Despite the slick new ‘Viper’ moniker, D-Link’s latest wireless ADSL 2+ router is essentially just an update of the company’s ageing DSL-2890AL. The latter’s still a reasonably competitive little device when it comes to speed but the device’s user interface (UI) is, to put it kindly, a little dated. (To be less kind, it looks like it could have come from any D-Link router, circa 2005.)
While the chassis of this new model is almost identical to its forbear — a cylindrical towner with a big bank of status lights on the front, plus USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports in the back alongside four Gigabit Ethernet sockets and an ADSL line-in — the UI has thankfully been considerably spruced and is now more modern, informative and easier to navigate.
So what’s with that ‘Viper’ name? We suspect that it’s D-Link’s attempt to cash in on some of the success Netgear has had with its recent Nighthawk routers, which are higher-end products deliberately pitched at networking enthusiasts.
In terms of Wi-Fi specs, the D-Link Viper certainly has the parts to compete — it’s packing dedicated 1,300Mbps 802.11ac 5GHz and 600Mbps 802.11n 2.4GHz radios and, in testing, it was no slouch, with very speedy read/write transfer rates of 59.3 and 61.9MB/s (respectively) at close range. That’s close to the fastest we’ve seen from an 802.11ac router. Unfortunately, that speed didn’t hold up quite so well at longer distances. While read speeds remained very competitive (37MB/s — again, one of the fastest we’ve tested) write speeds dropped off significantly, down to 12.9MB/s. Most other recent models, including the D-Link’s own DSL-2890AL, manage 20-30MB/s.
The other problem for the Viper is that there aren’t actually a lot of enthusiast-level features here. It runs pretty much the same software OS as D-Link’s other current routers, with no extra advanced options. And that OS is, frankly, a little hit and miss. We like the clean main status page alongside the ability to dig into the advanced settings to see network traffic in real time. The router automatically checks for firmware upgrades and applying them is just a matter of a few clicks. The quality-of-service features, too, are very easy to use — just drag and drop devices into the three different categories to control who gets priority — but they’re also a little basic.
Likewise, the parental controls are pretty rudimentary — you can manually enter up to 15 sites to blacklist, but that’s about it. Unlike Belkin or Netgear’s recent routers, there’s no ability to use a cloud-based site blocklist service to automatically filter sites based on configurable criteria.
In sum, considering the Viper’s premium price and branding, we’d be expecting more genuine enthusiast-level features — and flawless wireless performance.
Verdict: Doesn’t quite live up to its premium name. Or price.