- Great value
- Excellent coverage from dual points
- Subtle good looks
- Easy to use
- Good connectivity
- EasyMesh still maturing
If you are anything like me, the quest for perfect Wi-Fi seems never-ending. Sure, internet technologies have progressed in leaps and bounds in a very short time, but there is always a point at which the latest technology falls short and it becomes extremely frustrating. Especially when you happen to be the household’s dedicated IT help guy (even though you have the IT training of a doorstop). If that sounds familiar to you, read on. The new D-Link COVR-1102 may be just what you are looking for.
A Brief History of the Internet
I love the internet, but it has always required compromise. My childhood dial-up connection required a substantial cable to be run across the house, from the single phone line to the computer. We could not use the phone and the internet at the same time! It was awesome, but boy were there some fights.
I have used cable internet, wireless dongles and pitiful ADSL connections. I have lived in houses with mysterious issues that wouldn’t allow for a landline connection at all. When the NBN was announced I thanked the telecommunications gods (although it hasn’t all been smooth sailing since then). When our chance to connect to the NBN arrived, I jumped at it as quickly as possible! AND IT IS GOOD! We have a middle-of-the-road NBN 50 plan and it well-and-truly covers our bandwidth requirements.
There is always a but. The modem/wireless router provided by our ISP just doesn’t provide the wireless coverage for our whole house. Here we are again, needing to compromise. We have fast internet, but we cannot use it in every corner of our house (frustratingly, the worst blackspot is in bed). We could change the router, but then we lose the phoneline (yes, we still use a landline) and 4G backup (which we need, because NBN).
The D-Link COVR-1102 Introduction
The D-Link COVR-1102 Seamless Mesh Wi-Fi System is one of the many mesh Wi-Fi systems that are becoming increasing popular amongst households that face the same frustrations as I do. And there is a good reason for the growing popularity. Mesh systems promise to deliver that fast internet goodness to every corner of the house. They are expandable and adaptable to meet the needs of any space.
The D-Link COVR-1102 is a bundle of two access points. The stated coverage of these two points is up to 325 square metres, although there are many factors that can impact on this in the real world. The beauty of this system is that it is easily expandable if the two points included in the box don’t quite cut it.
The COVR access points are discreet little units. They are small white cubes that blend into their surroundings rather than screaming “look at me!” They are surprisingly lightweight, which goes to show how quickly this type of technology improves, because their performance is anything but lightweight. The system is the epitome of simplicity, which I will cover in greater depth later, but as a novice home user I love. The single, small LED light on the top of the unit is unobtrusive, but clever enough to tell me everything I need to know.
Around the back, the minimalist design continues. There are two ports labelled “Internet” and “Ethernet”, the power inlet and an on/off button. On the bottom is a pinhole reset button, the default SSID and password, and a handy QR code for quick setup.
No Degree Required
Like most home users, I have no formal training in IT. I like using computers and the internet, but I don’t like spending hours troubleshooting problems and getting things to connect. One of the biggest frustrations for many consumers is networking gear that promises the world, but requires advanced technical knowledge to set up.
The D-Link COVR-1102 promises simple setup on the box and that theme is continued inside, where the only documentation to be found is a Quick Installation card and a warranty card. Users are instructed to download the app, then follow a series of easy steps to get the mesh system up and running. This process creates a new wireless network with the default name and password that can be found on the base of the unit. Obviously you will want to change that name to something humorous, and the password to something secure and memorable.
The two included access points come pre-paired. After one has been used to set up the new wireless network, just turn the other on and follow the prompts in the app.
The app is easy for the home user to navigate and understand. The options are relatively simple compared to some network interfaces that I have used in the past, but for the vast majority of us that is a good thing.
The options that are available are easy to understand and use. I always set up a guest network to separate my work devices from my interconnected home devices (Especially useful, now that we all work form home!), but guest networks are also handy for giving friends and visiting family internet access without giving away your passwords.
The other option that parents of older children will want to consider is parental control. This can be used to create profiles and restrict internet access for selected devices to selected times. Again, the controls are simple but useful.
D-Link EasyMesh (and not-so-easy Telstra Smartmodem Mesh)
The D-Link COVR system is EasyMesh certified. This, in theory, is fantastic! Especially for those of us who use the Telstra Smart Modem Gen 2, which is also (supposedly) EasyMesh certified. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance website, these two devices from different brands should be able to effortlessly connect and form a seamless wireless network at the push of a button.
The reality, however, is very different. While the Telstra modem did wirelessly connect to the D-Link COVR system, it constantly dropped the connection for short periods before reconnecting. This made the EasyMesh setup unusable and no matter what I did, I could not convince the two to play nicely. At this point it is worth recognising that the EasyMesh standard is still in its infancy and teething problems are to be expected. Hopefully future firmware updates to the Telstra Smart Modem Gen 2 improve this function and make it usable, because doing so would essentially create a third access point, which should be enough to envelop the vast majority of houses in sweet, sweet Wi-Fi coverage.
As it stands, the impact of this issue on my setup is actually quite minor (other than the fact that I had hoped to declutter my kitchen with one less device). The wireless network created by the D-Link COVR system is impressively strong and the two points provide reliable internet access to every corner of my townhouse. It even provides coverage in the basement garage. That is seriously impressive, given the vast slabs of concrete floor and wall that work to make signal penetration difficult.
Once I had finished setting up the D-Link COVR-1102 system, I began the extensive task of connecting all of my devices.
My Nokia 7.2 was already connected, as I had used it in the initial setup process. Next, I decided to use one of the ports on the back of the second COVR access point to make a wired connection with my PC. This connected flawlessly and has remained constant ever since.
Next came the smart speakers, Logitech Harmony remote, Telstra TV, phones, laptops and any other device I could find. Each connected easily on the first attempt. The D-Link COVR system seems perfectly capable of handling the large number of the connected devices commonly found in the modern home. Perhaps I need to get my hands on some more devices, just to find out where the breaking point is…
Connecting devices is one thing, maintaining that connection over time and delivering bandwidth where needed is another.
For those devices that are stationary, this is not such a problem. My JBL Link speakers, for example, are positioned close to the COVR access points and haven’t missed a beat since connection.
Other stationary devices are positioned further away. The Sonos One, for example, sits in the basement garage and has never been able to find the Synology MR2200ac signal. It could sometimes find the Telstra Smart Modem signal, but that was often temperamental and it meant running a whole separate wireless network just to connect a single device. As you can imagine, in a townhouse scenario this just added to the overcrowding.
Mobile devices are where the practical benefits of the COVR wireless network really shine. My mobile phone and laptop connect seamlessly to which ever access point is providing the strongest signal. As I move from room to room, the device remains connected, while effortlessly switching between access points. I have not noticed a time when my phone has dropped the signal, when moving about the house. There is some noticeable drop in speed at the extremities, but even then it is still a very usable connection for everything except bandwidth-intensive video streaming. I also believe that a little positional tweaking of my two COVR access points could improve this further, as one of them is tucked away in a corner. The D-Link COVR-1102 mesh system delivers exactly what it promises in the box.
Like most dads, value is a key factor in any of my purchasing decisions. As I have written about before, the best value is found in the sweet spot between cost and quality. Especially when it comes to technology, a cheap device is still poor value if it does not effectively perform its task.
The D-Link COVR-1102 excels in offering value. It is priced very competitively for a two-point mesh system, and it’s quality is hard to fault. It isn’t the flashiest system, and through its design and choice of materials costs have been kept down, but the result is a good-looking and subtle design that blends in rather than stands out – something I very much like. Where it matters (consistent, reliable internet access), The COVR-1102 had done everything I have asked of it (except connect wirelessly through EasyMesh to my Telstra modem, but that is not necessarily the fault of the device and overall a minor issue).
Due to its excellent coverage, ease of use and subtle good looks, the D-Link COVR-1102 system will remain my home Wi-Fi system after this review is complete. I am seriously impressed with the comprehensive coverage of my townhouse that these two tiny devices can produce. The ability to provide a usable signal to devices in my concrete bunker of a basement is particularly pleasing, not to mention useful in the housebound world of March 2020! If your ISP-provided Wi-Fi is limiting your access to otherwise excellent internet, or if your new work from home setup requires more robust connections, the D-Link COVR-1102 is definitely worth a closer look.