eTeknix

D-Link Exo AC2600 (DIR-882) Enthusiast Router Review

D-Link Exo AC2600

Today we’re taking a look at D-Link‘s newest router which doesn’t look as impressive as some of the ones we’ve tested in the past, but that’s something you shouldn’t be fooled by. The AC2600 EXO MU-MIMO Wi-Fi router packs the latest technology in a simple exterior.

Wireless Features

The wireless performance is the main reason why people upgrade their router and when the DIR-882 becomes relevant. D-Link gave the DIR-882 a great set of capabilities, starting with the AC2600 rating. With it, the router can deliver up to 800 Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1733 Mbps on the 5GHz band. This is

Plain performance is one thing, another is actually reaching the connected devices effectively. D-Link applied several technologies to make sure that this happens at all times. The router features a MU-MIMO functionality along with a 4×4 data stream setup.

Wireless Coverage

The MU-MIMO technology allows multiple devices to get high-bandwidth Wi-Fi signals at the same time, but that’s just the beginning. The antennas on the DIR-882 might be fixed, but they’re categorised as high-power antennas.

Streaming the signal into every direction would reduce the bandwidth where it’s actually needed, and that’s where the smart beamforming comes into play. With it, the router will direct the bandwidth towards your devices as you move around your home.

Wired Network and Internet Features

Wireless connections are great, at least where cables aren’t an option. Still, the wired connections are important. The D-Link DIR-882 EXO router has a standard setup in this regard with four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports and one Gigabit WAN port.

Router Hardware

At the core of the router is a dual-core CPU which should be able to handle the transfer load quite well. You get both a USB 3.0 and a USB 2.0 port with the DIR-882, allowing you to connect and share USB drives. Other physical features include buttons for the WPS function and one to turn the Wi-Fi on and off.

Feature Highlights

A Closer Look at the Features


Quality of Service Protocol

There are services that require an optimal connection in order to give you the joy you’ll want. This could be high-resolution streaming or gaming, for example. While you do that, other devices and family members might use the network at the same time. Of course, they need to be able to use the connection, but they don’t need priority. That’s where the QoS Engine comes into play. With D-Link routers, the setup is quite simple. Drag and drop connected systems into the pot you want them. There is one slot with main priority and two optional slots for second level priority. There’s even a 3rd level before anything else will be given priority. While it doesn’t offer a lot of user settings, it’s very simple to use and configure.

DLNA Media Streaming and File Sharing

D-Link’s DIR-882 comes with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports. These can be used for flash drives, portable hard drives, and other USB storage devices. Connected drives can then be shared over the network with connected Samba/CIFS compatible systems for a network attached storage setup.

Media files on connected storage drives can also be streamed to DLNA compatible devices. This could be TVs, consoles, and media players. This way, you can extend the usage options for your portable storage drives and get streaming abilities in your home. That is if you don’t have such already.

Parental Control

There are a lot of bad things out there on the internet, especially if you’re a vulnerable child. Parents will want to keep an eye on their kids’ online activities and the D-Link DIR-882 comes with options for this too. You can create online access schedules and block/allow specific websites and/or devices.

Wireless Guest Network

Whenever you have people over, they’ll want to connect to your wireless network to save traffic on their cellular device. Now, if you trust those people, then there’s no problem with sharing your normal network password with them. There are very few we actually trust, but there’s the Guest Network feature for the rest. With this feature, you can create a separate wireless network just for them. With this, they’ll only gain internet access and not access to the rest of the network and your devices. Whether you password-protect the guest network or not is up to you, both ways are supported.

VPN

No router is complete without VPN support and that’s no different for D-Link’s DIR-882. It comes with support for L2TP Over IPSec VPN Server. Transmit data securely, even when connected remotely.

WPS

Wireless networks are great, as we’ve rounded a few times in this review already. However, there is one thing about it that isn’t so great and that is the need to remember a password to connect. Well, that is if there wasn’t the WPS feature. With a single key-press on the router’s WPS button and a press on a wireless device’s WPS button and the two devices are connected.

Specifications

A Look at the Package, Accessories, and Device


The Packaging

D-Link packed the DIR-882 EXO AC2600 router in a simple yet colourful box. The front has the device itself pictured along with all the important feature highlights.

The rear side goes into more detail on the various selling points such as the dual-core processor, 4×4 simultaneous streams, and 160MHz support.

The side of the package is where you find closer details regarding the routers physical aspects. What ports and buttons it has and what’s included inside the box.

Included Accessories

You get all the basics with D-Link’s DIR-882 EXO AC2600 router. There’s naturally a power supply which will fit the region you purchased it in as well as an RJ45 cable, a quick installation guide, and a Wi-Fi configuration card for your convenience. The credit-card sized configuration card allows you to write down your router’s configuration and put it in a safe location.

A Closer Look at the Hardware

D-Link’s DIR-882 has a simple look which will suit those who want a device that’s working, but not really visible. The top is a mix of air vents and solid plastic.There also are activity and connection LEDs located on the top. The LEDs are for Power and activity, Internet, 2.4GHz, 5GHz, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0

While a lot of routers come with replaceable antennas, there are few who actually chose to replace them. The DIR-882 has fixed antennas, so replacing them isn’t even an option here. On the other hand, the fixed method is cheaper, allowing D-Link to lower the manufacturing costs and deliver a cheaper product.

The USB 3.0 port is located on the front for easy access. This is most likely the one you’ll want to connect your fast thumb drives and external SSDs to, making a front-facing location optimal.

The USB 2.0 port is located on the rear side along with the four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports and the Gigabit WAN port. Next to the WAN port, is a pin-hole reset followed by the WPS and Wi-Fi buttons. At the end is the power connector and a power button to turn the entire router off. I always welcome it when routers have a physical power button, so that’s another plus for me. While it isn’t used often, it’s convenient when needed.

Almost the entire bottom area of the router is used for air vents, so the DIR-882 shouldn’t have any overheating issues due to lack of fresh air. There is the option to wall mount it, but it naturally also has four small rubber feet for desktop placement.

Interface: Initialization and a First View


Initialising the router only takes a few steps and you’ll be done in minutes. Most things are done automatically, but you’ll need to set passwords and similar settings yourself.

In case the router can’t detect your internet connection, it will come up with a window like this. It will help you connect everything properly. If the internet cable is connected, you’ll automatically be taken to the first step.

By default, the D-Link DIR-882 configures both networks in a smart network with the same name. This eliminates your need to know which to connect to. Instead, the router will pick the best-suited network for your device. That’s why we only have to set one network name and one password during this step.

The only other thing you need to define during the initialisation is the password for the router itself.

You’ll get a summary of your settings, allowing you to write them down or take a screenshot for later reference.

All that’s left now is to apply the settings and wait for the router to load the actual interface.

When the interface loads, you’ll be presented with a screen like this. If there are any errors in the setup, it will be clearly highlighted in the network diagram.

Dashboard Functions

The dashboard is more than a pretty diagram of your network. You can click each part and get details below.

It’s quick and easy to view all the vital information this way and each page has a hotlink to the individual settings. That makes it quick to navigate to the page you’re looking for, without using the menus.

Interface: Network Settings


The Settings menu contains all the port-related settings such as the internet setup, LAN setup, and USB functionality. Naturally, this is where we find the wireless settings too.

Internet Connection

D-Link’s router software supports most types of internet connections. In most cases, you won’t have to do much here, but there is the option.

VLAN setup is available for all ports and connection types.

IPv6 is also fully supported.

Wireless Networking

By default, you only have one wireless network to configure and that is due to the Smart Connect feature. It allows for much simpler connections where the router will pick the fastest available band. When it’s disabled, like in the screenshot below, you can configure the two bands separately.

Visitors often like to get Wi-Fi connections where ever there are. It saves on the data volumes which for the biggest part are limited. However, you might not want to share your normal network details with everyone nor would you want everyone roaming your network. For such situations, the guest networks are the solution. You can set up a guest zone for your visitors with which they’ll gain internet access, but otherwise, are locked out of your network.

Wired Networking

LAN settings are rarely changed, but it is possible. You can control the DHCP server and streaming options.

USB Sharing over Network

The built-in USB ports allow you to share connected storage drives with any device connected to your network. It is a convenient way to use those external drives for something useful. You get standard Windows file sharing along with an FTP server. The router also supports the streaming of media to compatible UPnP server.

With the ability to share files, you also need a way to restrict the access. You can create up to 9 different users for this. It isn’t much, but it should be plenty. Users in need of more will already have a NAS for such tasks.

Interface: Features and Functions


The Features and Management menus are where the router functions hide. Well, they don’t hide, the reside here.

QoS

QoS stands for Quality of Service and it is a method of traffic prioritising. D-Link’s system doesn’t offer a lot of customisation, instead, its very easy to use. Simply drag and drop connected systems into the respective slot and save your changes. Now the systems will have internet priority based on your settings and you can make sure that you don’t drop our of your games because someone else starts a download.

Time and Schedules

The time settings aren’t spectacular as such; they’re what you’d expect. But hidden within the Time page is the Schedule page and that’s a lot more interesting.

You can create ten different time schedules which then can be assigned to the various features such as filter, firewall, and parental control.

Each schedule has its own name for easy recognition.

Website Filter

The website filter is pretty self-explanatory, as most features here. Allow or deny specific websites in order to keep your workplace or home in order.

Firewall

The firewall comes with basic anti-spoof checking and DMZ as well as similar features.

IP filters, both IPv4 and IPv6 are also found here.

Port Forwarding, Virtual Server, and Static Routes

With smart devices and remote connections becoming a thing in more and more homes, the port forwarding and virtual server features become more vital than ever. They’ll make sure that your devices are forwarded the proper way for remote access.

Logging and Statistics

Every headless system needs some sort of logging and notification system in order to keep you informed of its status. Both features are present in D-Link’s routers.

You can also look at throughput statistics of the various connections.

VPN

The Quick VPN feature allows, as the name says, a quick and easy VPN setup.

Dynamic DNS

With remote connection abilities, you might want to set up a DDNS service too. With it, you can easily remotely connect to your home network, even if your internet connection has a dynamic IP.

Administration

There are various administration features for the device, such as changing the password, enabling Captcha, and define the admin connections.

The system settings can be imported and exported for safekeeping, backup, and restoration. Periodic reboots of the device can be scheduled too.

The previous user configuration was for the file access through USB, so they won’t work for the web interface. You can also create nine users for the GUI login.

The parental controls are simple with block and access rules based on schedules. While simple, they’re very useful.

Last but certainly not least, you can upgrade the firmware. There is an online-check built-in, but it isn’t always successful in detecting new updates. If in doubt, check the device’s support page for an updated version manually. Just make sure you download the proper hardware version are defined at the top of the GUI.

Test Systems, Software, & Methodology


From my point of view, testing a router’s performance is a pretty straightforward process. I will first test the wired network performance with TPC and UDP packets as well as with fixed and variable packet sizes. This part is easy and it is run with direct connections. Since there is no interference of any kind, the results stay consistent.

The wireless bands will be tested in the same way as the wired connections, but I’ll add another variable to the test. I will adjust the distance between the router and the receiving WiFi connection from short over medium to long distance throughout my apartment. The positions are the same for every piece of network equipment that I’m testing. Where wired networks are easy to control, wireless networks aren’t.

Wireless Environment

While it’s easy to test and give you comparable view on the wired connections, it is a different story for the wireless bands. With wireless networks, we need to keep environmental factors in mind. These can’t be avoided. This office is located in a pretty big apartment complex where many of the residents have multiple WiFi networks. Our ISP boxes have dual-band Wi-Fi and most apartments have an extra router connected. That’s easily 4 and even up 5 and 6 bands per apartment. All those wireless networks create a tough situation, but that’s not necessarily something bad.

To make matters worse, the building is located in the middle of a city that basically is a huge transport hub. All these industrial complexes and shipping companies also interfere with signals in the area. For example, terrestrial digital TV or Radio isn’t possible at all due to interference.

Tough isn’t always bad

The issues mentioned above will naturally have an impact on the performance, but at the same time, it gives us a great view of how well the device can handle itself in a heavy traffic area. In a way, that’s much better than testing it under optimal conditions – after all, who of us has those?

External Storage Testing

Whenever a USB 3.0 or eSATA port with file sharing is present, I’ll also test the possible speed from this. For this, I’ll use an SSD drive in an external docking station and LAN Speed Test.

Network Client system

Network Server System

Network Structure

External Storage

Wireless Setup

As mentioned above, the wireless setup can be somewhat tricky. For each review, I use WifiInfoView to find an optimal channel. To me, optimal is considered free with the neighbouring channels also being free. It isn’t always possible, but it’s what you should aim for. There are also mobile apps available with the same feature, should you not have a PC with Wi-Fi.

Performance: Gigabit Ethernet


Fixed Block Size

To test the maximum throughput a connection can handle, a fixed block size of 16384 Bytes is sent from the client to the server over a period of five minutes. The higher block size will allow the transfer rate to stay as high as possible which is a scenario that you know from file copies. A single large file is a lot quicker to move than lots of small files with the same total size.

Variable Packet Size

In a real-world situation, the blocks of data that pass through a network adaptor are not of the same size each time, so to give a more realistic impression of how an adaptor performs, the adaptor is once again tested for five minutes. This time, however, the block size will vary from 32 Bytes up to 16384 Bytes in increasing steps of 148.7 Bytes each time.

TCP Performance

UDP Performance

Performance: 2.4GHz Wireless


The 2.4GHz band is the older of the two wireless bands that are in use today. On this band, we find 802.11b/g/n wireless standards with up to 600Mbps bandwidth on offer when using wireless-n compliant devices. Due to the lower operating frequency, 2.4GHz signals offer a wider level of coverage, but the lower throughput speeds are a disadvantage to this ageing band.

Fixed Block Size

To test the maximum throughput a connection can handle, a fixed block size of 16384 Bytes is sent from the client to the server over a period of five minutes. The higher block size will allow the transfer rate to stay as high as possible which is a scenario that you know from file copies. A single large file is a lot quicker to move than lots of small files with the same total size.

TCP Performance

UDP Performance

Variable Packet Size

In a real-world situation, the blocks of data that pass through a wireless adaptor are not of the same size each time, so to give a more realistic impression of how an adaptor performs, the adapter is once again tested at each range for five minutes. This time, however, the block size will vary from 32 Bytes up to 16384 Bytes in increasing steps of 148.7 Bytes each time.

TCP Performance

UDP Performance

Performance: 5GHz Wireless


5GHz is a more recent addition to the consumer WiFi specification, and on this frequency, we find both 802.11n and AC standards on offer. We note that 802.11n is the only standard to run at both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies and this is the most common standard for ISP routers to feature. Unlike the 2.4GHz band, 5GHz radio waves and solid brick walls do not go that well hand in hand, so while it does support a much faster throughput speed, its range is decreased in a dense operating environment.

Fixed Block Size

To test the maximum throughput a connection can handle, a fixed block size of 16384 Bytes is sent from the client to the server over a period of five minutes. The higher block size will allow the transfer rate to stay as high as possible which is a scenario that you know from file copies. A single large file is a lot quicker to move than lots of small files with the same total size.

TCP Performance

UDP Performance

Variable Packet Size

In a real-world situation, the blocks of data that pass through a wireless adaptor are not of the same size each time, so to give a more realistic impression of how an adaptor performs, the adapter is once again tested at each range for five minutes. This time, however, the block size will vary from 32 Bytes up to 16384 Bytes in increasing steps of 148.7 Bytes each time.

TCP Performance

UDP Performance

Performance: External Storage


The easiest way to test the USB 3.0 and eSATA port’s performance is by connecting an SSD externally to the router. I will fire up LAN Speed Test that allows me to run a simple throughput test on a network mounted folder.

USB 3.0 Performance

Pricing, Conclusion and Final Thoughts


Pricing

At the time of writing, D-Link’s EXO AC2600 DIR-882 router hasn’t quite made it to the UK yet. Our US readers can already get it with shops such as Amazon listing it for $149.99. A fair price for a modern router.

Conclusion

The D-Link EXO AC2600 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi Router, or DIR-882, is a simple looking router. It’s very light when you pick it up, and together with the simple design, you’ll sing you got an everyday router between your hands. But that’s just the first impression. It will grow on you and it doesn’t have a cheap feeling as such. It is a device which was created to work well and blend in, and it does just that.

Connections

The wired connection options and other physical functionality features are quite standard. Four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, one Gigabit WAN port, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0. Other features include a physical power button, a WPS button, and a button with which you can turn the wireless networks on and off. These aren’t given features and they’re all great to have.

Impressive Performance

The wireless features will be the DIR-882’s selling point. We get an AC2600 rating with 1733 Mbps speed capabilities on the 5GHz band. That’s the best single-band speeds before moving up to the 1024QAM technology and as such, also perfect for the performance-hungry user. 160MHz channels are supported on the hardware level, but it will require a yet-to-be-released firmware update. The technology itself is aided by the built-in high-power antennas and the AC SmartBeam which directs the signals towards your device.

Now let’s talk about the best part of this review, the actual performance seen in our benchmarks. The D-Link DIR-882 beats anything I’ve seen previously. With over 900Mbps throughput, we are getting close to a bottleneck by one system being wired and the other wireless. That is seriously impressive and it shows that D-Link picked the right hardware and software combination for this router. No matter the distance, the router delivers a throughput previously not seen. At least not in this location.

User Interface

The user interface is a classic D-Link interface. Whether you like it or not, that’s personal preference. You’ll have to decide whether it has and does what you need, but one thing can be said with certainty. It is easy to use, even for novice users.

Pros

Cons

“D-Link’s EXO AC2600 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi Router (DIR-882) is the best performing Wireless router we’ve tested to date What’s more to say?”

D-Link Exo AC2600 (DIR-882) Enthusiast Router Review

Thank You D-Link for this review sample