It was somewhat inevitable that the big networking manufacturers still to launch a mesh home Wi-Fi system would take the opportunity to do so at CES 2017. The Linksys Velop system, announced yesterday, looks to be a contender although with a design reminiscent of desktop computer speakers from the 1990s, it lacks the decorative beauty of many of its competitors. But if we’re talking retro, the newly announced D-Link Covr appears to be a bigger throwback to the past.
There are two big insights driving the design of whole home Wi-Fi systems. The first insight is that many homes – especially larger homes – experience Wi-Fi cold spots where service is unavailable. A single, monolithic router with a cluster of antennas isn’t able to blanket some homes with coverage as well as their householders would like.
The second insight is that routers are pretty ugly devices that many users prefer to tuck away in cupboards, under beds or behind desks so they’re not out on show. This improves household aesthetics, for sure, but further limit’s the device’s ability to throw out a decent Wi-Fi range throughout the home.
So all of the mesh Wi-Fi systems we’ve seen to date have been designed to be small and compact. Multiple nodes/satellites/Wi-Fi points that are cute enough to be scattered throughout the home in locations where householders are comfortable to have them on show. Better locations, better looking devices, better Wi-Fi. Problem solved, right?
Enter D-Link Covr. I’m not sure whether it’s a deliberate decision to adopt a very traditional router design for the base station, or whether D-Link just didn’t want to invest in new industrial design, but the Covr Wi-Fi System looks very old school.
D-Link are eschewing the popular mesh networking route of multiple access points, opting instead for a “premium” router (their words) and extender combo. That said, this is a whole home Wi-Fi solution, similar to others I reviewed last years. It’s built on the same Qualcomm self-organizing network (Wi-Fi SON) platform as NETGEAR Orbi, Google Wifi and others but obviously looks quite different. As a result, band steering and seamless roaming between the router and extender is supported.
The dual-band 4×4 AC2600 D-Link Covr router (DIR-883) supports speeds up to 1733 Mbps on the 5 GHz band and 800 Mbps at 2.4 GHz and is bundled with a 2×2 AC1300 Gigabit Wi-Fi Extender (DAP-1655). It’ll provide speeds up to 867 Mbps on the 5 GHz band and 400 Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. The kit is priced at $299.99 while additional extenders (which actually don’t look too bad) can be added post-installation as required.
Also coming from D-Link is the Covr PowerLine Wi-Fi System (DHP-W732AV) – one of the first whole-home Wi-Fi solutions to utilize PowerLine technology as a foundation. Priced at $199, this configuration offers two DHP-W730AV AC1300 AV2 Powerline Adapters (one for connecting to your home network – via your existing router – and the other for extending the wireless network). The adapters include a Gigabit port for wired connections to devices which could enhance speeds. However as these extenders are Powerline based, you should ensure your home electrical wiring is of sufficient quality to be used for network extension. In some homes (mine included), Powerline simply isn’t an option as the electrical wiring can’t sustain reliable speeds.
So, an interesting – if a little curious – take on whole home mesh networking from D-Link it appears. Expect to see both kits available in stores in the Spring.