D-Link DWR-2101 Review – The AX1800 WiFi 6 5G SIM Router

D-Link DWR-2101 5G Wifi 6 Router Review – Too Good To Be True?

Mobile routers are INCREDIBLY useful and on the face of it, the D-Link DWR-2101 WiFi 6 and 5G Network router is just insane! Whether you are on the commute, on a business trip, on holiday or simply just looking for a much more wire-free internet experience in your home/office, mobile routers have come a LONG way in 2021. Thanks to innovations in network technology and cellular data coverage worldwide, we have reached a point where a lot of these battery-powered portable routers are better than ALOT of desktop-wired routers. However, the majority of these mobile routers always seem to fall a little flat in their execution. Sometimes it is an efficiency issue (designed for battery power = gonna limit consumption), other times it is a connection issue (i.e RJ45 LAN as well as wireless), but in the case of the DLink DWR-2102 Mobile Router, it just seems almost too good to be true. Featuring the latest WiFi 6 (aka 802.11ax or WiFiAX) support for greater than gigabit wireless connectivity, 5G Mobile Data coverage (so 1.6Gb/s or 160MB/s data), physically LAN connectivity, more than half a day battery life and an LCD display – there is ALOT to like. However, where have their compromises fallen? Has this device had to cut corners? And is it as good as it sounds? Let’s find out in today’s DWR-2101 D-Link Mobile Router Review.

D-Link DWR-2101 5G Wifi 6 Router Review – Quick Conclusion

Certainly designed for Prosumers or working professionals that need fast internet on business trips (something that perhaps will return to form with more gusto in a post-pandemic world!), its hefty price tag will none the less still put some users off. Alongside this, those who are more used to the idea of a desktop router with its extendable/moveable antennae will be less enthused with the fixed internal antenna of the DWR-2101 – but THAT IS THE POINT. This is a mobile router for a mobile user. It is not designed to replace the router on your desk, but rather allow you to carry the internet in your pocket in a method and speed that has never really been possible till now. The design is a little plastic, but in terms of heat dissipation and portability, this is largely justified. In short – I am hugely impressed with the D-Link DWR-2101 mobile router.

SOFTWARE - 7/10
HARDWARE - 10/10
PERFORMANCE - 9/10
PRICE - 6/10
VALUE - 8/10


8.0
PROS
👍🏻5G SIM Router that can hit 160MB/s
👍🏻Not SIM Locked
👍🏻Portable WiFi 6 Support
👍🏻Realtime Display on the Router is super handy and is touch screen
👍🏻WPA3 Support
👍🏻Features a VERY useful 1Gbe RJ45 LAN Port
👍🏻USB-C Port can ALSO be used for Internet Pass-thru
👍🏻Decent 5260 mAh of power (12-14hrs)
👍🏻Supports up to 32 SSID shares (client devices)
👍🏻In-built Internet Speed test via LCD screen
👍🏻Port Forwarding, Firewall, DMZ and Mac Address Settings
👍🏻Configuration can be access locally on screen, an App and via a desktop browser
CONS
👎🏻Quite Expensive at $350-399 (though, HALF the price of the Netgear Mobile M5)
👎🏻Internal Antenna aren’t quite as adaptable as external Antennae
👎🏻The casing feels a little plastic’y

D-Link DWR-2101 5G Wifi 6 Router Review – Packaging

The retail box that the DWR-2101 arrives in is pretty compact (as you might expect from a portable item) and immediately highlights its core strengths and the fact it received an innovations award at CES 2020 last year. Despite its eventual release in late 2020/2021, it has to be said that there are very few WiFi 6 and 5G portable routers in the market, so they genuinely were one of the first to bring this kind of network solution to market

Inside we find everything pretty well structured (the DWR-2101 unit at the top, the accessories in a smaller panel underneath) and is pretty much everything you are going to need to use this device on Day 1. Of course, you are going to need a 5G Mobile Network Nano-SIM in order to use this particular feature, but the system can still be used as an offline private network and still enjoy the benefits of WiFi 6.

Inside we find the DWR-2101 mobile router itself (wrapped in anti-static/anti mark plastic, the desktop/table stand, a USB-A to USB-C (USB 3.2 Gen 1 class) cable and a quick start guide. Again, all fair standard stuff, though the lack of plug or even a single ethernet RJ45 cable is a bit of a shame. There is no mains plug adapter, which surprised me a little. I understand that this is a device that charges quickly via a USB port, but it does seem a bit of a cheap move to not include a plug adapter (even a standard USB-MAINS plug) on a device that arrives at over $399/£350. The cable is good quality though and of course, you can change this via pretty much any USB port available in your physical environment. The Quick Start Guide, though a little underwhelming too, still gives you more than though information for setting the device up for the first time. Mainly pictorial, you should not have any difficultly using the DWR-2101 router in minutes.

So, that’s what you get for your money in terms of kit. So let’s take a good look at the unit itself

D-Link DWR-2101 5G Wifi 6 Router Review – Design

The first thing that struck me when I held the D-Link DWR-2101 router is the weight. At 235 grams, it is small but weighty. Hardly noticeable in your bag of course, but if you are carrying the DWR-2101 in your pocket alongside a phone and wallet, it is much more noticeable. Aside from that, I do genuinely like the design and although it is a mostly plastic external chassis, it is still very rugged feeling and sturdy to hold.

The front plate of the DWR-2101 casing features an embossed series of lines and groves that are similar in look to that of a circuit board, which I quite like. There is just a single power button o nthe front of the device (as control is managed via a mobile app, a web browser GUI and the LCD touchscreen front panel. Aside from that, the system is a completely button-free design. 

When comparing the DWR-2101 with my Netgear Mobile M5, the D-Link 5G Router seems alot more compact (barely) and integrates the home and back buttons into the LCD screen display (rather than the physical button panels on the Netgear M5 5G ROUTER). Aside from that, both routers (currently the two best options for those looking at a mobile 5G and WiFi 6 router with a RJ45 Ethernet/LAN port) are near identical – however, the Netgear Nighthawk M5 5G Router is DOUBLE THE PRICE of the D-Link DWR-2101, and I am struggling to see where that extra money was spent! In terms of value, the Dlink DWR-2101 5G router is giving you so, SO much more.

Back to the physical LCD display of the DWR-2101. It’s nice, crisp and clear – providing pretty much all the information you need at a touch. We will go into more detail later on, but I genuinely have no complaints about the screen – although not quite as vibrant in colour as the older Netgear M1 Mobile Router (4G), it is still very clear and the GUI is as intuitive as you would want.

The power button feels a little ‘clicky’ but you won’t really be hammering it much. Also, the responsiveness of the touch screen is good too – I had concerns about its idle/screen-off timer (i.e would it wake up in my pocket and have options pressed as I walked) but there is lots of customization on this available in the settings menu, along with a screen lock feature when needed.

The rear of the D-Link DWR-2101 is a fairly plain affair, with lots of passive ventilation. The router is silent when in operation, but relies on strategically placed heatsinks to maintain workable temperatures and this rear ventilation (along with more o nthe sides) helps maintain that optimal efficiency.

Finally, the DWR-2101 arrives with a stand for the system to sit in when left in a neutral/regular location. I wish D-Link had integrated the charging of the system into the dock (as a few other lesser products have done) but unfortunately, this dock is just a plastic, rubberized mould. It should the LCD and information (rubberized at the base, so you can adjust options on the LCD without knocking the DWR-2101 over) but still a little basic.

Overall, the DWR-2101 is a smart and compact looking device and although the design is not going to knock anyone’s socks off, it still has a pretty sleek, rugged and sturdy build quality. Let’s discuss ports and connections

D-Link DWR-2101 5G Wifi 6 Router Review – Ports & Connections

Although OBVIOUSLY, the biggest reason that user will want to buy the D-Link DWR-2101 is the 5G Mobile Data and WiFi 6 (AX) support – the fact that it also has a physical gigabit (1Gbe) LAN/Ethernet port is also very important. There are ALOT of mobile routers on the market (you can easily hire one for 1-30 days at most airports with a basic data contract), having one with a physical 1Gbe LAN port is much rarer (especially when you include the DWR-2101’s support of 5G and 802.11ax). This LAN port will provide upto 100-109MB/s performance with a connected device which (although technically less than the MAXIMUM potential of 5G and WiFi 6, is still remarkably handy).

However, which is also extra useful is that the USB-C port on the device (primarily used for charging the internal battery of course) can also be used to create a wired-internet hotspot – technically another physical, wired network connection! Very handy indeed. The charging of the DWR-2101 is pretty fast, especially if you use a USB 3.2 Gen 1 (aka USB 3.0/USB 3.1 Gen 1) conneciton and correct cable.

There is a small cavity on the base of the casing on the DWR-2101 that allows you to remove the back panel (it does NOT come off easy) and access the NANO SIM sim slot, as well as the battery (the thing that is taking up all the room and making up the bulk of that weight inside).

As you can see, the battery takes up the bulk of the space immediately! The battery itself is a 5260mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery, that they report will last 12-14hrs. I am quite impressed by both the design of the battery, as well as its connection. For those familiar with mobile routers (especially premium/wired models) the battery is make-or-break alot of the time. It can expand (the tiniest bit) when hot and manufacturers have to allow a millimetre or two of space internally to allow for this. The result is that some mobile routers (that are jiggled around in transit) have their battery briefly disconnected from time to time and that is INFURIATING).

The D-Link DWR-2101 features a very comfortably positioned battery, a battery locking mechanism, alongside a downward-facing connector. The result is that rather than relying on the battery touching a horizontal connector, it is angled directly into the socket and cannot be shaken out. A little design touch like that goes a LONG way with me! Especially when I saw the Netgear Mobile M1 and M5 are still using the less stable battery style and even a casual glance online will show you people’s complaints about the Netgear nighthawk mobile battery.

The side of the open chassis shows the NANO sim slot for your 5G Mobile data card. I have been testing the D-Link DWR-2101 mobile 5G router with a O2 5G SIM card, an EE 5G Mobile sim card and an EE 4G Mobile sim card (all NANO of course) and all three connected easily and were immediately actioned and usable. The DWR-2101 5G router arrives unlocked (so sim-free) and supports a wide range of providers.

So, these are your main connections and interface slots of the D-Link 5G and WiFi 6 mobile router. Overall, pretty impressed with the internal design choices, as well as the level of control and access that you have available to you on this device. Connectivity is maintained through 4×4 internal antenna, 2 x internal WiFi antennas, so no external antennae that you can manually adjust, or connectors for attaching a larger external one. Let’s discuss the controls and operation of the device.

D-Link DWR-2101 5G Wifi 6 Router Review – Display & Control

As mentioned, the main control of the DWR-2101 is done via the on-device LCD touchscreen display, as well as via a mobile application (and also through a desktop web browser directly into the GUI). That said, the bulk of the control and customization of your 5G/WiFi 6 network on the DWR-2101 can be done with just the LCD panel alone. The additional mobile app and browser-based interface introduce a whole bunch of more network tool-specific features (will cover in a bit) but you can still control a bunch of things from the LCD.

There is a setup guide option for taking you step by step through the initialization (creating and naming your network/SSID, security credentials, frequency, etc), as well as power-saving settings and an on-the-fly wife network configuration option to change your settings or review existing ones as a reminder.

The fact you can create the two separate frequencies at 2.4Ghz (riding just over 500Mbps bandwidth) and the 5Ghz bandwidth (providing 1200Mbps bandwidth) is a useful extra and these can be set as completely separate SSIDs, with their own login and security settings. If you plan on using some devices more than others, or some older devices are mixed with newer ones, this is a useful way of separating them out neatly.

The is even a useful help guide built-in that explains a number of the core features, how to change them and helps to troubleshoot some features when the device is in use.  The settings are still a lot more varied in the mobile application (D-Link EZ-Five), as well as connecting via home (192.168.0.1 etc) on a web browser, but nevertheless, it is handy to be able to change a number of the core settings without a client device on the hardware screen. There is also a speed test option to check your 5G/4G Coverage and speed, which will touch on later.

The EZ-Five application for mobile phones is made by D-Link themselves and although seems to just be a gloried version of the web GUI, it still provides a wide range of configuration and customization options. Here are a few of the best ones (remember, this is a mobile router, so although these sound very ‘standard’, you have to remember that most mobile SIM routers are INCREDIBLY barebones):

(Video Below Live on 16/04/21)

  • Change SSID, Network Frequency and Security Settings
  • Adjust NAT settings, Firewall setup and Port Forwarding Rules
  • Change network address connectivity settings, as well as IP, Subnet etc
  • Send and Recieve SMS messages via the App/GUI and using the SIM Card
  • Adjust APN settings or use automatic defaults for your network provider
  • Firmware Update and Restore control
  • Adjust MAC filters and view SIM Information/Settings
  • WAN Settings and Statistical Information on Traffic over time

Here are a few screenshots of the mobile app and its features:

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Likewise, ALL of the settings and features of the mobile app are completely available in the DWR-2101 desktop web browser-based GUI when accessed over the network. Although not quite as quickly accessed as the mobile app, the fact the DWR-2101 has 3 very clear and user-friendly means to configure the Mobile 5G and WiFi 6 router with ease is pretty impressive. Here is how the desktop browser GUI looks (Google Chrome was used):

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Another important thing to note (and something that only the truly tech-savvy will appreciate) is that the D-Link DWR-2101 arrives WPA3 Security certified. This is a great deal rarer than you might think in 2021 and particularly in a device with no additional software or subscription costs. The majority of WiFi 6 routers that I have reviewed in 2020/2021 have been WPA2, which although still very secure, is still not as efficient yet secure across integrity checks as WPA3. That was a welcome surprise during setup.

So, although the configuration and control is pretty impressive for a mobile router (which all too often have far more streamlined and ‘default control’ that cannot be adjusted), the D-Link DWR-2101 WiFi 6 and 5G SIM router is pretty versatile, whilst still being pretty user friendly.

D-Link DWR-2101 5G Wifi 6 Router Review – Speed and Performance

In order to fully test the D-Link DWR-2101 performance, I have setup up numerous test environments in order to see the speed achieved in both Read and Write performance. These tests covered WiFi 6 connectivity, as well as 5G mobile data coverage and 4G mobile data coverage (tested in the UK in 4G/5G well-covered zones). I have made videos on each test below and will (soon) be making a far more detailed written review on my D-Link DWR-2101 performance tests here on NASCompares. For now, you can check the video below (being published a day or two after the review) to see how the DWR-2101 performed.

(Video Below Live on 15/04/21)

D-Link DWR-2101 5G SIM Mobile Router – SPEED TEST 5G

The first (and likely most popular test for many) was testing the speed and performance possible on the DWR-2101 over 5G connectivity:

(Click to Enlarge)

D-Link DWR-2101 5G SIM Mobile Router – LAN CONNECTION TEST

Finally, a much more straight forward test of the Ethernet/1Gbe/Gigabit. I did not expect anything more than the standard 100-109MB/s, but nevertheless, knowing that this ethernet port can still give the total bandwidth is always reassuring:

(Click to Enlarge)

D-Link DWR-2101 5G SIM Mobile Router – SPEED TEST 4G

Next, I switched to an active 4G Data SIM on the D-Link DWR-2101 for some comparative performance benchmarks to give the 5G results some relatively

(Click to Enlarge)

D-Link DWR-2101 5G SIM Mobile Router – In-Built Speed Test

Next, I moved to the 802.11ax/WiFi 6 connection of the DWR-2101 to see how well it would perform and what speed/bandwidth would be provided to a WiFi 6 client device:

D-Link DWR-2101 5G SIM Mobile Router Performance Conclusion

Across all the tests, the D-Link DWR-2101 performed very well and in some cases surpassed expectations. In a future test, I will be utilizing significantly more clients. But even in these tests using a handful of devices, this 5G mobile router performed very well. The speeds I achieved are not challenging or surpassing the theoretical maximums of 1.6Gbps and 1.8Gbps, however, these are BANDWIDTH measurements and not the same as speed. Think of Bandwidth as the width of the pipe and Soeed as the amount of water and its pressure through that pipe. Ultimately, Amore advanced and high performance 5G coverage location (perhaps far more geographically close to a mast) would likely yield higher results.

D-Link DWR-2101 5G Wifi 6 Router Review – Conclusion

Overall, I am genuinely struggling to find things I do not like about the D-Link DWR-2101 mobile router. This kind of technology (5G and WiFi 6) are still pretty new and therefore as much as I do not like the price tag, this is to be expected – and still 50% less than the Netgear Nighthawk M5 alternative. The DWR-2101 delivers on its rather big promises and as long as you are definitely going to take advantage of the 5G, WiFi 6, Ethernet connectivity and mobile deployment of the D-Link mobile router (or at the very least plan on doing so in the next 12 months), then this is easily one fo the best mobile routers I have ever used and certainly gave my desktop/wired office router and ISP home router a run for their money. 

Certainly designed for Prosumers or working professionals that need fast internet on business trips (something that perhaps will return to form with more gusto in a post-pandemic world!), its hefty price tag will none the less still put some users off. Alongside this, those who are more used to the idea of a desktop router with its extendable/moveable antennae will be less enthused with the fixed internal antenna of the DWR-2101 – but THAT IS THE POINT. This is a mobile router for a mobile user. It is not designed to replace the router on your desk, but rather allow you to carry the internet in your pocket in a method and speed that has never really been possible till now. The design is a little plastic, but in terms of heat dissipation and portability, this is largely justified. In short – I am hugely impressed with the D-Link DWR-2101 mobile router.

 

Pros of the D-Link DWR-2101 5G Wifi 6 Router Cons of the D-Link DWR-2101 5G Wifi 6 Router
  • 5G SIM Router that can hit 160MB/s
  • Not SIM Locked
  • Portable WiFi 6 Support
  • Realtime Display on the Router is super handy and is touch screen
  • WPA3 Support
  • Features a VERY useful 1Gbe RJ45 LAN Port
  • USB-C Port can ALSO be used for Internet Pass-thru
  • Decent 5260 mAh of power (12-14hrs)
  • Supports up to 32 SSID shares (client devices)
  • In-built Internet Speed test via LCD screen
  • Port Forwarding, Firewall, DMZ and Mac Address Settings
  • Configuration can be access locally on screen, an App and via a desktop browser
  • Quite Expensive at $350-399
  • Internal Antenna aren’t quite as adaptable as external Antennae
  • Casing feels a little plastic’y

Check Availability and Prices on the D-Link DWR-2101 WiFi 6 & 5G Router Below

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    D-Link DWR-2101 WiFi 6 5G SIM Router Review
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    One thought on “D-Link DWR-2101 Review – The AX1800 WiFi 6 5G SIM Router

    1. Hi, I plan to use this device in a mostly stationary setting at home. Can the DWR-2101 be used while powering via USB-C, i.e., permanently plugged in?
      On that note, is there anything like holes on the back that facilitates mounting the router to a wall or similar?
      Thanks a lot.

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