Upon first seeing D-Link's DIR-868L's cylindrical design, our photographer joked that Apple had sent us an early version of the new Mac Pro. It's a fitting comparison because we can't think of many other technology products that are shaped like a tube, aside from some of D-Link's other routers. See Group test: what's the best wireless router?
It's certainly an unusual design, but it has a practical use too, reducing the footprint of the router, and as with Apple's AirPort Extreme, disguising an otherwise boring home router. According to D-Link the reason for the choice of shape is because it allows the router to more effectively output a signal in all directions. See all Wi-Fi and networking reviews.
D-Link also hopes to improve performance with a technology called Smartbeam. It's another form of beamforming, which is a standard part of the 802.11ac specification, a technology designed to work out where a wireless receiver is, and focus the signal in that direction. The difference is that here it works on 802.11n/g/b as well.
On the front are just two status lights, one indicating internet connectivity, the other showing the status of the internet connection. At the back is the usual array of connectors – four gigabit ethernet, a WAN port and a single USB 3.0 port. A tiny reset button right sits at the bottom of the device. There are no ethernet activity lights, which may be annoying since they can useful information about the router and computers hardwired to it.??D-Link's familiar orange interface greeted us in the admin interface, a style the company has used for as long as we can remember. It may not be as attractive as the rich graphical interfaces found on other routers, but it's fully functional, chock full of settings and with handy contextual help running down the side.??It's also easy to get lost in these settings, a criticism we've had of D-Link in the past. There's an Advanced menu, and an Advanced Wireless menu, for example, and it's not always obvious which one to click on for a specific setting.??The DIR-868L performed relatively well on 11n, achieving 137 Mb/s at close range, and 91 Mb/s at distance.
However the 11ac results were more disappointing, managing just 276 Mb/s when 1m of the test computer and 243 Mb/s at longer range. Despite combing through the router's settings to find a setting to increase the performance, we couldn't find a way to improve the performance.