Two things have recently been bugging me about my TP-Link TD-W8960N Wireless ADSL2+ modem router. It was only Wireless-N and single band (2.4Ghz). Up until recently, this was fine and I never really needed anything faster or dual band. However, a couple of things have challenged the status quo in my home networking environment. Firstly, I’m using a new Intel® Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 PCIe half mini card in my Intel NUC now. As I push a lot of networked data through it I want it to be as fast as possible. Lastly, we had to change our microwave as the old one had packed it in. Unfortunately, the replacement plays havoc with anything wireless in the 2.4Ghz range.
So, when TP-Link offered a AC1750 Archer C7 Wireless AC router to review, I jumped at the chance. The Archer C7 is based on Qualcomm’s QCA9005AP 802.11ac reference design and is one of the few 802.11AC routers that come with gigabit ethernet ports and USB storage support.
Nothing special to note here. Stock standard inclusions – device, 3 antennas, power cable, ethernet cable and install instructions.
I wasn’t sure how easy this was going to be but thought it wouldn’t be too bad considering my modem router was also TP-Link. And sure enough, the process was simple and fast. I connected the WAN port of the router to my modem and fired it up. The Archer C7, grabbed an IP address from the existing modem’s DHCP and started to broadcast it’s own IP range for wireless devices in the 192.168.0.x subnet. The router’s web admin page defaulted to http://192.168.0.1.
The admin page layout hasn’t changed from previous models and still looks dated. A fresh layout and some softer colours would do it a world of good.
The Quick Setup is run on first load and guides you through the process of configuring some of the basic functions of the router.
It took around 5 minutes to configure and start using.
The Archer C7 is a dual band wireless router, this means that it is capable of operating at both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. Most modern devices will operate at 5Ghz just fine but for those that don’t there’s always the 2.4Ghz option. The advantage of using 5Ghz is that you don’t have to battle for bandwidth in the already congested 2.4Ghz range (remember my earlier comment about our new microwave).
When configuring wireless on this router, you will be presented with the following options:
It would be best to go with the first option to maintain backwards compatibility with older devices. Another great feature with the wireless router is the ability to setup a guest environment to avoid those awkward conversations when people start asking you for your wireless password at home.
The guest environment can be locked down to band, time, day and even available bandwidth.
Some of the other configuration screens:
I think that it’s important to note that this router gave me no significant gain in signal strength to the TD-W8960N (Wireless N). That said, the speed boost via 802.11AC was noticeable on the Intel NUC. I won’t bore you with fancy performance charts, rather here are a couple real world examples with file copy under Windows 7 x64.
As I mentioned earlier, I now have a Intel® Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 PCIe half mini card in the NUC making it a perfect test device:
From the outset, you can see that the connection is definitely faster when using Wireless AC, connecting at almost 3x the speed:
Transferring files using Wireless N:
Transferring files using Wireless AC:
Whilst transferring files via WiFi isn’t the fastest way to do things, there is definitely an improvement (more than double) by moving from Wireless N to AC.
The Archer C7 from TP-Link is a solid piece of gear despite the budget price tag. The installation couldn’t have been easier and the router integrates seamlessly into my current network.