D-Link DIR-868L & DWA-182 Wireless AC Review
DIR-868L Router Conclusion
D-Link’s DIR-868L had a lot of hopes and high expectations buoying its launch and it delivered the goods in every way possible. From value to performance to ease of use, it topped our charts and exceeded preconceived notions about the term “value” within the Wireless AC router marketplace.
The first stop on our whirlwind conclusion has to be at one of the DIR-868L’s defining aspects: its unique design. Instead of using a typical (and ugly) industrial, utilitarian design, D-Link went with a high gloss, cylindrical exterior and integrated antennas. As a result, this router doesn’t look like a 1980s-era device with rabbit ears and fits perfectly alongside a modern computer system, be it Apple or PC-based. Sometimes taking a form over function approach has its downsides but in this case, D-Link successfully combined both to create a truly astonishing router than boasts great looks and class-leading performance.
The tubular design gives the DIR-868L’s antennas a full 360 degrees of coverage, optimizing signal range without the need to fine-tune antenna positioning. While the wireless performance at extreme ranges is lower than we would have liked to see, it was still very impressive considering this is a mainstream-orientated model. Sure, it couldn’t keep up with ASUS’ pricy AC68 flagship but it was never meant to and yet routinely came close to doing precisely that. When compared against similarly priced models like the Asus RT-AC56 or even RT-AC66U routers, the D-Link DIR-868L represents a serious step up. This is especially true for consumers who are more interested in 802.11N performance and consider the AC spectrum to be more future proofing than a necessity.
Raw performance is only part of the router equation as there are many, many routers that are next to unusable due to their atrocious user interfaces. This is the area where D-Link built its reputation on and the DIR-868L is no exception. Its interface is both powerful enough for advanced users while being blissfully intuitive for beginners. Truth be told, D-Link’s reference defaults are nearly flawless so unless someone wants to really fine tune their network, the interface likely won’t be used.
With all of that being said, the real star of this show is the DIR-868L’s price. It undercuts the competition by a significant amount while offering similar performance, a sexy chassis and plenty of expansion capabilities. If you are looking to get into the Wireless AC game or just pick up an affordable router with plenty of future-proofing already built in, look no further than this one.
DWA-182 Network Adapter Conclusion
We really struggled with this conclusion since D-Link’s DWA-182 has plenty of potential. It is compact, well designed and above all else is extremely easy to set up. These are all hallmarks of a great wireless adapter but it ultimately fell short of expectations due to one reason: a USB 2.0 connection.
Now before we go on, there’s bit of house cleaning that needs to happen. To be perfectly transparent, D-Link has released a new revision of the DWA-182 in so-called C1 guise that adds USB 3.0 for increased adapter to host bandwidth, nullifying many the concerns expressed in this conclusion. However, older “A-edition” adapters are still on sale and, as we have confirmed with retailers, they may be mixed into stocks of the newer version. Not only is this concerning but it also means you’ll have to check your purchase carefully since the product number hasn’t changed alongside the connectivity upgrade.
The main issue with the DWA-182 sample we received is that USB 2.0 interface which tends to stifle the internal hardware’s true potential. This bottleneck leads to performance that’s substantially slower than solutions which are only $10 more expensive. Sure, Wireless N speeds were acceptable but you’ll be buying this adapter for AC bandwidth which simply isn’t achievable in its USB 2.0 guise.