Friday, 14 August 2020 17:42

Add a (D-)Link to your mesh


The arrival of the D-Link Covr-1100 means your Covr-1102 system can be easily extended.

Now the D-Link Covr-1100 Wi-Fi mesh node is available individually, I took the opportunity to see how easy it is to expand an existing network, and to address an issue I discovered after my review of the Covr-1102 twin pack.

Setup really is easy if you use the D-Link Wi-Fi app. You scan a QR code provided with the additional Covr-1100, use the included ethernet cable to connect the new node to the one connected to the internet, connect the power supply, and wait for the app to tell you that setup is complete.

Once that's done, you can unplug the ethernet cable and relocate the Covr-1100 to the desired location.

So having previously reported that excellent coverage with what seemed to be the obvious location for the second node, why did I feel the need for a third?

In a word: aesthetics.

Physically, the Covr-1100 is a compact and relatively discreet white cube. But the original position of the second node was deemed unacceptable from a home decor perspective. The next-best location was several metres further away from the primary node – just far enough for the LED to start flashing to indicate an inadequate signal.

Another issue was that an Ethernet-only device was now connected to the second Covr-1100, and for various reasons that that device couldn't be relocated, even by using a longer Ethernet cable. The device did work despite the signal limitation, but because it uses a significant amount of bandwidth when active, I wanted to get the network functioning at its best.

That meant finding a location for the new, third Covr-1100. It had to be somewhere between the two existing nodes in terms of signal strength, but it also had to be visually unobtrusive.

This time, the 'obvious' spot wasn't technically successful. It was in range of the first node, but it didn't stop the second one's indicator flashing white.

My second choice – remember, you can only position the Covr-1100 where there's an available powerpoint – had the same problem. At this stage I was reminded of my previous observation that "it would be useful if the [D-Link Wi-Fi] app incorporated a signal strength mapping function to help optimise the position of the second and subsequent nodes."

So it went back to the 'obvious' location, where I discovered that surprisingly small changes in position – just a few centimetres – of either node were enough to make the difference between inadequate and adequate signals between them.

Did it make a difference to network speed? Yes, but only by 5% or so to that Ethernet-connected device, and by a similar amount to a Wi-Fi connected device in "the most challenging part of the house" as mentioned in the original review.

Would I pay $179.95 for that improvement? Probably not, but that's down to the layout of my house more than any inherent inadequacies of the Covr-1100 system.

That's the thing about mesh Wi-Fi: the good spots to place the nodes from a wireless perspective aren't necessarily practical in terms of wired connections, whether that's for power or Ethernet. And if cosmetic considerations come into play, your choice of locations may be further restricted.

I don't resile from my original conclusion that the Covr-1102 performs well, but this experience shows that significantly improving a mesh network in a two-storey home isn't always as simple as adding one more node.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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