When we think of Wi-Fi 6 networking equipment, we tend to associate it with high-end, high-end products. Since the standard has been out for a while, it’s refreshing to see Wi-Fi 6 now coming to some cheaper, budget-minded devices. Not everyone has or wants to spend hundreds on their router. To that end, today we are reviewing the D-Link EXO AX AX1800 (DIR-X1870) router. Selling for around $99 on Amazon and packing Wi-Fi 6, we were more than a passing curiosity to see just how much performance and features it gives up to its more expensive competition.
Design of the D-Link EXO AX AX1800 (DIR-X1870) Wi-Fi 6 Router
Looking at the DIR-X1870, it’s immediately clear that style is not its selling point. This is a horizontal router, with a matte and glossy black plastic exterior. It has four antennas that can be placed. Overall, it’s not particularly attractive, but not really offensive either.
The top has some vents and four status LEDs: power, internet, 2.4GHz and 5GHz. For those who value simplicity and the basics, this is probably OK. But those who want something a little more sophisticated will likely be disappointed.
DIR-X1870 Router Specifications
The real news here is budget Wi-Fi 6. Ok, at this price we can’t expect anything spectacular (and we don’t get it), with a dual-band configuration. There is a single 2.4 GHz frequency with a maximum throughput of 600 Mbps and a 5 GHz frequency with a maximum throughput of 1200 Mbps; both MU-MIMO and Smart Connect are supported. There are no USB ports on this router, which is a bit surprising, but it does support a guest network.
Continuing the utilitarian theme, there are four Ethernet ports and a single WAN port on the back – they are all Gigabit. The hardware specs are pretty basic too, with 256MB of SDRAM, 128MB of flash memory, and a Broadcom 1.5GHz quad-core processor.
D-Link EXO AX AX1800 (DIR-X1870) Wi-Fi 6 Router Setup
Installation was quite easy for the DIR-X1870. We chose to get it going via the browser, but it can also be done via a smartphone app. The installation was mostly simple and comparable to most other routers. The standout aspect of the setup is that any configuration change required for this router takes 60 seconds to accept the change. For those who need to configure multiple settings, this adds significantly to the time it takes for your network to work the way they want.
The other annoyance revolves around the Smart Connect, a feature that allows a device to connect to a single SSID, after which the router has to decide whether the client connects to the 2.4GHz or 5GHz band. While some novice users may prefer this method, the problem is that we prefer manual control over which band we connect to. Not only did we have to disable Smart Connect, but we also had to rename the networks because both bands have the same SSID by default. This required an annoying solution, and it’s a range we haven’t encountered before on other routers we’ve tested.
Features of the D-Link EXO AX AX1800 (DIR-X1870) Wi-Fi 6 Router
Certainly, a distinguishing point among high-end routers, when compared to the budget models, is the feature set. Those looking for things like integrated WTFast and guidance to connect to the fastest game server should look for something more expensive.
The functional limitations of the D-Link DIR-X1870 are immediately apparent in the Quality of Service settings, which lack the detailed control of other equipment. As seen in the screenshot above and seen in other D-Link products before, you simply get a list of “connected clients” that can be broken down into three levels: Highest, High, and Medium – although technically there is a fourth level is from customers who are not identified as all and are given the lowest priority by default. There is also an integrated speed test, which successfully quantified the speed of our broadband connection at home.
Our concern when we see this kind of QoS per device is that there can be no QoS per traffic type especially for gaming or video streaming packets. That said, as you’ll soon see, game traffic was prioritized in our tests.
Other features include parental controls and a fast VPN that can run L2TP over IPSec. We also like the automatic firmware upgrade and that it can be done daily.
D-Link EXO AX AX1800 (DIR-X1870) Wi-Fi 6 Router Security
The DIR-X1870 router has an integrated firewall and it includes some security features such as enabling a DMZ and anti-spoof check. However, anything more advanced, and the DIR-X1870 misses the mark. There are no antivirus or other network-level security measures.
Performance of the D-Link EXO AX AX1800 (DIR-X1870) Wi-Fi 6 Router
|2.4GHz close up||2.4GHz version||5GHz close by||5 GHz version|
In our throughput testing, we found a mixed bag with our Wi-Fi 6 test notebook. While the Wi-Fi 6 helped the DIR-X1870 on the 5GHz near test with 698.7Mbps throughput, it quickly dropped to 145.1Mbps from 10 meters away. Also, the 2.4GHz was just slightly faster than a Wi-Fi 5 router we tested on the same setup, although the near test of 121.2Mbps and the far result of 98.3Mbps isn’t anything noteworthy.
|Test configuration||QoS||FRAPS gem||Max||8k Dropped Frames||Pingplotter spikes||Latency|
|Ethernet + 10 8k videos||new ones||69.1||118||45.80%||4||178|
|Ethernet + 10 8k videos||Yes||123.2||159||1.98%||1||168|
|5GHz + 10 8k videos||new ones||78.7||128||37.70%||2||89|
|5GHz + 10 8k videos||Yes||122.2||147||11.90%||1||86|
|2.4GHz + 10 8k videos||new ones||31.6||109||54.90%||10||123|
|2.4GHz + 10 8k videos||Yes||93||121||32.7||0||116|
The round of congestion testing also told an interesting story. Starting with the wired tests, without background congestion, the FPS on our test game, overwatch, gave us 127.2 FPS with no PingPlotter peaks (showing good traffic management), with 59ms in-game latency on our 300/35Mbps cable connection that would be fine even for serious gamers. But if we add up the congestion of ten 8k videos, with no device priority, we see that the frames have dropped by about half to 69.1 FPS, with a stuttering minimum frame rate of 4, plus the development of four PingPlotter peaks around the confirm further congestion.
Also, the video streaming had a reduced frame rate of 45.8%, which is pretty messy. And in-game latency rose to 178ms. Running the same test, but giving our gaming laptop the highest priority, showed that prioritization works, as the FPS returned to 123.2 FPS, the number of frames lost for the video streaming was less than 2%, and there was only a lone PingPlotter peak.
Running the same tests while connected to the 5 GHz frequency, the wired results mirrored, except for the higher video streaming frame rate, but lower in-game latency compared to the wired test results. Alternatively, in the 2.4 GHz tests when the congestion was turned on, we saw a significant drop in frame rate to 31.6 FPS. This only partially recovered when the gaming laptop was given the highest priority. The router was also overwhelmed here, as it developed 10 PingPlotter spikes and a high frame rate in video streaming.
Prices and conclusion
When we look at the price of the DIR-X1870, it starts to make sense, both for consumers and D-Link. Of course, the feature set is missing and the design is hardly a work of art. However, a lot can be forgiven when we consider that the street price is below $100, making it an even better deal than the $119 MSRP. This clearly puts this router in the budget category. And at this price, we consider this router good value – as long as you have the right expectations.
Its strengths include better-than-expected QoS for gaming when wired or at 5GHz, and Wi-Fi 6 support at an affordable price that rivals older Wi-Fi 5 gear. For those who overlook the lack of USB ports and minimal integrated network security, and the mediocre 2.4GHz performance (to say the least), the DIR-X1870 offers solid performance value for the dollar. But those who want granular controls and more throughput for gaming on a busy network should probably spend more on a router with better bandwidth and more features.