D-Link DWL-3610AP review

A basic business wireless AP that becomes a lot more versatile when teamed up with D-Link’s central management solutions

Price
£89
  • Good security options; Works well with D-Link management controllers
  • Open SSID out of the box; Only one radio means you can’t use 2.4GHz and 5GHz simultaneously

D-Link's DWL-3610AP wireless access point (AP) is all about choice. It supports either 2.4GHz or 5GHz operations (although not together), can operate in standalone mode or be centrally managed using three different methods.

Costing 89, the DWL-3610AP looks affordable but is only a basic AP offering up to 300Mbits/sec on the 2.4GHz band or 867Mbits/sec on the 5GHz band. D-Link classes it as an AC1200 AP, but this isn't strictly true as it doesn't have two radios.

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You'll see this when you access the AP's web interface as the Manage page only has an option to turn the single radio on or off and select either 2.4GHz 11n or 5GHz 11a/n/ac operations. Even so, D-Link offers plenty of business-class features, as it supports up to 16 VAPs (virtual access points) each with their own SSID, encryption key and authentication scheme.

Out of the box, the AP has its root VAP enabled and broadcasting an open SSID which isn't ideal. It's easy to change though, and we secured it immediately with WPA2 encryption and could also apply MAC address filtering, SSID masking and L2 isolation to stop wireless clients from seeing each other.

The AP can enforce upstream and downstream bandwidth limits on selected VAPs and apply quality of service (QoS) for prioritising voice and video traffic. A scheduler allows selected VAPs to be turned off at scheduled times such as evenings, weekends and holidays.

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Real world wireless performance for the AP's 5GHz radio is acceptable. With a Windows 10 Pro desktop connected over 802.11ac via a Netgear AC1200 USB 3 adapter, we saw close range file copies to a LAN system averaging 50MB/sec and falling slightly to 47MB/sec at 10 metres. Coverage is reasonable; the SweetSpots app on our iPad registered a connection dropout when 40 metres away and with five other offices between us and the AP.

Clustering allows up to eight identical APs to be grouped together where they all present the same wireless services. A cluster can be managed via a single IP address and changes or firmware upgrades to one AP will be propagated to all members.

Best suited to large networks, D-Link's DWS-3160 L2 switches can manage up to 48 APs, stretching to 192 when they're placed in peer groups. The DWL-3610AP has an option in its web interface to enter up to four switch IP addresses which then take over all wireless management.

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We tested D-Link's DWC-1000 controller appliance, which costs around 350 and comes with a 6 AP license that can be extended to 12 APs. Our first job was to upgrade the firmware in the review sample to v4.6 to add support for the DWL-3610AP.

The controller's web interface opens with an informative dashboard but has an annoying glitch. It works with Edge, Chrome and FireFox but any attempts to edit the layout by unchecking selected widgets met with a 'bad parameter' error message.

APs are automatically discovered by the controller and can be quickly provisioned. It uses AP profiles to link together radio, SSID, encryption and QoS parameters which it pushes to selected APs.

Security is tight and you can use approved MAC address lists, enforce wireless client logins and link up with external RADIUS, LDAP and Active Directory authentication servers. Costing around 250, the VPN license also activates the controller's firewall which can apply custom rules to wireless traffic.

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The controller provides wireless hotspot services using time-limited guest accounts and also presents customizable captive portals on selected SSID and login profiles. Channel plans are a smart feature as the controller monitors RF channel noise and forces selected APs to use another channel to reduce interference.

As a standalone AP, the DWL-3610AP isn't great value but comes into its own when partnered with D-Link's management solutions. SMBs should consider the DWC-1000, as we found it an affordable option for those that want a secure, centrally managed wireless network that can be easily expanded.

Verdict

As a standalone AP, the DWL-3610AP isn’t great value but comes into its own when partnered with D-Link’s management solutions. SMBs should consider the DWC-1000, as we found it an affordable option for those that want a secure, centrally managed wireless network that can be easily expanded.

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