Saturday, January 23, 2016

Xiaomi Mini WiFi vs D-Link DIR-865L

I am not a heavy internet user as I don't really download much but I do watch a lot of online streaming content and my 25 Mbps cable connection just couldn't keep up so I upgraded to a 1000 Mbps fiber internet.

Even though the Xiaomi Mini WiFi router that I am currently using support AC1200 wireless connectivity with speeds up to 300Mbps and 867 Mpbs on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channel respectively, it is still limited by its FE WAN interface which limits internet connectivity to 100 Mbps.

Other than that, the Mini performs really well. Wireless connectivity from 13 meters away and behind a wall which is where my furthest device, a TV box, is placed, is really good. I mean, really, really good, even with the room door closed.

The router is small and compact and looks extremely simple and sleek. Firmware update is frequent and the management app is fantastic. Even though the web UI is in Chinese (which I turn to Google Translate for help), there is practically nothing that I would want to complain about, other than FE WAN interface. Seriously, that's it. I mean if the mini supports gigabit WAN, I would stick to it until the next internet upgrade which probably means many years to come. And a brand new unit will only cost you SGD30-40, a ridiculously affordable price.

But as I have the other theoretical 900 Mbps left unused, I went looking for replacement, with a simple criteria which is - it supports a gigabit WAN interface and at least AC1200 wireless. And as I don't believe is spending a bomb on a router that can become obsolete within a year, this should be easy.

I ended up with the D-Link DIR-865L. It is a pretty old model (released in 2012) but it has all the features that I need which is gigabit WAN interface and AC1750 wireless. On paper, it looks good. And it comes cheap too as a used item. I got mine for $25.

To be honest, D-link has never impressed me with their wireless products, ever. Although all their previous wireless routers that I had a chance to try out never gave me the experience like I had with the Xiaomi, they can't be that bad all the time right? Or so I thought.

The DIR-865L range is worse than the Mini with my TV box. Even though there is connectivity, it is practically unusable. I plugged back my Mini after just 15 mins. I'll give it another tinker before I decide if I should Carousell it off or use the Mini as an extender instead to bypass the 100 Mbps limitation which will be a waste of energy for no reason.

So the DIR-865L is bigger, more expensive and supposedly faster but can't even beat a cheap mini router like the Mini in terms of range.

In the short time I had with the D-Link, I noticed that the internet upstream was only 10 Mbps when tested with I had to set the WAN connectivity manually to 1000 Mbps instead of Auto to fix this problem.  I am not sure if my Huawei ONT has anything to do with it. So for those currently using the DIR-865L, try testing your internet speed at and see if you face the same issue.

Also, I found out that changing the 802.11 mode will cause the Security Mode to be set to None. That is a bug if you ask me. The security mode should remain regardless.

Another bug I found is that after changing the transmission rate for the 2.4Ghz channel, some of my devices are not able to connect even though the settings are reverted. The only way it to reboot the router.

So bottom line is, if you do not have any devices placed far away like mine, then maybe the DIR-865L may work well for you. It didn't for me, at least on default settings. I am not putting up any high hopes that tinkering with it further will make any difference.

Now if only Xiaomi will release a version 2 of the Mini with gigabit WAN interface.

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