There are better performing mesh systems than D-Link’s M15 AX1500, but its attractive price makes it worth considering.
D-Link announced the mesh system towards the end of last year as part of its Eagle Pro AI series. As of writing, a pack consisting of a router and two nodes is around £155 ($210). For a WiFi 6 system, that’s very competitive.
Eagle Pro AI claims to bring AI-enhanced capabilities to optimise your Wi-Fi. D-Link says that its AI Assistant will “intelligently monitor network usage to give simple, actionable recommendations to keep your network at peak performance for everyone in the family.”
There are five parts to Eagle Pro AI:
Any scepticism is understandable—after all, companies love to slap “AI” on anything these days. Whether it’s truly a step up from your usual “smart” optimisation features is something we look forward to finding out.
Here are the M15’s official specs:
While the design is not as unique as some mesh systems – including the eero 6, Deco M5, or Google/Nest WiFi – the minimalist cubes that make up the system will probably suit more tastes than the more subjective designs of those competitors.
The router, and each node, feature two Ethernet ports, a WPS button, a reset button, and a power jack.
One of the two Ethernet ports on the main router will be required for your internet connection. However, both of the Ethernet ports on each node can be used for physically connecting devices like smart home hubs.
D-Link’s Eagle Pro AI app guides users painlessly into getting their network online.
A QR code on the base of the M15 enables the app to quickly recognise the device and provide the relevant graphics and information. Even the biggest technophobe should be able to set this up with little difficulty.
After setting a wireless name and password, the app will also ask the user to set a device password rather than use a default. Given the ongoing issues with default passwords from various manufacturers, it’s great to see D-Link implementing good security practices.
While it’s possible to use the M15 alone as a router, this is designed to be a mesh system. Therefore, the app will ask the user whether they want to install additional nodes during the initial setup.
When setting up additional nodes, the user will be asked to scan each unit’s QR code. A blinking white light will indicate if the signal between nodes is poor, while a solid light shows the system considers it adequate.
For this review, we compared the performance of D-Link’s M15 AX1500 mesh system with Linksys’ Velop (AC2200 version) on a ~300 Mbps connection. We initially tested performance in each system’s one router and one node configurations.
Our test was conducted in a three-bed, two-floor house with standard thickness walls. The router is in the office on the ground floor. The bedroom is above the office. The living room is almost adjacent to the office and where our additional node was placed, albeit at the far end. The garage is around 5-10 metres on again from the living room and is the most difficult location to reach.
Here are the download and upload speeds from each mesh system per location:
Unsurprisingly, the best download speeds from both systems were attained in the office from the main router. D-Link’s M15 just about beat Linksys’ Velop for same-room performance with results of 317 Mbps and 295 Mbps, respectively.
When we move to the living room, we begin to see a notable difference. The Velop almost retained its download speed while the M15 plummeted by around half, with results of 279 Mbps and 157 Mbps, respectively.
While speeds from the Velop dropped quite considerably in the bedroom, Linksys’ system retained a higher download speed of 149 Mbps compared to D-Link’s 108 Mbps.
In the garage, the biggest challenge, the M15 managed a download speed of just 4 Mbps. The Velop also struggled, but – with a download speed of 12 Mbps – was three times faster than the M15.
If we switch over to analysing the RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator) of each system per location, we can start getting an idea of the problem:
Straight away, we can see both systems struggled with some noise. However, the Velop handled it better and provided a stronger signal across all locations.
The limitation with both systems is that, in their mesh modes, you cannot manually select channels to counter interference. The user is left to the “smart” optimisation features to make such decisions on their behalf.
Given how much D-Link boasts of its Eagle Pro AI system, we at least expected it to perform better. We left the M15 for an additional 24 hours to see if it would optimise itself without success. We then factory reset and tried again with no improvement.
The clear winner here is the Velop, right? Well, it’s not quite that simple.
If we take you back to the same-room performance of both systems, the M15 managed to slightly beat the Velop. Where the M15 falls apart is with its range.
Typically, you would expect to be able to place nodes around 10-15 metres away. The M15 starts blinking its white light to show that it’s struggling at around 5 metres and we found that it fails by 10 metres.
It’s hard to say definitively whether the M15’s lacklustre range is due primarily to software issues or hardware, but – if the former – then it could be solved with a firmware update. Less congested channels were available, so it was frustrating being unable to select them.
Adding another node to the M15 compensates for its range problems and should more than suffice for most households. Of course, you could do the same for the Velop—which means that price is a big factor.
As of writing, a three-pack of the Velop AC2200 typically costs around £300 ($407). A three-pack of D-Link’s M15 AX1500 goes for around half that at £155 ($210).
If a three-pack of both systems are going for a similar price, it seems like a no-brainer to go for the Velop. For around half the cost, the M15 suddenly becomes a lot more attractive. However, given its current range issues, I’d not settle for anything less than a three-pack of the M15.
D-Link’s M15 AX1500 mesh system is still relatively new, so we’ll update this review if we notice any firmware updates that make a substantial difference.
You can view our video review of the D-Link M15 AX1500 below:
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Tags: ai, artificial intelligence, ax1500, comparison, d-link, d-link m15, d-link mesh, eagle pro ai, linksys, linksys velop, mesh system, network, node, performance, review, router, velop, wi-fi 6, wifi 6
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