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Wireless Routers Made Easy

You don't need a computer science degree to set up and use these devices.

D-Link DIR-825 Xtreme N Dual Band Gigabit Router

The product's name might be a mouthful, but this powerful wireless router is ideal for those who rely heavily on wireless performance in the home.

Called "a bargain," by Laptop magazine, this wireless router is a "dual band" router that's like having two Wi-Fi networks in one router. Operating on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies for optimal performance (the Valet Plus is 2.4GHz only), this router is ideal for those who like to stream high-definition video throughout the home or play high-speed multiplayer games online. It's also ideal for regular computer usage, such as surfing the Web or reading e-mail.

Setup was quite easy, but there were a few more steps involved than the Cisco Valet Plus, not to mention one minor issue (that seemed to resolve itself) while clicking through the installation process on the CD-ROM. The software works on both Windows and Macs.

As with the Cisco product, this router is backward-compatible; therefore, it will work with devices, such as a netbook, limited to 802.11g, a or b wireless connectivity — but to get the most out of it, you'll want "n"-compatible products. On that note, D-Link also sells a dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) USB adapter for $70 that can snap into a laptop, game system, television and so forth.

But unlike the Valet or Valet Plus, this D-Link router also has a USB port that lets you attach, say, a printer or external hard drive, allowing it to join your wireless network. Therefore, anyone on the network can access these devices. D-Link calls this a SharePort, and it worked with a nonwireless Kodak printer and Seagate external hard drive.

D-Link says this product is also eco-friendly as it automatically shuts down any of the four wired ports (on the back of the router) that have no connection. Plus, the included computer software offers "wireless scheduling," which can power down your wireless network when not in use. The router also ships with an Energy Star-certified power adapter.

Along with a fast wireless performance — well over 110Mbps (for 5GHz) in our testing — the range was also excellent, with no "dead zones" in a fairly large home.

Both the D-Link and Cisco routers offer free, 24/7 technical support.

Overall, this D-Link router is a great pick for "power users" who demand serious performance over those who might prefer the easy-as-pie but not as robust Valet Plus.

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