D-Link DAP-1650 Wireless AC1200 Range Extender Review

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The D-Link DIR-880L isn’t as discrete as other routers when it comes to form factor. It has three long antennas sticking out the top to boost signaling and a big body that won’t easily be tucked away in the corner. Despite its size, it provided plenty of ventilation to keep it running smoothly.

There are few areas of consumer technology more overflowing with confusing jargon and traditionally complicated setup processes, than wireless networking. If you’re in the market for a new router, or you’re looking to improve the network setup you already have, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by terms like 802.11ac, 2.4 and 5GHz, multiple streams, beam forming, etc. If you’re not clear on what all the terms mean, it’s easy to get the wrong device for what you’re looking to do, or pick up a higher-end device that’s more than what you need.

While in general, a costly high-end router will let you accomplish most desired wireless tasks; in many cases it won’t make your Internet any faster, especially if your current router was purchased in the last few years. High-end routers are best suited to serious gamers, those who have several people accessing the Internet at the same time, or those who frequently stream locally stored HD video files between devices on the same network.

The $99 D-Link DAP-1650 Wireless AC1200 Dual Band Gigabit Range Extender is a mouthful of confusing terms. But once you cut through the terms (which I’ll attempt to do below), it’s a great device for improving your existing wireless network without having to ditch your existing router. And if you have a tablet or smartphone and you use the free QRS Mobile app (available for Android or iOS) for setup, it’s also incredibly easy to get started.

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What it does

Essentially, the DAP-1650 can function in one of three modes. In Access Point or AP Mode, if you plug an Ethernet cable into one of the four Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back of the device’s cylindrical shell, it creates a new WiFi network, giving you a strong wireless signal in an area that might be far away from your main router.

If you don’t have an Ethernet connection handy in the area where you want to boost your WiFi signal, you can run the device in Repeater Mode. In this mode, the DAP-1650 will pick up the WiFi signal from your other router, and rebroadcast it as a separate network. This can extend the range of your existing WiFi to a much greater area, but if the D-Link device and your main router are far apart, or the connection between the two isn’t strong, the speed of the new extended network will suffer. A general rule if you’re going to use this mode would be to place the DAP-1650 roughly halfway between where your main router is and the spot where you want to boost your WiFi. Once you’ve set it up this way, you can try unplugging it and moving it further from your router. But remember, if the signal between the two doesn’t remain fairly strong, your new connectivity will likely be slow and less reliable.

Lastly, the DAP-1650 can function in Wireless Bridge Mode, which lets devices that have a wired Ethernet connection but no WiFi connectivity connect to your network. This is likely the least-common use case for this device, but it can be handy for connecting an old desktop or a gaming console that lacks WiFi to the Internet, without having to string an Ethernet cable from another room.

Like many mid-range and up wireless devices these days, the DAP-1650 operates both on the traditional 2.4GHz band, as well as the 5GHz band (hence the dual). If you live in an urban area or your home is loaded with electronics (or both), the 2.4GHz band can be crowded with interference from other devices, which can degrade performance.

The 5GHz band is generally much less cluttered with competing signals, so you’ll get less interference. 5GHz is also the band that the new 802.11ac standard (which supplants the previous-generation 802.11n) operates on. So you’ll generally see faster transfers on 5GHz, but that is dependent on your Internet speeds, unless you’re transferring locally stored files on your network.

The newer 5GHz band, though, generally has somewhat shorter range. So it’s not ideal in every situation. Plus, you’ll need a relatively recent device that supports 802.11ac in order to access the 5GHz band.

Application Setup

You can configure the D-Link DAP-1650 with a computer, by plugging it in to your router via the included Ethernet cable, then typing in the device’s IP address, just as you would with other routers and network devices in the past. But it’s much simpler to grab the D-Link QRS Mobile app from Google Play or the iOS app store, and set it up with a mobile device. I did this on my Android smartphone and configured the device without having to use my desktop or a Web browser.

Once I installed the free app and plugged in the router, I launched the app, and it told me I needed to connect to the device’s WiFi network. Jumping into the WiFi settings on my phone, I selected the network called “dlink-4GB4.” I was then asked to enter the default password. This is found on the bottom of the device, and once I entered it, the app greeted me with an easy-to-understand Welcome screen, outlining the six-step setup process. Six steps might sound like a lot, but it basically involves choosing your mode, naming your network, setting a new password and, if you choose, registering your device and setting up notifications for new firmware. The whole process took me less than 5 minutes.

From the modes that I outlined above, I chose Repeater Mode, and the app did a nice job explaining exactly what this mode does. You’ll need to provide the password for your existing wireless network, then name your new network and choose a password for it. When you save your settings, the device will reboot, which takes a couple minutes, and your new network should be up and running, ready for devices to be connected to it.

It’s worth noting that the iOS app has poor reviews, with many people claiming it doesn’t work. And the Android app reviews are average overall. But with my Galaxy Note 4 and this device, I had no problems whatsoever with the app. It worked as advertised with zero issues or crashes through two setups and subsequent tweaking. As always, your experience may be different from mine. But as someone who has set up dozens of network devices over the past 20 years, I can’t think of a single device that was easier to set up and install. To be fair, though, many recent devices are much easier to configure than those from just a few years ago. D-Link definitely isn’t alone in streamlining the network setup process.

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D-Link DAP-1650 Wireless AC1200 Range Extender
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Matt Safford

Matt Safford spends his days testing gadgets and writing about technology. He has written for Popular Science, Smithsonian, Consumer Reports, and Wired.

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1 Comment

  • Karalea January 14, 2016 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    Everyone loves what you guys are up too. Such clever work and coverage!
    Keep up the good works guys I’ve added you guys to my blogroll.

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