D-Link Covr Review (Page 2 of 5)

Page 2 - Physical Look - Hardware

As I have mentioned in the introduction of this review, unlike the Linksys Velop and TP-Link Deco M5, the main unit of the D-Link Covr is a full size, full featured, and full power Wi-Fi router. It even has its own part number, designated as the COVR-2600R. By full size, it measures in at 287.21mm in width, 205.86mm in depth, and 52.62mm in height with no antenna installed -- certainly not compact by any standard. It tips the scales at 1.82lbs.

The COVR-2600R lays flat on your desk rather than aligned vertically to save space like many modern routers. It is equipped with four dual band detachable antennas for some epic multi-user multiple-input and multiple-output wireless communication. As you can see in our photo above, the top is separated into two design sections; about two-thirds of it has a matte black finish, while the other remaining area has a pattern of 3D printed hexagons. D-Link's logo is boldly embossed in silver in the middle, and an array of five green LEDs indicate the COVR-2600E's power, internet, 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and USB statuses. The LEDs are all labeled by a corresponding icon to show you what they do. A USB 3.0 port is located in front of the router. Inside, the router is powered by a Qualcomm IPQ8065 quad-core network processor that works with 256MB RAM and 128MB flash memory. Qualcomm's IPQ8065 packages a 1.7GHz dual core CPU for control plane and applications and a second dual-core 800MHz CPU to accelerate packet processing

Turning the D-Link COVR-2600E around, we can take a closer look at the four dual band antennas attached to the router along with a generous array of ports and switches. These include a 12V DC power input, power button, one Gigabit uplink port, four Gigabit Ethernet ports, Wi-Fi Protected Setup button, one USB 3.0 port, reset button, and a Wi-Fi on/off button.

Why four antennas, you may ask? The use of multiple antennas for communications has been the foundation of many modern wireless technologies; ranging from short range unlicensed bands such as Wi-Fi to long range licensed bands like LTE cell phone networks. The fundamental principle lies in the fact that multiple antennas allow the designer to enhance performance using beamforming and diversity techniques. Beamforming, in the simplest explanation, allows power to be directed towards a certain direction. Diversity exploits multipath -- where the same signal can arrive via different paths due to reflection and refraction in the propagation channel -- to enhance the received signal quality. Multi-user MIMO, otherwise called MU-MIMO, lets multiple antennas from multiple users to communicate with multiple antennas on base station. Obviously, the more antennas on the access point the better, but we are bound by the laws of diminishing returns.

As its part number suggests, the D-Link COVR-2600E is advertised as an AC2600 router. This means it operates at 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz band via one 40MHz channel with four streams, while an 80MHz channel on the 5GHz band provides 1733Mbps for a total of 2533Mbps theoretical throughput. We will evaluate the performance of this router in just a moment.

Ventilation openings can be seen at the bottom of the D-Link COVR-2600E. Four integrated plastic feet with rubber bottoms provide about half a centimeter of additional clearance between the router and your table. Two mounting holes in the middle lets you wall-mount your router should you prefer that; this is a great option in my opinion. Meanwhile, a label at the bottom shows information like the serial number, default SSID, and Wi-Fi password. Of course, you are free to change your wireless network name and encryption key in the web configuration interface, but this will get you going right off the bat if you are the type to stick with default settings.

The D-Link Covr mesh Wi-Fi system comes with one extender, which also has its own part number, designated as the COVR-1300E. Although D-Link's promotional material shows the COVR-2600R main unit can be paired with one or two extenders, I could not find a place where you can buy a COVR-1300E on its own at press time. This seems strange to me, considering the idea of a mesh network is to allow additional nodes to be deployed in places where wireless coverage is poor and need a signal boost. For example, Linksys' Velop can be configured with as many nodes as you want, and you can purchase as many or as little as you want at a time. That said, the Covr router and extender already comes pre-paired out of the box, which will save you a lot of headache in messing around with the app on your phone during setup later on.

As you can see in our photo above, the D-Link COVR-1300E is much more compact than the COVR-2600R. At 134mm by 134mm by 32.6mm, it is a fraction of the size of the router. It is also a fraction of the weight at 0.71lbs. The unit itself is nothing fancy either -- the photo above tells you the whole story. It is just a matte black box with rounded corners and D-Link's logo embossed in silver at the top with five green LEDs along the bottom. The array of five LEDs is used to indicate the COVR-1300R's power status, 2.4GHz uplink, 5GHz uplink, 2.4GHz downlink, and 5GHz downlink strength. The LEDs are all labeled by a corresponding icon to show you what they do. A Wi-Fi Protected Setup button can be found on the left. Two antennas are integrated inside the extender to communicate with both the router via a wireless backhaul and any connected devices. I am surprised there are only two antennas inside to handle both front end traffic and wireless backhaul, which can severely limit performance, especially if there are more connected users. For comparison, the Linksys Velop has six internal antennas for each node with two dedicated for the wireless backhaul.

Rotating and flipping the D-Link Covr extender around, three of the four sides are ventilated to ensure its Qualcomm IPQ4018 717MHz quad core processor, 256MB RAM, 128MB flash memory, and all the associated electronics stay thermally stable. The COVR-1300E is an AC1300 wireless access point, as its name suggests. This means it operates at 400Mbps on the 2.4GHz band via one 40MHz channel with two streams, while an 80MHz channel with two streams on the 5GHz band provides 867Mbps for a total of 1300Mbps theoretical throughput.

At the back, there is a 12V DC power input, power button, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, Wi-Fi on/off button, and a reset button. These ports can be used to connect to wired devices to your main network. Word on the street is one of the Gigabit Ethernet ports can also be used to connect your extender to your router for a wired backhaul instead of a wireless backhaul for increased Wi-Fi performance. At the bottom, two integrated plastic feet with rubber bottoms provide about a quarter centimeter of additional clearance between the extender and your table. Two mounting holes in the middle lets you wall-mount your extender should you prefer that; just like the COVR-2600R.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Configuration and User Interface
4. Performance Tests
5. Conclusion