Sleek design. Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) capable. Strong throughput performance in testing. Supports open-source firmware.
Pricey. Middling file-transfer speeds.
- Bottom Line
D-Link's good-looking AC3150 Ultra Wi-Fi Router (DIR-885L/R) offers fast throughput performance, MU-MIMO data streaming, and support for open-source firmware, making it our top pick for midrange routers.
D-Link's family of Ultra Wi-Fi routers, including the DIR-895L/R and the DIR-890L/R, are known for their speedy performance and unusual design, and the $279.99 AC3150 Ultra Wi-Fi Router (DIR-885L/R) follows suit. This bright-red, angular, dual-band router earns high marks in our throughput tests, has a user-friendly management interface, and offers a generous selection of I/O ports and support for open-source firmware. It is also capable of Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) data streaming. All this makes it our current top choice for midrange routers.
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Design and Features
The DIR-885L/R shares a similar design with the D-Link AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Router (DIR-890L/R) and the D-Link AC5300 Ultra Wi-Fi Router (DIR-895L/R), both of which are high-end models. It has a pyramid-shaped, cherry-red enclosure that measures 4.7 by 15.2 by 9.7 inches (HWD) and features four removable and adjustable antennas. There are five small LED indicators on the top of the router for Power, Internet connectivity, both radio bands, and USB connectivity. Around back are four Gigabit LAN ports, a WAN port, a USB 3.0 port, Reset, Power, and WPS buttons, and a switch for operating in router or extender mode.
An AC3150, 4×4 router, the DIR-885L/R uses a 1.4GHz processor. It's capable of maximum speeds of 1,000Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and up to 2,165Mbps on the 5GHz band. It supports all of the latest 802.11ac technologies, including beamforming (dubbed Advanced AC SmartBeam), band steering (which D-Link calls Smart Connect), and MU-MIMO data streaming, which sends data to compatible clients simultaneously, rather than sequentially.
The Web-based management console uses the same menu system as earlier models and can also be managed from a smartphone using D-Link's QRS mobile app. The console's home page has a network map and information, such as client IP addresses, connection type, and connection uptime. In addition to a Setup Wizard, the Settings menu contains an Internet page, where you can configure DHCP, IPv4, and IPv6 network settings, and a Wireless page for configuring SSID, password, security, and channel-width settings. Here, you can also enable access schedules for all or part of the day and set up guest network access. The Advanced menu includes drag-and-drop Quality of Service (QoS) settings that can be managed by application or by device, Firewall settings, Port Forwarding and Virtual Server settings, and Website Filter settings. The Management page is where you go to view system logs and network statistics, create access schedules, update the router's firmware, and view individual radio-band statistics.
If you require more control over your network, you can replace the router's stock firmware with open-source DD-WRT firmware, which offers enhanced menu options for things like advanced wireless and VPN capabilities, customized network monitoring, and customized QoS options.
Installation and Performance
The DIR-885L/R can be installed using a Web-based console or the D-Link QRS Mobile app. I installed it using the Web console and started by connecting the router to my host PC and to the Internet. I typed //dlinkrouter.local./ in my browser's address bar and was presented with an install wizard that walked me through the basic Internet and wireless configurations. After downloading and installing the latest firmware, I was ready to go.
The DIR-885L/R performed admirably in testing, doing particularly well in our range-performance tests. While operating on the 2.4GHz band, it scored 103Mbps in the close-proximity (same-room) test, taking a close second to the 108Mbps scored by the Trendnet AC2600 StreamBoost MU-MIMO WiFi Router (TEW-827DRU), another top pick, but beating the Linksys WRT3200ACM (76Mbps) and the Linksys EA7500 Max-Stream AC1900 MU-MIMO Gigabit Router (97.3Mbps). At a distance of 30 feet, the DIR-885L/R led with a speedy 85.5Mbps, besting the Linksys WRT3200ACM (58.5Mbps), the Trendnet TEW-827DRU (75.3Mbps), and the Linksys EA7500 (52.1Mbps).
In our 5GHz close-proximity test, the DIR-885L/R's score of 572Mbps was slightly faster than the Linksys EA7500 (495Mbps), and nearly identical to the Linksys WRT3200ACM MU-MIMO Gigabit Wi-Fi Router (569Mbps), but the Trendnet TEW-827DRU was just a tad faster (590Mbps). At 30 feet, the DIR-885L/R led the pack by a healthy margin with a score of 350Mbps, compared with the Linksys WRT3200ACM (238Mbps), the Trendnet TEW-827DRU (260Mbps), and the Linksys EA7500 (298Mbps).
To test MU-MIMO throughput, we use three identical Acer Aspire R13 laptops equipped with Qualcomm's QCA61x4A MU-MIMO circuitry. The DIR-885L/R's score of 237Mbps in the close-proximity MU-MIMO test was nearly identical to the Trendnet TEW-827DRU (238.3Mbps), but higher than the Linksys EA7500 (176Mbps) and the Linksys WRT3200ACM (174Mbps). Its throughput of 165Mbps at 30 feet took top honors; the Linksys WRT3200ACM scored 138Mbps, the Linksys EA7500 gained 81.2Mbps, and the Trendnet TEW-827DRU had a throughput of 127.6Mbps.
File-transfer performance, which we test by transferring a 1.5GB folder containing music, video, photo, and document files, was middling. The DIR-885L/R scored 44.1MBps in the read test and 33.2MBps in the write test. These scores were similar to the Trendnet TEW-827DRU (53.7MBps read and 30.3MBps write) and the Zyxel Armor Z2 AC2600 MU-MIMO Dual-Band Wireless Gigabit Router (NBG6817) (51.2MBps and 35.1MBps, respectively), but much slower than the Linksys WRT3200ACM (74.5MBps and 88MBps).
The D-Link DIR-885L/R is an excellent choice if you're looking for a midrange router that delivers speedy throughput and a unique aesthetic. It's a bit more expensive than most routers in its class, and its file-transfer performance could be better, but it features the latest Wi-Fi technologies, including MU-MIMO streaming, beamforming, and band steering, and it offers a nice selection of ports and out-of-the-box management options. You'll pay around $70 more for the DIR-885L/R than for the Trendnet TEW-827DRU, but it offers better range performance, and unlike the Trendnet model, it supports DD-WRT open-source firmware.
By John R. Delaney Contributing Editor
As a Contributing Editor for PCMag, John Delaney has been testing and reviewing monitors, TVs, PCs, networking and smart home gear, and other assorted hardware and peripherals for almost 20 years. A 13-year veteran of PC Magazine's Labs (most recently as Director of Operations), John was responsible for the recruitment, training and management of the Labs technical staff, as well as evaluating and maintaining the integrity of the Labs testing machines and procedures. Prior to joining Ziff Davis, John spent six years in retail operations for… More »
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