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Smart Connect

As noted earlier, D-Link doesn't say much about how Smart Connect works, so I didn't spend a lot of time testing it. I ran a quick check to see how it band-steered an assortment of dual-band devices. I gathered the devices, associated each one to the DIR-879 and started the IxChariot endpoint on each to ensure the devices wouldn't sleep. After confirming all were connected, the devices were moved to the hallway stairs outside my office, to knock signal levels down a bit.

I then power cycled the router, waited for everything to associate and noted the band assignments. Fortunately, D-Link made this chore easy, with all the information needed shown simply by clicking the Connected Clients icon on the Home page network map.

Connected Clients display with Smart Connect Enabled

Connected Clients display with Smart Connect Enabled

I repeated the process four times and entered the results into Table 3.

Device Type Network Map ID 1 2 3 4
Moto X smartphone 1x1 AC android-44c8469 5G 5G 5G 2.4G
Dell Venue 8 tablet 1x1 AC android-6757c99 2.4G 2.4G 2.4G 5G
Samsung Galaxy S 10.5 tablet 2x2 AC android-6a106b6 2.4G 2.4G 2.4G 2.4G
iPad 2nd gen 1x1 N SNB - iPad 2 5G 5G 5G 5G
iPod Touch 5th gen 1x1 N Tim-Touch-G5 5G 5G 5G 5G
Acer Aspire S7 2x2 N AcerAspireS7 5G 5G 5G 5G
Table 3: Smart Connect Test summary

Observations from these results:

  • All dual-band devices are not steered to 5 GHz
  • "Slower" 1x1 N devices are not steered to 2.4 GHz
  • "Faster" 2x2 AC device is not steered to 5 GHz

Since all devices were getting strong signals, link rates were at or near their maximums. So the Smart Connect algorithm should not have had much problem determining fast and slow devices. With the assignment above, it's unlikely the router would achieve best total bandwidth utilization, with low link rate 1x1 N devices assigned to 5 GHz and the only 2x2 AC device assigned to 2.4.

Closing Thoughts

AC1900 class routers have definitely matured as a class and prices have come down enough that the DIR-879 isn't the bargain it was intended to be when it was introduced only five short months ago. For about the same or less, you can buy a Linksys EA6900, TP-LINK Archer C9 or even a D-Link DIR-880L, all of which support USB storage and printer sharing. Even USB support doesn't float your boat, there is no reason to recommend the DIR-879 over these or the top-rated (but more expensive) NETGEAR R7000 or ASUS RT-AC68U.

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