The D-Link HD Media Router 1000, model DIR-657, is the first router in the Media series that D-Link introduced during CES 2011. This is a single-band router that seems to replace the company's previous model the DIR-655, with better design and more features. The wireless performance, however, remains similar with its decent throughput and relatively short range.
At its street price of around $100, the DIR-657 will make a good investment for those who want an entry-level Wireless-N network and a few nifty features such as support for USB devices and an SD card slot. If you just want an even simpler Wireless-N router that works well, however, we'd also recommend the much more affordable Linksys E1500.
Setup and design
The DIR-657 has a completely new design with a sleek black housing and internal antennas, which is different from most of D-Link's previous routers, which have external antennas sticking up from the back. The new design also has a card slot on the front to host an SD card for the router's network storage feature. As this is not a travel router, we consider this slot to be more of a gimmick than a real feature. Even at its maximum capacity, which would be too expensive to be used with a router, an SD card doesn't provide much storage space for a home network. Near this slot is a Wi-Fi Protected Setup button, which is a convenient way to let a wireless client enter the encrypted wireless network. Press on this button and you open a 2-minute time window in which other WPS-enabled devices can join the network without you having to enter the encryption key manually.
On the back, the router has four Gigabit LAN ports for wired clients, one WAN port to be hooked to an Internet source, such as a broadband router, and a USB port. This USB port can be used to host an USB device or support Windows Connect Now (WCN). Similar to WPS, WCN is an old but handy technology that allows you to transfer the router's encryption key from the router to a Windows computer using a USB key, sparing you from having to remember the encryption key.
The DIR-657 is very easy to set up and we had no problems getting it up and running. The router comes with a CD that contains the setup desktop software. Following the wizard, we were able with minimal mouse clicks to get everything up and running, including connecting to the Internet and other wireless clients, as well as setting up an SSID for each frequency. Alternatively, you can use the Web-based interface, which we found to be well thought out, responsive, and more comprehensive than the desktop application. What the setup process won't tell you, however, is that the CD also contains the SharePort software that makes it so the router's USB port can be used as though it were a port of the computer.
The DIR-657 offers the same feature as the DIR-655 plus support for IPv6 and the OpenDNS-based parental control feature D-Link just announced that lets you manage Web filtering from anywhere over the Internet. It's very easy to set this up via the router's Web interface. Here you can pick between different levels of Parental Control and have the option of using OpenDNS to manage it. To use the router with OpenDNS, first you'll need to sign up for a free OpenDNS account. After that, from within the router's Web interface, pick OpenDNS as the method used to manage the Parental Control feature. You will be asked to enter your OpenDNS account information, and that's it, the cloud-based Web-filtering feature is ready. The router can now be managed from anywhere in the world when you log in to your OpenDNS account.
Alternatively, you can manage the router's Web filtering via its Web interface when you're at home. Features include Network Filter, Access Control, Website Filter, and Inbound Control. These tools allow to you control the network and limit access to the Internet by specific criteria, so for example you can prevent a particular computer from accessing an adult Web site or only allow it to run instant-messaging programs during certain periods of time.
The DIR-657's USB port works with the included SharePort utility to support any USB device. The software enables the computer to recognize a USB device plugged into the router as if it were plugged directly into the computer's USB port. For this reason, unlike other USB-equipped routers that support only printers and external hard drives, SharePort allows DIR-657 to share virtually any USB device over your network.
Unlike in the case of the DIR-655, the DIR-657's SharePort allows multiple computers in the network to access the connected device at the same time. We tried the SharePort USB port with multiple external hard drives and it worked as intended.
Other than that, the DIR-657 offers numerous networking features found in other Wireless-N routers from D-Link, and a very well-organized Web interface. You can set up manual port forwarding--where you map information coming to certain port to a certain computer in the network--or use the router's preset settings for different applications and services such as instant-messaging programs, BitTorrent, IP phone software, virtual servers, and so on.