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D-Link DGL-4500 Xtreme N Gaming Router Review
By Vince Freeman July 28, 2008
Wireless networking is still one of the hottest home technologies, and the ability to dispense with a hard-wired setup and freely roam is a powerful reason to go wireless. The wireless router is usually the starting point, as it provides both Internet sharing and wireless networking from a single device. Buying a router used to be easy; you just ordered the lowest-cost IEEE 802.11g model and then hooked it up.
But now that Wireless-N, or IEEE 802.11n, has burst on the scene, getting a new router is a more difficult process, and adding to that are all the specialized designs for home, gaming and enterprise use. The D-Link GamerLounge Xtreme N Gaming Router (DGL-4500) is one such device, and it not only offers blazing Wireless-N transmission speeds, but also supports various gamer-oriented features that ensure smooth online sessions.
Wireless-N / IEEE 802.11n Technology
Wireless LAN technology has gone through many evolutionary changes, which usually concentrated on improving three main areas: transmission speeds, range and wireless security. The rudimentary IEEE 802.11b offered only 11 Mbps wireless data speeds, while security was less than robust. But once we hit IEEE 802.11g, speeds jumped to 54 Mbps, while the IEEE 802.11g Super G (or Turbo, etc.) iterations ramped these up to 108 Mbps.
Another key feature of WLAN formats is their backwards compatibility, as IEEE 802.11g is fully compatible with current IEEE 802.11b technology, and Super G is can ramp back to both IEEE 802.11g and b formats. IEEE 802.11a is a bit dicier, as routers do support it, but using a different band. Wireless-N can use both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, and shares full backwards compatibility with existing IEEE standards. It also ramps the data rates up to a maximum of 300 Mbps, or almost six times that of standard Wireless-G.
Range has also increased, and while individual specifications can vary between manufacturers, expect double that of a top Wireless-G router. The IEEE 802.11n standard sounds great, and in many ways it is, but with one major caveat – it’s not a standard yet. Wireless-N is still in draft format right now, although the Wi-Fi Alliance has been testing and certifying products to interoperability. That means that products out there now will work together, and that these should function with the final specifications, but there is no absolute guarantee. This is mostly a non-issue for home users, as you can enjoy higher wireless transfer rates now, and without the interoperability concerns of a larger business.
The D-Link Xtreme N Gaming Router (DGL-4500)
The DGL-4500 Xtreme N Gaming Router is one of the high-end “GamerLounge” models offered by D-Link, and it supports both Wireless-N (Draft 2.0) and Gigabit LAN technologies, giving you best of both worlds. This is a serious piece of hardware, as in addition to wireless transfer rates of up to 300Mbps, you receive hard-wired speeds of up to 1000 Mbps. Although real-world speeds won’t be that fast, these will exceed anything a 100 Mbps network connection will offer.
The DGL-4500 features a single Gigabit WAN port, four Gigabit LAN ports, and a USB port for Windows-based monitoring. The unit includes three external (and detachable) antennas, featuring dual-band functionality, and supports the IEEE 802.11n (draft 2.0)/g/b/a, IEEE 802.3, and IEEE 802.3u standards. It also supports an updated GameFuel Engine, which ensures that online games are given priority access to bandwidth, and are not swamped by standard Internet transfers.
Right out of the box, the D-Link DGL-4500 looks exactly like the high-end product it is, sporting a deep black outer shell complete with GamerLounge branding. There is a blue LED power indicator, and a DGL-4500 logo in the front, but that’s it for accoutrements. If you want additional info from the DGL-4500 router, then you’ll need to check out the top-mounted OLED display, which provides a wealth of information.
This includes two menu/selection buttons, and viewable data such as device information, send/receive rates (both wired and wireless), wireless security settings, WLAN/LAN options, and more. The OLED works as advertised, and everything is easy to navigate, and the display itself is bright and clear. The only potential negative is that the OLED turns off after a period of inactivity and there is no way to leave it on, but this is also a huge positive, as the only source of LED light on the unit is the on/off indicator. Anyone who’s gotten eyestrain from a router’s flashing blue LED lights will fall in love with this model.
The back of the D-Link Xtreme N Gaming Router features a wide array of connectivity options. The include four Gigabit LAN ports (blue), one Gigabit WAN port (grey), a USB port (green), a recessed reset switch, and an AC power connector. The AC power adapter is a half-size brick, and the retail bundle includes the DGL-4500 router, three detachable antennas, one Ethernet cable, an application CD, an instruction booklet, and a mounting bracket with screws.