Amazon Review by Sui
716 people found the following review helpful
A Solid Wireless Router
The TP-Link Archer C7 is an AC1750 class router with gigabit ports and dual band Wi-Fi that supports up to 450mbps on wireless-N and 1300mbps on wireless-AC. Here's my take on it:
The box and connectors:
As far as consumer routers go, this is a pretty standard router that offers a couple of nice extras that generally are not found on most routers. On the back panel, the Archer C7 has four gigabit Ethernet ports, and the accompanying WAN port is also gigabit making it suitable for use with the newer class of modems. It also houses a pair of USB 2.0 ports for attaching NAS devices and/or setting up a print server directly off the router without a host computer. The router also supports IPv4 and IPv6 protocols making it a bit future proof (I use this term loosely - as we all know, standards have a way of changing overnight). The unit also uses a standard AC adapter/wall wart combination for power. The connectors for the 5gHz connectors are also located on the rear of the box, as is the WPS reset button.
Last but not least, this router has a dedicated wireless on/off switch in the back AND a power on/off button - seeing as most routers do not have these - this is very cool. These two switches allow the user to disable wireless, and/or perform a cold reboot of the router independently - without having to unplug it from the AC jack (to say nothing of this reducing greatly the risk of the box getting fried by constantly plugging and unplugging this jack). Kudos to TP-Link for this.
On the front panel it’s a pretty typical modern display for a router (with the cutesy icon shaped LED indicators of course). From left to right, you get: a power on indicator, a sun shaped icon displaying the overall status of the router, two separate on/off/active indicators for each wireless band, four indicators for the Ethernet ports, internet activity/active light, and a WPS indicator light. It would have been cool had the Ethernet lights had different colors to indicate 10/100/1000Base-T connections, but this is probably just me wishing to see more information at-a-glance.
The router has a very shiny black finish - which looks fantastic, but you better keep a microfiber cloth handy if you expect it to always look that way - the surface is a big-time fingerprint and dust magnet. You could almost say that one of the Archer C7’s sub functions is to tell you how polluted the air in your house is.
Setting up this router is fairly easy to do when it comes to instant gratification. Generally the quick setup (which can be done either through the web interface or included mini-CD) allows one to quickly set up all the rudimentary stuff to get up and running quickly. This will only address the most basic settings, such as setting up the wireless network’s SSID’s, channels, and security keys. This method of setup is probably the best method for novices.
Tweaking this router to your personal tastes and preferences takes a good bit more patience - they are only available from the web interface - and the interface itself, while fairly well laid out is a bit cumbersome to say the least, and requires a lot of clicks to get to certain aspects of the router’s configuration parameters. Changes made that require reboots also take a bit longer than the average router. The bottom line is, while this router can be fully configured, it’s just not a very fast process - put aside a good block of time to do the modifications you want to do to the router.
The first thing I personally would recommend doing before you start diving into the heavier tweaking is to upgrade the firmware. This device will not retain any settings that were modified once the firmware is upgraded, so it can result in a lot of lost time and effort if you don’t do this beforehand. Also it is very important to upgrade to the latest version of the firmware as several critical issues in the original firmware have been fixed.
I am happy to report that once configured to my liking, the Archer C7 has been rock solid - it retains its settings and hasn’t required a single reboot and/or dropped connections anywhere. This makes the time ones puts into customizing very well worth the effort.
Security settings are pretty standard for a consumer router. You get the hardware NAT firewall along with the SPI firewall. You also get DoS protection with assignable flood filters. There is VPN tunnel management and also ALG filters for the NAT firewall. Local and remote management of the router is also fully programmable to make accessibility to the web based interface as tight or as loose as you want.
Other setup features involve the USB ports, as you can set them up for an FTP server, shared storage, print server and also a media server for the entire network. There are also a slew of other features, such as port triggering, setting up a DMZ or virtual server, and so forth.
I kind of made wireless the focal point of this review because the simple fact is, that’s about 90% of the reason anyone gets a wireless router of any kind. Let’s take a look:
The TP-Link Archer C7 comes with a pretty comprehensive wireless feature set. You get dual transmitters on 2.4gHz and 5gHz, which can be run simultaneously or in one band only. There is also a hardware master wireless on/off switch on the back of the router, which saves one the trouble of having to login to the router to disable the wireless system. Each band is completely programmable and independent of the other, and both bands also offer a guest network - effectively giving the ability to offer four wireless networks (all with unique SSID’s) in a single box. Both bands also offer WDS bridging for expanding coverage, and I suspect there is also a way to manually bridge as well. Each band has three antennas - the 5gHz antennas are external and detachable, and the 2.4gHz antennas are fixed internal.
Both bands also offer WPS connectivity, wireless MAC filtering, WEP (up to 152bit keys) WPA/WPA2 PSK Personal and WPA/WPA2 Enterprise (both WPA/2 modes offer TKIP and AES encryption). You also get three power setting levels (low, medium and high), the ability to adjust the beacon interval, RTS threshold, fragmentation threshold and the DTIM interval. You also get the ability to enable and disable WMM and short GI. Lastly there is also the option for enabling/disabling AP isolation. Guest networks are fully controllable in accessibility, wireless security and bandwidth limiting.
The Archer C7 is compatible with wireless A, B, G, N and AC. 2.4 gHz offers wireless B, G and N while 5gHz offers A, N and AC. The flexibility of assigning bands left a little to be desired as the router does NOT offer single modes (IE - Wireless-N only, etc). Rather, each band offers two sets of mixed modes. 2.4gHz offers B/G and B/G/N mixed modes while 5gHz offers A/N and A/N/AC mixed modes. This is probably my biggest gripe about the Archer C7.
I would have liked to have had the options of being able to run single modes in both transmitters, at the very least have the options of wireless N only and wireless AC only. Now while the slower wireless G adapter in my older Toshiba laptop did not seem to effect the connection speeds/transfer rates of my N devices on the 2.4gHz band, the simple fact is the potential for devices with slower modes to have an adverse effect on overall performance of the devices with the faster modes is a real possibility.
I should say this is at best a small turnoff in the face of an otherwise solid set of wireless features, but what makes this a bit more of a head scratcher is the fact that according to the manuals, single modes seemed to have been available in the version 1 models of the Archer C7, but were done away with in the V2 and V3 models. So why did they decide to get rid of the single modes in the later versions of the Archer C7? TP-Link: PLEASE bring the single modes back.
Channel width setting options also were a little on the lean side. The 2.4gHz transmitter’s options were standard with B/G mode fixed to 20mHz (as it should be) and the options of Auto, 20 and 40mHz on B/G/N mode. The 5gHz transmitter curiously offers NO options for channel width at all. The only choices present in the 5gHz transmitter are either choosing a channel manually or setting it to auto. I am presuming that the channel width is auto in the firmware (or could it possibly be fixed to a certain width?) - I personally would have preferred being able to either set it to Auto or a fixed width of my preference. Perhaps this can be addressed in the next firmware update.
Wireless Performance Testing
My house is not a large house, but also does not have an open floor plan. Wireless signal strength has always been a problem on the far side of my house because I have lots of walls to deal with, and I have to hook up a main router on the other side of the house. My testing conditions therefore are as such that the truth definitely will come out about the abilities of any wireless transmitter I use. For the long distance testing my router was located in the front right corner of my house and the clients were located in the left rear corner of the house - the maximum possible distance between clients and router inside my house. For close testing my clients were located in the next room over from the router with a bathroom directly between the two rooms.
Please note that the speeds listed here are the connection speeds and not the actual throughput rate. But in regard to transfer rate, one can generally get a quick ballpark estimate of the actual maximum possible data transfer rate by taking the wireless connection speed and dividing that number by 2. I focused more on the actual signal strength, because in reality the connection speed AND actual data transfer rate is 100% dependant on the signal strength of the wireless connection. Simply put, the weaker the signal, the slower the data transfer rates are going to be.
The devices I used in this test were a Google Nexus-7 2013 android tablet, LG LS970 android phone, a Toshiba Satellite 5825 laptop with the original built in wireless 2.4gHz B/G adapter and a newer Dell laptop with an i5 processor and 300N built in dual band wireless adapter. Finally, with the aforementioned Toshiba laptop, I tested TP-Link’s T4U AC1200 dual band USB adapter which sports connection specs up to 300mbps on wireless-N and 867mbps on wireless-AC.
2.4gHz - mixed B/G/N @ 11 feet through 2 walls:
Client Mode Average Speed Signal Strength
Nexus 7 2013 N 72mbps -40dBm
LG LS970 N 65mbps -51dBm
Dell laptop N 144mbps excellent
Toshiba Laptop G 54mbps excellent
Toshiba w/T4U N 144mbps excellent
2.4gHz - mixed B/G/N @ 40 feet through 4 walls:
Client Mode Average Speed Signal Strength
Nexus 7 2013 N 26-65mbps (usually 52mbps) -57dBm
LG LS970 N 12-24mbps (usually 24mbps) -65dBm
Dell laptop N 40-144mbps (usually 72mbps) good
Toshiba Laptop G 48-54mbps (usually 54mbps) good
Toshiba w/T4U N 58-130mbps (usually 86mbps) very good
5gHz mixed mode A/N/AC @ 11 feet through 2 walls:
Client Mode Average Speed Signal Strength
Nexus 7 2013 N 150mbps -41dBm
LG LS970 N 150mbps -51dBm
Dell laptop N 300mbps excellent
Toshiba w/T4U N 300mbps excellent
Toshiba w/T4U AC 867mbps excellent
5gHz mixed mode A/N/AC @ 40 feet through 4 walls:
Client Mode Average Speed Signal Strength
Nexus 7 2013 N 40-90mbps (usually 60mbps) -69dBm
LG LS970 N 12mbps -72dBm
Dell laptop N 60-180mbps (usually 120mbps) fair
Toshiba w/T4U N 120-180mbps (usually 150mbps) good to very good
Toshiba w/T4U AC 260-325mbps (usually 325mbps) good to very good
It is clearly obvious that 2.4gHz is a stellar performer on this router - and offered signals around 10-15dBm stronger than my old Linksys WRT150N. Signal strength and connection speeds were very respectable on the far side of the house. On 5gHz, the transmit range is very similar to that of the WRT150N’s range on 2.4gHz - that is to say - the 5 gHz range on the Archer C7 is ok, but you possibly will need a repeater or adapter with a strong transmitter to get reliable full coverage and/or good performance in either a large house or a house that does not have an open floor plan. In my case the performance of 5gHz was significantly degraded on the far side of the house, but it did stay connected without a repeater. The
lone exception to this was TP-Link’s own T4U adapter, which clearly has the strongest transmitter of all the test devices in 5gHz - as it maintained a good to very good 5gHz connection on the far side of the house.
Also clearly obvious (and what a lot of people seem to either forget or not realize) is the fact that the useable range is just as dependant on the transmitters of the clients connecting to the router as the router itself - not all device’s radios are created equal, and the performance chart I compiled reflects this. I also have seen a lot of people complain about the performance on certain devices not passing certain speeds, but one needs to take into account that the maximum speed is limited to the transmitter with the slowest rate. The only real way to test a wireless-N signal at the advertised 450mbps (and wireless-AC at 1300mbps) rate on the Archer C7 is to connect it with an adapter that can run at those speeds. I didn’t have a 450N/1300AC device to test it with; however I can report that the T4U adapter on the Toshiba laptop ran at its maximum possible connection speeds of 300N/867AC when close enough to the router. On a side note, the performance I got from my Toshiba laptop’s built-in wireless-G adapter on 2.4gHz was virtually the maximum 54mbps throughout my entire house.
In both the case of 2.4gHz and 5gHz, I only experienced dropped connections when the signal strength was extremely weak (below -85dB), which is really as it should be. Otherwise all my devices stayed connected without any interruptions.
The power output settings left me a bit befuddled. I was expecting to see very noticeable differences between the power settings at greater distances, but the actual differences were so minimal that it left me to wonder if this feature is really effectively enabled in the Archer C7. Whether I had the setting to low, medium or high, there was very little difference between the actual signal strength - even at beyond 50 feet through several walls, and in some cases there was no difference at all. It would seem the only real world usefulness this feature MIGHT have is to run at router at a lower power setting when you have devices in close proximity to the router as to avoid the overshoot effect, where too strong of a signal becomes just as problematic with connectivity as a very weak signal would.
This router has been very solid in performance, the gigabit ports are what I would expect to see performance wise with either CAT 5e or CAT 6 cables attached. It hasn’t lost connection with my modem or randomly rebooted itself, or created any kind of bottlenecks. I stream video from a Roku player through 2.4gHz wireless N and it has performed very well when it comes to buffering and picture quality - there have been no buffering interruptions of any kind. All of my other wireless devices stay connected flawlessly and the router itself plays nice with all my older routers (that are being used as switches in my network) and all of my wired computers. The Magic jack I’m running sounds crystal clear and never gets any skippy audio during phone calls. In all I have 18 devices patched into the network (about a 60/40 split between wired and wireless) and everything works perfectly without the router even breaking a sweat (it runs very cool).
Price. For the average street price of around $75-$95 it is very hard to go wrong with this - you get a lot of functionality and reliability.
Good Wi-Fi transmitters and antennas, particularly on 2.4gHz.
Gigabit ports and very stable gigabit connections.
Simple to get going quickly out of the box and lots of options for tweaking your network to run the way you want it to.
Good security features.
Detachable 5gHz antennas
Runs very cool.
Very cumbersome interface, and slow restart times, making this a bit of a pain to set up.
Only runs in mixed wireless modes - no options for running one mode only (eg - Wireless-N only).
No options for channel width in 5gHz.
Power level settings seem to have little or no effect on the actual power output.
The glassy smooth casing is a total dust magnet.
The TP-Link Archer C7 replaced a Linksys WRT150N that had given me 7 years of solid service as a main router, and I only replaced it because it was getting a bit long in the tooth and I wanted to go to a gigabit network. The wireless considerations generally have always been an afterthought in my own home network simply because I prefer wired networks for several reasons - most notably for the easy connectivity, faster performance overall and less security concerns. However with the age of smart phones, tablets, video streaming boxes and other devices, wireless capabilities have become more of a concern lately, and it won’t be long before we start seeing AC as a common feature in these types of devices, which my old router doesn’t support. As my new main router, the Archer C7 hasn’t disappointed me.
I generally buy networking equipment using what I call the power curve theory. That is to say - get the most features and reliability for a reasonable price, and if possible, buck the concept of cutting edge. The Archer C7 certainly fits this description - you get a lot of router for a very pedestrian price - so much so that stepping up to its own more expensive siblings (Archer C8 and C9) or more feature laden models from other brands is really unnecessary for most people.
The bottom line is - while not quite on the cutting edge of technology, one gets a very capable router with a few inevitable shortcomings and curiosities (mostly in the wireless feature set). The good news is the Archer C7’s overall performance far overshadows the aforementioned shortcomings. It’s generally pretty easy to get set up out of the box within a short period of time for instant gratification, and has a much deeper (and more cumbersome) set of parameters in the admin menu - one can do a lot with this router just as long as you have the patience for it. Once it is set up the way you want it however, this device runs rock solid and is very reliable - I have had mine in for six weeks and have not had to do a single reset, and it passed the first power outage with flying colors as the settings did not get corrupted or forgotten.