D-Link's latest modem-router, the Viper DSL-2900AL, tries its best to look premium. It comes in a black and purple box with reflective coating and a ribbon hinge. It looks nearly identical to its forerunner, the DSL-2890AL, but here D-Link has opted for a matte black instead of piano black.
From an internals perspective, it swaps out the Broadcom BCM4331 that controls the 2.4GHz wireless for the BCM4360, which on paper should give better performance. But at AU$329, does the Viper justify the price difference from the AU$219 DSL-2890AL?
Design, ease of use and features
As a cylinder, the Viper isn't going to be wall mounted any time soon. A full bevvy of status lights line the front, with individual lights for 2.4 and 5GHz, line sync and Internet connection, and all four gigabit Ethernet ports. This makes the Viper excellent for troubleshooting should something go wrong.
D-Link's web UI has received a significant upgrade, with a huge focus on ease of use. Even QoS is made easy by showing the devices connected to your network, and then allowing you to drag and drop them into ready-made priority tiers. While this makes things simple, it also removes granular control over priority - you just have to trust the router's built in settings. Sadly local help is gone, linking instead to D-Link's online general support site. Page load times are also slow compared to other UIs.
I also have to note it's clearly a work in progress -- the initial firmware wouldn't display elements in Chrome, requiring an update. Twice when clicking the Home menu item, it told me the router simply wasn't there.
D-Link is one of the few vendors to offer a dedicated mobile web interface via the Viper. It is very limited though, allowing you to connect to or disconnect from the Internet, change basic Wi-Fi and guest Wi-Fi settings, and view firmware information. Thankfully there's a link to the more detailed desktop version if you need to configure anything else -- although on Chrome on my Android phone, this simply displayed a blank template, much like the initial firmware did for desktop Chrome.
D-Link also offers access to its router via its mydlink app. Just like the mobile interface options are limited, allowing you to view and block connected devices, check your Internet and LAN IP, and alter basic Wi-Fi settings.
Parental control is applied on a per device basis, but you won't find the settings anywhere in the menu -- you'll need to click the appropriate device in the initial network map and change things through there. Frustratingly, the second I turned parental control on for our desktop, everything was immediately blocked -- including the router interface -- despite the schedule being set to "always off". We didn't even get a chance to change any settings. Another odd choice: while website filters allow either a blacklist or whitelist, they are applied across the board, rather than per device or interface.
Guest Wi-Fi access is available on 2.4 and 5GHz, and Dynamic DNS is supported through D-Link's own service, DynDNS.org, and surprisingly, it offers a "manual" setting.
Also new is a live-updated line graph for Internet, LAN, 2.4GHz and 5GHz performance, which should help with troubleshooting and is always welcome -- although you'll only see 16 seconds of history at any one time.