Review: Gigabit Wi-Fi access points for SMBs

Cisco, D-Link, Edimax deliver impressive speeds, solid management tools

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D-Link DAP-2695

The D-Link DAP-2695 is designed for small to midsized businesses, as well as enterprise environments. Priced at $389.99, it’s loaded with a three-stream (3x3) 5GHz radio, supporting theoretical data rates up to 1,300Mbps for 802.11ac and 450Mbps for 802.11n, and a separate radio for 2.4GHz. Their recommended user limit is 100 users per access point with 50 users per radio/band.

This D-Link unit has a gray and black plenum-rated metal chassis, which makes it the heaviest at about 2.5 pounds. However, its size is more comparable to the other two access points, measuring approximately 7.5 x 7.8 inches in length and width, and about 1.5 inches high. It sports six detachable dual-band antennas: three 4dBi antennas for 2.4 GHz and three 6dBi antennas for 5 GHz. On the top/front you have the normal LED status lights.

D-Link access point

On a side, you'll find the ports: two Gigabit LAN ports (one with PoE support), console port for debugging, a reset button, and the optional AC power input.

Being pretty generous, D-Link includes both the AC power adapter and PoE injector along with a console cable. Like most other access points, it also comes with a mounting plate and hardware designed for wall mounting.

This D-Link unit comes from the factory set to a static IP, which requires you to temporary setup a computer with a static IP during the initial configuration. Additionally, once you log into the web-based configuration GUI, you won’t find any wizard to help with the setup.

If you prefer, you can centrally manage up to 32 access points with D-Link's controller-less access point management solution, called AP Array. Set one access point to be the Master, one to be the Backup Master, and all others to Slave. The Backup Master and Slaves will inherent the settings of the Master. Like the Edimax unit, D-Link allows you to choose specific groups of settings to exclude from the synchronization. D-Link also provides the AP Manager II software that you can alternatively use to centrally manage this and other compatible access points.

After navigating the configuration screens, we found that the access point supports a few different modes in addition to the traditional access point: Wireless Distribution System (WDS) with Access Point, WDS/Bridge (No AP Broadcasting), and Wireless Client. It supports up to eight VLANs per band for implementing multiple SSIDs.

We also found some advanced features, such as band steering with configurable settings to help ensure capable clients connect to the typically less congested 5GHz band instead of 2.4GHz and load balancing to ensure access points aren’t overloaded. Its web redirection features provides simple captive portal functionality. In addition to rogue access point detection, this unit provides ARP Spoofing Prevention to help protect against advanced hacking attempts and supports Microsoft's Network Access Protection (NAP) feature so network access can be stipulated upon client security and health requirements.

Like the Edimax access point, this unit has a built-in RADIUS server so you can easily utilize enterprise-class Wi-Fi security, but D-Link recommends a maximum of just 30 users.

Edimax WAP-1750

The Edimax WAP-1750 is designed for small to midsized businesses (SMB) and priced at $279.99. It’s loaded with a three-stream (3x3) 5GHz radio, supporting theoretical data rates up to 1,300Mbps for 802.11ac and 450Mbps for 802.11n, and another three-stream (3x3) radio for 2.4GHz. Edimax says it’s designed for high-density usage, supporting 100 simultaneous clients with 50 per band/radio.

This Edimax unit has a white plastic housing and is the smallest and lightest at just over 7 inches square, less than 1.5 inches tall, and just over 1.2 pounds. The top/front has just a single LED light, showing the status of power to the unit. On one of the sides, it has three detachable external dual-band antennas, each with 2dBi of gain.

On an adjacent side from the antennas, you find all the ports and buttons: optional AC power input, two Gigabit LAN ports (one supporting PoE input and other with PoE output), USB port for system logs and saving/restoring settings, console port, reset button, WPS button, and a power switch. The Ethernet port with PoE output can be used to power other devices, like another access point or security camera.

Edimax access point

On one side of the Edimax AP you’ll find all the ports and buttons.

Along with the usual Quick Install Guide, CD, and Ethernet cable, the unit comes with an AC adapter. It also includes a magnetic wall mount set.

When setting up the Edimax access point, you can either connect it to the network and it will get an IP via DHCP or you can configure via it’s default static IP using a computer. When you bring up the web-based configuration screen, you won’t find a setup wizard. Despite having no on-screen help either, the GUI is relatively attractive and user-friendly.

Edimax’s built-in access point controller functionally is called the Network Management Suite (NMS), which allows you to centrally manage up to eight access points. Once NMS is enabled, you’re presented with a modified web-based GUI on the access point that’s set as the controller. By default, any new additional access points you plug into the network will automatically join the NMS as a slave and inherit the settings defined by the controller. Like the D-Link access point, you can optionally override select settings of certain access points.

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