D-Link Eagle Pro AI AX1500 review: Smash it with a hammer
The ideal Wi-Fi network is invisible. Not so much invisible that in hardware is hidden from human eyes – although that would be a neat trick – but invisible because what you really want to do is plug it in, set it up, and forget it still exists. Ideally, it should intelligently manage your home or office Wi-Fi while maximizing coverage and speed. That’s exactly what the D-Link Eagle Mesh Pro AX1500 promises.
This is also what he absolutely fails to do.
Eagle Pro is a new brand for D-Link for its Mesh Wi-Fi products; previous models I tested were usually D-Link COVR devices.
While it looks like someone at D-Link is looking a little too much at Cobra Kai, the reality of their hardware is that relatively little has changed. The Eagle Pro AI AX1500 mesh system sells in a two- or three-node system, depending on the coverage you need. Each knot is a small cube that will easily fit into your home and office decor.
Each node is physically identical, although there is a main node that gets a small sticker on top. It would be unwise to remove it, as you will have a really hard time figuring out which node should connect to your actual home broadband connection. On each node, you will find dual Ethernet ports designed for shared incoming and outgoing Internet connections. So if you have Ethernet cabling in the office or at home, the system may allow you to add a wired node for even faster throughput, at least in theory.
Lighting is dimmed to a minimum, with a single LED flashing orange when connected, or going to solid white if properly connected to your mesh network.
D-Link has a long history in mesh gaming and knows how consumers want to play it. You want an easy to install app that walks you through the process of setting up your mesh system. You may also want optional components for features like parental controls, internet filtering, and maybe a bit more advanced setup if you like your network that way.
D-Link’s existing iOS and Android app does this for its COVR mesh routers, but for the Eagle Pro AI AX1500 it has a brand new app called Eagle Pro AI. So before I started, I had to install another app, although on the surface it only feels like a slightly redesigned D-Link app.
Slightly redesigned, and considerably worse.
My issues started when I was giving permissions to the Eagle Pro AI app on an iPhone 13 Pro. Access to local storage is needed network-wide, which makes perfect sense because you want to be able to send bits and bytes both across your local network and the wider web. However, no matter how many times I approved local file access, the Eagle Pro AI app just said I didn’t. You cannot make this an optional step.
The app just refused to go any further without approval. I have tried, over and over again, to no avail. I tried restarting the phone. Tried another iPhone and new app install. Nothing at all worked at any time.
This should have been a warning, but I’m the stubborn type, so I persisted, upgrading to a Pixel 6 Pro. Android either automatically granted these permissions or never asked for them, and I was able to configure the main router and extension nodes.
A big advantage here is that when you configure an extender node, it specifically asks you if it will be a wireless or wired node. This opens up potential for much larger mesh networks if you have home and office cabling without having to worry about assigning IP addresses or dueling nodes.
It’s also worth noting that D-Link includes default configurations for a wide range of Australian ISPs as part of the setup routine. You don’t need to know much about how your ISP likes to set up their NBN connections. You just need to know the name of your ISP.
Still, at least it’s been set up, and the whole idea with the mesh is – or should be – it’s set and forget smart Wi-Fi running its own business so you don’t have to do it, right?
Yeah, well. About that…
I connected the D-Link Eagle Pro AI AX1500 to my home (and work) NBN 250 Aussie Broadband connection and set about using it to compare against the many other mesh networking systems I’ve tested on exactly the same connection in the same slot. I have a larger house with a home office on one side built into an extension which also forms a very effective barrier against easy Wi-Fi signal propagation.
This makes my home a great, if somewhat brutal, testing ground for Wi-Fi networks, as it can be a worst-case scenario for mesh systems. Still, the last D-Link mesh system I tested in the same region, the D-Link COVR-X1873 was an absolute star.
Conversely, I prefer to launch the D-Link Eagle Pro AI AX1500 into a nearby star.
I didn’t really have to worry about my home office being a dead zone, because right off the bat the Eagle Pro AI AX1500 started playing, restarting at random times, or dropping my internet connection from a cliff without obvious rhyme or reason. Sometimes he recognized that he had two extenders in the same network.
Often, when both extenders showed a strong white light, the app (and presumably the network) refused to admit their existence. Until suddenly they start again. And then, as soon as I was sure they were on the network, suddenly they weren’t.
The effect on the quality of my home network was remarkable, that is to say, I made many points that I cannot repeat here.
I’m no novice in terms of gently pacing mesh systems and investigating what was wrong, and I’ve certainly tried to put things right. I’ve restarted NTDs, restarted mesh systems, refreshed everything, restarted apps, factory reset everything, and tried again more than once, just to keep the Eagle Pro AI AX1500 stable on one connection. I would have tried to sacrifice a goat if I had had one handy. The temptation to attack the Eagle Pro AI AX1500 with blunt force was quite strong. I’m not proud of that fact, but it’s true.
There was always the possibility that the issue was more NBN than D-Link related, so to test I set up the same connection on an Amazon Eero Pro 6 mesh system to see if it would also throw a jitter . It stayed solid and fast for hours, while the Eagle Pro AI AX1500 often struggled to maintain connectivity or Wi-Fi for more than a few minutes.
The situation was absolutely the worst in my home office, where the Eagle Pro AI AX1500 regularly failed to maintain any level of connection. I eventually ditched the third node, and that seemed to make the system a bit more stable. That’s not a good sign, however, because while a two-node system might be fine for small homes, any mesh system that can’t handle more than two nodes won’t show AI at all. Indeed, it is to be remarkably stupid.
When the Eagle Pro AI AX1500 was stable for more than the lifetime of a female mayfly, the throughput was decent, but I really can’t trust what it produced in comparative terms. As noted, sometimes during testing it would randomly decide that its extender nodes simply didn’t exist, even though they showed signs of being in the network without issue. In theory, it’s Wi-Fi 6 and capable of up to 1200Mbps throughput on 5Ghz Wi-Fi, faster than any NBN connection you can buy today. That drops to 300Mbps for 2.4Ghz, but again, that’s going to be beyond the speeds most consumers will see in real-world situations. That’s assuming they see any connectivity at all, though.
I couldn’t get a reliable, testable signal in the one area where I would really want a mesh system to work – and again, to be clear, other D-Link systems have sent data to through these same walls without publishing.
In other areas I could get close to my full NBN speeds, but that was mostly in places where I would expect a regular router to do about the same signal quality. The whole point of paying extra for a mesh system should be that you get exceptional speed quality. Instead, I just went against the Eagle Pro AI AX1500 AI, and after a few days of really infuriating testing and productivity drops thanks to its unreliable nature, I had to throw my hands up. and give up.
Should I buy it?
- Buy it if you hate yourself or don’t really want Wi-Fi anyway
- Don’t buy it if…just…don’t.
D-Link has a long history of producing top quality networking equipment for business and consumer purchases. I still consider the D-Link COVR-X1873 one of the best mesh systems money can buy, and a straightforward recommendation if you need both Wi-Fi and multiple Ethernet ports on each node.
Conversely, as the title suggested to you when you started reading, I’d love to smash the Eagle Pro AI AX1500 AI with a hammer. That is, just in case it wasn’t clear, not recommended to buy.
D-Link Eagle Pro AI AX1500 review: Price and availability
How we tested
I tried so hard to run the Eagle Pro AI AX1500 AI AX1500 in a suburban house in Sydney. It was configured (and reset and configured again and again) over a period of three days in an attempt to test it connected to an NBN 250 connection in a standard suburban home. He didn’t want to play well, and there’s only so much network stress and emergency connection to a mobile phone just to keep working that a person can reasonably endure.
The Reviewer is an award-winning journalist, including Best Reviewer and Best Technical Journalist awards at the Australian IT Journo Awards over a career spanning over 20 years. I have reviewed Wi-Fi hardware from the very first consumer Wi-Fi equipment available to hundreds of products today.
Disclaimer: Aussie Broadband is the sponsor of my podcast, Vertical Hold: Behind The Tech News. They did not contribute to this review, besides also being my ISP.
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Images: Alex Kidman