Mesh router affordable, easy to use

D-Link's latest whole-home Wi-Fi system, the Covr-2202, comes with three wireless bands, up from the two bands of the previous Covr-1203 model.

Also known as mesh routers, whole-home Wi-Fi systems rely on multiple connected devices to extend the Wi-Fi network range, eliminating Wi-Fi blind spots.

The Covr-2202 consists of two units. One is labelled "A" and should be connected to the Internet modem via Ethernet cable. Both units are pre-paired out of the box, which makes them easy to set up.

If you need a third Covr unit, you have to configure it by connecting it to the "A" unit via an Ethernet cable. This is slightly tricky compared with other mesh routers, which add units wirelessly. Connecting with an Ethernet cable means you will need both units to be in close proximity and have two electrical outlets nearby.

In most cases, though, you will not need a third unit because D-Link says two Covr units provide up to 6,000 sq ft of wireless coverage.

With its tower chassis, the Covr-2202 is much taller than the compact dual-band Covr-1203. But like the older model, each unit has only two Ethernet ports and lacks a USB port for connecting to an external hard drive or printer.

The Covr logo is backlit and serves as a status indicator. It is bright enough that I would recommend disabling the LED in the settings, especially if the router is placed in the bedroom.

Like most tri-band mesh routers, the third wireless band on the Covr-2202 is reserved for communication between the units. This feature, also known as a dedicated backhaul, usually leads to better performance compared with routers without it.

  • SPECS 

  • PRICE: $299 (for two units)

    ETHERNET INTERFACE: 2 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit LAN

    STANDARDS: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac

    SECURITY: WPA/WPA2

    ADVANCED FIREWALL FEATURES: NAT, DoS and SPI

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 3.5/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3.5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

There is also an option to use Ethernet cables for backhaul communication, freeing up the wireless band for clients.

In my usual test with two laptopsin the living room with the Covr-2202, the router achieved an average download speed of 379Mbps.

This is significantly faster than the 246Mbps managed by the dual-band Covr-1203 model.

The result also fares well against other mesh routers in the market, which typically perform in the 300 to 400Mbps range.

However, the Covr-2202 did not perform as well when I moved one of the laptops to the farthest bedroom. The average download speed dropped to 100Mbps.

In comparison, the Synology MR2200ac that I tested recently managed 120Mbps while the Linksys Velop (tri-band version) clocked 183Mbps.

To start the installation of the Covr-2202, scan the QR code in the package with the D-Link Wi-Fi mobile app (for iOS and Android). This app lets you configure basic router features, such as guest networks and parental controls. D-Link also offers a browser interface to control the Covr's settings.

Overall, the Covr-2202 has the essential features of a router - such as quality of service and port forwarding - and does not overwhelm users with obscure, advanced features and settings.

D-Link plans to add security features to the router via a firmware update in the second quarter.

Powered by McAfee, the free Secure Home platform claims to protect client devices connected to the router by detecting anomalies in the network and blocking malicious websites. It will also provide a set of parental controls.

• Verdict: Reasonably priced for a tri-band mesh router, the D-Link is easy to set up and has a clean user interface.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2019, with the headline 'Mesh router affordable, easy to use'. Print Edition | Subscribe