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Pros: • Minimalist packaging is sturdy enough
• Extremely easy install via WPS
• Added a solid bar of signal strength to our backyard
• TP-Link stands behind their products, placing their 24/7 technical support information right on the package
• 2-year warranty is respectable for some an item in this price range
Cons: • LED signal strength indicator is very bright – not for use in a bedroom
Other Thoughts: I’ve reviewed quite a few TP-Link networking products, and where I’ve had inconsistent results with their routers, I’ve had great experiences with their wireless range extenders. The TL-WA854RE provides good value, even when not on sale.
We have a network setup that places all of our network gear in the upstairs of our 2400 SF home. We have all of the typical Wi-Fi devices downstairs (Smart TV, phones, laptops, tablets), all pulling bandwidth from a Comcast 105MB plan. Our current router is really solid, but the signal downstairs takes a pretty big hit due to the half-wall along the stairwell, and the distance of our back patio/yard from the gear itself.
The setup for the TL-WA854RE was as easy as I’ve ever experienced. We were in business in about four minutes using WPS, and the included disc (as well as the DL package from TP-Link’s site) gave the same easy install. The UI is similar to a Spartan router setup, without a lot to play with. Regardless, this device is designed for easy plug ‘n play – and it definitely delivers on an easy setup experience.
Using Ookla, a simple mobile bandwidth tester, I pulled downstairs speeds in line with far more expensive range extenders, with 100 tests taken over a 12-day period. Download speeds averaged a pinned 50MB p/s -- exactly what you should see with your signal being cut in half from the added range extender. I was able to plug it in alongside the downstairs wall that separates the living room from the patio, and all wireless devices saw a steady 3-4 bars of signal strength, as opposed to the usual 2-3. This was consistent over the entire testing period/multiple installs.
We already have a great connection in our home, but when summertime comes, and we have lots of people over – all armed with their phones, connected to our guest network, I’m confident that the TL-WA854RE will make their browsing experience a little snappier. I don’t see how you can go wrong for the price, and unlike a couple of other range extenders I’ve tested (other brands) there was no network wonkiness, or dropped signals. Highly recommended.
Pros: • Simplistic design and ease of setup with Android app
• Fun project for the DIY person
• Comes from a reputable company with a long history of quality products
• Informative community forum
Cons: • Expensive for what it offers
• Included instructions are worthless
• Needed to do some internet research to really understand how to setup the hardware
• Doesn't come with any screws for a wall mount
• Challenging to make the install look “neat” (thick USB power cable)
• If you are not a DIY person, then I don’t see the value here
My notes will start here:
The Wemo Maker is a tough sell for me. I think you need to really be excited about DIY projects to enjoy the “benefits” that a product/project like this can deliver. From a hardware standpoint, it has a clean design that loses its tidiness once you start installing the thing. This is not something that will look neat on a wall in your house. It’s meant to be hidden, as you’ll have exposed electrical leads, and a thick USB cable to deal with.
I honestly didn't know what to “control” with the device. We already have garage door openers in our cars. We have a nice coffee pot with a timer that we set for each morning to brew. And the Wemo devices that you can buy (lights, crock pots, etc.) are all pretty expensive, and added to the $80 cost of the Maker itself, just doesn't seem sensible from a spending standpoint.
Once I figured out that the install wouldn't be very attractive, I went for the garage door opener option. After taking apart our perfectly working existing controller, I immediately saw what Belkin meant when they said that the installer should have a decent understanding of electrical wiring. I was pretty lost, as I had more wires to work with than ports on the Maker. We have two garage doors (explains the extra wiring) and I wasn't able to figure out how to make both doors work for this. I chose the main door that we park both of our cars in…which left me with a situation that had me using my phone to open one door…and the existing remote for the other…so less than ideal here. I’m guessing that if I had a better understanding of wiring and electrical current amounts, I could have tried to wire both doors in, but I didn't want to fry anything – and I didn't want to spend more money on another unit for the other garage door.
Other Thoughts: Once installed, setup with the phone app was pretty easy. I was having issues finding our home network, but some reading in the Wemo forum pointed at SSIDs with underscores in them sometimes being problematic. I went in and changed our SSID (which had an underscore), rebooted the router – app found our home network just fine. I went ahead and kept this setup for a few days, and outside of a couple of app crashes, everything worked as it should. Garage door opens/closes when you want it to, and while I was semi-interested in an article I read that added a magnetic strip into the equation to send a signal to your phone when you left the door open, it just seemed like more expense and ugly wiring to me.
So you’re probably guessing I wasn't too terribly impressed with the Wemo Maker – and you would be right. For what it does, I think this is an extreme niche product for a pretty specific user, and that user wasn't me. While I was happy enough that I could figure out how to make it all work, I just didn't “get” the excitement out of what it does. Not to be condescending, but “wow, I can open the garage door with my phone”…just doesn't do it for me. And looking at the mess of the install, it would take a lot of creativity and patience to make it all look neat and tidy.
The Wemo Maker is probably great for somebody that grooves on home projects, or likes to do things “their” way (as opposed to the status quo). It just wasn't great for me.
Pros: • Solid pricing for the feature set
• Swanky gold/black color scheme
• Braided SATA cables
• 4-way SLI without choking out the fourth card on bandwidth
• Proper spacing for standard SLI
• Dual M-2 support
• Included Wi-Fi card
• Dual Intel gigabit NICs
• Great build quality (very heavy PCB + nice heat sinks)
• Solid caps for longer lifespan
• Q-flash port allows flashing without CPU/RAM (mitigates those situations where your CPU is too new for the current BIOS revision, forcing you to boot with an older CPU before you can flash)
• Backlit rear panel cover
• Varied LED lighting across the board surface
• Plenty of USB 3.0/SATA 6GB ports
• Board fan headers have excellent edge placement
Cons: • Some instability/frustration when working within the UEFI BIOS
• DDR4 RAM is required for this platform – and it’s expensive
• Intermittent lockups with a USB 3.0 external HD connected at boot
My NOTES will start here:
Feature set is fantastic for the X99 UD5, with really everything you could ever want. For me, there are really only three reasons why you would use a skt 2011 board – a chance to play with DDR4, going beyond a quad proc, and if you run want to trip/quad-SLI. Those attributes realistically apply to a pretty small segment of PC building folks, so we are talking about a true enthusiast market segment here. For the market that the X99 UD5 is aimed at, they’ve hit the mark on pretty much all fronts.
Test build consisted of:
5820k / 32Gb Crucial Sport 2400 MHZ DDR4 / Crucial M550 M.2 / EVGA SC GTX 780 (SLI) / Cooler Master 1300wt PSU / Antec 1900 / 3x 2TB Seagate SATA 6.0 HD (RAID 5) / Corsair H55 AIO
Build was easy with plenty of room to work with. The X99 UD5 is right at home in a giant case like the Antec 1900. I rarely use onboard fan-headers, as their placement always leaves a lot to be desired when trying to craft a clean build, but the X99 UD5 places EVERY one of them along the board edges, and coupled with the 1900’s cable management holes, everything was neat and clean. No need for a fan bus this time. CPU socket on the X99 UD5 is pretty clean, and when using the lower profile Crucial Sport RAM, I had no issues with large CPU cooler clearance (test fit an Enermax ETS-40). All of the diagnostic switches/readouts are clustered in the upper right edge of the board, and SLI setups, they utilize an edge-mounted SATA power connector (instead of an ugly Molex plug right in the middle of the board) to once again help keep the build nice and clean.
There are plenty of settings in the BIOS to keep just about any overclocker happy, whether you’re in the UEFI or classic mode. I just went with easy overclocking via EasyTune, and got a 4.0GHZ clock that didn't have the BIOS throwing excessive voltage at the core.
Other Thoughts: The M.2 SSD installed easy (cancels out SATA 0 on the board, and I pulled good bandwidth numbers across all NIC’s (to be expected, as Intel makes a great NIC). I have Wi-Fi on all three of my main systems, and have never had to use the feature, though I suppose it may appeal to some. The ability to drop the Wi-Fi card, and install another M.2 SSD is a great option. I also setup a quick RAID 5 (just to test all of the included SATA ports) and everything worked as expected.
Addressing all of the BIOS/USB/coil whine issues that showed up in reviews for the X99 UD5, they are real, though they were more of an annoyance for me, instead of deal-breakers. I’ve had absolutely zero coil whine with this board, idling, loaded, whatever. There are enough forum comments talking about it, so it must be a real issue, and I would say it has to do with QA. I’ve had a number of video cards over the years that were reporting coil whine issues, but mine were always fine. So sometimes it pays to be lucky. The flakiness in Gigabytes UEFI BIOS is something I experienced with their Z97X-SLI board. Mouse skitching around, some settings not sticking after rebooting, stuff like that. I’ve experienced the same issues in every UEFI BIOS I’ve played in (Asrock and MSI), so I think it’s a technology that still needs some refinement. I didn't receive any error codes, BIOS lockups, or situations where the build had to resort to the backup BIOS to boot. So for me, it was just annoying stuff. I don’t really care about the prettiness and bling of the UEFI BIOS, as I’ve spent my life in a standard BIOS. So I just used classic mode, and called it a day. I experienced zero issues in classic mode, which makes me think it’s more of a UI issue, than actual BIOS instability. Regarding USB 3.0 device issues, I definitely had multiple lockups at boot when I had a Seagate USB 3.0 external drive attached. Probably once every 8-10 reboots, Windows 8.1 would just hang at the spinning circle of death. Disconnecting the drive erased the problem, and then I would just reconnect after boot. I didn't have a USB 3.0 card reader to test, but the USB 2.0 reader I did have, caused no issues when connected to any of the USB 3.0 ports. I’m running BIOS version 8, so like some of the other reviewers, I’m hopeful that they release a BIOS that corrects this issue.
For me, the X99 UD5 is exactly what this socket is all about – overkill, in the best of ways. It has just about every ability that you could think of, and sans USB 3.0 issues, it would be an easy 5-egg rating. My experience had the X99 UD5 not causing me anything more than minor annoyances, so the BIOS flakiness/USB issues were not deal-breakers for me. While the X99 UD5 will definitely work for the guy that wants to just plug in one video card, and a single SSD/HD, this socket is really designed for the guy with deeper pockets, that wants to build a machine that does it all.
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