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D-Link DIR‑X1860 router review: An affordable Wi-Fi 6 router with a good spread of features

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
105
inc VAT

There are faster options, and cheaper ones, but the DIR-X1860 is a solid and versatile router

Pros 
Feature set goes well beyond the basics
Strong speeds over legacy connections
Compact and bijou
Cons 
Doesn’t unlock the full performance potential of Wi-Fi 6
No USB
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At long last, Wi-Fi 6 routers are coming out at sensible prices. Last month we took the £80 Honor Router 3 for a spin, and now D-Link has joined the fray with its wallet-friendly DIR-X1860. Costing just £105, this diminutive router offers a decent set of features and full support for the latest 802.11ax technology, which should enable it to outperform any Wi-Fi 5 rival.

The question is, how well does it deliver on the potential of Wi-Fi 6? Is the DIR-X1860 a match for the first wave of costly 802.11ax routers that appeared last year – or has that lower price point been achieved by ruthlessly cutting corners?

READ NEXT: The best wireless routers to buy today

D-Link DIR‑X1860 router review: What you need to know

The DIR-X1860 is a dual-band router, promising Wi-Fi connections of up to 574Mbits/sec on the 2.4GHz band and 1.2Gbits/sec on the 5GHz band when used with compatible Wi-Fi 6 devices.

Naturally, it’ll work with slower 802.11ac clients too, so it makes an affordable drop-in replacement for an ageing last-generation router (although as usual there’s no built-in modem). The dual-band design means that bandwidth could get bottlenecked when large numbers of Wi-Fi 5 clients are connected, but that’s somewhat mitigated by support for 4x4 MU-MIMO.

D-Link DIR‑X1860 router review: Price and competition

The DIR-X1860 first came to our attention at an alluring £82, but the price has now been ratcheted up to £105. That’s a bit of a kick in the teeth, but even so this remains one of the cheapest Wi-Fi 6 routers around, coming in at £35 less than Netgear’s budget offering, the Nighthawk AX4

Indeed, the only Wi-Fi 6 router that undercuts the DIR-X1860 it is the Honor Router 3, which wowed us at its launch price of £80 and can now be had for just £50. It’s not as loaded with features as the DIR-X1860, but it’s an effective and likeable piece of kit that gives next-gen clients a measurable speed boost.

If your focus is on performance, the fastest Wi-Fi router we’ve tested is the Asus RT-AX88U – though at £250 it’s a huge leap up in price. We’ve yet to see any Wi-Fi 6 router stake out a persuasive middle ground between the budget offerings and high-end models, but it’s a growing market so that will hopefully be remedied before long.

D-Link DIR‑X1860 router review: Design and features

Imposing, hefty, ostentatious… the DIR X1860 is none of these things. It occupies a modest 224x166mm footprint, and weighs in at an insubstantial 525g. The case design isn’t exactly boring, but with its simple curved shape and matte black finish it’s hardly a conversation piece.  At the front, four LEDs glow white to indicate that the power is on, the internet is connected and your 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios are up and running. The overall mood is low-key, and we’ve no complaints about that.

Simplicity rules the day at the rear too. Four Gigabit Ethernet sockets are joined by a bright yellow WAN port that connects to your modem; beside that lurks a WPS button, and a recess at the other end houses the reset button. That’s it for connectors: if you were hoping for USB, you’re out of luck.

While the physical design may be somewhat barebones, D-Link hasn’t been mean with the features. The web portal offers everything you’d expect and more, including a simple firewall which you can use to enforce global blocks and filters for all connected devices, and support for L2TP over IPsec, allowing you to route all internet traffic over a compatible VPN.

We’re also fans of D-Link’s visual QoS management widget, which lets you assign priorities to different devices by dragging their icons from a list into a priority table. And if you register with the D-Link Cloud service, you can use either Alexa or the Google Assistant to control the guest network and reboot the router.

A basic parental control module is included, too, allowing you to block selected devices according to a weekly schedule. There’s no logging or custom web filtering but for a free feature we can’t complain too much.

The only slight irritation is that, while parental controls are applied to clients from the home page of the web portal, the access schedules have to be defined elsewhere, under the management tab. We found it easier to configure using the D-Link Wi-Fi app for Android and iOS, which puts everything in one place.

D-Link DIR‑X1860 router review: Performance

The few low-cost Wi-Fi 6 routers we’ve tested so far have put in respectable performances but they haven’t been able to match the speeds of their high-end brethren. The hundred-and-five-pound question, then, is whether the DIR-X1860 can punch above its price.

I tested this, as I always do, by setting up the router in the usual spot in my living room, then walking around my home with a laptop, copying a series of files to and from a NAS appliance (connected directly to the router via Ethernet) to measure file-transfer speeds in various locations. To be strictly accurate, I used two laptops: for legacy connections I used a 2020 Huawei Matebook X Pro, equipped with an Intel AC9560 160MHz Wi-Fi 5 adapter, while for Wi-Fi 6 I used a 2020 HP Elite Dragonfly, which features an integrated Intel AX200 2x2 160MHz card.

Here are the download speeds I saw over Wi-Fi 6 in four key areas. For context, I’ve also provided the speeds I obtained from the Honor Router 3, the £140 Netgear Nighthawk AX4 and the top-performing (but much more expensive) Asus RT-AX88U:

Speeds over 5GHz 802.11ax (MB/sec)

D-Link download

Honor download

Netgear download

Asus download

Living room

60.5

48.4

59.5

70.5

Rear terrace

23.6

24.7

24.5

51.6

Bedroom

35.2

27.2

27.2

56.8

Bathroom

10.6

10.2

13.5

32.6

It looks like the D-Link DIR-X1860 won’t be turning the router market on its head. While close-range performance was nothing to sniff at, the signal dropped off sharply in other parts of the house, with speeds falling well behind the best-in-class Asus. For sure, the DIR-X1860 showed strengths too – notably a very encouraging 35.2MB/sec in the bedroom – but its overall performance over Wi-Fi 6 was merely in line with what we’ve come to expect from a sub-£150 router.

On the positive side, performance over Wi-Fi 5 was rather good indeed. This isn’t something you can take for granted, even from a router that delivers excellent Wi-Fi 6 speeds: that’s amply demonstrated by the Asus RT-AX88U, which was here shown a clean pair of heels by much cheaper hardware.

Speeds over 5GHz 802.11ac (MB/sec)

D-Link download

Honor download

Netgear download

Asus download

Living room

51.9

52.8

39.2

32.2

Rear terrace

16.5

18.2

8.7

8

Bedroom

17.6

20.9

10.4

16.9

Bathroom

11.2

11

8.4

10.8

When it comes to Wi-Fi 5, we’d have to say that D-Link shares top honours with, er, Honor. Taking into account the element of chaos that’s inherent to wireless networking, we’d go so far as to say that the two routers gave functionally identical performances over Wi-Fi 5, while the Asus and Netgear models brought up the rear.

READ NEXT: The best wireless routers to buy today

D-Link DIR‑X1860 router review: Verdict

If you’re looking for Wi-Fi 6 at the lowest possible price, there’s no decision to make. The Honor Router 3 costs far less than the DIR-X1860 and provides similar performance over both Wi-Fi 5 and 6 connections.

It would be a mistake, however, to think of the D-Link DIR‑X1860 simply as a more expensive alternative. While not overloaded with features, it unarguably does things the Honor won’t. The firewall and VPN support are excellent touches and we haven’t even mentioned D-Link’s open-ended dynamic DNS support.

On top of that, the DIR‑X1860 offers 4x4 MU-MIMO, while the Honor Router 3 is limited to 2x2. The difference is marginal but Wi-Fi 5 devices will undoubtedly be with us for some time to come, so anything that helps manage contention on a dual-band router is to be welcomed.

We can’t pretend that this router wasn’t more tempting at £82 than it is at £105. But even at its current price, the D-Link DIR-X1860 provides something we’ve been missing for too long: a low-cost Wi-Fi 6 router option that combines credible performance with a strong feature set. If that sounds good to you, there’s no reason to wait any longer – unless, of course, you’re holding out in hope that the price will go back down.