Summary: Do you share your internet connection with a bandwidth hog at home and it's affecting your ping times while gaming? If so, D-Link's DGL-4300 router may just be the solution for you. The DGL-4300's GameFuel technology flags data packets from games such as Counter-Strike as high priority, while packets from other programs are tagged low priority, giving you the lowest ping possible for gaming. In addition, the router supports 802.11g and features four GigE ports. But does this technology actually work in games? Find out in this review!
Walking through the halls of CES earlier this year, I made my way through the D-Link booth, expecting to see the same routers and switches that have been on store shelves at our local Best Buy and Circuit City stores for years now. With product life cycles that get into the one year plus range, the home networking market isnít exactly the most exciting in the computer industry.
At their booth, D-Link had on display their newest addition to their home networking family, the DGL-4300 Wirless 108G Gamers Lounge. Draped in a black exterior and equipped with blue LEDís, the DGL-4300 not only looks very unique, but itís actually tailored to the hardcore PC gamer, the first router weíve seen of the sort.
There were two DGL-4300 routers and two gaming PCís running Unreal Tournament 2004 to demo the DGL-4300ís most impressive feature, D-Linkís GameFuel technology. The demo first showed both systems running Unreal Tournament 2004, each with about a ping of 50. A D-Link representative then alt-tabbed out of the game on each PC and started uploading a 100MB movie file to a remote FTP, spiking up the ping on each system to 170ms.
Next, to show GameFuel in action, the representative alt-tabbed one of the PCís, logged into the router, and enabled GameFuel, bringing the ping on the computer connected to the GameFuel enabled router down to 60, all the while still uploading the movie file. Weíll get more into how exactly GameFuel works later in the review, but needless to say GameFuelís demonstrated results were very impressive.
Along with pioneering packet-filtering technologies like GameFuel, D-Link is also among the first companies to bring Gigabit connectivity to their home routers. The DGL-4300 supports 10/100/1000Base-Tx connections, allowing you the increased internal network speeds Gigabit Ethernet brings to the table.
It is important to note that although you are connected at 1Gbps, real-world network transfers usually hit around 300MB/s or so, as you can see through our Windows Task Manager screenshots.
The DGL-4300 is equipped with a standard bundle one would expect to have with any router: one CAT5 Ethernet cable, power adapter, mounting kit, vertical stand, manual, and quick installation guide. Nothing is lacking from the DGL-4300ís bundle, but there is nothing extra either.
The DGL-4300 Gamers Lounge uses D-Linkís standard exterior router casing, but has a unique black color and very bright blue activity LEDs. Although the blue LEDs look good on the routerís front panel, they do not go very far in telling us about the activities of the router. For example, the LEDís indicating connection on one of the routers four
ports do not tell what speed the connection is at, 10MB, 100MB, or 1GB.
When we turn the router to itís backside, we see a very standard four-port layout with a WAN connection for your broadband modem. There is a small reset button next to the WAN port that allows the DGL-4300ís settings to be reverted back to factory conditions.
The DGL-4300ís wireless 802.11b/g antenna is easily screwed into the back panel and has great range, up to 200 feet from our in-house tests. Itís important to note that the DGL-4300 supports a 108Mbps wireless interface, but unless you have a D-Link wireless card that supports D-Linkís Turbo Mode, you will be stuck at the 54Mbps limit of the 802.11g standard.
Installation of the DGL-4300 was very simple, with installation only involving plugging all the necessary connections in and turning the router on. For DSL and other broadband internet connections that require a password, logging into the router is very simple.
The DGL-4300 uses the common 192.168.0.1 local address and requires no password to log into. One thing youíll notice about the web-interface of the router is that it is unlike any other home networking router; it actually looks good!
D-Link put the extra effort into developing a web-interface that looks and feels like a real webpage, complete with Flash animation and easy to navigate menus. For the casual user, D-Link has included an easy to use internet connection wizard, allowing you setup your router in four easy steps. Itís nice to see that the wizard also includes a prompt to change the router login password, since as many of you know most people that own home routers never change their factory set passwords.
Also included in the basic section of the web interface is the wireless security setup wizard, which in four easy steps allows you to secure your wireless connection.
Although the installation wizards are very nice, the most impressive part of the DGL-4300ís web-interface is definitely itís large assortment of advanced settings. The first under the Advanced tab in the interface is the Virtual Server page, which allows you to redirect a public port on your router to an internal network IP address, allowing you to host an FTP, Game Server, or Web Server through your router.
The next setting in the Advanced section is the Special Applications page, allowing you to open up specific ports on the router when data is sent to them. The Special Applications page is commonly used by applications such as Bit Torrent and AIM talk.
The DGL-4300ís gaming section is very unique because it features an assortment of popular games and the TCP and UDP ports required to open in order for the data going through these ports to be re-directed to a single PC in your network. There are over 50 games in this section, with the list being constantly updated through new router firmware upgrades.
And now we get to the DGL-4300ís flagship technology, GameFuel. Essentially, GameFuel is a packet prioritizing technology that sifts through all the incoming and outgoing packets going through your router, and prioritizes their importance according to what kind of packet they are. Gaming packets will have priority over other packets such as those commonly associated with FTP and web traffic, allowing you to maintain consistent latencies while playing online games.
GameFuel has automatic settings that let the technology work on itís own, but is also fully customizable allowing you to add your own GameFuel rules, each with their own priority.
Other advanced settings are primarily tailored for allowing and excluding access to your router, allowing you to block specific websites through the Web Filter, control access in and out of your network through the Access Control section, control access based on MAC addresses through the MAC Address Filter, and limiting access to a server on your network to a specific IP or IP range through the Inbound Filters section. A firewall is also included to help protect against unwanted intruders.
The tools section of the DGL-4300ís web interface allows for you to change the router password and router name. Here youíre also able to set the routerís time, e-mail alerts, reset system settings, upgrade the firmware, and even host a web server with a domain name that youíve purchased.
The status section gives you youíre device info settings, with all your WAN, LAN, and WLAN settings in plain sight. The Wireless Client section allows for you to see the MAC and IP address of the wireless clients using your 802.11b/g connection.
Also included in the Status Section are a routing table, displaying the routing details configured on the DGL-4300, System Logs, Network Traffic Statistics, and Active TCP and UDP Sessions.
Doom 3 v1.1
To test the DGL-4300, weíre going to put great emphasis on the routerís GameFuel technology, and how it affects gaming performance. Weíre going to be using Doom 3, Half-Life 2 DM, and Unreal Tournament 2004 for our tests. To test, we logged into a public game server and observed our ping. We played in each multiplayer server for five minutes or so to see if the server was stable, and when stable we started to run our tests.
For our download tests, I used my Mercury account on Fileshack to download the Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory Demo, which is approximately 500MB. Four our upload tests, I uploaded a 10MB file to my personal storage space at Comcast.net. I used a Shuttle SN95G5 PC to download and upload files while the ASUS SLI system was playing the tested games. Throughout our results I will note what speeds the uploads and downloads were transferring at on the SN95G5.
With GameFuel enabled, upload speeds were 8kb/s. With Gamefuel disabled, upload speeds were 40kb/s.
With Gamefuel enabled, download speeds were 295kb/s and upload speeds were 8kb/s. With Gamefuel disabled, download speeds were 350kb/s and upload speeds were 30kb/s.
With Gamefuel enabled, download speeds were at 220kb/s. With Gamefuel disabled, download speeds were at 520kb/s.
With GameFuel enabled, upload speeds were 8kb/s. With Gamefuel disabled, upload speeds were 40kb/s.
With GameFuel enabled, download speeds were at 215kb/s while upload speeds were at 7.5kb/s. With GameFuel disabled, download speeds were at 285kb/s and upload speeds were at 37kb/s.
With GameFuel enabled, download speeds were at 320kb/s. With GameFudel disabled, download speeds were at 485kb/s.
With GameFuel enabled, upload speeds were 7kb/s. With Gamefuel disabled, upload speeds were 39kb/s.
With GameFuel enabled, download speeds were at 225kb/s while upload speeds were at 7kb/s. With GameFuel disabled, download speeds were at 265kb/s and upload speeds were at 33kb/s.
With GameFuel enabled, download speeds were at 286kb/s. With GameFuel disabled, download speeds were at 490kb/s.
Performance: The DGL-4300 delivers what D-Link had promised us, better network performance while gaming. D-Linkís GameFuel technology efficiently prioritizes gaming packets making sure that no matter what else someone on your network is doing, you will be able to maintain a playable and low latency connection.
Price: With a selling price of around $140, the DGL-4300 is definitely on the upper end of the home networking spectrum. Stiff competition in the home networking market has dropped the prices of most equipment to the $50-75 mark, with the DGL-4300 more than double that price point.
The gaming community finally has a networking product it can call itís own. While many segments in the computer industry embraced gamers with custom motherboards, tweaked memory, and even keyboards, the home networking companies largely ignored the interests of PC gamers and concentrated on the larger, more mainstream market. Itís great to see that D-Link has engineered a product that even itís employees, many themselves being avid gamers, are proud to use in their own homes.
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