DGL-4300 Gaming Router (Hardware)
Sean W. Gibson / Jan 15th, 2005 No Comments
Works great, and really is the high end model of choice for home networking in heavily populated network environments.
When it comes to LAN and Wireless networking, usually the target audience in the minds of almost all vendors is the techie geek. The truth is, the people that really drive the performance end of the spectrum with home networking are us – the gamers of the world. Although there seems to be a ton of solutions out there from dozens of vendors, there really has yet to be a specific wireless router product designed, engineered, and marketed towards gamers and geeks … until now.
D-Link, a well decorated company that specializes in innovative new networking technology, has released the DGL-4300 Wireless 108G Gigabit Gaming Router, a device specifically with you, the gamer, in mind. The big selling points for the device are the 108Mbps 802.11g/b wireless, the gigabit LAN ports, and the exclusive D-Link "GameFuel" technology, which enables superior multitasking to each device on the network to perform heavy data transfers, whether they are FTP, P2P, or transferring large files over the network, without compromising the gaming traffic.
The feature breakdown …
* Optimized Gaming Experience with GameFuel Technology
* Up to 108Mbps 802.11g Wireless Connectivity (utilizing the D-Link 108Mbps compliant devices)
* 4 Gigabit Ethernet Ports
* Customizable Settings for Games and Applications
* GameFuel Priority powered platform reduces latency and boosts network efficiency and performance
* Intelligently manages and automatically prioritizes network traffic to better execute bandwidth-sensitive applications including VoIP and multimedia applications
* High-Performance CPU to support thousands of concurrent connections – ideal for P2P applications and multiplayer interactivity
* Enables multi-tasking between other applications without degradation in game connection
The big points to pay attention to are the 802.11g/b wireless feature (that support 108Mbps), the GameFuel technology, and the Gigabit ethernet autosensing ports. These are the big features that really separate this router from others on the market.
Pre-configured ports to accommodate up to 256 policies for games and applications
Customizable settings to add or modify new applications or game configurations
Firmware upgrade notification feature keeps the D-Link Gaming Router up to date
One Fast Ethernet 10/100 WAN port which supports virtually all broadband Internet connections
Four Gigabit Ethernet 10/100/1000 auto-sensing LAN ports
5dBi high-gain antenna for exceptional wireless signal coverage
Fine-tuned web GUI enhancements for seamless device management
Support for both Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and 128-bit Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP)
Integrated Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) firewall and Network Address Translation (NAT) firewall that helps protect against hackers, wardrivers, and other unauthorized users
If you're a gamer that isn't too "technical" when it comes to your PC or home network, it can be very intimidating to install a new router. There's all those wires, settings, and pretty flashing lights to make anyone a little wary of installing a new, higher performing unit.
Installing this unit, however, was easily the easiest experience to date I've had installing any router solution in my home network. I literally unplugged my old router along with all the ethernet cables, plugged in the DGL-4300, put back in all the ethernet cables, and then went into the administrator section of the router (done by typing in 192.168.0.1 in any web browser). There's a very nice and simple user pamphlet to guide you through the process, but reading this review will actually take care of most of the installation worries. After you've entered in the default password, you're taken to a main menu where you simply run the connection wizard.
The router asked me for my ISP (I have road runner), which I entered in, I hit the "Clone MAC address" button, and then hit the "finish" button which requires the DGL-4300 to reboot itself. Once the unit was done rebooting, everything from the gigabit LAN to wireless networking was up and running. The last thing you have to do is go into the "Advanced Section", then hit the "GameFuel" button, and make sure that the "Enable GameFuel" box is check-marked. Another reboot for the device, and you are all done to enjoy everything this unit has to offer (*note: if you use XBox Live, you must have "Dynamic Fragmentation" unchecked, as XBox Live does not support this feature but PS2 On-Line does).
As far as installation goes, the entire process took about 3 minutes of my day and was very hassle-free (just the way we like it around here).
It's very hard to find a unit similar to this on the market in just the sense that you want a gigabit router with 802.11g integrated. Also, the aforementioned GameFuel technology is completely exclusive to the D-Link brand of product, so you're really getting the top performing home (or small business) router on the market. At an MSRP of $179, it's not a cheap device, but it's well worth the cost. I can say this because I tried shopping around for something similar and didn't come up with much outside of a competitor's GigaBit LAN switch (*no wireless and no GameFuel equivalent*) for $159.
So – when you consider the price tag remember you have to compare oranges with oranges and think that this isn't just a wireless router and access point … it's a *gigabit* router, 802.11g/b access point, and has the GameFuel technology. From that standpoint, the price is fair and competitive for the marketplace.
Also remember that because this product utilizes the absolute latest in networking technologies (1000Mbps, 802.11g), the router should last you years on end. This isn't a product that will become outdated in the near future, and updates to the firmware via the admin panel or D-Link website should further network performance with the device.
PRICE FOR PERFORMANCE
Running with GameFuel did make a difference in particular network conditions. When testing a game (specifically Tribes Vengeance or Half-Life 2) with more than 4 players simultaneously, there's a definite difference the amount of lag that goes on during the game (virtually none). In addition to this, the thing that would usually kill LAN games here is having more than 3 players AND having one person hog the bandwidth on the network doing whatever it is that they would do (download stuff, watch streaming movies, whatever). This would just *kill* games before, and now with this technology that prioritizes the game (obviously the intended creational use of PCs) over other packets of data, the LAN contest doesn't suffer.
An MMORPG, such as World of Warcraft, was tested with this product, and although the results weren't significant with no traffic, there was a noted 20% to 30% reduction in latency with heavy traffic on the network – which proves the theory that game performance is indeed improved with the unit. Specifically, with the network heavily populated, the latency in and around 650-750ms without GameFuel turned on. Once the technology was active, the latency was reduced to around 440-500ms. Basically, if you're the only one on your network, then GameFuel will give you only a very slight increase in latency performance. However, if you are on a network with heavy network traffic, then GameFuel will definitely give you the network performance boost you've been dying for (and for those of you playing WoW right now, you know how aggravating excess latency can be!).
There's one more aspect to this product that has yet to be touched in this review – the look of the unit. The DGL-4300 is a far cry from the usual "gray, grayer, powder blue" color scheme of the rest of the D-Link line. This unit is black, sleek, and features a very nice matching dark blue LED scheme that looks much sexier on your desk than any router I've tested to date.
The D-Link DGL-4300 Wireless Gigabit Gaming Router is a high performing, great looking product that should be considered the top end of the product spectrum for routers. Easily said, if you exist in a heavily populated network environment and gaming is the priority over downloading/file transfer/studying, then this is the router to buy. The only negative is that the Dynamic Fragmentation is incompatible with XBox Live, so for those of you that also console game on your network (like me!), this features goes by the wayside. Nevertheless, the GameFuel technology absolutely increased performance in both MMORPG and FPS games in a heavily populated network environment.
Overall, the DGL-4300 Wireless Gigabit Gaming Router definitely impressed us with its performance, and for those of you looking for a top-flight high-end router and wireless solution that specifically helps you game faster, then this is your product and should last you years on end.