I remember a few years back when I set up my first home office. I used the D-Link DI-704 Ethernet Broadband Router to allow me to share my internet connection, and that little device set me back about $120. Of course, I went with D-Link because around GamesFirst! we had had so much luck with their products. It's been awhile since then, and the DI-704 is still chugging away nicely. But when D-Link sent us a notification that their new model Ethernet Broadband Router, the DI-604, had been approved by Microsoft for Xbox use, we just couldn't resist giving it a spin. I'm happy to say that over the years a lot of things have changed, but one thing has remained consistent: D-Link is still my favorite network hardware manufacturer, and they are still creating great products.
Each day broadband becomes a bit more popular. And each day I get emails asking questions about setting up home networks, configuring routers and firewalls, and generally making things work. So I appreciate it when I find networking hardware components that make installation and customization as simple as possible-it helps keep my in-box a bit cleaner and saves folks the hassle of contacting me just so I can point them in the direction of real assistance (GF! is not exactly the place to come for tips on debugging your home LAN). I should say up front that I am very, very happy with the DI-604, and if you're looking for a simple solution to home networking problems, this is probably going to be the perfect choice for you.
The DI-604 is an Ethernet Broadband Router. That means it will allow you to share a single broadband internet connection among several devices. Nine months ago, I might have said "among several computers", but these days we have to include the Xbox and PlayStation 2 along with devices like broadband phones and videophones. If it's got an ethernet cable coming out of it, then you can plug it into the DI-604 and access your internet connection.
But that's not all the DI-604 does. The device also contains a hardware firewall, which is very useful. D-Link has augmented the customization features of the DI-604, which is a welcome enhancement. Especially when running PC games, it is crucial to have the ability to open and close ports, as well as to forward ports to various IPs on your home network. I'm happy to report that the DI-604 actually does a good job figuring out most of this stuff on its own, and requires very little tweaking unless you're running some specific, obscure, or otherwise complicated tasks, in which case you should be able to figure out the configuration interface easily. The robust firewall options also make the DI-604 ideal for parents who wish to block certain sites with its URL, domain, and IP filtering. I probably shouldn't have to actually state this, but it is very nice to have these functions included in a separate piece of hardware for two reasons: First, it frees up system resources on your PC. Second, it enables users to block sites from every computer on their network without having to physically access and configure each individual computer.
Another advanced feature of the DI-604 is the Virtual Cable Test utility. This feature is accessed via the configuration interface, and is very useful for finding faults in your network. It details the active connections to the router so you can know if, for example, your Xbox is responding or not. This function is especially useful if you are using your DI-604 with an Xbox or PS2 because these devices don't have the same kinds of diagnostic utilities readily accessible as PCs have.
Installation of the DI-604 is a snap. There are four ports on the router, which means you can hook up to four devices and PCs together. The computers connected via the DI-604 can share files and communicate with each other, just as if you were using a hub, so the DI-604 can pretty much establish and handle most home networks. We were able to get our Xbox and PS2 running on the DI-604 with no configuration whatsoever, and as long as your ISP supports DHCP, then you should really have little need to even access the configuration interface.
If you do need to access the configuration interface, it's very easy. You use a standard web browser and simply open the URL provided in the user manual. You are then presented with a Web-styled interface that is robust and intuitive. There are even help files to assist you if you get confused. The DI-604 maintains logs and can give reports on activity, so if you are a security nut you should have plenty of data to keep you busy.
Overall, the DI-604 is fast, easy to install and use, and very much worth the money. The MSRP on the DI-604 is $49.99, although a quick web search revealed prices as low as $32. At that kind of price, it's hard to beat what the DI-604 has to offer. If you're getting your home network going, or if you're hooking up Xbox Live or PS2 online gaming for the first time, you should be looking at the D-Link DI-604 Ethernet Broadband Router.