D-Link Nuclias DBA-X1230P review: Pricey but powerful
Not the best value, but this cloud-managed Wi-Fi 6 AP is a good performer with top-notch guest services
With fierce competition in the SMB Wi-Fi market, vendors need to offer something special to stand out. Enter D-Link’s Nuclias access points (APs), which offer full cloud management, plenty of business-class features and a choice of models at different speeds.
We tried out the entry-level DBA-X1230P, which claims an AX1800 performance rating. That’s arrived at by totting up theoretical speeds of 1,200Mbits/sec on its 5GHz radio and 600Mbits/sec on the 2.4GHz band. It isn’t the cheapest AX1800 AP we’ve seen – Netgear’s WAX610 only costs £130 – but it’s better value than it appears, as the price includes your first year’s subscription to D-Link’s Nuclias cloud-management platform.
You’ll need it, as the DBA-X1230P doesn’t support standalone operations, but keeping your cloud subscription going isn’t expensive, with a further one-year licence costing £43 per AP, or £130 for three years. The Nuclias web portal provides all the management conveniences you’d expect; you start out by creating a parent organisation for your company, and then define sites for each office location. When you add an address for each one it appears in its rightful place in the dashboard’s company map, and you can then start setting up profiles to control each site’s wireless services.
D-Link helpfully provides profile templates for each Nuclias-managed AP model. These can be tweaked to suit and offer plenty of customisable options: you can decide which radios are active, create up to eight SSIDs for each one, optionally enforce strong WPA3 encryption and enable station isolation to keep wireless users away from the local network.
For testing, we hooked up the DBA-X1230P to the lab’s EnGenius ECS2512FP PoE++ multi-Gig switch. This worked perfectly well, but if you use one of D-Link’s DBS-2000 series of PoE switches, then this too can be managed from Nuclias, with yearly renewals costing £22 per switch.
It took us mere moments to add the AP to our cloud account; we achieved this by installing the Nuclias iOS app on an iPad, then using it to scan the QR code on its label. The app invited us to assign the AP to our site and let us choose a profile before the unit was plugged in. Once powered on, the AP automatically registered itself with our account and started presenting the SSIDs we’d defined.
If you’ve previously used the Nuclias web portal, you’ll notice that it’s recently been redesigned to focus more on site status and device availability. Sadly this means you now get less information about client activity and traffic throughput, but you can still find this in the mobile app: we were able to browse daily graphs of traffic and connected clients, with readouts of how much data was passing through each AP.
One area where the DBA-X1230P excels is guest networking. With support for up to 16 site SSIDs, there’s scope to present multiple guest wireless networks, and captive portal features are outstanding. You can present a click-through page with an acceptable use policy, require visitors to authenticate against a Nuclias-managed user list or connect to third-party providers such as Facebook, Google or Twitter. SMS authentication is an option, too, though to use it you’ll need to sign up with Twilio and pay 3p per message. Other guest controls include upload and download traffic limits and daily schedules that determine when guest SSIDs will be available.
While the DBS-X1230P doesn’t claim a huge amount of bandwidth, it achieved very respectable results in our real-world performance tests. Large file copies between a Windows 10 Pro workstation equipped with a TP-Link Archer TX3000E Wi-Fi 6 PCI-E adapter and a server on our 10GbE LAN were completed at an average speed of 93MB/sec at close range, dropping to a still very creditable 81.5MB/sec when the AP was placed 10m away in an adjoining room.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the DBA-X1230P is comparatively pricey for an AX1800 Wi-Fi 6 AP, and you’ll need to factor in the ongoing cost of Nuclias access. For the price, though, you get impressive real-world performance, easy deployment, good cloud management services and superb guest support.
D-Link Nuclias DBA-X1230P specifications
AX1800 dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz 802.11ax
2 x 2 MU-MIMO, internal aerials
Gigabit LAN/802.3at PoE+, RJ-45 console port, power socket
Ceiling/wall mounting kit, 1yr Nuclias subscription included
243 x 243 x 64mm (WDH)
Limited lifetime warranty on registration
D-Link Nuclias, 1yr AP licence: £43 exc VAT
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