D-Link Nuclias DBA-2820P review: Speedy and sophisticated
A Wi-Fi 5 access point with great cloud management features that’s low on price and big on performance
While Wi-Fi 6 may be the latest and greatest thing, it’s overkill for many businesses. SMBs with a modest mobile workforce will find Wi-Fi 5 access points (APs) offer perfectly good performance at more affordable prices. The D-Link Nuclias DBA-2820P is one such contender, offering strong speeds over 802.11ac and an extensive feature set, including cloud management.
To be clear, that latter part isn’t free forever. A one-year subscription to D-Link’s Nuclias cloud platform is included in the price, after which you’ll have to pay for an ongoing licence. Costs are quite reasonable, however, at £50 per device per year, or £125 for three years. It’s not a bad platform to be on, either: Nuclias supports any number of APs and can remotely manage D-Link’s Nuclias-enabled PoE switches.
The hardware is a dual-band AP with 4x4 MU-MIMO, theoretically capable of delivering speeds of up to 1,733Mbits/sec on its 5GHz radio and 800Mbits/sec on the 2.4GHz band. It has two Gigabit Ethernet ports too: the first requires a PoE+ source, while the second can provide other wired devices with network access.
Before you start connecting clients to the AP, it’s worth getting the Nuclias portal properly set up. Once your parent organisation is registered, you can set up multiple sites, while profiles within them represent your wireless networks.
Standard profiles are provided for each Nuclias-enabled AP model. You can configure up to eight SSIDs on each radio or disable either band altogether. Other security options include support for WPA3, and a guest access mode that keeps connected clients isolated from the local network. A thoughtful touch is that any unregistered APs connected to your network will only permit guest access via the default SSIDs.
You can configure guest networks to present custom captive portals to users, and there are plenty of authentication methods available, ranging from a simple click-through page with an acceptable use policy (AUP) to a login page with a custom credential list, SMS validation and authentication via third-party providers such as Google and Twitter.
Cloud deployment could hardly be easier. From the web portal, simply enter the device’s UID number, assign it to a site and choose a profile. If you use the Nuclias mobile app things are even simpler, as you can skip the typing and simply scan the AP’s QR code. Either way, the DBA-2820P is ideal for zero-touch deployment: when plugged in at a remote site it will automatically start broadcasting your assigned SSIDs, as well as updating its own firmware as new releases appear.
Once your network is ticking along, the Nuclias cloud portal presents an informative dashboard showing the status of all managed devices and the total number of wireless clients, with graphs alongside displaying connections for either the last day or the preceding week. Below, a bunch of charts reveal the most utilised devices and SSIDs, plus the busiest wireless clients.
For testing, we connected our APs to a Nuclias-enabled DBS-2000-10MP PoE network switch. Once registered with our portal account, the switch immediately picked up our predefined profile, and the dashboard updated itself with a pie chart showing PoE usage, plus a graph of the past day’s power consumption.
If you need more detail, the portal can generate reports for selected APs, switches or profiles over a choice of time ranges, which can be archived and saved as spreadsheets
And if you’re unsure whether Wi-Fi 5 can still cut the mustard, there’s more good news – we found that the DBA-2820P’s performance gave many Wi-Fi 6 APs a run for their money. File copies between a Windows 10 Pro desktop equipped with a Netgear AC1900 USB adapter and a LAN server averaged a speedy 84MB/sec at close range, dropping to 79MB/sec at 10m. Very few businesses will need more.
For SMBs that want an affordable, cloud-managed wireless network, the combination of the DBA-2820P and the Nuclias management platform will fit the bill very nicely. Don’t be put off by the last-gen Wi-Fi; this AP offers very good performance, along with plenty of business-class wireless features.
D-Link Nuclias DBA-2820P specifications
Wave 2 AC2600 dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz 802.11ac
4x4 MU-MIMO, internal aerials
2 x Gigabit Ethernet (1 x PoE+)
Wall/ceiling mounting plate, 1yr Nuclias subscription included
225 x 224 x 50mm
Limited lifetime warranty on registration
D-Link Nuclias 1yr licence, £50; 3yr licence, £125 (all exc VAT)
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