If you're building a new home or making a significant upgrade to your current setup, it pays to give some careful consideration to which wireless router you choose. Good coverage across your house, as well as fast connectivity, can soothe a lot of potential headaches before they happen. The D-Link Viper isn't perfect, but can muscle up some very fast file transfers when it needs to.
What Is It?
- Wi-Fi Performance: 1900Mbps
- Wi-Fi Type: 802.11ac, 802.11n
- USB Ports: 2 (1 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0)
- Processor: 800MHz
- Ethernet Ports: 4 LAN, 1 DSL RJ-11
- Warranty: 3 Years
The $329 D-Link DSL-2900AL, also known as the Viper, is a 802.11ac Wi-Fi modem router capable of a maximum 1300Mbps on the currently latest and greatest 5GHz 802.11ac standard and 600Mbps on 2.4GHz 802.11n. It has a bunch of integrated features like an onboard DLNA media server and mobile device sharing, but most people will be interested in the combination of fast Wi-Fi and inbuilt ADSL2+ modem.
The D-Link Viper looks quite like an Apple Mac Pro, although it's actually closer to an AirPort Extreme in size. It's matte black though, which is actually an improvement on the lesser piano black DSL-2890AL -- fewer fingerprints to clean off every time you go to change a cable.
Speaking of cables -- around the back of the Viper, you'll find a total of four 1000Mbps-capable Ethernet ports, individual USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 jacks, and of course a single RJ-11 phone jack for the DSL-2900AL's integrated ADSL2+ modem. Just above the power jack at the base, there are only two buttons on the rear -- an embossed one for power and a recessed one to switch Wi-Fi on and off if you ever wanted to do that.
Everything on the D-Link DSL-2900AL is controlled through the Web interface, and it's a very simplistic system indeed. More on that later, but suffice to say that it'll suit you perfectly well if you're a novice user. That means a lot of drag and drop and visual indicators, but not a great deal of in-depth and minute adjustment.
What's It Good At?
When it comes to actually transferring files from PC to PC, from the D-Link Viper to your media streamer, or to your mobile device, this router flies along. It has six -- count 'em -- MIMO antennas hidden away inside its cylindrical body, and 802.11ac beamforming optimises transfer rates wherever in your range of coverage you are. Here's how the Viper performs with our standardised file transfer tests:
D-Link Viper DSL-2900AL: Performance
Wireless: 802.11ac 5GHz, 2m: 89MBps 802.11ac, 10m: 72MBps 802.11ac, 15m: 52MBps 802.11n 2.4GHz, 2m: 41MBps 802.11n 2.4GHz, 10m: 37MBps 802.11n 2.4GHz, 15m: 25MBps USB 3.0: 1GB: 42MBps 5GB: 42MBps USB 2.0: 1GB: 19MBps 5GB: 18MBps
These are some impressive speeds, broadly comparable with the Netgear Nighthawk X6 and Linksys WRT-1900AC with which the D-Link Viper broadly competes. It's not the fastest 802.11ac wireless router that we've tested, but you're not cheaping out and getting something that's only a mid-range device here, that's for sure.
The Viper is consistent, too -- probably more so than any other Wi-Fi AC router we've ever tested. That's good when you're transferring data all across the house, whether that's streaming Full HD video from a NAS to a TV and media streamer or actual files from PC to PC -- you can start a transfer and be assured of when it'll finish. It also means your transfers won't summarily drop off and unexpectedly fail, even if you're moving around the house a little bit.
D-Link's Web interface has received a huge overhaul and upgrade within the life cycle of its last few routers, and the end result is an icon- and graphic-driven GUI that is very different to almost every other router control panel that you've ever used. While that's not always a good thing -- see below -- it still has all the goodies to adjust your router's settings and if you're a first-time buyer and user you'll pick it up pretty quickly.
What's It Not Good At?
The D-Link Viper's Web interface is very different to almost any other router's -- if you've seen one before, that is. If you haven't, feel free to skip this paragraph and read on below. But to anyone that knows a little about networking, who has fiddled around with setting up ADSL or a home network in the past, you might find yourself a little confused with where to start. The quality-of-service section, for example, is basic. Make sure you update the DSL-2900AL's firmware straight out of the box, because it has some significant upgrades since launch.
The initial installation process should give you a hint as to how things are with the Viper. You're prompted with a quick guide through the basic network and Wi-Fi configuration, connected to the internet, then guided straight away to set up mydlink, a hand-holding cloud portal to your connected security cameras, D-Link's ShareCenter NAS storage, and so on -- and it's all very nonthreatening and icon-based.
There's nothing wrong with the DSL-2900AL's interface, but it's very simple and that means that power users may find it actually a little harder than normal to find the MAC address filtering and the like that they're already used to using. Similarly, there's very little in the way of concrete, granular control for things like QoS -- you have to prioritise devices into catch-all categories from highest to high to medium and so on.
And, of course, a solid year after the first 802.11ac routers filtered into Australia, the D-Link Viper remains squarely in the expensive camp; it's a full $329 at its recommended retail price. If you're buying it as the centre of a home networking upgrade -- in a new house or a new apartment build -- Also, at this price, and with this much power, it feels a little wasted with such a simple user interface. It still blazes along, of course; it's just a psychological thing.
Should You Buy It?
The D-Link Viper DSL-2900AL is a perfectly capable Wi-Fi AC modem router, and certainly creates a solid and reliable Wi-Fi and wired network once configured properly. Its cylindrical design doesn't predispose it to wall-mounting or hiding away in the bottom of an office cupboard like most of the flat-bodied routers out there, but it also means its antennas are always optimally positioned without sticking out awkwardly.
Its interface may be a little on the simple side, so if you're the kind of person that loves diving into settings and getting down and dirty with port forwarding and MAC address whitelisting and so on, you might be better catered to with an enthusiast-focused router like the Linksys WRT-1900AC, or be prepared to re-learn a few procedures along the way.
But by that same token, if you're a newbie that nonetheless wants top of the line download and Wi-Fi file transfer speeds, the D-Link DSL-2900AL should definitely be on your list of routers to consider. D-Link has been good with regular firmware updates, too, so that bodes well for this device's future.