Review: D-Link DSL-2890AL Wireless AC1750 Modem Router
By Alex Choros
The D-Link DSL-2890AL Wireless AC1750 Modem Router is certainly a unique little device. Forsaking the traditional rectangular design of most modems, the DSL-2890AL is a small cylinder, not dissimilar to the new Mac Pro. While the design is certainly striking, let's see how this beauty from D-Link performs.
Design & Setup
The aforementioned cylindrical designs makes the DSL-2890AL something you'd be proud to keep on your desk, rather than hidden away on the floor with the rest of your networking equipment. The glossy black surface fingerprints easily, but in all honesty, it's not a device you'll be touching often. D-Link's tower of power is also available in red, but unfortunately the bright coat of paint does not provide any speed improvements over the standard black model.
The front of the device is adorned by a WPS connect button and a series of LEDs for each of the modem's functions. On the back is an input for your phone line, a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 port, 4 gigabit Ethernet ports, a WiFi toggle switch, a power button and a power input. The DSL-2890AL is surprising light, but not to the point where it feels flimsy.
Users have two options in terms of setup. The simplest option is simply inserting the CD, plugging in the username and password for your ISP, and entering some details to set up a WiFi. Alternatively, advanced users can configured the device through its web interface. Users with only CD drive-less computer shouldn't worry though. Either way, you'll have the DSL-2890AL up and running in no time.
Performance & Features
The DSL-2890AL is both a fantastic modem and router. It ticks of the two key checkboxes for any of its kind - speed and reliability. While obviously the modem couldn't push my speeds faster than my internet connection allows, wireless around house was noticeably faster. My PlayStation 4 (which is considered to be quite demanding in terms of wireless) struggled with my old modem, but downloads chug along a much faster pace. Not only were my speeds faster, they were consistently fast, displaying minimal fluctuation.
While the DSL-2890AL may carry a hefty price tag, it boasts AC wireless, the latest WiFi Standard. This will ensure it's not a device you'll have to replace or upgrade any time soon, with many devices yet to have upgraded to the standard. The iPhone 5s, for example, does not support AC wireless speeds. Using the 5 GHz wireless band, the modem can support speeds up to 450 megabits per second. This is of course a theoretical speed; in real world testing we achieved transfer speeds on the 5 GHz band of about 20 megabytes per second, and about 10 megabytes per second on the 2.4 GHz band.
Unlike similar Netgear devices we've reviewed, devices connected to the DSL-2890AL can't be used as shared network storage. It is possible to access these devices via FTP, but takes a bit more effort than is worth. Instead, the DSL-2890AL shares these drives as a media library. So for example, you could plug in a hard drive full of music, and via the modem, share it to every device in your house. The DSL-2890AL supports both the DLNA and iTunes sharing standards. Just a note for the Apple faithful, the device doesn't play well with Mac formatted (HFS+) drives, so to use these features you'll need to keep your drives formatted as FAT.
The free "mydlink Lite" mobile is quite nifty too. After connecting the DSL-2890AL to a mydlink account, it is possible to remotely access it from anywhere over 3G or 4G. This allows you to see what devices are connected to your modem (and block their access if need be), disable or enable your WiFi, as well as remotely restart the modem. The security conscious will enjoy the ability to enable email notifications for whenever a new device connects to your network. Be sure to use a good password if you enable these remote management features.
In general, the DSL-2890AL's back end could use a little bit of work. It's functional, but there's certainly room for improvement. This is mostly an issue with the user interface; a little bit of refinement would make a world of difference. While this a flaw most networking hardware suffers from, it is an area I'd love to see improvement in.
Users should note that upgrading the modem's firmware requires a wired connection from your PC. As such, users of MacBook Air and other Ethernet-less laptops are out of luck, but this can be amended with a USB-to-Ethernet adapter.
The D-Link DSL-2890AL is a fantastic modem router that I can easily recommend, especially if you’re looking for a way to make media sharing easier. Not only is the DSL-2890AL consistently fast, it has proved reliable. Unless you a predominantly a Mac user or need a super simple way to share a drive on your network, it's hard to go past this cylindrical offering from D-Link.
- Fast and reliable
- Attractive form factor
- Future proof
- User interface needs refinement
- Limited support for Mac
- Not the best choice for easily sharing drives on your network