D-Link COVR-X1873 Review: Fast and capable mesh networking
Quick verdict: D-Link’s COVR-X1873 provides superb mesh networking coverage for even the trickiest home or office spots, although it might be overkill for some users.
- Good wide coverage even in tricky spots
- Four gigabit ports per node
- Choice of app or browser installed
- NBN ready for direct FTTP/HFC connectivity
- Additional node setup is confusing
- Large nodes aren’t great for some décor
- Lots of ethernet ports that you might not need
Mesh networking systems can make getting Wi-Fi around your home or office a lot easier, especially if you've got a larger area to cover with known Wi-Fi "dead spots". There's a lot of choice in the mesh network space right now.
Over the past couple of years, D-Link has released a number of pretty good, but not spectacular mesh systems. They've certainly worked, and they've been price competitive, but they've always fallen short of the best in market options at the time they hit the market.
The D-Link COVR-X1873 changes that, offering a very flexible system that works well and provides great wireless coverage in our test environment. That should translate into a system that can cover your mesh needs almost no matter what, given how brutally we test mesh networking equipment.
- Large white tower nodes
- Not easy to hide around the house
- Four gigabit ethernet ports per node
Like any other mesh networking system, the D-Link COVR-X1873 works from a number of node devices that you either connect up to your existing NBN modem or modem/router, or in some connection cases, directly to your NBN endpoint.
The model supplied for review was the default 3-node set, although it does also retail as a two-node set, or as individual nodes to add to an existing mesh network system. That last digit refers to the number of nodes in the box, which is why it's the D-Link COVR-X1873, comprised of three D-Link COVR-X1870 nodes.
Each of the COVR-X1873 nodes is a large white, relatively featureless tower style node. That's likely to be better for overall mesh reception, raising the antennae within the node, but it does make them a little trickier to seamlessly meld into your home décor. Unlike flatter and more subtle nodes, it's harder to hide a D-Link COVR-X1873 node behind a pot plant, because it's taller and less subtle.
That size does buy you an additional advantage, however, because aside from potential transmission benefits, you also get a hefty four gigabit ethernet ports per node, plus the incoming WAN port for your actual Internet connection.
That makes the D-Link COVR-X1873 a good choice not only for tech-heavy homes – I'm definitely in that bracket – but also for smaller offices where a mix of wireless and wired connections is highly desirable. Given that many consumer-grade mesh network systems typically only include a single additional ethernet port, it's a great inclusion.
- App or browser-based install
- Can be confusing configuring additional nodes
- Can work directly with FTTP/HFC NBN
Mesh networks are meant to make your wireless life easy, and that should extend to getting them setup and running. Like many other mesh systems, the default way you're meant to set up the D-Link COVR-X1873 is via a downloadable app, although if you do want or need to dive into the nuts and bolts of the experience you can do via any web browser.
I ended up using both approaches; while I'm au fait enough with basic wireless networking setup to handle the browser approach, I figure most consumers will opt to let the app set up their new D-Link COVR-X1873 system for them.
The app does mostly keep things simple, running through basics like getting power and internet connectivity running via the WAN point on the first node you choose. That's where it gets just a tad trickier.
While some systems sell with a distinct "master" mesh node, the D-Link COVR-X1873 doesn't think that way. Any node will do as that primary master node, but once you've got that set up, you're encouraged to use the provided ethernet cables to hook up additional nodes so that they can be configured with minimal fuss. All good so far, and I hooked in the first node. It completed, told me to unplug the secondary node… and then told me to plug it in again to set it up again!
What it's actually doing is looking for that third node, but it's not very well explained at all. Given that the node setup takes a few minutes while it pings data to and from each node, this could be far better handled in terms of the diagrams and information provided within the app. I switched over to the browser based setup, where the layout diagrams for each node made it far more apparent. Once you've actually configured each node, you can set them up according to your coverage needs.
If you're on an NBN connection using FTTP/FTTC/HFC, you can (or should be able to, ISP willing) be able to use the D-Link COVR-X1873 directly from your NBN connection without needing an intermediary modem or modem-router.
I tested with an HFC connection for review purposes, and one nice feature of the setup routine here is that the Australian models are pre-configured with the majority of current NBN ISP settings preconfigured. All I had to do was select the ISP I was using, and the setup routine set its parameters accordingly. Bear in mind if you are going down this route, you may need to allow some time for your prior modem to be removed from your ISPs NBN routing setup – or request it before you start.
- Wi-Fi 6 capable
- Good signal propagation
- Best in breed throughput, even in bad coverage areas
At a technical level, the D-Link COVR-X1873 is an 802.11ax/ac/n/g/b capable router, AKA "Wi-Fi 6", with data rates up to 574Mbps on 2.4GHz connections and 1201Mbps for 5Ghz connections. If you're lucky enough to be in an area where NBN Home Ultrafast (up to 1Gbps) is available, that should make the D-Link COVR-X1873 a good match for your needs.
That depends of course on how good it actually is at throwing Wi-Fi signal around, and in maintaining connectivity for your actual online usage. To test that, I ran the same tests as we've used for every mesh system we've reviewed here at Finder.
My suburban Sydney home is moderately large, but the reason we use it for wireless testing is because my home office sits in an extension to the original property. Between the office and the rest of the house lies an effectively hidden brick wall that was originally the external wall of the house, and its construction is amazingly good at killing Wi-Fi signals. If I listen carefully, I could swear I've heard routers weep when they realise they have to try to push signal through it.
As such, I test for both signal throughput and actual download capacity with each mesh system using three locations. Firstly a near spot, more or less adjacent to the master router node. Then a mid-range spot in a bedroom a couple of rooms away. Finally, a far point in my home office, where ordinary Wi-Fi signals fear to tread.
First of all, a basic RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator) test, using an Apple MacBook Pro M1. Here we look for lower numbers to show signal propagation across the network. Here's how the D-Link COVR-X1873 compared:
That mid-range figure isn't entirely unexpected – wireless signals can be quite variable – but that far figure is pretty amazing given how bad signals in that area typically are, even with mesh systems being used.
RSSI is a good indicator, but for most folks the reason to buy a mesh system is to ensure that your home NBN connection can reach those tricky spaces in your home or office. To test that, I used Finder's Speed Test with an Aussie Broadband NBN 250/20 HFC NBN connection.
To get a baseline, I first connected directly via gigabit Ethernet to assess the current line speed on my connection, which sat at 271/24. Yes, that's higher than the stated capacity, which happens from time to time on any variable network. You'd rather have more than less, right?
Then Finder's Speed Test was run a dozen times in each location to get an average for download, upload and ping. Because our mesh tests cover a range of NBN speeds (and older Telstra HFC speeds), I've converted to a percentage of the available line speed, rather than absolute figures. Here's how the D-Link COVR-X1873 compared:
The D-Link COVR-X1873 performed superbly in the near and mid-range tests, and was only slightly pipped in pure percentage terms by Linksys' Velop mesh router. However, that's a figure based off an older NBN 100 connection, not the current NBN 250 connection, where the Linksys reported a throughput of just 42.8Mbps. The D-Link COVR-X1873 managed 112.9Mbps in the same test. To balance those out, I dug out the Linksys and ran it through the same test on the 272/24 connection, where it maxed out at 90Mbps down.
Or in other words, we have a new throughput speed king, and by a pretty decent margin. Combine that with the flexibility of having four gigabit Ethernet ports to further share out to laptops, desktops, printers or anything else that might want a direct wired connection, and you're looking at an exceptional mesh system.
Should you buy the D-Link COVR-X1873?
- Buy it if:you want best-in-class mesh performance.
- Don't buy it if:you don't need the extra gigabit ethernet ports or want something smaller
The D-Link COVR-X1873 shows just how far D-Link has come in delivering top-quality mesh systems. While in prior years its consumer mesh networking products have trailled behind the likes of Linksys, Google Nest or Amazon Eero, with the D-Link COVR-X1873, it takes a commanding position.
Mesh networking still isn't cheap, however, and the D-Link COVR-X1873 might be overkill if you only need a little signal boosting, or if you don't have a particular need for all those extra gigabit ethernet ports.
Pricing and availability
PriceThe D-Link COVR-X1873 retails in Australia for $549.95. The 2-pack version, the D-Link COVR-X1872 costs $399.95, and additional single D-Link COVR-X1870 nodes will cost you $249.95.
Where to buy
Images: Alex Kidman