D-Link DI-704 Cable/DSL Router/Switch|
If it's not obvious by now, computers are an integral part of almost every person's daily life. With a computer you can buy anything you could buy in a store, play just about any game, discover new hobbies, find information and satisfy your perverted needs. Only a few years ago, a person with one computer was downright lucky considering the amount of money they cost at the time. Today, its becoming common place for households to be equipped with multiple PCs and at least one printer and therefore a new ideology is taking hold. Networking for the home user has become the latest fad for computer users. With the growing use of broadband Internet access, more and more people find it necessary to network their PCs together to give Internet access to all PCs in the home. In response to this growing need, many companies have produced cheap home networking devices that not only connect your PCs together but also allow the sharing of a fast Internet connection. One of the leading manufacturers in this field is D-Link Systems Inc. Since I just had a 1.54Mbs cable modem installed, I decided it was time to upgrade my 10Mbs hub to a lightning fast 10/100 Router/Switch. I decided on the D-Link DI-704 Home DSL/Cable Modem Gateway and 4-port Switch.
LittleWhiteDog has already done the D-Link wireless solution and an early version of D-Link's 10/100 switches, but the DI-704 is one of the latest models available. One of the main reasons I bought the DI-704 was it's attractive price of MSRP$119US, but it can be found on the Internet for as low as $59US with a rebate. There are other similar devices on the market, but they usually sell $50 to $100 higher. Another feature that lead to my decision was the DI-704's RS-232 port. This port allows you to connect an external modem and share a dial-up Internet connection through the device. I didn't have my cable modem yet, so I wanted to be able to get to the Internet without sharing the connection from a PC. The D-Link DI-704 satisfied that requirement nicely.
The DI-704 offers 4 dedicated 10/100 switched ethernet ports on the front, a 10Mbs WAN up-link port on the back as well as an RS-232 serial port. D-Link included a power switch right next to the plug on the back of the unit. Also included were 12 lovely little LEDs, a manual, a quick installation guide and two 15ft. CAT5 ethernet cables. Another feature, which has become a defacto standard for network device administration, is an easy to understand, easy to configure web-based administration interface. The web interface allows you to use your favorite browser to configure the different settings found in the DI-704. Below is an easy to read table of the specifications.
- IEEE 802.3 10BASET-T Ethernet
- IEEE 802.3u 100BASE-TX Fast Ethernet
- IEEE 802.3x Flow Control
- IEEE 802.1p Priority Queue
- ANSI/IEEE 802.3 NWay auto-negotiation
| Protocols Supported
- DHCP (Client and Server)
| VPN Support
| Maximum Users
- 4 x NWay 10BASE-T/100BASE-TX Fast Ethernet LAN
- 1 x 10BASE-T WAN
- 1 x RS-232 (DB-9)
- WAN Activity
- LAN Link Activity
|| DC 5V 2A
|| 1.74 kg (3.83 lb)
|| 300(W) x 142(D) x 40(H) mm
| Operating Temperature
|| 5 C ~ 55 C
|| 10% ~ 90%
I think it's a testament to D-Link that this section is extremely easy to understand. Take the unit out of the box, plug in the CAT5 wires from your PCs and cable modem, plug power in to the DI-704 and turn it on. The setup could very well be that easy, but who would we be at LittleWhiteDog if we didn't get more in-depth? Lame - that's what we would be! If you look at the directions accompanying the DI-704, you'll find the default IP address for the unit. Simply open your favorite browser and type the IP address with the "http://" in front. If your PC is working properly, you should be greeted with the screen similar to what you see in the pic below.
This opening screen has one very important piece of information, the IP address assigned to the DI-704 from the cable/DSL modem. It is circled in red as seen above and if is nothing there or it reads 0.0.0.0 then you have a problem. I'm not going into how to fix this, because most of the time the problem lies elsewhere. On the other hand, if you have a Road Runner cable modem or a DSL modem, your PC may need software installed in order to "talk" to the Internet. For more information on connecting your D-Link DI-704 to a Road Runner cable modem please visit D-Link's FAQ on the subject.
Your next stop is the "Tools" screen, where you should set your administrative password. There are some other options here of note: Clone MAC, Reboot, Reset to Default and Firmware Upgrade. The Clone MAC button will allow you to fake-out your cable/DSL modem. Some broadband providers don't like it when you switch which PC is connected and go so far as to stop service. This is a way for the cable/DSL companies to rip you off for more money since they'll ask for more if you want to hook up more than on PC to the Internet. With MAC Cloning you can make the DI-704 look exactly like the PC the modem was originally attached to, allowing you to connect more than one PC to the Internet without the cable/DSL company ever knowing.
Reboot and Reset to Default are pretty self-explanatory, as is Firmware Upgrade. The unit I received came loaded with version 2.50 build 9 of the firmware and as of this writing version 2.55 build 15 is available. I have installed the latest version of the firmware without a single problem and I commend D-Link for it's efforts in making the upgrading of firmware absolutely painless. For a complete list of downloads available for the DI-704 please visit D-Link's download page.
Continuing on to the next section "Setup" we find some very interesting and necessary settings. First up is the "LAN IP address" which is the address of the DI-704 as seen by the PCs on your network. This is only for the PCs on your network and not the PCs out on the cable company's network. Normally you can leave it at the default, but if you use a different IP range for your internal home network then I would change it to match so your subnets stay in tune with each other.
The "WAN Type" option is probably the most critical setting on the router, especially if you are connected to the Internet via a DSL or external modem. Simply click the "Change" button and the screen will change presenting you with four options. Connecting to the Internet couldn't be any easier.
Your next screen is the DHCP setup. This is pretty (self-explanatory) and can be left with the default settings unless you have a super huge network. If you happen to have some PCs which require a static IP address, like a server, then this screen is where you can tell the DHCP server of the DI-704 to not use a certain portion of your subnet when handing out IP addresses to the PCs on your network. I've always been in the habit of using the really low numbers of a subnet for permanent IP addresses so I've blocked the first 10 IPs from being handed out.
For most users, the last sections will be of little use, but this is a review, so I'm going to cover it briefly. Since the DI-704 has a built in firewall, it is necessary to open up ports in order for unsolicited traffic to enter from the outside. That is the very simplistic explanation of the Advanced section. You can open up any port and allow traffic to be routed to any IP address on your home network (for instance a web server or FTP server). This is a nice feature for those that really need it, but it does open yourself up for possible hacker attacks and if you don't need it leave this section alone. Also in this area, you can setup groups and restrict outgoing traffic. This is especially handy if you have kids and want to block them from using the Internet or block them from playing games that use a certain port number. Anyway you slice it, D-Link has done a great job in making this section easy to understand and easy to use.
One of the problems I found with the DI-704 is it runs extremely hot. I'm talking fried egg hot, but thankfully that doesn't seem to effect the operation of the unit. Another issue I had with the DI-704 is it's web administration interface was a bit flaky until I updated the firmware. Before the update, I could gain access via the web administration without having to enter a password. It's not that I'm paranoid, but broadband networks are breeding grounds for budding hackers. I also experienced very infrequent disconnections from my cable modem prior to the firmware update. I dug into this and could not conclusively blame this problem on the DI-704. I can say since switching to a different cable Internet provider I have not experienced a single disconnect, but the firmware upgrade occurred shortly after the service provider switch.
The D-Link DI-704 is, in my opinion, one of the better home/small office networking devices on the market. I was impressed with how quickly I was able to get up and running, even using an external modem. The DI-704 is solidly built and has moved a couple of times both around my computer room and to my new residence without so much as a scratch. The web administration was glitchy in the beginning, but after the firmware update it has yet to hiccup. With the continued growth of high-speed Internet connections and the fall of computer prices, home networks will continue to grow and D-Link is right there with the competitively priced, simple-to-use, feature packed DI-704 4-port 10/100 Cable/DSL router. I use it everyday to hook to my cable modem and I have recommended it numerous times to friends and family. If you are in the market for a small cable router, but don't want to sell off your children then the DI-704 just might fit the bill.
Copyright © by LWD All Rights Reserved.
Published on: 2004-02-18 (36047 reads)[ Go Back ]