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Wireless Reviews

Wi-Fi AC750 Dual Band Range Extender
At a glanceAC750 Wireless Extender Performance
June 2015
ProductD-Link Wi-Fi AC750 Dual Band Range Extender (DAP-1520)   [Website]
SummaryMediatek-based AC750 class wireless extender with no Ethernet port.
Pros• IPv6 support
• Connects to extended device on only one band at a time
Cons• No Ethernet port, so no bridge or AP feature
• Connects to extended device on only one band at a time
• No channel or bandwidth controls for extended wireless

Typical Price: $14  Buy From Amazon

Introduction

I was originally going to review D-Link's take on an AC750 wireless extender with the NETGEAR EX6100 reviewed a few weeks ago. But I ran into some oddities that didn't give me the warm fuzzies about the DAP-1520, so set it aside and reviewed the NETGEAR by itself. It turns out that it's good that I did, because D-Link issued new firmware in the interim that seemed to improve performance a bit. So, fresh from a new test session that cleared things up a bit, here's my review.

The DAP-1520 Wi-Fi AC750 Dual Band Range Extender is D-Link's take on a relatively inexpensive simultaneous dual-band range extender supporting maximum link rates of 300 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz band and 433 Mbps in 5 GHz. Like the NETGEAR, the DAP-1520 comes in a wall-wart form-factor with power supply built in.

Unlike the NETGEAR, the D-Link is smaller, lacks external antennas and, most notably, an Ethernet port. This means the DAP-1520 can't be used as an access point, nor can it be used as a wireless bridge.

Like the EX6100, the DAP-1520 retransmits traffic from the base router it is linked to simultaneously on both 2.4 and 5 GHz. But it connects to the main router on only one band at a time. This "feature" wasn't immediately clear and isn't explicitly called out in any of its documentation. But after a few go-arounds with the Setup Wizard and Admin GUI, the light bulb slowly came on.

The good news about this method is that it should provide the equivalent of NETGEAR's "FastLane" feature. FastLane uses one radio as the "backhaul" (connection) to the router or AP being extended, while the other is used to connect clients. This avoids the 50% retransmission throughput penalty imposed by the basic wireless extension process. You'll avoid the throughput hit, however, only when your client is using the band that is not being used as backhaul.

The possible downside of D-Link's approach is that if you truly want WLAN extension in both bands simultaneously, your throughput could be contrained by the single "pipe" connecting back to your base router. On the other hand, if each radio operated as an independent extender, you would get a 50% throughput reduction with no alternative. There is no perfect solution in the universe of wireless extenders...

The callout diagram below shows a minimalistic approach to controls and indicators, i.e. a lone Power / Status LED and only WPS and recessed reset buttons.

DAP-1520 callouts

DAP-1520 callouts

That single LED tells you only whether you are connected or not, so is only a rough guide for proper placement. If you want any more help than that, you'll have to read the User Manual, where you'll find the advice shown below.

Installation Tips

Installation Tips

Inside

For two products that have such different feature sets, the DAP-1520 and EX6100 are very similar in components used. Table 1 shows a MediaTek / Realtek design centered around MediaTek's MT7620A wireless SoC that provides the CPU and 2.4 GHz radio. A MediaTek MT7610EN 1x1 11ac radio handles the 5 GHz side. The main difference is the D-Link's use of a Skyworks SKY85703 5 GHz WLAN Front End vs. the more common Skyworks SE5003L1 5 GHz power amp in the NETGEAR.

  DAP-1520 NETGEAR EX6100
CPU MediaTek MT7620A WiSoC MediaTek MT7620A WiSoC
Switch N/A Realtek RTL8211E Gigabit Ethernet Transceiver
RAM 64 MB Winbond W9751G6KB DDR2 64 MB Winbond W9751G6KB DDR2
Flash 8 MB Macronix MC25L6406 8 MB Macronix MC25L6406
2.4 GHz Radio In MT7620A In MT7620A
5 GHz radio - MediaTek MT7610EN 1x1 11ac radio
- Skyworks SKY85703 5 GHz WLAN Front End (x1)
- MediaTek MT7610EN 1x1 11ac radio
- Skyworks SE5003L1 5 GHz power amp (x1)
Table 1: D-Link DAP-1520 key components

Both sides of the DAP-1520's main board are shown in the composite photo below. Heat spreaders on both the MT7620A and MT7610EN were removed in the photos.

D-Link DAP-1520 main board top and bottom

D-Link DAP-1520 main board top and bottom

The inside photo below shows a lack of RF shielding and heat spreader found in the EX6100. Even with the lack of extra heat sinking, the DAP-1520 ran only warm to the touch.

D-Link DAP-1520 inside

D-Link DAP-1520 inside

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