D-Link DIR-685 Xtreme N Storage Router

Author
Aron Schatz
Posted
December 8, 2009
Manufacturer
D-Link
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118300
D-Link DIR-685 Xtreme N Storage Router
The D-Link DIR-685 is three devices in one. While it might be a jack of all trades, it only gets a mastery of one aspect.

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Page 1
Intro

Convergence is the name of the game in this world and it seems that technologies that seemed to be always slated for separate devices are being merged into one feature packed super device. D-Link follows this convergence trend with the DIR-685 Xtreme N Storage Router. This single device combines a router, a NAS, and a digital photo frame into one unique and tiny package.

Box

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The DIR-685 box gives you the needed information about the purchase you are about to make.

Packaging

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No blister packaging inside the box. Just plain and simple compartmentalized sections for break open and setup ease of use. ASE Labs hates blister packaging.

Parts

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Aside from the documentation and software, the package yields the DIR-685 itself, an AC adapter, an Ethernet cable, and the stand for the router. Remember that this is a digital picture frame so the stand is needed to prop the unit in place.

DIR-685

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STOP! If you run Windows, follows these directions! Otherwise you can install the router and point your browser to 192.168.0.1 and log in with a blank password to setup this router. We'll go into the initial setup screen later in the review.

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The unit is very sleek. It has a 3.2" LCD for viewing status information and pictures as well as FrameChannel content. The front of the unit has blue indicator lights while the unit is on and the right side contains buttons for controlling the device itself. The buttons are touch sensitive and are a bit slow to the response but they work. The center button and the one below it are the same thing.

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The package includes a stand that locks into the bottom to keep the unit upright. Since this has a picture frame in it, you'll need to be able to see it standing up or else the LCD would be useless. Most routers lay flat down on a desk, so be mindful that this will be propped up.

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The back side of the device contains the numerous ports to get connectivity. From the left, the power plug, two USB ports (more of those later), the 4 gigabit Ethernet ports, and the WAN port for connecting a modem. The left side of this shot shows the SATA drive release lever and the right side contains the door to access the chamber to insert the drive.

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No drive is included with the DIR-685 which is unfortunate since most home users won't have a spare SATA laptop size drive available to place into the unit to get the additional NAS features the device offers. The button to the bottom of the SATA drive port is the "unmount" button which allows all data on the drive to be written before removing it. Inserting and removing a SATA drive requires a good deal of force to get it in place. Initially, we placed the drive in and the door wouldn't shut. Pushing harder made the drive "click" in place but the amount of force to get it to lock seemed a bit tedious. Removing the drive required the same amount of force.
Page 2
Installation

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The router's default internal IP address scheme is 192.168.0.1 with a net mask of 255.255.255.0. When you plug in a computer to the LAN side, it will grab a DHCP address (automatic IP address assignment) and allow you to setup the router for your internet connection. You'll need to either use the software to setup the router or point your web browser to http://192.168.0.1 and follow the easy to use wizard.

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The wizard gives you a nice and easy guided installation to setup your router step by step. This is the option most users should use and if you need to setup advanced options, you can do that as well.

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The first step of the wizard is to change your administrator password. The unit defaults to a black password so it is important to lock this setting down. Make sure to use a password that is relatively secure.

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The unit will grab the correct time for NTP servers. Though, D-Link doesn't allow you to use other NTP servers besides its own which is very strange. We guess this is fine for most people but it would be nice to be able to use a third party NTP server.

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The next step asks for your type of internet connection. Cable modem users should select DHCP while DSL users should probably selected PPPoE. Contact your internet service provider to find out what type of settings you may require. Have this information handy before setting up the router.

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Most users will just click away from this step as it is not needed for most providers. If your internet service requires you to register a computer's MAC address to get online, find out from your provider. Likewise if it requires a Host Name.

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Some modems may need a reboot before establishing a connection with the router. This might be true if you used a different router before and are replacing it with the DIR-685. The screen above shows what happened in this situation when we had no connection. We also changed a few settings around for our internet network.

Advanced Setup

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The DIR-685 gives a full range of extended options to use and we're glad to see a guest wireless zone option has made it into this device. Instead of giving guests access to your local network, you can give them access to the internet only and segregate them from looking on your internal network. This is a great feature and should be enabled if you have it. The router also has the standard fare of options for port forwarding, MAC access, and other options. The SPI firewall was enabled by default which is good.

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When you insert a SATA drive into the unit, it will want to format the drive for its own use. Make sure you don't have any data on the drive before inserting it. Once you format the drive, the unit will give you status indicators on the LCD and the setup page about the health and use of the drive. We used a 32GB Mtron SSD for testing.

The storage features of this router are great. You can have a UPnP AV server for streaming content and a easy bit torrent downloading client on the router instead of a computer. To get access to these features, you need to add a SATA drive. While the unit has USB ports on the back, you can't just add a USB mass storage device and expect the unit to use that for its storage features. The USB ports are only for mapping to a client computer on the local network which severely limits their use. It would be nice for D-Link to enable these ports to be able to be used for USB mass storage for the device itself and save users from having to use a laptop SATA drive. Hopefully a firmware update can accomplish this.
Page 3
Use

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When you boot the router, you'll be greeted by the nice and small display ready to go. Most people will want to setup a FrameChannel account if you don't already have one for use with this device. ASE Labs has three devices that use FrameChannel and to get separate content on each, you must sign up with multiple accounts. This is a hassle if you use multiple devices since you need to have a different name and password to get into FrameChannel's website. Maybe FrameChannel will change this in the future, but for now, you're stuck using multiple accounts. If this is your only device, there is nothing to worry about.

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Navigating the device is straightforward. The only issue is the slight lag between the key press and the action. This becomes much worse while the router is under heavy load. We're pretty sure that the routing portion takes priority over all the other features of the device. To use use the picture functionality of the device, you need to add a SATA drive. If you don't have any drives available your only option is to use the FrameChannel website to add show pictures on the device which isn't a bad option but you lose the ability to show off pictures you haven't uploaded to the internet.

The frame is only 3.2 inches which is very small. The »DSM-210 we reviewed earlier had a 10" LCD and this was a good size to look at. With a 3.2" LCD, FrameChannel content is nearly unreadable. Forget about using the device for the latest RSS news since you basically can't read the text since it is too small. Pictures are a bit better, but not much. You'll have trouble getting details of pictures since you don't have much screen space to work with.

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The LCD is very useful for giving status information. Without looking at a computer, you can see if you have a proper IP address and if the connection is working. This router is great for troubleshooting if you aren't near a computer. The speed of the router was fine, we never noticed any hiccups in the connection while in use. The NAS portion was a bit too slow for any sort of media sharing, but would be fine for storing pictures and documents. We had trouble getting the unit to push mre than 6MB/s on reads which is pretty low. This might be the Mtron SSD, but still. Laptop drives aren't really the fastest thing anyway.



We are proud to have a video review to go along with the textual counterpart. Please feel free to comment.

Conclusion

The D-Link DIR-685 Xtreme N Storage Router sells for about $230 (Newegg $229 at time of review). This is pretty expensive for a router, but since this device combines three things into one, it is a better deal than it looks. The routing portion is excellent, D-Link has experience making good routers. The storage portion is good. Hopefully D-Link will enable the device to use USB mass storage, though. The picture frame is just a bit too small to be very useful. It is fine for viewing pictures at a glance, but not for any detail.

Even with the small LCD, the DIR-685 is the only router that has this many features packed into one small package. Techies should be very happy with this type of purchase, but most readers will be better off purchasing a dedicated router along with other options for a NAS and picture frame. D-Link makes singular devices for these category as well so check those out. If you want a router that does it all, the DIR-685 is it.

ASE Labs would like to thank D-Link for making this review possible.

Comments

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