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Wireless Reviews

AC1900 EXO Wi-Fi Router
At a glance
ProductD-Link AC1900 EXO Wi-Fi Router (DIR-879)   [Website]
SummaryAC1900 class wireless router with Gigabit Ethernet ports. Supports "Smart Connect" band steering
Pros• High routing throughput
Cons• Not that much cheaper than other AC1900 routers
• No USB storage features

Typical Price: $63  Buy From Amazon

Introduction

AC1900 class routers have become the product of choice for folks who think spending $300+ on a router is, uh, nuts. This class is well down the price curve at this point, with many models retailing for $100 or less and some even pretty decent performers. So when D-Link introduced its lower-priced EXO routers at CES 2016, you have to wonder what problem they were trying to solve.

Product positioning aside, the DIR-879 is styled to remind you of D-Link's much higher-end fire engine red Ultra series introduced at CES 2015. But the EXOs have simpler styling, with four permanently attached antennas that swing out into a fixed position and can't be rotated.

Ventilation slots are somewhat sparse, moreso on the bottom than top. There are two mounting screw slots that point the back connector panel toward the floor. You'll need to use long screws when mounting or remove the four tall bottom rubber feet.

In keeping with its low-cost theme, there is only one LED on the router front edge that uses color and on / off / blink to indicate all status. The Gigabit Ethernet ports have no link or activity indicators, which I know annoys my colleague Craig. There are no USB ports either, so no storage or printer sharing.

DIR-879 callouts

DIR-879 callouts

Inside

Key to the DIR-879's lower cost is its Realtek-based design, which has an little twist. While AC1900 routers usually have three antennas to match their three stream designs, the 879 has four, which are all dual-band.

DIR-879 inside

DIR-879 inside

This makes the 879 the only other four-antenna AC1900 class router besides Linksys' Marvell-based WRT1900AC and WRT1900ACS. But the 879's difference is that the fourth antenna comes into play only for receive to improve sensitivity; there are no components loaded on the board to complete the fourth transmit chain.

DIR-879 board bottom

DIR-879 board bottom

Table 1 compares the 879 with D-Link's Broadcom-based AC1900 class DIR-880L that is its direct competition if you're partial to D-Link routers. The 880L was D-Link's first AC1900 router that came to market rather late, using a first-generation BCM4708A processor.

  D-Link D-Link DIR-880L
CPU Realtek RTL8198C dual core RISC SoC @ 1 GHz Broadcom BCM4708A
Switch In RTL8198C In BCM4708A
RAM 128 MB 256 MB
Flash 128 MB 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - Realtek RTL8194AR 4x4 3 stream 2.4 GHz SoC
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz power amp (x3)
- Skyworks SKY85201-11 2.4 GHz SPDT switch w/ LNA (x4)
- Broadcom BCM4360
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz Power Amp (x3)
5 GHz radio - Realtek RTL8814AR 4x4 3 stream 5 GHz SoC
- Skyworks SKY85405 5 GHz power amp (x3)
- Skyworks SKY85606-11 5 GHz SPDT switch w/ LNA (x4)
- Broadcom BCM4360
- Skyworks SE5003L1 5 GHz Power Amp (x3)
Table 1: Component summary

Features

The 879 has D-Link's new admin interface described in detail in the DIR-880L review. There is no on-line emulator.

D-Link DIR-879 Home page

D-Link DIR-879 Home page

Here's a feature rundown, mostly extracted from browsing through the admin GUI.

Routing

  • DHCP, Static, PPPoE, PPTP, L2TP, DS-Lite WAN connection types
  • MTU adjust for all connection types
  • Router / Extender modes (hardware switch)
  • DHCP server with lease time setting and broadcast controls.
  • WAN port speed setting (Auto, 1000, 100, 10 Mbps)
  • Built-in dynamic DNS client for dlinkddns.com and dyndns.com free and custom services
  • 24 each IPv4 and IPv6 static routes
  • DMZ host
  • IPv4 SPI firewall enable, anti-spoof checking, IPv6 Simple Security, IPv6 Ingress filtering
  • Multicast stream enables for IPv4 and IPv6
  • IPv6 support (auto-detect, static, link-local, autoconfiguration (SLAAC/DHCPv6), PPPoE, IPv6 over IPv4 tunnel, 6to4, 6rd)
  • PPTP, IPsec, RTSP, SIP ALG disables
  • 24 each schedulable single port and port range forwarding. (Can set source and destination ports on single ports [virtual servers])
  • 24 each IPv4 / IPv6 schedulable allow/deny inbound/outbound port filtering by IP address
  • 24 domain-based allow / deny (global) Web access filters
  • Three level priority based QoS

Administration

  • Syslog support
  • Email alerts and log send
  • Login CAPTCHA (default disabled)
  • Save / restore settings
  • Reset to defaults
  • Reboot
  • Firmware update check (not automatic) and update via browser or downloaded file
  • Remote management enable w/ admin port setting
  • HTTPS administration, both local and remote
  • Graphical traffic statistics for Internet, LAN and 2.4 and 5 GHz

I mentioned earlier there is no USB port, so there is no file or printer sharing, media serving or download manager. There is also no built-in VPN server, something the DIR-880L has, but that I failed to get working. Other features you may wish you had include:

  • DHCP reservations
  • Triggered port forwarding
  • IPv6 port forwarding
  • Useful online help
  • Logs in browser
  • Parental controls (web filtering)
  • Traffic monitoring, limit alerts
  • Bridged router mode
  • UPnP disable or other controls

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