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D-Link EXO DAP-1820 Smart mesh extender is a great black spot choice
5.0Overall Score
Name: D-Link EXO routers and range extenders
Price (RRP): $249.95/399.95
Manufacturer: D-Link

This is a story about how the D-Link EXO DAP-1820 Smart mesh extender cured Wi-Fi black spots in a typical modern single level home where any Wi-Fi simply does not work for oh, so many reasons.

We hoped that one or more D-Link EXO DAP-1820 Smart mesh extenders would cure Wi-Fi black spots. And it did with aplomb. But it did not do it in the way a typical mesh extender works. It did it even better once we added Ethernet backhaul. Let me explain.

A long story short, my daughter bought a home that is part of a duplex style development, and it is long and thin – about 30 metres long by 10 metres wide = 300m2 in all. Walls are cement block that stops Wi-Fi signal dead and getting a signal past the laundry/bathrooms etc. to the Master bed is impossible.

And as it typical the termination point for NBN (or in this case its still VDSL2 as it is part of the development) is at the front corner of the home (Master Bed) with an extension RJ11 phone point in the living room at the very back of the home (see the red dots below).

D-Link EXO DAP-1820

To complicate matters the TG-789 VDSL2 router supplied was in no way suitable for 300m2 coverage. It was in the Living area (or it could have been in the Master Bed).

Antenna – I see none!

This Wi-Fi router is dual Band router and rates 1-star in most reviews. It is fine as a gateway, to support phone and as a four-port Ethernet switch but atrocious as a Wi-Fi device. Using a Wi-Fi signal strength meter, it was -60/65dBm (fair) in the living room.

The 2.4/5Ghz signal dropped to -85/-115dBm (unusable) at the dining area. Effective coverage was about 50m2 – this reflects low cost and poor antenna design.

In reality, this modem was incapable of Wi-Fi coverage past the kitchen and courtyard, leaving over half the house in a black spot.

D-Link kindly loaned us some of its kit to experiment

  • EXO DIR-3060 EXO Wi-Fi 5 AC3000 router (Website here) $399.95
  • EXO DAP-1820 EXO Wi-Fi 5 AC2000 Smart Mesh Wi-Fi Range Extender (Website here) $249.95 each
  • Powerline AV2 adapters DHP-P701AV Ethernet-over-Power 2000Gbps (1Gbps full-duplex) (Website here) $269.95 (pair)

We also took a NETGEAR AX8/RAX80 AX6000 router (review here) and EAX80 Wi-Fi Range Extender (review here) to see if raw Wi-Fi 6 horsepower by itself would cure the issues. Spoiler alert – it did not.

Issue 1 – The TG-798 router was hardcoded to iiNet VDSL2, so that precluded removing it. We could only connect a router/range extender via Ethernet or Wi-Fi.

Test 1 – Wi-Fi 6 – the biggest hammer

We set up the NETGEAR AX8 linked to the TG-789 gateway. The far better antenna design gave strong 2.4/5Ghz coverage (-20/30dBm) to the Living, Dining, Bed 2, Bed 3 and Study. But both bands were non-existent in the Master Bed.

NETGEAR AT CES 2020
L-R – NETGEAR EAX80 RANGE EXTENDER, AX80 ROUTER, MESH AX6 EXTENDERS AND ORBI WI-FI 6 MESH ROUTERS

We then used the EAX80 Mesh Extender in the bedroom, but it could not get a strong enough signal on any band to retransmit. We could have used a set of Powerline adapters to supply Ethernet-over-Power, but the EAX80 can only have a single sign-on if it meshes via Wi-Fi. Otherwise, if using an Ethernet backhaul, it is an access point with a separate SSID sign-on.

Note: NETGEAR is working on the firmware to enable a single SSID over Ethernet, so this would be the choice for Wi-Fi 6 AX networking which is overkill for a single level, 2-person home!

Test 2 – D-Link DIR-3060 EXO Wi-Fi 5 AC3000 Router and EXO DAP-1820 Wi-Fi 5 AC2200 mesh extenders

We set up the D-Link DIR-3060 router linked to the TG-789 gateway. Like the NETGEAR AX8, the far superior antenna design gave similar strong coverage to the same area. The router is interesting as it has in-built McAfee protection for five years and end-point protection for two years – we will cover that later.

D-LINK EXO DIR-3060
This is antenna!

D-Link EXO DIR-3060 EXO Specs

  • AC3000 is 2.4Ghz band 1 (400Mbps), 5GHz band 2 (866) and band 3 (1733) suited to Tri-band mesh use
  • Wave 2 x 2 MU-MIMO and QoS
  • Six antennae for maximum coverage (2.4/5Ghz 100/30 meters line-of-sight)
  • Gigabit Ethernet WAN port for NBN (FTTP/C/HFC/Fixed Wireless/Satellite)
  • Four-port gigabit full-duplex Ethernet switch
  • USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports
  • D-Fend McAfee smart home protection
  • Compatible with D-Link EXO products as well as many other mesh and access points

D-Link Exo DAP-1820 mesh extender

We placed a DAP-1820 mesh extender in the Master bedroom, and as expected, it was unable to get a strong enough signal to retransmit. So, we used a pair of DHP-701AV Ethernet plugs to get an Ethernet point there.