on October 10, 2013
I usually wait a couple of weeks for my reviews of tech products, but I am so thrilled with this purchase after 24 hours that I can't wait.
This is replacing my D-Link DIR-825 that I have had for more than 4 years. I have been happy with the D-Link but it has been dragging when it comes to actual routing. Seemed to be dropping connections (even if just momentarily) and browsing shared files between computers and devices on the network just seemed to be getting more and more buggy with each passing week. So I figured I might as well future proof. At some point I plan on using the 5ghz AC band to wirelessly bridge the router upstairs with the server downstairs. Right now I have a Cat 5e cable running through some duct work. I had used 5Ghz N for home media serving before with good success but the bandwidth limitation just made it less than 100% smooth. Reviews seem to give a real world benefit of 2x to 3x better performance from AC so as soon as prices come down on AC equipment I will probably do that.
Anyway, I am only using the 2.4Ghz N band right now and I am stunned. My plan was to keep the old D-Link as an access point connected via 100 feet of CAT 6 so that I could have good wireless in the backyard. After setting up the Archer C7, the D-link is in its box and in storage. The range is simply awesome. I haven't found a weak spot, yet. Simple networking across cable or wireless is definitely snappier. With any PC using a wired connection, accessing shared files is like I am accessing a local drive. My D-Link did a fine job with transfer speeds, maxing out all but my 2TB Seagate 7200 drives and the Archer C7 is no different. I don't have any SSDs, so I don't really have the capability of maxing the gigabit connection but the speeds are running 70-80 MB/s (which is the top read/write rate for the drive I am using for file transfer). I will temporarily move my USB 3.0 external that usually transfers about 120MB/sec to my tower PC and copy some files over to my server. That should give me a pretty good test.
Setup was done in about 30 minutes and that includes setting up my DHCP reservations and setting the Date/Time. I just popped the mini-cd in my tower and followed the steps. I even had my D-Link router set up as an access point and working nicely with the Archer C7 (hand offs were nice and smooth) but I disconnected it shortly thereafter because the final position of the router plus the greater range made it moot.
Can't wait to try out the 5Ghz AC band.
UPDATE: 1 WEEK LATER
I can safely say that my enthusiasm for this router has not waned. Networking between computers is much smoother than before and the little blips and hiccups that I used to experience are gone. Often, with my old router, it would take several seconds (and what often felt like a minute or so) before certain devices would show up in my network for remote access. Sometimes a reboot of the devices or the router was necessary. Now, everything is instant. I click <Network> in the Windows Explorer and the attached devices are all there in less than 2 seconds if not instantly. Accessing my server is no longer a click and wait game. I just don't think the D-Link had the horsepower to act as a true Gigabit router. I chose this router because of the reviews that showed it had some of the highest total throughput for any consumer grade router and it seems to be living up to it.
Range on the 2.4Ghz band is greatly improved. I don't know if it is twice as far as my D-Link but it is awfully close.
Wired and wireless transfer speeds seem to be unchanged, just limited by the speed of the hardware at the each end (HDD speed for wired and wireless adapter speed).
The interface is smooth and easy to learn for those of us with a basic knowledge of networking. My only complaint is that it doesn't allow you to assign an arbitrary name to permanently reserved IP addresses. That is one feature I will miss from my D-Link.
Shipped with the July 29 firmware. I had noticed that reviews from several websites mentioned issues with the 2.4Ghz band. Several had mentioned contacting TP-Link about it and that they had planned a fix with a firmware upgrade. Looks like that was the truth because I have been nothing but impressed with the 2.4Ghz and no problems with transfer of large files over the wireless connection among a variety of devices from cell phones to laptops to tablets.
I briefly connected the old D-Link as an AP, but the range of the TP-Link is so good that I disconnected it. I guess if I wanted to run a couple hundred feet of Cat6 then there might be some benefit, but my home is too small to really need that unless I dig a trench and bury some Cat6 out to the detached garage.
UPDATE #2: About a month in
Tired of looking at that grey Cat5e cable that runs along the wall, through the heating vent and along the duct going to the basement where the server and my tower PC and my DirecTV ethernet connection are located. I noticed the price drop on the Archer C7 so I bought a 2nd one that I will be using as a bridge in 5Ghz 802.11ac mode to join the two levels of my home. My cable modem will be upstairs with the original Archer C7 router. All the wireless devices in the house will connect through this one along with being hardwired to my WDTV Live Hub that I use to stream my Blu Ray rips and other media from the server. The server is downstairs and is a WHS 2011 homebrew based on an AMD FX 6100 with 4 x 2TB Seagate ST2000DM001 HDDs for storage and a 2TB WD Green that's used for parity via FlexRAID. Most testing transfers on the gigabit wired connection are between 80MB/s & 100MB/s. Can't wait to see how HD media streams between the 2 routers to the WDTV Live since I just couldn't quite get it to work really well with 802.11n.
UPDATE #3: Added Archer C7 #2 as a wireless bridge
I have cut the cord.
The Setup: My Homeserver, PC Tower and DTV are cabled into Archer C7 #2 (downstairs) that has been set up as a wireless bridge on the 5Ghz AC band. Archer C7 #1 (upstairs) is still the main router with all DHCP and routing being handled there. My modem and WDTV Live are cabled directly in to Archer C7 #1 and all wireless devices connect there as well. I put it into dual band mode and turned off 2.4Ghz on #2. Distance between the 2 is about 15-18 feet in a straight line, through a wall, a floor and some metal ducting for the AC/Furnace.
Baseline & Results: Had the 2 C7s connected via a Cat5e cable that runs along the climate ducting. When I tested it out with the free 'LAN Test' from CNet, transferring 500MB test files would come in around 700mbps (about 84MB/s). Plenty fast for home use. Reconnected the cables so that the Homeserver was wired directly to #1 and the PC Tower was connected to #2 (The Wireless Bridge). Running the tests from the Server side (WHS 2011) came back about 200mbps; a little south of what I had hoped. I ran it that way through the weekend. Watched a couple of HD movies with no problems so I was starting to soften and think about keeping the setup anyway.
Well, my daughter got sick so I came home early from work today and while she was napping I took special note of the location of #2 directly below the metal ducting. Decided to make a lateral move of about 3 feet so that the ducting wasn't direct line of sight to #1 and re ran the test, again from the server side. BANG!:
Test 1 - 364mbps Write/345mpbs Read (300MB transfer)
Test 2 - 275mbps/426mbps (300MB transfer)
Test 3 - 358mbps/415mbps (500MB transfer)
Test 4 - 346mbps/448mbps (500MB transfer)
Transferred a 4GB .iso file from the PC Tower to the server and got the same consistent results of about 46-48MB/s as reported by Windows 7. Transferred in less than 2 minutes.
I am convinced. I will be pulling the Cat5e off the floor and off the ducting. I can't help but think that I'm a little crazy since it is taking me $270 to replace a $10 cable at half the speed, but looks count and I'm tired of looking at that Cat5 cable along the edge of my floor.
on September 23, 2013
My network connection is 6000/768Kbps ADSL through DSLExtreme and live in a house which has lot size of ~20K sq-ft. Our household has upwards of ~15 types of wireless devices including 5 laptops, 3 game machines, 4 tablets, iPod touch, Nintendo DS', and a few other hand held gaming devices - average of 5 or 6 connected to the router simultaneously. In ~March 2013, after my kids got rid of some old games that would only work with WEP security, I changed the security settings of my old NETGEAR WNR854T 802.11n router from WEP to WPA2. Note: WEP security only supports up to 54mbps (802.11a/b), whereas WPA/WPA2 support the higher n-standard speeds (300mpbs+) and strong AES/TKIP encryption. This single change increased wireless throughput by >20% (verified using speedtest.net). Note: in 2006 the WNR854T was one of the 1st 802.11n standard gigabit routers that supports single band up to 300mbps @ 2.4ghz. However, after changing the security settings, my old WNR854T router would lock-up or lock-out a device (many times per day) requiring the router to be rebooted. After several frustrating months of trying different router settings, mac-address/IP tethering, different router locations, different phone-line filters, etc., I threw in the towel and started looking for a different router. I found the latest standard ac1750 appealing because of the acclaimed speed and range - both of which I wanted anyway. Over the course of about 3-4 months I tried 4 different 802.11ac compliant routers. What I found is described below. Hopefully, it will save others a lot of time.
The Pros of the Archer C7: 1) Very fast, 2) Excellent range, 3) Three external antennas, 4) Good built-in web user interface with good help and explanation of terminology corresponding to the displayed menu that stays displayed to the right in each menu, 5) Sleek smart design, 6) Good price @ $150, 7) Good information on how to improve wireless performance on their website. Cons of the Archer C7: 1) there is no logout button of the browser interface - the browser must be closed completely including all tabs otherwise the last admin session remains active - not as secure as just having a logout button to click, 2) A lot of bright blinking blue leds on the front that I covered up with a strip of black electrical tape.
These are the 802.11ac1750 dual band (2.4 & 5.0 GHz) routers I tried: 1) TRENDnet TEW-812DRU, 2) TP-LINK Archer C7, 3) NETGEAR R6300V2. I also tried the 802.11ac1200 Amped Wireless RTA15. All of them supported Guest Networks on both bands, and easy setup of multiple wireless Access Points (effectively range extenders by means of adding other routers wirelessly to the primary router that connects to the DSL modem). The NETGEAR had excellent range and very easy setup, but surprisingly had similar problems as the old WNR854T I was trying to replace - locked-up several times right after being setup and required rebooting (cycling power). See my review of the TRENDnet TEW-812DRU at Amazon.com. The Amped Wireless RTA15 had a good setup / user interface, but my experience showed that it did not provide quite as complete the range that the Archer C7 did. The Archer C7 was priced at almost $40 less than the others. You can download the user manuals for each router from the respective company's website. At the TP-LINK website, under the Support drop-down you can find the link labeled TP-LINK emulators. By selecting the Archer C7 you can get a firsthand experience of the setup / user interface running and play with it. I liked the help / user's guide that is displayed to the right of the settings. The TRENDnet user interface was almost identical to the Archer C7's. The Amped Wireless RTA15 user interface was good as it provides pictures and explanation of each setting. The NETGEAR R6300V2 built-in web user interface provides many excellent features including a network topography, signal strength, other networks nearby, and potential interference, etc. - checkout the user's manual from their site as it is all explained. However, I didn't like that the help is on the bottom and keeps auto-hiding when you click off of it - I want to read it while also looking at the menu.
I liked both the TP-LINK Archer C7 and Amped Wireless RTA15 because both have external antennas, thus providing the ability to add higher gain antennas if it becomes necessary. Further, (a YouTube video turned me on to this) - with external antennas one can slip a metal kitchen whisk over the antenna to improve the wireless signal - I tried this using one whisk on the middle antenna on the Archer C7 and sure enough the radius of my wireless network range increased by ~70 feet.
Amped Wireless also rates an "excellent" for their learn and tutorial links (bottom of their website), and they have a super nice free app for Android and PC in their WI-FI Analytics Tool - helps identify signal strength, other wireless radios in the area, channel overlaps and potential sources of interference, other networks, etc. Similar apps are available from other sources.
Things to keep in mind: Dry-wall, wood, electrical wiring and conduit, metal, etc. will absorb, reflect and distort Wi-Fi signals thus reducing speed and range. Also important is that each wireless device (laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc.) has a different quality of radio receiver and transmitter, and each device may respond differently. Try to locate the router in an open room (perhaps on a desk or bookshelf) a bit away from nearby walls. Thus, the router, its location, security settings, and other factors that work well for one wireless device may not prove beneficial for other devices. In problematic environments, instead of wireless, consider Power Line network extenders that work by using your electrical wiring to transmit the signals up to ~30 meters in radius. Finally, you don't have to pay for all router bells and whistles. Do some research of the options available and determine what you can live without. I've seen 300mbps 2.4GHz & 5GHz routers that give sufficient speed and range performance priced as low as $40, while the ac1750 450mbps (2.4GHz) / 1350mpbs (5GHz) are $150 and beyond. Find a retailer that accepts returns and try several to find out which you like best. Buy several and set them up as access points (via wireless or power line) if you need extended range. Use speedtest.net and Wi-Fi analytics tools to digest the signal to help determine what location, channels, settings, etc. work best. Enabling the firewall at your router and turning off the firewall at your service provider may eek-out more speed as well. Periodic service drops out could be due to a bad or marginal router, modem, phone line filters, the phone line, or the DSL service provider equipment. Check the wireless settings of your laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc. to ensure the wireless settings have optimized.
Note about support for QoS (Quality of Service): One reviewer stated that QoS is not supported in the Archer C7. However, I found that the settings are indeed there, but under "Bandwidth Control".