Saturday, August 18, 2007

D-Link DIR-450

While from the outside it seems like a regular wireless router, the D-Link DIR-450 is a router that gets it WAN connection from either a EVDO PCI card or EVDO USB dongle (the DIR-451 handles the GSM/HSDPA side of the world).  I've had the occasion to use 2 of these devices quite extensively and have to say that I am very impressed with their performance and ease of set-up.

dir 450

I was actually able to pick one of these devices up at a CompUSA for $99 vs. the normal retail price of $199, but even at around $200, the device is well worth the price to be able to share a single card connection among multiple machines, especially if you have desktop machines without PCI slots.

One of the things that held true with both boxes that I used was that they had very old firmware; considering the fact that I bought each box in a different state, I would have to guess that this is a global issue until the stock turns over.  My advice: before you do anything else, update the firmware from the D-Link site (I downloaded the firmware update on a thumb drive at the office so that I could do the update in the field).  Be sure to let the firmware update fully complete (takes about 15-20 minutes) because if you interrupt it, you will fry the box, which I found out the hard way -- it is done when the box fully reboots and all lights on the front go blue.

Once the firmware has updated, the setup wizard included with the box is pretty intuitive.  Unlike other routers, there is a user mode and an Admin mode -- the user mode allows a user to log in and reconnect the card to the network via a web interface, while the admin mode allows full configuration of the box.  The setup wizard makes you set up the admin password, and I suggest that you do so, but leaves the user account password blank, which I found to be a fine solution.

I configured a CBeyond card, which is Sprint service resold by CBeyond (when you configure for CBeyond, you actually select the appropriate card model as a Sprint card) -- the CBeyond card requires a WAN username and password to connect to the network, which CBeyond was happy to give to me; there is also a WAN server address input field that should be left blank.  The other box I configured with a Verizon card -- Verizon requires no username or password, so I assume that the service is locked to the card or that they information they need is hard-coded to the card. 

It takes the box 3-5 minutes to reboot and establish a connection through the card once all the configuration is complete.  The box serves up access to clients with either 802.11a/b/g and/or 4 10/100 ports on the back.  Another good reason to run the firmware update is that WPA2 is not enabled until you run the update.

The CBeyond card was a EVDOrevA card running in a revA city, and was noticeably faster than the Verizon card, which was not revA.  Obviously the speed of the card providing access to the WAN is the limiting factor, but doing basic e-mail and Citrix work over both connections was acceptable.

Both cards seemed to time out after certain periods of time and lose their connection to the WAN, and there are 2 methods to fix this:

  1. Pull the power cord out and reboot the router, which will force the card to reconnect.

  2. Go into the web interface as either a user or admin and use the software to click the connection button to reconnect to the WAN.

The first method is by far the easiest for non-technical users, but the second method doesn't take down the entire network if the D-Link is the only router and switch in use for the LAN.


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