D-Link AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Router: Australian Review

I never thought that I'd see a Wi-Fi router that was both bigger and more ostentatious than the Netgear Nighthawk X6, but that day has come. The D-Link AC3200 (DIR-890L) is a giant glossy red triangular prism with six huge antennas sticking out of it, and promises tri-band Wi-Fi performance of up to 3200Mbps. This is one massive router, but it does what it says on the tin very well.

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What Is It?

  • Processor: Broadcom BCM43602, 1GHz
  • RAM: 512MB
  • Wi-Fi Speed: AC3200, 802.11n 600Mbps + 802.11ac 1300Mbps x 2
  • Storage: 128MB ROM

The $399.95 D-Link DIR-890L is an enormous home Wi-Fi router running three bands across the 802.11a/b/g/n and super-fast 802.11ac standards, and is rated for a maximum theoretical simultaneous throughput of 3200Mbps. That's 3.2 gigabits per second of raw networking grunt, and although you're genuinely unlikely to actually need it under any kind of reasonable real world conditions, it's good to have that kind of potential.

As you can very clearly see, the D-Link AC3200 is quite a striking piece of technology. Its glossy red triangular chassis is vaguely bug-like; I think I'm going to start calling the bulk of the DIR-890L its carapace. Those six antennas extending from its rear and angled sides aren't at all skinny or spindly, though — on the contrary they're very sturdy and chunky, but are sadly not removable to be replaced with high-gain alternatives.

Around the back of the router, you'll find four 1000Mbps-capable Gigabit Ethernet networking ports, as well as an identical port dedicated to connecting your WAN device — the modem or other piece of hardware that actually connects your house or office to the 'net. There's also a single each of USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports, to which you can add storage or a printer. It's important to note that this is not a modem router, as much as the sizeable price tag might suggest that it is. You'll need to retain your existing Internet-connected modem or buy a good standalone unit.

Network routers are nothing without a good and easily configurable interface, and a setup procedure that makes it simple to get up and running. The D-Link DIR-890L has that second point in spades; after connecting to its default Wi-Fi (a connection card with the password is in the box, and also stuck to the router itself) you're shuttled to the setup page and run through a five-step process of specifying your 'net connection and customising Wi-Fi. Minute adjustment options, though, are less numerous.

What's It Good At?

Transfer speeds from the D-Link DIR-890L are, under ideal conditions, nothing short of mind-blowing. I measured a maximum transmission rate of 705Mbps under close range 802.11ac, with numbers petering out slightly as range falls off. Some of its competitors are actually better at longer range, but sacrifice outright speed at the closest possible connection. Both AC and 802.11n are excellent at their maximum potential for single-device throughput, but the AC3200 really comes into play when you have multiple devices banging away at full power simultaneously.

D-Link DIR-890L: Performance

Wireless: 802.11ac, 2m: 89MBps 802.11ac, 10m: 78MBps 802.11ac, 15m: 52MBps 802.11n 5GHz, 2m: 45MBps 802.11n 5GHz, 10m: 45MBps 802.11n 5GHz, 15m: 33MBps 802.11n 2.4GHz, 2m: 38MBps 802.11n 2.4GHz, 10m: 37MBps 802.11n 2.4GHz, 15m: 28MBps USB 3.0: 1GB: 65MBps 5GB: 47MBps USB 2.0: 1GB: 21MBps 5GB: 20MBps

Similarly, the router's storage interface is super-fast, which is great news for anyone planning to use its USB 3.0 connector to set up an impromptu networked storage device. I measured maximum read speeds of 65MBps on the USB 3.0 port using a Samsung solid state drive. USB 2.0 is, of course, rate limited by its connection standard; don't bother if you're intending to transfer 1080p video, and just connect a printer to that port instead.

D-Link's giant manta ray of a Wi-Fi router is, actually, really good looking. I like the design, and it's very well built at the same time. I know it'll be polarising, and if you're hiding it away in a cupboard it doesn't even matter, but Wi-Fi routers do their best when they're out in the open — and this is a router that would look happily out in the open. The DIR-890L will certainly be a talking point, if nothing else.

What's It Not Good At?

Not having removable antennae means the D-Link DIR-890L is, in some ways, actually not very well suited to a particular kind of business use. Not being able to remove and replace those antennae with a sextuplet of higher- or lower-gain units means Wi-Fi coverage isn't adjustable to suit a larger office. And if you accidentally break one off, it's an expensive and lengthy trip back to D-Link for repair or replacement — with all the network setup woes that accompany that.

And that's a pity, considering the DIR-890L actually doesn't have anywhere near as extensive the Wi-Fi coverage as its enormous footprint might suggest. It definitely covers a large area with strong Wi-Fi, but it's no more a long-range router than the original Netgear Nighthawk or the Linksys WRT-1900AC. That additional AC band doesn't do anything for the range of its coverage, but just means you have more capacity within that shorter high-speed network.

More annoying in some ways is the fact that the D-Link Web interface doesn't provide as granular a list of network settings as some of its direct competitors. The Linksys WRT-1900AC, for example, gives you a lot more adjustment than just high, medium and low Wi-Fi transmission power, and similarly there's no option to select transmission bandwidth for the DIR-890L's various Wi-Fi bands. This is a router made for the high-end novice or intermediate users — the ones that know they need a lot of power, but don't want the finicky features to get there.

It's also hard to get around how expensive a router this is. $400 is a huge amount of money, especially considering you're paying a $100 to $150 premium for the DIR-890L's second 802.11ac band in the same manner of the Netgear Nighthawk X6 — it's extra capacity that you'll only use if you have a house packed to the gills with next-gen 802.11ac devices and if you're using a lot of the bandwidth on offer.

Should You Buy It?

D-Link DIR-890L

Price: $399.95

  • Great 802.11ac transfer speeds.
  • Fast storage interface.
  • Great design.
Don't Like
  • No removable antenna.
  • Simplistic Web interface.
  • Massively expensive.

If you need the absolute best in 802.11ac and 802.11n Wi-Fi performance for your small or large home, or even a moderately sized small business office, then the $399.95 D-Link DIR-890L will fill that role very nicely. It's definitely skewed to home rather than business users, with a design and user Web interface that is more funky and simplistic than straight-laced and innately configurable. But that doesn't mean it's weak.

For transfers and general use, the AC3200 absolutely blazes along. Under ideal testing settings it is the fastest Wi-Fi router that I've ever tested, and that's impressive considering the already excessively fast transfer rates that its competitors from Netgear and Linksys and Asus can handle. Whether you're using any recent device on the 802.11n band, or any newer device on the 802.11ac band, you can be assured of ridiculously quick speeds.

It is absolutely an expensive device, though. $400 is a lot of money for a router, even if it's one as massively powerful as the DIR-890L. It also begs the question as to whether you actually need this much overhead — if you're streaming 4K Netflix, or if you're transferring massive files routinely across your household or business, I can absolutely see the need for a Wi-Fi network this robust. For most average users, maybe not.

But especially if you can write the expense of the D-Link DIR-890L off as an exercise in future-proofing your home for the next few years, then it's a worthwhile device. It's very easy to set up, albeit only if you already have a dedicated ADSL, cable or NBN modem in your house — if you don't, that's an additional cost you'll need to factor in. But even with that said, you can buy the D-Link AC3200 and rest assured your home network will stand the test of time.


    The specs mention a VPN server, but is there any support for VPN clients?

    The Asus routers not only have a VPN Client, but the implementation is quite advanced, supporting OpenVPN as well as CISCO IPSec so there is no need to flash it with anything. (although the merlin community project offers even more features.

    So how much memory does it have? How much CPU power? Those sort of things are usually good indicators of how the device will perform in real life, yet absent from most reviews and many spec sheets.

      Sure, it's a Broadcom BCM4709A -- 1GHz -- and has 512MB of RAM -- DDR3 1600MHz IIRC. That means it's almost identical in hardware to Netgear's Nighthawks.


        I guess I've been burned once too often with routers that saved money on the RAM. You'd get a certain number of connections in the NAT connection tracking cache and it'd start culling them early to save memory leading to all kinds of weird problems. Or alternatively it might just crash and reboot, killing all the connections.

          James, if you are having significant issues I would suggest that you invest in a quality non-wireless router with the specs and functionality you want. Then you could easily pick up one or two good quality Access Points [AP's] from the likes of Ubiquiti, Aerohive, Aruba or Ruckus.

          For instance I currently have a Netgear WNDR4500 with Wi-Fi off. This is bridged with the Optus Cable CG3000 router.
          For wireless I run 2 x Ubiquiti N300 AP's that can be picked up for around $100-$120ea in Australia. These well and truly out perform any Dual-band N or AC router I've ever used. The range is far far far superior to any router as well.

            I did pick up a quality router, and have had far fewer problems. For the replacement, I treated it more like a computer than a black box and found a replacement with decent specs.

            I've been holding off on future hardware upgrades on the assumption that the NBN is just around the corner, so probably shouldn't be buying new ADSL hardware. However this process has been taking longer than expected :)

              What router did you end up with if you don't mind me asking?

                Its a Billion 7800VDPX. It was a few years back now, so the specs don't quite meet this router, but at the time it seemed significantly better than the alternatives that were more widely stocked at the time. It also had a boring case that seemed to prioritise cooling over looks.

    Are these reviews done on a long term basis? Review seems to indicate it's a fairly decent piece of kit, but doesn't seem to touch on long term use factors. For example if the router drops out from time to time.

      In the two weeks of 24/7 router on-time that I had (apart from restarts for changing settings semi-occasionally), I didn't notice any dropouts. Of course, since it's not a modem router, you have the problem of now having two devices that might drop out.

        How about heat? My Asus RT-AC68U runs hot, had to stick a USB fan behind it, otherwise it would degrade badly (dropped temps by almost 20°C on hot days hahaha).

    Does the software offer decent QoS? I've seen some software that say they offer QoS and it is a button that says allow gaming.

    I use DD-wrt on a ASUS RT-N16, and it runs QoS very well and had good bandwidth graphs. Can you run custom firmware on this one?

    Around the back of the router, you’ll find four 1000MBps-capable Gigabit Ethernet networking ports Can we get this corrected to 1000Mbps or please send a link to the consumer grade 10Gbps hardware D-link have managed to find for this router? Kids, stay in school and remember, Mbps =/= MBps.

      Whoops, this is what I get for typing too fast. Ta!

        Thank you for fixing it, everyone makes mistakes, god don't ever read my emails haha


    not all that much difference in the wifi performance figures... so makes me wonder why the dlink router that is 12 months newer is "nothing short of mind-blowing" while the r7000 was "by and large, pretty good".

    based on the actual numbers it seems like the smart money is spent on an r7000 (<$200 at present) unless you really need the extra 5ghz wifi network the dlink offers

      Definitely diminishing returns on the performance you get for the price you pay. And it's all a matter of context -- the R7000 was pretty good compared to the WRT1900AC I reviewed earlier than it, but the DIR-890L tops the two of them in outright transfer speeds. If there was a way for me to easily and repeatably test the dual 5GHz networks that the DIR-890L (and R8000) has, it'd wipe the floor with the R7000 and WRT1900AC under those conditions.

    Agreed, that thing is uglier than a sack full of arseholes!

    I.. kind of like it. The old FritzBox is still going strong though and most likely will for another few years.

    Price matched the Nighthawk R7000 at Officeworks last week for sub $200. Very happy with the unit, and the look is growing on me.

    I would be worried that this D-Link would become sentient and start replicating ala Stargate style.

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