Mesh router systems are great networking devices for large homes, but most of them only has 2 Ethernet ports, and for the primary unit, only one can be used since the other must be connected to the modem. This is a limiting factor for home owners who need to connect devices by Ethernet cables. D-Link’s EXO series network routers and extenders offer the best of both worlds by pairing the home networking devices that you have known for decades.
Before mesh Wi-fi routers, I was using normal routers, homeplugs, and extenders to improve network coverage for my home. The inconvenience is to manually switch the network names to tap on to the better unit. But it works relatively well. Then I switched to mesh, and achieved seamless coverage for the entire home without worrying about switching network names. But I have quite a handful of devices that still needed to connect to my network via Ethernet cables, that I had to do some smart re-allocation of these wired devices. I’m sure I’m not alone.
D-Link recently launched yet another mesh system under the EXO series. The already have several COVR mesh system models, as well the COVR-3902 which is basically a conventional 4-port AC2600 router with an AC1300 extender.
The new EXO series is termed “Smart Mesh”, and one of the main differences is that the network devices are sold separately. Consumers can choose to buy the router as a standalone. The DIR-2660 delivers up to 2600 Mbps (800 Mbps on 2.4 GHz and 1732 Mbps on 5 GHz), while the DIR-1360 offers 400 Mbps and 867 Mbps on the respective bands.
To expand the home network, you can purchase EXO mesh-enabled range extenders DRA-1060 (AC2000) or DRA-360 (AC1300). The plug is integrated to the body, so just plug to the socket, but this might pose a problem if your socket is located at tight areas, and the plug design leaves no room for a multi-plug adapter. This could be a drawback to potential owners.
Setting up the primary Smart Mesh router is straightforward, and the D-Link Wi-Fi app will guide you through. There are 2 USB ports to allow ease of plugging hard disks to act as network access storage (NAS), but since I do not have NAS, I use the USB to power my USB devices like my webcam, which will save me one wall plug.
Setting up the mesh extender is a little trickier, as it requires me at some point of the setup to connect directly to the router using Ethernet cable to sync the network information. Once that is done, I shifted the mesh extender to my desired location, turn on, and waited until the strength signal indicator shows a good reading, which might take some time. So, even though it shows red initially, leave it for about 15 minutes to see if changes to green.
The mesh extender comes with a single Gigabit port, which intelligently detects whether to receive or transmit data. Make sure the extenders are located in a well-ventilated area, as I find that they get quite hot. Each EXO router can pair up to 8 units of DRA series (wireless and wired) for its mesh solution. Each extender will choose the best path back to EXO router, selects the best wireless channel and auto recover Wi-Fi if there is any device that went down.
The router settings can be accessed from any Internet browser, and its UI is the same as any other D-Link network product. For the rest, the D-Link Wi-Fi app is a better place to make configuration changes and view network information in a more user-friendly UI.
These new EXO series routers come with McAfee Secure Home Platform with 5-year license to protect all smart devices connected to the router and unlimited McAfee LiveSafe license protection to protect all PC, Mac, iOS and Android for 2 years. It also protects passive devices like smart sensors, constantly monitor the traffic and any possibility of a security compromise will alert the user. Additional, you can set up parental controls to manage websites access, which is done from the McAfee app, but if you want to set up schedule controls, it would have to be done from the D-Link app. This segregation of functions might be a little troublesome to use. There is also a shortcut to disconnect specific devices from your network when you are away from home.
The EXO routers support Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, which means you can use your voice to control the home network, for instance, turn on guest Wi-fi network, check network risks, block device from the network, or even pause the internet for everyone – to have some really private uninterrupted moments.
For testing, I do not rely purely on numbers, because network traffic is unpredictable. The result of the speed test can be due to the Internet service provider, or someone else at home is also accessing data, or radio interference. What I can ascertain is my overall experience with the setup.
For the new EXO Smart Mesh Router and Extender, I find them to deliver blazing network speeds. When I connected my desktop directly to the DRA-2060 extender, I can achieve almost 600 Mbps upload speed, the highest I have ever achieved using a wireless extender setup. This shows the potential of the wireless transmission between the mesh devices.
On the whole, the mesh coverage was not as wide compared to my existing personal mesh router setup, despite positioning the EXO units at the same position as my existing mesh units. I can only conclude that it did not work as well due to the structure of my apartment – walls, doors, etc. But the capability is there if the extender placement is optimised or in large unblocked spaces. During speed tests, the smartphones can achieve up to 300 Mbps when I am next to the extenders.
The D-Link EXO series smart mesh router and extender allows user to enjoy best of both worlds: a traditional router with multiple LAN and USB ports to connect to their wired devices, as well as the flexibility of expanding their home network using extenders that work intelligently to route network within the same SSID.
Attractively priced, the DIR-2660 (AC2600) retails at S$209 and the DRA-2060 goes for S$99. A limited bundle promotion is going on at Challenger and Hachi.Tech where the DIR-2660 and DRA-2060 is yours at only S$199. Yes, both units at an even lower price than the standalone router.
- Powerful primary router compared to mesh systems
- Primary router supports many ports compared to mesh systems
- Works as a standalone router or extender
- Extender is a hassle to pair
- Extender is bulky and gets very hot