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DGL 4300 Gigabit Gaming Router
game: DGL 4300 Gigabit Gaming Router
five star
posted by: Shawn Rider
publisher: D-Link
developer: D-Link
date posted: 12:00 AM Fri Jan 21st, 2005
last revision: 12:00 AM Fri Jan 21st, 2005

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There are two problems with most routers: 1) They're tough to configure for gaming. 2) They're dumb. D-Link addresses both of these problems in the DGL-4300 Gaming Router, which is the flagship product in their new Gamerlounge line of networking hardware. It advertises easy configuration for playing games and running servers,? which we've seen advertised before and not really delivered on. It also claims the GamerFuel technology will prioritize gaming and VOIP traffic over other network traffic, meaning that doing things like downloading files, browsing the web, talking on the IP telephone, and playing games should all be able to happen at the same time. It's a great idea: use the existing bandwidth smarter in order to get more out of it. That's so intuitive, so simple; it makes you wonder why we haven't seen this before?

The good news is that everything seems to work as promised. We've been gaming on the DGL 4300 for about a month. Running all sorts of games, pushing documents and media files between machines, and uploading/downloading via Byteswarm and to the GF! Mothership. The short version of this review is that it all works as advertised, and if you're the kind of gamer who likes to download, message, and game all at the same time, or who shares a network with other folks, the DGL 4300 is a dream come true. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The DGL 4300 is a sleek black unit with bright blue LEDs. It's a bit edgier than the usual grey/teal D-Link form factor, and it has a certain gamer punk aesthetic to it. If nothing else, it looks more like a component? than a high-speed wireless router. The unit itself features the basic four ethernet ports (gigabit speeds supported) and WAN port to plug into your cable/dsl modem or ethernet port. A longer than standard WiFi antenna is widely positionable for best reception. The unit comes with wall mounts and a stand to set it on end (a la PS2).

Installation of the unit was a snap, made even more so considering we already had a wireless router installed. Plug everything in and turn it on is the general rule of thumb. As with most D-Link product, the DGL 4300 has a base level of functionality even if never configured. However, to really get the goods out of this thing, you need to venture into the router configuration interface.

The new configuration interface is also a bit edgier in its design, utilizing a Flash-y navigation scheme and sound effects. Still, users familiar with D-Link router configurations, or any others for that matter, will find a lot is recognizable. Typical functions are easily found. The router supports 802.11B (11Mbps), 802.11G (54Mbps), or the D-Link proprietary Extreme G speeds of 108 Mbps. Security features include the full array of WEP and WPA wireless encryption as well as the usual IP or MAC address filters. The DGL 4300 offers a very wide array of configuration options, but the built-in wizards make setting up WiFi and your ISP access easy.

The only aspect that really requires directed effort is configuring the game settings and the GameFuel traffic optimization, but these are pretty straighforward, and there are help files that come with the router and are available on D-Link's website (known for providing a lot of good info on all their products) at http://support.dlink.com. I'll detail the procedure, although you should refer to the D-Link supplied materials for more detailed instructions.

The first step is to configure the DHCP on the router to assign individual IP addresses for each machine on your network. This means that you can reliably contact each different device on your system and allow the router to open up routes to each machine based on what program is running. This is also used to set custom GamerFuel rules if you're into uber-customization.

Once you've assigned your machines their unique IP addresses, you can go to the Game Rules tab and add games. The router comes with a large list of games pre-loaded, and I would imagine future firmware updates will include new game pre-sets. The interface is pretty straightforward, and if a game is not included on the list it will generally tell you what ports to open up (or forward?). You simply enter that supplied data, then enter the IP address for the computer that will be running the program, and it's set. This is the same procedure you follow to activate other programs that need complex network connections, such as AIM Talk or Bit Torrent. If multiple machines are running the program, you just have to sequence the name of the Game Rule.

After you've configured your Game Rules, you then need to turn on the GamerFuel features. There are two parts to this. The first is known as dynamic packet fragmentation. This allows the router to break up large, slow packets of info into smaller pieces so they don't hold up small, fast packets of gameplay info. This feature is great, but it should be noted that in order to use Xbox Live it must be turned off (that issue caused us to search D-Link's support site, which delivered the answer after a brief hunt).  Turning off the dynamic packet fragmentation doesn't seem to have a whole ton of effect on performance since the GamerFuel prioritization is so good.

GamerFuel automatically creates rules about which programs should have faster access to the network. The auto-prioritization works really, really well. Although it is possible to manually create a GamerFuel rule to prioritize a particular program running from a specific computer, we have not needed to use this feature. We have succeeded at running an FTP upload transfer of a 250MB demo archive, Trillian, and streaming data to a wireless media center (the D-Link DSM 320) all while playing Xbox Live (Halo 2 and Mechassault 2 primarily) over an ethernet to wireless connection. We tried it all playing LAN games, playing multiple PCs online in Counter Strike: Source. We noticed no abnormal lag, and, in fact, the wireless connection we get with the DGL 4300 is better than the connection we achieved with our old router, so we had less lag on XBL.

We had often run into problems of uploading files to our server while playing online on another computer on the previous router, and it was a disaster. It's a regular posting on message boards all over the Web: How do I configure my router to prioritize traffic? There have been all kinds of solutions, but none of them have been easy. The Gamerlounge DGL 4300 solves this problem. The unit does an excellent job prioritizing traffic locally and to the Net. This unit is a gamer's dream come true. At $169 the DGL 4300 is a bit pricier than other routers, but if you're about the online gaming or LAN bashing, then it's worth every penny.