Review: D-Link Taipan AC3200 modem router
4.4Overall Score
Price (RRP): $579.95 Manufacturer: D-Link

Need a ton of performance for WiFi at home? No worries, because D-Link has something that might fit the bill, and it’s so big, you might even have problems placing it.

Features and performance

The latest of the company’s converged modem and router models, the D-Link Taipan or “DSL-4320L” as it’s called from the official model number is the new flagship beast, and boy is it something interesting.

For this model, D-Link is taking that new signature pyramid design we saw in a recent router, which we still think reminds us of the old Pizza Hut restaurants, if you’re young enough to remember when Pizza Hut had eat-in places in Australia.

Every time we saw that router somewhere — and there’s one somewhere in GadgetGuy’s review area — we said “oh look, it’s the Pizza Hut router”, because of the red angular roof that just made it stand out.

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For the Taipan, D-Link has taken that design and made it blue, so now we can’t recall our consumerist roots, but what we can do is forgo needing both a modem and a router separately, because what this model can do will make you want to switch regardless.

Let’s start with the basics of what it has, because when you look at it either on a website, printed or on the box, our out of that and into the real world, the first thing you’ll notice are the antennas.

Yup, there are six of these, and they’re thick, high-gain, and larger than your regular WiFi router antennas, designed to match the 802.11ac wireless found inside the Taipan, which relies on the AC3200 technology.

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If that seems like a bunch of numbers to you, let’s break it down to explain it a little better:

In the world of wireless networking, the letter and number combo is usually based on network speed, so when you had an N600 network, you had an “802.11n” network operating at a maximum of 600Mbps.

Last year, if you bought an AC1750 device, you had an “802.11ac” network operating at a combination of 1300Mbps (1.3Gbps) and 450Mbps, with the two networks running in a sort of combination whereby the slower devices could rely on the slower connection (which operates on 2.4GHz) while the devices that really needed super speeds, like say a TV, could use the 1300Mbps (on the 5GHz network).

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, read what the D-Link Taipan is again: AC3200.

To break that down, you first need to know this thing will put a staggering 3200Mbps of performance, though not all at once. Rather, this is broken down into two 1300Mbps bands operating on 5GHz each, and one 2.4GHz network pushing out 600Mbps.

As a point, D-Link isn’t alone in this technology relying on AC3200 wireless networking, but it is alone in one of the convergent features for this technology as in a world first, it even has the modem built directly in it.

For those of us in Australia, that means we get a few technologies to choose from directly inside the Taipan.

If you’re lucky enough to have the NBN, plug it in.

If you’re living in Canberra and have access to the faster-than-ADSL2-technology known as VDSL, plug it in.

And if — like us — you’re still stuck on ADSL2, plug it in.

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Basically, the Taipan supports everything a modern Aussie might want to rely on, except, of course, there’s no phone or VoIP support, though this modem router isn’t made for that.

Rather, it is made for speed, and for households and businesses with a need for that and way too many devices to account for.

To help with this, the Taipan relies on a 1GHz dual-core processor and a bunch of technologies to help make the device even stronger, such as smartbeam forming which helps to narrow the connection to each device and keep a product connected.

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Depending on the length or height of your home, as well as what it’s made from, this can mean your device stays connected for longer, and we found that while the 802.11ac network got weaker as we pushed through our old early 1900s home, the fact that it stayed connected was important, specifically because few modem routers we had used were able to accomplish this.

The previous modem router we were using was actually the D-Link Viper, the cylindrical model with no antennas. For what it’s worth, we preferred the look and style of that model, but it just doesn’t do what the Taipan can do, and we even had to bring a wireless router to improve the connection of the Viper as time went on.

In the Taipan, however, we’re back to being in convergence bliss as we only need to rely on one for the plethora of devices we’re connected.

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Generally, the Taipan lets you operate a network using either the standard combination of three networks, allowing you to run them with different names, different passwords, and generally feel like you’re the master of your domain, or it includes something we haven’t seen which is handier than you might expect.

This is D-Link’s “Smart Connect” feature, which tends to switch itself on without you asking to, though after testing it, we can actually see why.

What Smart Connect does is run the three networks, but brings them together under the one network name (SSID), with the modem router working out which device needs to connect to the varying network.

With Smart Connect switched on, your three networks are converged under one.

With Smart Connect switched on, your three networks are converged under one.

For instance, with Smart Connect switched on, your device is connected to the clearest and fastest network at the time, pushing either the 2.4GHz or 5GHz network when devices need it.

Basically, think of Smart Connect as an always on network admin, rerouting devices to the right network so you don’t have to decide what goes where.

Our connection to the 5GHz specific network was bang on identical to the network where Smart Connect was switched on. Neato.

Our connection to the 5GHz specific network was very close to the network speed where Smart Connect was switched on. Neato.

Testing it, we were quite surprised to see that devices where 802.11ac were running natively could get between 500 and 900Mbps quite easily, but even upstairs where our regular computer often struggled for high speeds found a good 40 to 600Mbps when used in conjunction with one of D-Link’s 802.11ac spherical antennas, beating the AC chipset found inside the computer we normally rely on.

And you can trust a GadgetGuy to bring a home network to its knees, and with the amount of devices we’ve been testing it with, we can tell you the D-Link Taipan can really hold its own.

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It does occasionally appear to time out, temporarily disappearing and then coming back, the glitches lasting barely a second or two and only fleeting at best, but overall, the speeds on this appear to be much stronger and more reliable than any other modem router we’ve seen prior.

Two USB ports and four Gigabit ports on the back help finalise this, allowing our network drive, small server, and Sonos system to talk to the rest of the setup in super quick speeds.

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Where the Taipan gets things wrong is the look, or rather the form-factor of the look, because, aesthetics aside, the D-Link Taipan is about the largest modem you’ll ever set eyes on.

Seriously, this is one huge modem router, and while we knew we had to clear some space for it in our networking cabinet at home, we didn’t realise quite how much that actually meant.

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Indeed, this was the first time a modem router couldn’t fit inside the cabinet, so we had to resort to sticking it on the very top, and even then it was still too big.

Now, the home phone (because we still have one of those) is in an interesting balancing act with the triangular angles at the front of the Taipan.

And that leads you to the problem with the Taipan’s design.

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Simply put, its awkward, and so awkward that it almost feels like it was designed to be tucked away so that no one could ever see it, only that it’s so big, it even makes that difficult.

We thought modern devices were about getting smaller, but D-Link’s latest Viper series modem router is almost twice the size of the original. Now how did that happen?

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If you don’t mind this big hulking blue pyramid of a thing to be seen by the world, no worries, but even if you do, good luck placing it somewhere in your home where it won’t stand out, because it won’t take up the spot of your old modem router, that’s for sure.

The interface and settings control are the other complaints we have with the Taipan, and much like how the design almost feels like a step back from the sleek and compact models we’ve seen from D-Link prior, aspects of these sit in much the same boat.

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It’s not all bad, and that partly stems from D-Link’s updating of the interface, which is now sleek, simple, and more graphical than the flat browser-based operating system environment ever has been for D-Link.

But one could argue that it’s too simple, and it is now harder to find where you need to be if you’re an experienced user.

There’s a wizard, sure, and that makes getting the router set up and good to go a breeze, with the environment more or less a “fill me in and away you go” thing, which is great.

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Unfortunately, the moment you have to go and do something a little stronger than change a password, you find it takes a few extra mouse clicks, and a little bit more waiting, as advanced options get buried in “advanced settings” beneath everything, and the often complicated interfaces of modem routers get whittled down to something so simple, you start to see D-Link is targeting the common person with this interface setup.

Where this goes wrong is the lack of design and flow, and we found ourselves struggling to find the right menu we were after, often needing to consult the manual for where things were. We’ve never had to do that for a modem router before, and in 8 years, are surprised that a modern modem router made us dig out a manual online to look for things we still had trouble finding.

That’s the problem with the Taipan, because as much as D-Link has done to bring the complicated high-end modem router down to regular less techie folk, you can’t help but feel that the techie folk who would normally happily spend the near-$600 this thing costs are being left out.

The flexibility and extra control pros like feels like it's been pushed under layers of menus.

The flexibility and extra control pros like feels like it’s been pushed under layers of menus.

Conclusion

Wireless networking can be a bit of a hassle at home and work, and unless you have a network engineer (or even a GadgetGuy staffer) nearby, it can be a little problematic getting the best experience for the cornucopia of products we all have. Usually, the quickest solution is to throw in an extra router to work alongside, but that may not be the best option.

Frankly, we prefer converged devices for space reasons, as do many Australians, and that explains why Australia and New Zealand are the first places for D-Link to send this beast of a device. It’s not just space, but also combined technology that does it, with upgrades across an entire unit designed to deliver the best of the best experience.

And if that’s what you want, the snake-named series of devices has always been worth looking into, and not just because they’re flagship products.

Ultimately, if you have a ton of devices at home and not enough throughput to get them all online, D-Link’s Taipan is definitely worth checking out, just make sure you have the funds and the space, as both are pretty hefty for a modem router.

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Review: D-Link Taipan AC3200 modem router
Price (RRP): $579.95 Manufacturer: D-Link
Yay, a converged high-end modem router (w00t!); Plenty of bandwidth; Easy to setup; Smart Connect is a great way of uniting the three bands under one WiFi name and SSID;
Big and cumbersome, and awkward to place; Interface may be a little clunky for some, specifically the pro users; Settings aren't always saved;
Overall
Features
Value for money
Performance
Ease of Use
Design
4.4Overall Score
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