fi. Available now, for around $145, online and in stores.