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A Layman's Trial on D-Link DIR-868L

Esteemed Advocate
 
A Layman’s Trial on D-Link Dir-868L
 

I signed up with Starhub for a 100Mbps fibre plan in June 2013. Came along was the RG D-Link DVG-N5402SP. Realising its limited wifi coverage, I began to source for dual-band router and finally settled for D-Link Dir-865L which could be redeemed using the Starhub reward points and has become the standard issue for new sign-up/recontract clients.

 

As I am using the VoIP on the 5402, I chose not to opt for Direct ONT but configured the 865L as an AP, while still using the 5402 as the DHCP server. Locating the 865L at an optimum location was a trial and error process. Based on my past experience with earlier routers, I locate the 865L in my study room where it provides pretty good coverage in most of the areas except the attached bathroom in the master bedroom at one corner of the apartment.

 

Recently I was offered an opportunity to try out on the newer D-Link Dir-868L. Good technical reviews are aplenty, and here are 2 of these which I think would satisfy the more IT savvy readers:

 

1. http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-reviews/65202-d-link-dir-868l-dwa-182-wireless... 

 

2. http://forums.hardwarezone.com.sg/internet-bandwidth-networking-clinic-4/%5Breview%5D-d-link-dir-868... 

 

Very briefly, both the 865L and the 868L are AC1750 gigabit routers. The newer 868L comes with SmartBean feature and a USB 3.0 port (as compared with the USB 2.0 port in 865L). The cylindrical design is in line with the new series of routers from D-Link compared with the rectangular slab design of 865L. The principal specifications of the 2 remain much the same. The 868L set I received came with the v1.01 generic firmware. I was later given a Starhub custom firmware v1.00SHC which comes with a total of 4 configuration modes including Wireless Bridge (already in 865L) and Wireless Repeater Extender Mode.

 

A summary of these four configuration modes is as follows:

 

1. Wireless Router - this is the default mode which allows one to configure the router in the usual manner.

2. Wireless AP - the usual AP configuration which could be done manually rather easily. AP provides both wireless and wired connections to the network.

3. Wireless Bridge - the wireless link works as a "bridge" connecting the router/AP to this piece. Only wired connections are available from here.

4. Wireless Repeater Extender – aka Bridge Mode with AP, the wireless link connects the router/AP with the repeater. Both wired and wireless connections are available from here.
 
 
So I set down my objective as a "Layman's Trial" as I am using whatever gadgets (smartphone, tablet, laptop and dongle) I have in hand for the trial. Particularly, I like to find out:
 
a. How is this new 868L performed as compared with 865L in my living environment?
 
b. How useful is the new "Wireless Repeater Extender" mode that comes with the v1.00SHC firmware?
 

 

 
Comparing 865L with 868L
 
I use the present 865L location (R1) as the baseline. For convenience, I used 3 devices to cover 3 wifi modes in the following manner:
 
1. iPad Mini @2.4 GHz 11n
2. iPhone 5 @5 GHz 11n
3. Acer Netbook @5 GHz 11AC, using the D-Link DWA-182 AC1200 dongle, plugged straight into the USB port with no attempt to optimise reception
 
Measurement points are chosen based on my working habits, in my living room, bedroom, study room, etc. I classified these into near-range (upto 8 m, upto one wall apart) and mid-range (10-20 m, upto 2 walls apart).
 
To do some justice to the 868L, I also repeat the whole set of measurements at another location (R2).
 
Here are the results:
 
Capture 1.JPG
 
 
From the above, I could comfortably conclude that the 868L generally performs better than the older 865L, especially at mid-range.
 
 
Wireless Repeater Extender Mode
 
Before we start on this part, just remind ourselves that our starting point is the baseline configuration, where the 865L is back to R1 location, and it is configured as AP.
 
With this mode, I am now able to place the repeater (868L) in the master bedroom (where the 865L AP still has decent coverage) to provide an extended coverage from here covering the attached bathroom as well.
 
With the new firmware, it is easy to set up the Repeater mode. Once you have chosen this mode and saved, you are required only to do 2 more steps:
 
a. To choose the router/AP (865L here in my configuration) wireless band which this repeater is to make connection with (I chose 5 GHz for obvious reason)
b. To enable the 2.4 GHz and/or the 5.0 GHz bands and set the security for the repeater (868L)
 
As the area of interest for the repeater is much smaller, I conducted only a near range (which correspond to the mid-range test points in the first test) measurement. The results are as follows:
 
Capture 3.JPG
 
 
It is suffice to say that the repeater gives much better performance as expected. I did not make any measurement from the attached bathroom, but I could surf very well with all of my older devices equipped only with 2.4 GHz wifi.
 
 
Lastly, for completeness, I did a simple wired test to see if there are any significant differences under the various configurations. And here are the results:
 
Capture 2.JPG
 
 
 
Concluding Remarks
 
In brief, Dir-868L indeed performs better than Dir-865L, and its Repeater mode can be useful if you need to extend your coverage. For new users looking for a dual-band router, Dir-868L would certainly be a good choice. But if you are already using the Dir-865L, the new replacement cost may not justify the marginal gain in coverage. And if you really need a repeater for extended coverage, you may wish to consider other less costly solutions (e.g. using D-Link DAP-1665 or DAP-1520). Bottom-line is there will be a cost-effective solution if one starts with a realistic coverage/performance expectation.
 

Baseline Network Diagram

(As generated by Win 7 Control Panel)

 

- Gateway represents the DVG-N5402SP

- 865L configured as AP

 

Capture 1.JPG

 

 

 

Network Diagram with 868L in Wireless Repeater Extender Mode


- Ignore the Hub and Switches inserted by Win 7

 

Capture2.JPG

 

 

 

 <Howard>: Thank you for writing such a detailed review from a consumer's perspective! I have merged the 4 posts into one for easy reading!

1 Comment
g_
Senior Contributor

Hi, do you mind sharing step-by-step config to set the 868L in repeater mode, please.