D-Link has finally produced a mesh Wi-Fi router that looks like a snazzy appliance.
Mesh routers, also known as whole-home Wi-Fi systems, do not look like your standard router. They tend to resemble a puck or a vase. Their antennas are concealed, not poking out of a black box.
They are often sold in sets of two or three units because they rely on multiple connected but distributed wireless nodes to deliver Wi-Fi signals throughout the home and eliminate Wi-Fi dead spots.
But D-Link's previous Covr mesh router did not fit this bill. To me, it felt like D-Link had repurposed an existing router instead of building a new model from scratch.
The recently launched D-Link Covr-C1203 is that new design I had hoped to see. It is compact and fits in my palm. It has colourful interchangeable plastic tops.
It is a dual-band router that tops out at 867Mbps on the 5GHz wireless band. D-Link says three C1203 units can provide wireless coverage of up to 5,000 sq ft.
Unlike more expensive mesh routers, the C1203 lacks a dedicated wireless band (also known as backhaul connection) reserved for the nodes to communicate with one another. Hence, on paper, it should be slower than routers with this feature.
ETHERNET INTERFACE: 2 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit LAN
ADVANCED FIREWALL FEATURES: NAT, DoS and SPI
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
It comes with two Ethernet ports, which is the norm for mesh routers. There is no USB port to enable the use of an external hard drive as a network drive.
The Covr logo at the top is illuminated by LEDs underneath. A blinking amber light indicates that the Covr unit is ready to be set up - it turns a solid white if this process is successful.
Setting up the Covr was not what I had expected, as it is unlike most mesh routers.
One of the three Covr units is labelled "A" - it must be connected to your Internet modem or gateway via Ethernet cable.
To add a second Covr unit to the network, I had to connect it to the "A" unit via an Ethernet cable while both are powered up.
It takes a few minutes for this second unit to be added to the network - its LED will turn a solid white when done.
You then unplug this second unit and place it at a different part of the home. Repeat this process for the third Covr unit to have all three units working in tandem.
This set-up process is not ideal, as the node that is being configured must be in close proximity to the main unit (unless you have a long Ethernet cable). It also requires having two available power outlets at the location of the main unit.
To be fair, this wired Ethernet cable method is fool-proof and requires only plugging in the cable. Besides, users are unlikely to configure the Covr again after the first time.
The D-Link Wi-Fi app (for iOS and Android) merely provides a visual step-by-step guide and does not play an active role in the installation, unlike other mesh routers that use the smartphone's Bluetooth feature to detect and configure additional mesh nodes.
The Covr has features expected of a mid-range router, from VLAN support to guest networks. Most of these features can be configured using D-Link's clean and user-friendly Web interface.
It recorded an average download speed of 259Mbps in The Straits Times' test.
This is slightly higher than the Asus Lyra (220Mbps). Better, albeit more expensive mesh routers are in the 300 to 400Mbps range.
It is competitively priced at $299 for a set of three nodes, which is slightly cheaper than rival TP Link's Deco M5.
• Verdict: D-Link's latest mesh router offers decent performance and features at an attractive price.