D-Link EXO AC2600 full review

While there’s a market full of routers ready to replace the basic ones provided by UK ISPs, D-Link’s DIR-2660 EXO AC2600 looks to offer something more than just fast, strong Wi-Fi connectivity. You see, as well as boasting 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi with MU-MIMO tech, you’ll also find router-level McAfee protection – as well as anti-virus protection for individual devices on your home network.

Find out how well the EXO AC2600 stands up to scrutiny in our full review below.

Note: There is no ADSL / VSDL modem version of the EXO AC2600. So if you get your broadband via ADSL and are planning to replace your ISP router, this may not be the best choice. You can, however, connect the AC2600 to your existing router and use the modem in that, but it's more convenient to simply choose an ADSL router.

Pricing and availability

The D-Link DIR-2660 EXO AC2600 can be picked up for around £100 in the UK, although at the time of writing, it was available on Amazon for only £99.99. Those in the US can also head to Amazon, where it’ll set you back a more costly $169.99.

That’s pretty cheap for an AC2600-enabled router in the UK, especially when you consider the McAfee protection alone is valued at £179.98 by itself. Other AC2600-enabled routers, like the Netgear XR500 Nighthawk Pro go for as much as £249/$299, giving you an idea of how budget-friendly the EXO AC2600 really is.

For more inspiration, take a look at our selection of the best Wi-Fi routers available right now.

Design and build

The D-Link DIR-2660 EXO AC2600 sports a black, angular design that wouldn’t look out of place on a PC gamer’s desk – especially with all those LED indicators blinking away on the ‘hood’ of the router. It’s dome-shaped with grey ridges running along the front and sides to break up the black body, and though it might look like a bit of a beast with those chunky antennas, it’s actually fairly compact for a router packed with so much tech, measuring in at 222.9 x 176.6 x 65mm.

Those chunky antennas are adjustable, by the way, allowing you to tweak the position to try and further improve the Wi-Fi range in your home.

On the rear, you’ll find four Gigabit Ethernet ports, with a Gigabit WAN port to connect to your ISPs router and a USB 2.0 port, along with a USB 3.0 port nestled in the bottom-right on the front – both to be used to connect external storage and share files on the network.

That’s all fairly standard for a router – it’s in the feature department that the EXO AC2600 really starts to shine.

Setup and features

The EXO AC2600 setup process is pain-free and took us only a few minutes to complete – we’ve certainly come a long way from the days where you had to connect a PC or laptop via Ethernet and head to a poorly-designed web interface to set up the router.

You simply download the D-Link Wi-Fi app, scan the QR code that’s supplied in the packaging to connect to your router and then input your desired Wi-Fi network details. The router will then restart, applying your new network details, and you’re then free to connect your devices as you please. So far, so standard.

Once set up, you can use the D-Link Wi-Fi app to link your Alexa or Google Assistant to the router for voice control, set up guest Wi-Fi networks and run internet speed tests using the built-in Ookla Speedtest functionality, but annoyingly, you’ll have to download a separate app to access many of the useful features the EXO AC2600 offers.

Using the D-Link Defend app, you can utilise the router’s built-in McAfee protection – provided for five years free of charge. You can scan every device connected to your network for vulnerabilities and either install McAfee Anti-Virus (which you can use for two years) or block it from being able to access the internet altogether.

You can also set up an Away Mode, activated via a tap, which disconnects specific devices from Wi-Fi when you’re away from home, thus giving potential hackers fewer ways into your home network.

It’s also where you can organise the various devices on your network (you can give each a handy icon and nickname to be easily identified). That ties in with the Parental Controls, which allow you to create different profiles – one for every child – and associate specific devices on your network with those profiles. From there, you can set up content blockers on a category or site-specific basis, as well as pause internet connectivity altogether during important moments like family dinner or when it’s time for the kids to go to bed.

Performance

The Wi-Fi on offer from the EXO AC2600 is fast, offers decent range and handles thick walls and floors better than the routers offered by UK ISPs. It offers theoretical top speeds of 800Mbps over 2.4Ghz and 1733Mbps over 5Ghz, made possible due to the inclusion of 802.11ac Wave 2 with MU-MIMO tech that can provide high-speed Wi-Fi to multiple devices at once.

This is backed up by our benchmarks, which show a marked improvement on both signal strength and range compared to the Virgin Media Hub 3 – we even managed to get a signal, however weak, in our garden, and that’s something we thought was only possible via the use of a mesh Wi-Fi system.

 

Virgin Media Hub 3

D-Link EXO AC2600

1m

541Mbps

553Mbps

5m with a wall

315Mbps

426Mbps

Downstairs, near rear of the house

40Mbps

82Mbps

Garden

-

14Mbps

For context, we tested the EXO AC2600 in a typical three-bedroom terraced house in London. The first benchmark was taken 1m away from the router, located on the first floor at the front of the house. We then stepped into the room next door at a distance of 5m, then headed downstairs to the back of the house and, finally, into the garden for the ultimate test.

But while the EXO AC2600 is an all-round improvement on the default routers provided by UK ISPs, it’s still a far cry from the range on offer from mesh networks like TP-Link’s Deco P9. There is still a lot to like about the EXO AC2600 though – the likes of Virgin Media and BT don’t offer built-in McAfee protection, an app to customise the Wi-Fi experience and a suite of advanced parental controls, after all.

If you do find you need the range, the good news is that the EXO AC2600 is “mesh-ready” with D-Link offering optional DAP-1620 range extenders (£55.31/$50) that offer a mesh-like experience, although it’s limited to dual-band and not tri-band wireless connectivity like the best-performing mesh systems available in 2020.

Unfortunately, we were unable to get our hands on the DAP-1620 to connect to the EXO AC2600 and put it to the test for ourselves, so we can’t comment on the performance right now. For more information on mesh systems we have tested, take a look at our selection of the best mesh Wi-Fi kits.

Verdict

The D-Link EXO AC2600 is a strong improvement on the Virgin Media Hub 3, providing better range and faster overall speeds than the default provided by the UK ISPs, and comes with a whole host of family-focused features. The crown of which is a robust parental control system that can track history, block websites and pause the internet entirely via a smartphone app, Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.

You’ve also got peace of mind in terms of security, offering router-level McAfee protection for five years along with Anti-Virus protection on supported devices for two years.

The range, while an improvement on what you’ll get from BT or Virgin Media, still falls short of that offered by mesh Wi-Fi systems, but the optional DAP-1620 extender could help depending on the layout of your home.

Specs

D-Link EXO AC2600: Specs

  • 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi with MU-MIMO
  • theoretical top speeds of 800Mbps (2.4Ghz) and 1733Mbps (5Ghz)
  • 4x Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • Gigabit WAN port
  • USB 2.0 port
  • USB 3.0 port
  • built-in Ookla Speedtest functionality
  • Extensive Parental Controls
  • Mobile app for iOS and Android
  • McAfee Protection and Anti-Virus for devices