Both offer similar specifications except that the D-Link unit sports a Dual Band radio that can use 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz whereas the TP-Link ‘only’ sports the 2.4Ghz band, but the TP-Link has 4 LAN Gigabit ports and the D-Link’s 4 ports are only 10/100 (fast ethernet.)
First round: Setup
Initial setup is a breeze on both devices, I went through the usual setup screens which both included the normal WAN setup for cable/DHCP, PPPoE delivery systems. The major difference is that the D-Link forces you to reboot the unit each time you want to save a change. Instead, more conveniently, the TP-Link allows you to save the settings but will only apply them after a reboot. This is useful when you have to switch pages during your setup, for instance when after entering your PPPoE information you decide to setup your local LAN’s DHCP, you don’t have to reboot the unit, you can hit save, then move on to the next phase of the setup and continue there, only rebooting when you’re good and ready instead of being forced to wait 2-3 minutes for the unit to reboot each time you change a setting.
This round goes to the TP-Link.
Second round: Wireless
Both routers offer similar setups, they both carry the N standard but the D-Link uses dual band technology and has 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz available.
We all love and hate the 5Ghz band.
We love it because it can be a Godsend for those people who have 11 wireless phones at home, all using the 2.4Ghz band, those who have 124 neighbours with similar wi-fi routers, etc. Sadly though, the 5Ghz band blows monkey balls when it needs to go through anything thicker than a sheet of paper, showing the penetration power of an elastic band thrown at a WWII Panzer tank.
It should be noted that not all client devices (tablet, smartphone, laptop) support the 5Ghz band. The only one I found that did was the iPad but then again, I had to be located in the same room as the router for it to work properly. The TP-Link instead makes excellent use of its only band (2.4Ghz) by dedicating one of its three antennaes to ‘send’, one to ‘receive’ and one to ‘listen’, which has made it rock solid in its connections throughout my tests. One of the tests was to connect the D-Link 932L located outside of my house (the shed) to the router. With the D-Link the camera needed regular resets in order to keep it connected, but its connection to the TP-Link router has been flawless in over a month and a half.
The TP-Link also seemed to have slightly better range as shown by tests using Android devices and the Wi-Fi Analyser app.
Security is identical on both, offering WPA and WPA2 encryption as well as WPS (Wireless Protected Setup.) The difference being that the TP-Link offers a physical button on the router to enable WPS, the D-Link forces you to use the system menu which if slightly more secure, is a pain in the rectum.
This round is a tie, the rock solidness of the TP-Link being offset by the 5Ghz dual band swagger shown by the D-Link, the physical WPS button’s practicality being offset by the menu system WPS’s security, but all the other features being too similar to call.
Both units connected easily to my cable modem, and both units gave similar throughputs in wired LAN environments even though the TP-Link has gigabit ports vs fast ethernet for the D-Link. However, and this is HUGE, when translating Internet through the Wi-Fi the TP-Link managed to provide me with the full bandwidth (30Mbits) whereas the D-Link could only muster up between 10 and 12 Mbits.
I tested the bandwidth on a wireless N laptop running Ubuntu 12.04.
The internal transfer speed was similar for both, topping out approximately at 50Mbits even on a solid N connection (300Mbits.) tested on both the Ubuntu 12.04 laptop and the Boxee Box which obviously works far better with a wired LAN connection at full gigabit speed.
Security is good on both devices, they seem to use a similar blacklist/whitelist system to ban or allow certain sites through. Both can be administered locally, or remotely (not recommended) and both pretty much have the same capabilities in terms of firewalls and intrusion prevention.
I’ll have to give this round to the TP-Link.
Round four: Support & extras
Both routers are made by large Asian corporations, they both have websites that provide adequate support but the TP-Link site seemed snappier at loading pages, it was also better designed with a friendlier layout making information about the router easy to find. D-Link don’t seem to provide support for the reviewed unit anymore, even though it’s a fairly recent (Q4-2011) unit. For the record, D-Link is a Taiwanese company, TP-Link is Chinese and unlike some people seem to think, is not affiliated with ASUS.
The TP-Link has a few extras, providing a powered USB port that can be used as a print host or USB drive share/FTP server, removable antennas that can be swapped out for a panoply of enhanced range antennae. The D-Link has no such luxuries even though it’s considerably smaller and better looking than the white and green TP-Link.
Despite its ugliness, round four still goes to the TP-Link.
Round five: Pricing
The D-Link router cost at launch 90US$, the TP-Link 65US$. Both can be had now for approximately 50US$ online but the TP-Link gives better value for the money with its extras, so this round has to go to the TP-Link.
The TP-Link WR1043ND beats the D-Link DIR815 router easily, showing superior performance in all but the more trivial areas of the menu system (log files for instance, that are not complete) and for a slightly better price. I cannot in good faith recommend the D-Link router over the TP-Link even though D-Link has shown their ability to provide excellent products in the past, they are being caught, and passed by the recent newcomer TP-Link.