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This review is from: TP-LINK Archer C9 Wireless AC1900 Dual Band Gigabit Router
Pros: Reviewed using latest firmware available as of this posting: Firmware 3.16.29, build 22-Jan-2015
- The lights aren't obnoxious
- The "Tether" app is not bad, but limited in it's usefulness since you need to be connected to the network for it to function.
- Physical button for powering on/off WiFi transmitters
- Physical On/Off switch. Although is this really a "PRO" when it's right next to the power cord which you can just as easily unplug? I guess so.
- I wish there was more to like, other than what should be expected in a top of line consumer router at this price point.
This next part may not really be a PRO or a CON, but I'm putting the info here because there's plenty of space available... :-)
I tested throughput using a Netgear A6210 AC1200 802.11ac wifi adapter (Newegg N82E16833122618). It was connected via USB3 to my mediaserver in the basement. My router is on the second floor and hardwired to my desktop at 1Gbps. Each file transfer originated and ended on an SSD to eliminate any disk-based latency that could impact throughput and completion times.
It is stated that running your router and wifi adapter in 'mixed mode' can impact overall performance, both in signal quality and throughput. Mixed Mode is when you have both 2.4 and 5GHz bands available, as well as supporting 802.11a/n/ac protocols. (802.11.ac is only available in the 5GHz spectrum.)
I ran my tests in the following configs:
- Router Mixed Mode / Adapter Mixed Mode
- Router 802.11ac Only / Adapter Mixed Mode
- Router 802.11ac Only / Adapter 802.11ac Only
Depending how you view it, this router and wifi adapter combo did not show a significant difference between the combinations, so that may be good or bad.
I used various utilities to test network throughput, but when it comes down to it, people want to read specs they can relate to. So I simply used a stopwatch to record how long it took to perform repeated copy functions across the network, along with specific router and adapter settings noted above. Since there wasn't enough of a discrepancy in the times per configuration, the numbers presented are accurate within a couple seconds of each config.
The first test was a DVD-movie structured data set (VOB, IFO, etc). It consisted of 41 files/folders totaling 5.75GB
Averaging the multiple tests, it took an average of 3:48 to complete the copy.
The second data set was a collection of 4,573 .PNG files totaling 4.8GB. That took an average of 4:04 to copy.
Cons: - Power cord only 5ft
- Wallwart is a bit bulky / larger than expected
- First page of online setup doesn't go to "Quick Setup" as expected. You need to click "Quick Setup" tab if you are following the included Quick Setup guide.
- USB3 and Wifi on/off button on the side, USB2 and everything else on the back.
- Not a fan that I am forced to stand it upright; can't lay it down and can't wall-mount it.
- Difficult to fully secure antennas because how they fit through frame
- Doesn't take much to get it to fall forward
- DHCP reservations are still a PITA to configure. You need manually input each IP and MAC, versus just being able to choose them from your list of active DHCP connections.
- Had an occasional issue with DHCP no longer functioning, so I'd have to reboot the router. Interestingly, I have (2) of their Archer C2 series and they exhibit this as well. I can't say with certainty that the current firmware addresses this issue since I haven't had any new devices to add.
- Updating the firmware erases all the settings of the router. You first need to backup your router config, which is easy enough to do.
- Guest network is EXCEPTIONALLY flakey.
- Passwords must contain at least one number. I didn't find this documented anywhere. Lots of head-scratching and trial & error to determine this.
- 2.4GHz guest network speeds never got above 4.1Mbps. Averaged 3.2Mbps across all my testing.
- Throttling Guest network requires turning off NAT Boost.
- 5GHz Guest seemed to run at slightly less than half the cap allowed. For whatever reason, the capped speed is just under half of what you'd expect.
2048Kbps = ~.98Mbps
4096Kbps = ~1.78Mbps
8192Kbps = ~3.3Mbps
16384Kbps = ~7.72Mbps
Removing the cap allowed the 5GHz Guest network to run at full speed. 2.4GHz still a problem.
- The USB drive functionality needs better support / access options. Upon first inserting the stick, it takes a couple of minutes for the router to configure itself and parse any data on the stick. I didn't see anywhere where it gave a status of its progress. It eventually shows up in the Router's status screen for the USB Disk or under USB Settings. The only way to access it is via its IP address. This is very cumbersome and non-intuitive for your average user. Your best bet if you get that far is to add it as a Windows "Network Location" and/or map a drive to its IPAddress\<share> name, typically IPAddress\volume1 from what I determined during testing.
- Nowhere near USB3 speeds
- I also tested streaming HD video from my mediaserver running PlexServer to my Roku 3 running the Plex client. Both my mediaserver (802.11ac adapter) and Roku are wireless. For whatever reason, it always seemed to start choking around the 1hr mark with HD content, which was rated around 8Mbps. Dropping down to 4Mbps 720p allowed it to continue without issue. Not sure why that was happening.
Streaming content in general from my Roku 3 or FireStick HD didn'
Other Thoughts: Whenever I have more CONS than PROS for a device, it's not going to get 3 stars or higher.
This router functions fine as dual band router when used for it's basic functionalities. It really starts to fumble when you want to get more advanced. Personally, I don't think enabling a "Guest" network to be all that advanced anymore, but when that portion doesn't function well, I certainly can't hold out hope for the way-more-advanced functions.
Given that I've seen similar head-scratching issues with the two Archer C2's that I own, I'm really starting to think that TP-Link is not putting as much Quality Assurance Testing in their home products as they put into their commercial/professional line of products, which is a shame because I've always been a TP-Link advocate for the home.
The one time I engaged TP-Link support, I was met with a fast and friendly response. Unfortunately, the reply pointed me to a FAQ that didn't fully match up to the current firmware/settings, so it was of no use.
There are also the TP-Link user forums which seem to be fairly good, but forums are often hit or miss because they aren't entirely, if at all, staffed with TP-Link employees.
I can only imagine that manufacturers are loading all these advanced features into consumer-grade routers because they need to have some reason to roll out something newer/better. The problem I see is that most of these features you'd only use in a business/corporate environment. And what I've found through personal trial & error is that buying consumer-grade equipment for a commercial-grade job is rarely going to work in your favor. (Referencing the two Archer C2's I purchased for a small business and eventually had to replace.)
Creating an efficient, thoroughly tested router for the home would be excellent! This unfortunately would take months & months of testing and the product release and life-cycle just doesn't allow for it. There's a reason older products are referred to as "Tried & True" and I'm just not seeing this with all the newer networking gear coming to market for the home consumer. How can a company like TP-Link really allocate resources to creating a stable platform or firmware for existing products when it's rolling out new products so often? Such is life if you want to be the person with the newest gadgets.
With all that being said, I do have to note that even though the 802.11ac standard has been ratified for some time now, you're still going to find various pieces of hardware working at different capacities. My specific testing of 802.11ac was done using a Netgear A6210 AC1200 adapter (Newegg N82E16833122618). This of course could impact certain throughput measurements. However, it won't impact general functionality of the router and that's really where this router stumbles. Subsequently, it very much misses the sweet spot of getting the most bang-for-your-buck.
Pros: The biggest PRO about this laptop is the SSD. Sure, it's a first gen Samsung SSD (SATA-2), but that's still faster than any conventional HDD that you're going to get in any new or refurb laptop. In fact, given failure rates of HDDs in laptops, I would NOT want a refurb laptop with an original HDD. If it hasn't failed by now, it'll certainly be slower than when it was new since it'll start allocating reserve sectors to make up for failing ones.
I'd still trust the longevity/MTBF of a first gen Samsung SSD over any mfg HDD.
And for a basic laptop, 128GB of space is plenty for most people.
The system ships with a pretty clean install of Win 7 Pro x64. No Home version nor 32-bit crippling the OS.
I was also pleased that the system shipped with the latest BIOS (A21) and there wasn't any bloatware on the system.
Speaking of the BIOS, it has better-than-average customizations available.
The battery functions as good as a new battery. It certainly doesn't hurt that the laptop has an SSD which contributes to extended battery life compared to running a conventional HDD.
Looks like they went out of their way to clean or replace the heatsink and cooling fan. Bonus points there!
14" screen = less screen to illuminate = longer battery life & smaller overall footprint.
To get this machine up & running took very little time. Throw a free MS-Office-compatible suite on there like LibreOffice or OpenOffice, and you're good to go!
Cons: Nothing significant, but I guess this is where I'll nitpick. I have to keep in mind this is a refurb, so wear & tear is expected.
There is a small cosmetic strip/line of rubber that is kind of embedded around the screen bezel. A small section of this had come loose. I just pushed it back in, but it didn't want to stay tight.
A couple of the phillips screws to remove the back plate were mildly rounded out. I was still able to remove them, I just had to be careful.
While the heatsink & fan were very clean, there was some minor accumulation of dirt/organic debris in some of the crevices elsewhere in the laptop. It was nothing that compressed air (from a compressor, not a can) didn't take care of.
Again, these things are nitpicking on a system with expected wear & tear. If I'm complaining, it's because it's not "like new" inside and out. And that's not fair of me. :-)
So really, there's no CONS about this system.
Other Thoughts: The memory it arrived with was a 2x2GB config of DDR3 PC10800 CL9. The system will take PC3-12800. I put an 8GB Crucial stick (N82E16820148734) in there and it accepted it without complaint*. Brings the total up to 10GB of RAM. Or run the 8GB by itself at faster clock speeds, but in single-channel mode.
*CPU-Z reported the memory as 8GB, but the timings were a bit weird. It's not worth detailing here since it didn't negatively impact system performance.
I could've bought a matching 8GB PC3-10800 SODIMM for the same price, but since the PC3-12800 was the same price, I figured I'd get it and put it into a newer laptop down the line if it wasn't compatible with this system. Note, the Crucial stick I bought was low voltage (1.35 -vs- 1.5v) and lower latency (CL9 -vs- CL11), which should match up better with the existing RAM.
In short, 8GB or 10GB is going to be better than 4GB, period. However, running one 8GB PC3-12800 in single channel versus 10GB PC3-10800 (8+2) in dual-channel is going to be unnoticeable in daily use. You'll only see differences in benchmarks. So go with what feels best to you. Or whatever is cheapest at the time.
Pros: - 3yr warranty!
- Machined aluminum case (but a plastic bottom)
- 14" length of cable (not including the length of the connectors).
- Barely got warm in testing
- Unobtrusive Activity LED unless you're looking right at it
- Comes ready to use in NTFS format. Drive is formatted to 1 trillion bytes (1 TB), but keep in mind that this translates to an effective 931GB of reported usable space
- Included software works pretty well for being free:
- Includes the basic WD SmartWare suite, but has (3) activations available for the full Pro version. (Not sure why you'd need three, unless you setup the software on three different systems)
- Ability to password protect the HDD. On systems you designate, you can have it automatically unlock. This keeps the password lock from being overly intrusive every time you go to use the drive. As well, if you have your system on any type of automated power-on to run backups, you wouldn't be able to perform the backup if you weren't there to input the password.
- Backup software can do scheduled backups or always-on continuous backups as data changes. After you go through the super-easy online activation to the Pro version of SmatWare, you'll also have integrated backup/restore from your Dropbox account
- Basic utilities for checking drive health
- The included help file pretty much will walk you through any of the functions you can do with the software.
Using CrystalDiskMark 3.0.3, I tested the drive 5 different systems, all with USB2 & 3 capabilities. The average 1MB Sequential Read/Writes on USB3 was a pleasant 113MB/110MB per second. On USB2, it takes a significant but expected hit. It only averages 32MB/30MB on the 1MB Sequential Read/Write test, which is about half of USB2's theoretical 60MB/s max speed.
I'll cover the 512K Random tests in the "Other Thoughts" below.
Cons: There's really not much to complain about with this drive! If I had to nitpick...
- 14" cable (not including the length of the connectors)
- USB2 speeds could be a bit faster given what it's capable of using USB3.
- Currently $90 at the time of this writing. For $110, you can double your capacity with the "Titanium" model, although I can't say it's the 'exact' same drive inside, just larger. The 2TB version of this particular drive is $140, so still only $50 to double your capacity.
Other Thoughts: Other than picking at the price point on this drive, I really have no significant complaints.
You may have noticed that I mentioned the 14" data cable as both a PRO and a CON. I think for portability, people don't want to be wrapping up a 3ft cable. For me, 14" is long enough to be able to plug in the drive and then place it out of the way, but also not so short that if you plugged into the back of a tower, you're not left with it dangling.
I really like the fact that it has a 3yr warranty and performs decently on a variety of USB3 controllers.
The other thing to mention is it's 512K random read/write speeds. I specifically didn't list it as a PRO or a CON for a couple of reasons. 1) If you're using this for a backup drive, larger sequential read/writes are going to be the primary operation and this drive is fine for that. 2) It's been a while since I've reviewed HDD performance factors. I've been doing all SSD reviews and rarely use HDDs anymore, so I can't say that this drives Random 512K Read/Writes are far out of line. I did find it interesting that it's 512K Random Write is ~17MB/s FASTER than its Read. On USB3, the 512K Random Read is ~42MB/s and the Write is ~59MB/s.
This drive ALMOST gets a 5-egg rating. I believe the performance is up to par and the free software seems like something someone may actually use. And the mostly metal enclosure is nicely machined. However, 5-eggs are reserved for items that I unequivocally recommend as a "Best Buy". That being said, I'm taking off one egg because the case is not 100% metal as you might expect, but primarily because you can double your capacity for about another $20-$50, so the 2TB model is a better overall value in a GB/$ comparison.