D-Link’s DIR-862L is a new entry in the class of next generation of wireless routers and should provide a boost to your Wi-Fi network, even if all your devices aren’t yet 802.11ac capable. I tested the DIR-862L and found it delivers a solid upgrade to an older network, while D-Link’s optional mobile app-based configuration and network management made setup and fine-tuning a breeze.

A Gigabit Wi-Fi Router

If you’ve been hearing a lot about Gigabit Wi-Fi (also known as 802.11ac) lately that’s because it’s kind of a big deal. The latest Wi-Fi standard has four times the speed capability of the previous Wi-Fi champ 802.11n (read our guide to the differences between 802.11ac and 802.11n here).

The DIR-862L is capable of providing data transfer rates of up to 1.3 Gbps on the 5GHz band in addition to simultaneously delivering 300 Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. D-Link says it’s optimized this router to provide the services today’s consumers expect, including lag-free online gaming and buffer-free HD and 3D video streaming.

To take advantage of the fastest maximum speeds, you need to be connecting to the DIR-862L with a device that also supports 802.11ac, but the Wi-Fi router is fully compatible with previous standards so none of your devices will be left out. And even if your household lacks a single Gigabit Wi-Fi device, you’ll still see excellent performance with the DIR-862L thanks to its multiple antennas and dual-band capability. 

If you happen to have security on your mind, a D-Link wireless network camera (like the pair I reviewed just a few days ago) can connect to the DIR-862L automatically, with a D-Link account.

And you’ll be ready for the future, when those 802.11ac devices inevitably make their way into your home.

Specifications

  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
  • Multiple internal antennas housed within 19cm tall case with AC SmartBeam antenna focusing technology
  • 4 x Gigabit 10/100/1000 ethernet LAN ports
  • 1 x USB port
  • Guest access, SharePort web access, DLNA media server support
  • Dual active firewall with VPN passthrough
  • WPS compatible, WPA and WPA 2 security
  • IPv6 Ready 

QRS (Quick Router Setup) App

The DIR-862L supports WPS setup, which is about as simple as it gets. However, D-Link has also provided a QRS App, which makes things easier than ever for those of us who aren’t WPS-enabled. 

Instead of the usual routine of having to sit down at a PC and connect to the new router with an ethernet cable to go through the setup process, the QRS app lets you use your smartphone instead. 

My D-Link App

One of the great mysteries of your Wi-Fi network is what’s going on in the background. How many devices are actually connected? The answer may surprise you. Are any of them unauthorized? Unless you’re willing to get hands on with network management software you won’t really know if your downloads are slow because your Internet connection isn’t providing the speed you’re paying for or because there are five tablets on your Wi-Fi network, all being used to watch HD YouTube videos.

D-Link’s free My D-Link App aims to simplify the whole network monitoring and management thing, and makes it as convenient as possible. You don’t even have to sit down at your PC to check things out, you can just whip out your smartphone. Better yet, you don’t have to be at home and connected to your network —you can do all this remotely.

With My D-Link you can get a real-time picture of what devices are connected to your Wi-Fi network and what websites they’re visiting. If someone’s there who shouldn’t be, you can block them.

Don’t have a mobile device? No worries, the My D-Link web portal provides all the functionality you need to manage your Wi-Fi network, from a web browser.  

Note: My D-Link app shows up a “mydlink Lite” through app stores and is free, but the iPad optimized version “mydlink +” is currently priced at 99 cents.

Setup

Everything you need is in the box, including an ethernet cable. I decided to opt for the QRS app setup option using my smartphone. Setting up and configuring the DIR-862L this way was easy and pain free. Here are the steps needed:

  1. Download the free QRS app
  2. Unplug cable modem and leave it for five minutes
  3. Connect the cable modem to the Internet port on the DIR-862L using the included ethernet cable
  4. Power up the DIR-862L
  5. Power up the cable modem
  6. Connect smartphone to the default D-Link Wi-Fi network (a companion card included in the router box provides the default network name and password)
  7. Launch the QRS Mobile app
  8. Follow the setup wizard steps (if you don’t already have a My D-Link account, you’ll be asked to create one as part of this process —you can skip this, but doing so means you miss out on the cloud functionality) 
  9. Connect to the newly created Wi-Fi network

My QRS is an excellent option. For one thing, it means you can skip the hassle of having to connect the DIR-862L to both the cable modem and a PC for configuration (the two are not always in close proximity or accessible). The only real downside is that the app on a small device means the text can be a bit on the small side.

Next, I launched the My D-Link app, where the very useful and intuitive network tools are found (again, you can also access this functionality through the My D-Link web portal using a PC).

The home screen displays key stats at a glance including your network’s current upload and download speed and the number of devices currently using your Wi-Fi network.


Drilling down gives you access to increasingly powerful options. For example, click on “Connected Devices” and the information progresses from the number of devices to a list of each device. Click on any device and you then get details including its IP and MAC address, web history and the ability to block the device from your network.

DIR-862L Wi-Fi Performance

As expected, performance on the D-Link Wi-Fi router was snappy. I turned to a few of my go-to tests to see how performance had improved in these specific cases.

The first is the depths of my back yard where my former Wi-Fi network either drops out altogether or registers a single bar on my iPhone. With the DIR-862L in place, it saw an increase to between one and two bars. Not as good as other routers I’ve tested, but a meaningful improvement. In fairness, the router is located in my basement, so there’s a lot of concrete to go through — a range extender would help if I wanted to max out this capability.

The second stress test was streaming a 720p video from the iTunes library hosted by a PC in the basement, to an Apple TV located in the family room (a notorious Wi-Fi trouble zone due to its location). With my existing setup, it took an average of 44 seconds between pressing play and the video actually starting. With the DIR-862L, the average time dropped to just over 9 seconds.

A Worthwhile Purchase? 

While it may not be able to keep up with a high performance router like the Linksys 1900AC I reviewed last month, the DIR-862L also costs less. For the money, you get a capable Gigabit Wi-Fi router that should provide a boost to your existing network —even if you’re not using 802.11ac devices— lets you share a hard drive and offers future-proofing. Easy set-up and the option of smartphone/tablet-based configuration and network management apps are an added bonus.

You can find the full range of D-Link wireless routers today at Best Buy, while the DIR-862L will be arriving soon.

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I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. After 13 years as a product manager with a leading Canadian tech company, I transitioned into a full-time career of writing about technology. I’ve contributed to a range of publications and websites including Forbes, Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, About.com, MSN Money, the Winnipeg Free Press, InvestorPlace Media, Shaw Media and—combining technology and my three kids—I’ve been a Core Contributor to the award winning GeekDad blog since its launch in 2007.

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