Introduction

External design and hardware

Firmware update

Web-interface

Testing

Conclusion

Introduction

We still remember the time when we were waiting for the first D-Link wireless routers with IEEE 802.11ac standard support to arrive in our test lab. Now it's the time to review a small-sized D-Link DIR-516 wireless router that combines support of 802.11ac with a small case that one can easily slip into their pocket. A device like this is a winner for travellers or people who move around a lot and don't need the performance and functionality that common big routers possess. Let us get you familiar with DIR-516!

External design and hardware

Small-sized D-Link DIR-516 wireless router comes in a black plastic case with the following dimensions: 63x44x23 mm. The device is powered through connection to the USB port of a PC or notebook using a small special-purpose external slot. Also, one can use USB adapters meant for charging mobile phones in order to power the device.

The router bottom panel, if one can call it like this, has an indentation for placing the external USB plug that's fastened to one of its sides. One will also be able to find stickers with brief information about the device here.

The upper panel is not remarkable at all and there is only a 3D brand tag on it.

There is Fast Ethernet interface located on one of the device sides.

Choice of a wireless range is made using a special-purpose switch located on one of the device sides. Apart from it, there are WPS button used for facilitating connection of the wireless clients and RST button used to reset user settings located here.

Now let's have a look at the insides of the router.

Its electronic stuffing is one green textolite card powered by Realtek RTL8881AM microchip. The maximum theoretic wireless throughput for D-Link DIR-516 is 150 Mbps in 2.4GHz frequency range and 433 Mbps in 5GHz range. That's why we consider that the appearance of Wi-Fi AC600 words on the box is an exaggeration since unlike the common routers, DIR-516 doesn't support simultaneous operation of the two wireless frequency bands.

That is where we bring the D-Link DIR-516 hardware review to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of its software component.

Firmware update

Firmware update is traditionally carried out in FIRMWARE sub-item, TOOLS menu of the web-interface. Firmware update may be carried out both in a manual and semi-automatic mode. As a matter of course, firmware update in the semi-automatic mode is available only if the router is connected to the Internet.

Firmware update in the manual mode is only a bit more difficult. One simply needs to download the file containing the new firmware version and upload it to the wireless router by oneself. The whole firmware update procedure takes about 75 seconds (not including the firmware download time from the web) and does not require any kind of special technical knowledge from the user.

That is where we bring review of the firmware update process to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of the device web-interface.

Web-interface

The web-interface of D-Link DIR-516 wireless router is traditionally designed in orange and grey colors. By default, the IP address assigned to the device is 192.168.0.50. To log in the administrator must specify login and password (admin with blank password).

Upon successful authentication the administrator will find him/herself on LAN SETTINGS page, SETUP menu, where s/he can adjust the WAN connection. Unfortunately, there are only two connection types supported: with dynamic settings and with a statically assigned IP address. There's no tunnel support. But to tell you the truth, tunnel support is not really necessary in devices like this.

It'd be fair to mention that upon choosing Residential Gateway operation mode in the next menu item, the router will let the administrator connect to the service provider using both the dynamic and static IP addresses as well as PPPoE. In this case one will also be able to enable a DHCP server in the wireless network of the user. All above-mentioned settings are located in INTERNET and NETWORK SETTING sub-items.

Wireless module operation parameters are located in WIRELESS SETTINGS sub-item of the same menu item. DIR-516 may function in one of the three following operation modes: AP, Client, or Residential Gateway. In Access Point mode the device performs interchange of frames between the wired and wireless segments, allowing the wireless clients connecting to the wired segment of the network. Residential Gateway mode is really similar to AP mode with only one difference; routing is performed between the wired and wireless segments. The user may connect the wired segment to an available wireless network using Client operation mode. This operation mode will be sought-after in cases when one needs to connect a notebook with a broken wireless adapter or with no such adapter at all to the wireless network. Choice of the frequency range, 2.4 and 5 GHz, is made only using a special-purpose switch on the device case.

The user should not be confused by the absence of choice of the WPA2 wireless network security mode in the menu. This mode is supported by the device and the thing is that both WPA versions are located in one item.

WI-FI PROTECTED SETUP sub-item in SETUP menu is meant for facilitating connection of the wireless clients and its capabilities are almost equal to those of WPS button on the device case.

One can change the administrator password using ADMINISTRATOR SETTINGS sub-item in TOOLS menu.

SYSTEM sub-item in the same-named menu is used to create back-ups of settings, reset user settings, and reboot the device.

One can update the firmware and upload language packs for web-interface localization using FIRMWARE sub-item. It'd be fair to point out that when this article was being written, there were no language packs available for download from the vendor's official website.

Sub-items of STATUS menu are used to receive information about the current state of the device and connected clients.

All help information is located in sub-items of SUPPORT menu.

That's where we proceed to completion of the review of D-Link DIR-516 wireless router web-interface capabilities and pass directly on to testing it.

Testing

The first testing procedure we always begin our testing section with is measuring the booting time of the device, which is a time interval starting with the moment when the power is on until the first echo reply is received through ICMP. This time we decided not to back out from our practices and performed the above-mentioned measurements. Small-sized D-Link DIR-516 wireless router boots in 23 seconds. We believe that the result is decent.

The second traditional test was a security scanning procedure, which has been carried out using Positive Technologies XSpider 7.7 (Demo build 3100) utility. There were two open ports discovered. The most interesting data detected are presented below.

Before getting straight down to performance tests we would like to mention the key specifications of the test stand we used.

Component PC Notebook
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VI Extreme ASUS M60J
CPU Intel Core i7 4790K 4 GHz Intel Core i7 720QM 1.6 GHz
RAM DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 32 Gbytes DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 16 Gbytes
NIC Intel PRO/1000 PT
ASUS PCE-AC68
Atheros AR8131
D-Link DIR-806A
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

 

We decided to begin the throughput tests with Residential Gateway mode. In this mode DIR-516 performs NAT/PAT translation of incoming and outgoing packets. Connection to the service provider is performed using the wired interface whilst all client devices are connected to the router using a Wi-Fi network. The tests were carried out with 1, 5, and 15 concurrent sessions.

After that we made performance measurements of the device in AP mode. The measurements were carried out for both wireless frequency ranges. It's worth mentioning separately that though D-Link DIR-516 supports two wireless ranges, 2.4 and 5 GHz, their simultaneous operation is not possible: one needs to choose the intended range using a special-purpose switch located on the device case.

Upon operation in Residential Gateway and AP modes, DIR-516 cannot completely unlock its wireless potential in 2.4 GHz range due to the usage of only one wireless channel instead of two. It's manifested in client connection speeds that cannot exceed 72 Mpbs. When the device performs functions of a wireless client, both channels are used in 2.4 GHz range. That's why the speeds are higher in this case. We used another wireless router, D-Link DIR-806A, which we had under review in our test lab, in order to test DIR-516 operation in wireless client mode.

As one can see from the diagrams presented above, upon operation in 2.4 GHz range, the bottleneck turns out to be the wireless module itself. However, when it comes to 5 GHz range, the system performance is capped by, as we think, the wired interface.

That's where we draw the testing chapter to a close and move on to summing it all up.

Conclusion

Generally, we are quite glad about small-sized D-Link DIR-516 wireless router we have tested. The device under review may be very helpful for those people who travel a lot and use at least a couple of devices that require Internet access (notebooks, tablets, mobile phones, and so on). However, we cannot consider DIR-516 as a fully-fledged router that can become a substitution of its larger counterparts due to the absence of a variety of features.

The strength areas of D-Link DIR-516 wireless router are presented below.

  • Small size
  • Competitive price
  • Support of two wireless frequency ranges
  • Decent routing speeds
  • Support of several operation modes

Unfortunately, we cannot help mentioning certain drawbacks we have discovered.

  • Web-interface is available only in English
  • Absence of simultaneous support of two wireless frequency ranges

As of when this article was being written, the average price for D-Link DIR-516 wireless router in Moscow online shops was 1750 roubles.

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