D-Link R15 Eagle Pro AI AX1500 review: A cheap Wi-Fi 6 router that might be all you need

The name makes it sound like a jet fighter, but the D-Link R15 Eagle Pro AI is a decidedly down-to-earth proposition. It’s one of the smallest Wi-Fi 6 routers we’ve seen and also one of the cheapest, so it’ll fit right into a home or small office without eating into your workspace or budget. .

Although the design is modest, the Eagle Pro benefits from special AI optimizations that can improve performance and, if you need to extend your coverage, it can team up with other D routers and extenders. -Link to form the hub of a mesh network. The big question is whether it all works well and if there’s a reason to pay more for a Wi-Fi 6 router.

D-Link R15 Eagle Pro AI review: What you need to know

The R15 Eagle Pro AI is a dual-band Wi-Fi 6 router. It doesn’t claim to deliver the fastest wireless performance on the block, but it does support 4×4 MU-MIMO and the 5 GHz radio offers connection speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps, there’s no so no obvious reason why this router shouldn’t match the performance. much more expensive models.

The maximum speed on the 2.4GHz band is a rather slow 300Mbps, but that’s unlikely to be a problem since these channels are mostly only used by gadgets and IoT devices these days. do not need optimal performance.

If you’re looking for multi-Gigabit Ethernet, versatile USB connectivity, or compatibility with the latest Wi-Fi 6E devices, then guess what, this isn’t the router for you. But for basic wired and wireless networks, it ticks all the important boxes and even adds some high-end features like flexible QoS controls and an inbound VPN server.

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D-Link R15 Eagle Pro AI review: Price and competition

At just £67, the D-Link R15 Eagle Pro AI is one of the cheapest Wi-Fi 6 routers we’ve ever tested. It vies for that title with the TP-Link Archer AX10, which at the time of writing was two pounds cheaper on Amazon. This router has nearly identical specs to the Eagle Pro but, as we’ll see below, the performance profiles of the two routers are a bit different.

For very little more you could also consider the TP-Link Archer AX53 or the Linksys MR7350 (£75). Both models again match the Eagle’s rated 1.2 Gbps speed on the 5 GHz band, and the Linksys adds a USB 3 port for convenient file sharing.

Whichever manufacturer you choose, you won’t get top speeds from a sub-£100 router. If that’s what you want, our top pick is the Asus TUF Gaming AX5400. As the tables below illustrate, this is in a different performance class to any of the routers mentioned above, but, at £168, it’s also in a different price bracket.

Still, you can spend a lot more on a router if you want. The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX6000 is a real 6-speed Wi-Fi fiend and has a good set of gaming features too – as it should be for £340. And our current choice of premium routers is the Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500, which includes Wi-Fi 6E support and plenty of premium features, all for a bargain £550.

D-Link R15 Eagle Pro AI review: Design and features

The R15 Eagle Pro AI is pleasingly compact, with a footprint of just 195 x 139mm and a futuristic angular design that’s not bad on the eyes. The height of the four antennas may upset the visual balance, but we’re not complaining about that as taller antennas normally mean better coverage.

On the front of the R15 Eagle Pro AI, four LEDs indicate the status of power and internet connections, as well as the two wireless bands. On the back are four Gigabit Ethernet jacks, although one connects to your internet modem, so only three ports are available for wired clients. Next to it is a WPS button and a recessed reset button. That’s about it for the physical design, except for one neat feature: this router’s size and simple design make it suitable for hanging on the wall, and two mounting holes on the bottom make that very easy to make, just requiring two screws of the appropriate size.

Although the hardware is quite basic, the software has some clever features. As is the norm these days, D-Link uses a standard firmware platform on almost all of its routers, so the cheaper models have many of the same capabilities as the more expensive ones. In this case, that means you have a configurable SPI firewall and an inbound VPN server that allows easy and secure access to your home network over the Internet. There’s also a visual manager with the ability to temporarily boost a device’s priority for a set amount of time, and mesh support for managing D-Link’s E15 socket Wi-Fi extenders and other devices. compatible.

The advertised “AI” features are a little disappointing, however. Their duties are decidedly mundane, and frankly, there isn’t much intelligence to any of them. The automatic Wi-Fi optimizer simply takes care of selecting the clearest channel for your wireless connection, while the AI ​​assistant simply generates reports on your internet usage. The traffic optimizer applies slight throttling to heavy bandwidth consumers, so that other clients are not congested.

The biggest disappointment is “AI Parental Control”. I was hoping for smart filters that could identify and categorize online content, but the controls you get are as dumb as they come. You can set schedules and time limits for children’s devices, but if you want to block inappropriate websites, you have to enter the details manually. Since a maximum of 24 keywords can be entered, it is effectively impossible to close anything other than a small corner of the web.

In addition to the standard web console, you can use D-Link’s Eagle Pro AI mobile app to manage your network. This lets you check in to your router over the internet, access parental controls and QoS features, and enable some basic voice commands via Alexa and the Google Assistant. Switching between the app and the browser interface can be confusing though, as the layout and presentation are completely different.

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D-Link R15 Eagle Pro AI review: Performance

If you’ve ever read any of these router reviews, you’ll know exactly how I tested the performance of the R15 Eagle Pro AI. First, I configured the router in my home office and installed the latest firmware. I then connected an Asus Drivestor 4 Pro NAS to one of the router’s Ethernet ports, and connected wirelessly to the router, on the 5 GHz band, from a test laptop equipped with a Intel AX210 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 card.

I then transported the laptop to different parts of my house and tested download and upload speeds to and from the NAS. Here are the results I got, in megabytes per second, along with the speeds of the other routers mentioned above for comparison.

While the R15 officially claims the same 5GHz connection speeds as rivals from Linksys and TP-Link, in the real world it turns out to be one of the slowest Wi-Fi 6 routers we’ve seen. . It offered better close-range download performance than the Archer AX10, but even that saving grace fell once I moved into the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.

Of course, I didn’t expect premium performance from a router that costs so little. It’s hardly shocking that the R15 can’t keep up with an Asus router that costs more or less twice the price. What’s embarrassing about the R15 Eagle Pro AI is that it’s so completely dwarfed by the Linksys MR7350: that router costs just £8 more, but nearly tripled the Eagle’s download speeds in the hard-to-reach places.

Let’s keep things in perspective, though. Netflix recommends that to stream 4K video, your internet connection requires a download speed of at least 5 Mbps, which equates to approximately 0.6 MB of data per second. Even at worst, the R15 managed more than 16 times that speed. For everyday Internet tasks, this router is more than fast enough.

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D-Link R15 Eagle Pro AI review: Verdict

The R15 Eagle Pro AI isn’t exactly a standout router, in terms of features or performance. In the same price range, you can get much faster speeds with the Linksys MR7350, not to mention a handy USB plug. TP-Link’s similarly priced Archer models offer far more impressive security and parental control features.

That’s fine, though, because the R15 isn’t meant to stand out. It’s clearly meant to provide a usable wireless internet connection with minimal fuss, and on those terms it’s hard to fault. It’s not the right solution for power users, or anyone who cares about bandwidth, whether downloading from the Internet or moving data around your home network. But smaller homes and offices with modest needs don’t need to spend any more, this simple and very affordable router knows its role and does it admirably.

Harry D. Gonzalez