If you're still suffering from Wi-Fi dark spots at your place, it's past time you did something about it and invested in a mesh system.
While many of us now take it for granted, some people may still not understand the benefits of extending their home coverage using a single network name (or SSID) spread seamlessly over two, three or even more Wi-Fi access points positioned around the house.
Even relatively small homes can pose Wi-Fi connectivity issues, especially if those houses are multi-storey, contain a large number of electrical appliances or are constructed of a lot of concrete and steel. That's when it becomes necessary to extend your Wi-Fi coverage beyond the source router and in recent years, mesh technology has meant you can do this seamlessly, without creating a new network for every access point.
D-Link has been offering home mesh Wi-Fi solutions for about as long as anyone and now it has refined that solution to be as environmentally friendly, aesthetically-pleasing and as compact as possible.
The Aquila Pro AI AX3000 Wi-Fi 6 smart mesh system is certainly eye-catching. Available in both two and three-unit packs, each station resembles some kind of small stingray, with its extremely flat profile curving up into "wing-like" shapes on each side.
The small size of these units combined with the white and light-grey-blue colour scheme means they're quite inconspicuous in most places around the house. In fact, the unusual, curvy shape almost gives the impression of some kind of arty ornament - much more so than the square or rectangular boxes of D-Link's previous mesh networking routers.
Mysteriously, D-Link has rebranded its home-mesh systems three times in as many years. We started with COVR AX, evolved to Eagle Pro AI and now it's the turn of Aquila Pro AI instead. Those other systems are still available and if I'm completely honest, I'm still not sure of all the differences between them.
What I do know is instead of one, unifying D-Link app to set them up with, each rebrand has meant a whole new app to download and this year is no different. Unfortunately, the Aquila Pro AI app is no more efficient than its predecessors and setup seems to take a very long time as you wait for the units to power up, then reboot once you've named your network and assigned the appropriate passwords.
At least the second (and third) unit pairs automatically out of the box and what I like about these routers is unlike some other options out there, there's no master unit with more ports etc. - each router is identical and whichever one you pick up, power up and set up first becomes the primary device.
This also means you have four Gigabit ethernet ports available on each unit, wherever they are around the house. Effectively, you can now have up to twelve devices hardwired into your home network for the utmost reliability. I recommend a hardwired LAN connection for streaming devices like PCs, smart TVs, gaming consoles and set-top boxes and the Aquila Pro AI is the perfect system to accommodate these gadgets in several rooms around the house.
The unique ray-wing design isn't just aesthetic - it's built that way to accommodate the five redesigned internal antennae - including an extra one dedicated solely to the 5GHz band to increase the range where previous models have struggled a bit - especially once you hit walls, floors and ceilings. D-Link has labelled this "360° Spherical Coverage" and while I don't think this quite means you can expect good reception from an Aquila Pro AI router stashed in the basement if you're on the second floor, I certainly had no connection issues with my two-unit review set all around my large, four bedroom home.
This is because the D-Link website claims 465sqm of coverage for the Aquila Pro AI 2-pack, and a whopping 650sqm with three units.
D-Link promises up to 3Gbps of performance, although I certainly haven't managed to get anywhere near that as my internet connection is somewhat choked by my house's now-obsolete data cabling from my UFB cabinet in the garage. I'm never going to get more than 1Gbps but to be fair, that would be more than enough for most activities in my house.
However, in my testing, I never got anything like that fast and I'm really confused by the results. I think this might be something to do with the various auto-optimising features built into the Aquila Pro routers - the "AI" part of the equation if you will. Because a speed test is not a particularly taxing activity in itself, my theory is the router is only dedicating the bandwidth it needs to get the job done.
Using the Aguila Pro AI app, you can adjust the priority for each connected device manually, via the QoS settings but I actually think the routers did a better job when you just left them to their own devices.
The important thing is they work and work well.
In saying that, what's really interesting about these new devices is they still use the same Wi-Fi 6 protocol as the previous two generations - D-Link has yet to make the leap to Wi-Fi 6e or even Wi-Fi 7 - although to be fair, there are very few devices capable of Wi-Fi 7 just yet but regardless, while these routers are fast enough today, they're perhaps not very future-proofed.
What they are doing to preserve the future is being constructed from post-consumer recycled materials - for me, this alone is not a reason to choose the Aquila Pro AI system over any other but in a close contest, why wouldn't you help the environment if you can?
Perhaps a better reason for going with these ones is they just look so cool - they definitely perform as advertised and they're really very small. So if you're looking for whole-home coverage but you're a bit short on shelf-space, the powerful and reliable 360° spherical output of the Aquila Pro AI might be just the ticket.
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