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Hands-on review: D-Link Aquila Pro AI AX3000 Wi-Fi 6 Smart Mesh System
Wed, 14th Feb 2024

The Aquila Pro AI AX3000 is a Wi-Fi 6 wireless mesh system consisting of two or three D-Link M30 routers. These routers can be directly connected to your modem as a Wi-Fi router or to your existing router to extend a wireless network.

The review kit came with two D-Link Aquila Pro M30 routers, a short length of Ethernet cable and the setup instructions. Each M30 router is powered using a standard transformer/wall plug, so the positioning of the devices very much depends on the locations of your power sockets.

The strange, almost organic shape of the M30 routers looks better than most network devices but still doesn't quite blend in with the décor of a normal house- unless your normal house is a 1960s Star Trek set. But at least we are moving away from network devices that look like medieval torture equipment, alien spiders or utilitarian monoliths (I'm looking at you, Asus).

The Aquila Pro M30s are Wi-Fi 6 devices, which means that they have a maximum data speed of 3Gpbs, as it says on the box. What this really means is that 2.4 GHz connections (via the two 2.4 GHz internal antennas) have speeds of up to 574 Mbps and 5 GHz connections up to 2403 Mbps (via the three 5 GHz internal antennas). This is a bit academic, as even the speed of a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi connection is fast enough for streaming to multiple TVs. But if you want fast data speeds (or you've got an Internet connection fast enough to take advantage of it), the 5 GHz connection would probably be better. But bear in mind a 5 GHz connection doesn't tend to have as much range.

The two M30 routers can be used, with one as a router wired directly to your modem and the other as an extender connected wirelessly. The pair can also be used as extenders to an existing Wi-Fi network. They have three modes, router, extender and bridge modes, which is better adjusted using the web-based user interface via a PC. This allows the devices to either control the assignment of local IP addresses or just act as a Wi-Fi network bridge- connecting LANs or simply extending the coverage of an existing wireless network. The basic set-up is, however, very easy.

As routers, you just plug one of the devices into your modem using the included network cable and with the free Aquila app (available for IOS and Android), follow the set-up instructions to create a wireless network. Subsequent Aquila Pro routers can extend the wireless network as you would extend via an existing router, as below.
If you just want to extend your existing Wi-Fi network coverage, you simply switch on the Aquila Pro and, when booted up, press the WPS button on your existing router and the same on the Aquila Pro device. After a few minutes, the Aquila Pro will be rebroadcasting your existing Wi-Fi network with the same SSID and password for a seamless extension.

It's worth pointing out that unless your existing wireless router is Wi-Fi 6, you are not going to get the best out of the Aquila Pro system. This is because the router can only communicate at the speed of the slowest device. If at all possible, use one of the Aquila Pro devices as your router and the other as an extension.

For my test, I first plugged the devices into my Australian NBN box and set them up as a router and an extender. Whilst this worked fine, I used a modem with voice-over IP for my landline. To better integrate the Aquila Pro routers into my existing wireless network, I set them up as extenders from my VoIP router. Again, this was painless.

Like most things these days, the Aquila Pro router uses "AI optimisation". Whilst I'd usually roll my eyes around into my head reading such a specification, for many years D-Link has been using intelligent signal shaping in its mesh systems. There have always been two areas in my house where the Wi-Fi single has been weak, the perfect places to check the Aquila Pro "AI". 

My dining room is at the other end of the house to my router. It's not a great distance, but a wall, an oven, and a fridge make for poor Wi-Fi coverage. Similarly, one of the upstairs bedrooms has two walls and flooring getting in the way of decent Wi-Fi coverage. Even with a few repeaters, I've only managed to get passable Wi-Fi in these two areas.

Moving the first Aquila Pro M30 router into the dining room after setting it up with a strong signal next to my router resulted in the white indicator light flashing to advise me that the signal was weak. I've had this with every wireless extender that I've put in that position. After a few minutes, though, the light changed to a bright, solid white for a strong signal. I found that every time I moved the unit to a new location it would spend a few minutes before confirming a strong signal. The same happened in the upstairs bedroom. The Aquila Pro was able to sort out my two wireless blackspots.

All the above was done just by using the free app, in the case of setting up the router, or just by pressing the WPS button as extenders. It was straightforward and required no understanding or IT expertise. However, that doesn't mean that the devices are not fully-featured routers. 

Connecting to the M30 routers via the web menu allows access to the standard D-Link router configuration options. D-Link's web interface is consistent across all its devices and is one of the best I've used. Here, you can set up port forwarding, a DMZ MAC address, quality of service options and parental settings. 

The D-Link Aquila Pro AI AX3000 Wi-Fi 6 Smart Mesh System is perfect for setting up a new home Wi-Fi network or extending an existing setup. The M30 routers have a clean aesthetic design and easy-to-use set-up but underneath, they have all the advanced features that enthusiasts expect.