Reviewed by: Gary D, WLFnet Operative
Review Date: Jan 2, 2003
Model Number: AirPlus DI-714P+
Cost: $142.95 from pcstop.com
Operating Systems: All that speak TCP/IP
D-Link DI-714P+ Reviewed
Shopping for a New Base Station
I did a lot of reading up on WLAN access points as it's been a couple of years since I'd been in the market for one. Some of the hybrid 802.11a&b products look interesting but until I get a faster pipe at home, I'm still not maxing the transfer speeds of my current gear. I decided, however, that I really wanted a multi-purpose box that includes a print server. That narrowed my options down to a couple of D-Link devices. I went with this model because it offers ~22Mbps transfer speeds if used with newer D-Link radios -- which I haven't bought yet since I've already got a couple of extra Orinoco cards. The price diff wasn't that much from the older models and the dual tone coloring scheme they've chosen for their current line of products made it more aesthetically pleasing than the first generation AP/gateways from D-LINK.
While researching similar units, I also considered the SpeedStream 2623 and 2624 but I couldn't find any mention of removeable antennae. The website for the MaxGate UGate 3300 didn't exist. And I was still waiting for Linksys to come out with an all-in-one device that's got firewalling, WLAN AP, and print server together. I'd be curious to find out if there are any other vendors that are making anything comparable. See this AccessPointReviews chart for more info.
Naturally, another requirement for my new AP would be a model that included an option for external antennae. In this case, I got dual reverse polarity SMA (RP-SMA) connectors that let me attach my external and still use the one or two dBi dipoles that came with it -- or even attach another external. Since the price compared favorably with everyone else, I went ahead and bought D-Link's own 6dBi microstrip patch antenna; the DWL-R60AT. I bought it from the same vendor for $27.95 and it even matched the color scheme of the gateway.
This puppy was a cinch to configure with the browser based wizard. After that, all I had to do was copy the MAC addreses from my graphite Airport base station and connect my external 15dBi omni. I bought a prefab pigtail from my friends at HyperLinkTech ($20 + S&H) and thought I was good to go. I hadn't yet fired up the WLAN on the D-Link since I was still waiting for my cable adapter to arrive. It was routing packets and serving print jobs just fine in the mean time but after hooking up my antennae, several reconfigs and unslot/reslots of my PCMCIA card left me dumbfounded.
I double checked all my settings on the gateway but they didn't seem to be saving even after several reboots. I finally figured that the power cycle cure-all would do the trick. Sure enough, if it doesn't have any antennae connected on bootup then the WLAN setup config won't stick. I don't know if this is something that could or should be included in the manual but I still haven't looked to see if D-Link's knowledge base has any mention of it either.
The CD that shipped with the unit included an LPR print spool shim for Windows. I tried getting Win2k to work with the unit before installing the "driver" but I didn't have any luck. I remember using an old freeware hack on Win9X but I haven't bothered to look for it since I don't have any other Wintendos on the network. My Linux laptop hasn't yet been configured for printing and the iMac may have to stick to the USB port since I hear it's a hassle to get it working under MacOS 9. When I bought my printer last year I made sure to get one with both a parallel port and a USB port for just this occasion.
This product offered 256-bit RC-4 WEP but I've no idea if it's interoperable. The WiFi Alliance had no mention of it on their site. The Linksys WAP11 specs mention 256-bit WEP on the v2.2 product page but they only listed 128-bit on the v2.6 page. Say what?! I assumed this enhancement must be new and only D-Link cards would work with this unit's 256-bit encryption until it's superseded by another standard or 802.11a deprecated the whole lot.
It shipped with the latest firmware so I can't tell you anything about flashing it. I assumed all the standard disclaimers apply; don't close your browser, rattle your LAN cables, or otherwise interrupt the upload djinni or you could end up with a $150 pizza warmer.
This was my first experience with D-Link wireless gear and I was rather pleased with how easy it was to set up. Most reviews of their goods are pretty favorable but I've heard otherwise word of mouth and on some websites. I only had some minor quibbles about the HTTP interface -- filter by MAC address could use some nicknames and paging through five at a time would be tedious if you had several clients -- but overall I'd say it's a pretty good buy for the money. It's not as cool looking as the snow or graphite Airport stations but it definitely did the job. I even retired my old eight-megabyte-RAM-486-with-Linux-on-a-floppy router that'd served me well for some 4-5 years now.
And what to do with my old Airport? Maybe I'll see if I can get Linux running on it. Yeah, baby!
Instructions for using Win2k and XP's built-in LPR support and printing from Linux may be found in these D-Link FAQs.