The 880L is D-Link’s long awaited step into the top end AC1900 bracket already inhabited by Linksys, Asus, Netgear and TRENDnet. Yes D-Link is among the last to the party, but in coupling the 880L with an eminently affordable price tag it suggests good things come to those who wait.
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You can always tell when a router is important to its manufacturer because they spend time thinking up a completely new design. Linksys, Asus and TRENDnet all did it and now D-Link has followed the same path ditching its much loved cylindrical form factor for something altogether meaner and whiter.
Yes ‘white’ is the first word which comes to mind with the 880L since D-Link has managed to colour code every single part of it. That not only means white insets and antennas to match the body, but even a white power cable and plug and bundled white Ethernet cable. In fact the only bits that escape the white treatment are the ports and power button hidden at the rear and the top mounted activity lights which are blue.
Consequently the 880L is a real style statement which is likely to have particular appeal with Apple fans. Black cabling in particular is a plague on smart living room design and so D-Link’s choices get a big thumbs up from us.
The build quality is good as well. Yes it is plastic like all other routers (they need to be able to work with or without external antennas), but it is solidity put together, well ventilated and has brackets for wall mounting. At 246.9 x 190.4 x 47.2 mm and 745g it is one of the larger routers we’ve tested, but its low profile means it doesn’t draw too much attention.
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In hopping aboard the AC1900 bandwagon the 880L plays some familiar cards: a full fat 1300Mbit 802.11ac implementation with 3x3 antenna array and bolstered 600Mbit 802.11n which leads to the enlarged ‘AC1900’ figure.
How the latter figure is achieved is by ‘Turbo QAM’, a proprietary technology from Broadcom used to boost 802.11n on the ageing 2.4GHz band. The snag is it requires a Turbo QAM compatible wireless receiver to reap the benefits on this, such as the Asus PCE-AC68 which is our standard wireless receiver for testing. The good news is with the wealth of AC1900 routers appearing many more Turbo QAM receivers are in the works.
But Turbo QAM isn’t the 880L’s only trick. Its three 5dBi dual-band dipole antennas are significantly larger than anything we've seen on any rival router (which usually stick to 3Bi) and they are backed by SmartBeam compliance.
In addition there is the usual combination of 4x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x Gigabit LAN and WPS, WPA/WPA2 wireless security. There are also dual USB ports, with the standard combination of 1x USB 3.0 and 1x USB 2.0, not that we’ve found USB 3.0 makes a difference to speed tests across a network.
Like Linksys, D-Link is also one of the few router makers to offer a Cloud platform to access and control the router remotely. This can be done both by web browser or Android and iOS apps (more of which below).
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As one of the major router manufacturers D-Link has long had a smooth setup process and the 880L continues this tradition and builds upon it.
With the 880L D-Link has updated the look and feel of its router UI and the result is a top notch experience with smart walk through wizard and a wholly new look and feel which is both fresh and intuitive (more shots in the Photos link at the top of the page). Major categories are split into 'Settings', 'Features' and 'Management' and the Home page has a useful graphic of your whole network where it is possible to click on individual devices, view their details and change settings.
The whole experience is extremely slick and D-Link deserves a pat on the back for catching up to Linksys, which has long been the leader here. If we have a grumble it is that upon initial connection the router doesn’t automatically open a new browser tab to begin the setup process, you have to type the URL in yourself – but it is hardly a major issue.
It is a similarly positive story with the mobile apps: clean lines, simple, useful control and snappy operation. Confusingly D-Link still offers its ‘mydlink Cloud’ app on both iOS and Android despite no updates in two years, so be advised it is the ‘mydlink Lite’ app you want. A premium version (64p) enables remote access to connected security cameras and is something D-Link should perhaps make free.