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This review is from: TP-LINK TL-WA860RE 300Mbps Universal Wi-Fi Range Extender/Repeater with Power Outlet Pass-through, Dual External Antennas, Wall Plug Design, One-button Setup, Smart Signal Indicator
Pros: The unit is well designed, a lot of thought put into the overall design of the unit. TP-link is becoming one of my favorite network device designer, their product tend to have great mechanical design features. I love the multi-functional nano router I purchased a while ago, this wifi range extender is no exception. The unit is well thought out, it provides both Wifi range extender function as well as a wifi bridging function via the RJ-45 jack on the bottom of the unit, so the same unit can provide extended range for both wifi enable device as well as Ethernet devices. Additionally, the designers are thoughtful enough to provide a 15 amp outlet pass-through fully conforming to standard 120v single outlet current rating, so you don't even have to sacrifice an outlet to use this device, very nice.
The unit is easy to set up. The quick guide is a bit vague regarding second mode of set up (which is done via the default AP under factory default mode), but overall the unit is very simple to use. This unit is up and running under 5 minutes once it's taken out of the box in my case. I place this unit two floors away from my home office and I intended to use it to both provide wires access to the a network switch inside the entertainment center in the basement as well as a wifi signal booster for the general basement area which normally has less than 50% wifi signal strength for most wifi devices.
Once the unit is set up in the basement, I was glad to see the signal quality was superb between the TP-Link range extender and the wifi devices. I was able to connected at the full 300mbps link speed on my trusty Thinkpad T430s system in the basement (prior to this extender, average link speed is about 78-104mbps). Casual browsing using the range extender felt speedy and responsive from just normal use. However, throughput tests demonstrated a different story, see "Cons" section below.
Cons: After the simple setup, I was quite encouraged to further test out this unit for its primary function of extending the wifi signal to far corners of the house. I have a good sized home with ~3000 sqft above ground and a fully furnished basement level which has a home theater room and game room for the family. My normal setup has a TP-link nano router in client mode connecting the game room entertainment center to the home office router, and a gigabit electrical line network connecting the home theater to the same home office router (which is a cisco unit with Wifi connected to a cisco small office gigabit switch). My ISP is Time Warner, which delivers 30mbps DL/5mbps UL rated bandwidth to my house. On the gigabit switch directly connected to the cable modem to the Cisco router and the gigabit switch, I get about 35 mbps DL/and 6mbps UL via the wired gigabit connection on my Thinkpad T430s, and full gigabit speed within my little "intranet".
On the TP-Link nano router for the Game Room, I normally get a throughput of 10-15mbps DL with the wifi link connection at 104mbps. The electrical line network to the home theater is normally good for about 20mbps DL. Both device could handle full 5 mbps UL without issue.
I replaced the TP-Link nano-router with this TP-Link range extender, using speedtest.net connecting my thinkpad T430s via wifi, I observed a sustained DL speed of about 7 mbps. Strangely, even when I connected directly to the small switch in the game room via CAT6 patch cable, I still only observe about 7-8mbps DL throughput. This despite of a full 1 gigabit wire speed on the Ethernet and a full 300mbps wifi link between the Thinkpad and the TP-Link range extender.
I repeated the same test in my home theater, replacing the electrical line network adapter with the TP-Link range extender, and saw an even more reduced throughput down to 2-3 mbps. The home theater is even further away from the home office router, so it is not a surprise that the link bandwidth was even lower than the game room.
I start to suspect the room for this reduced wifi through put is because the same unit has to split bandwidth on both Rx from the router and the Tx to the wifi devices, a quick scan using Linux clearly shown the Tx and the Rx channel of the TP-link range extender operates on the same wifi channel, so it seems the unit has to split time/bandwidth on the wifi unit in order to extend the range of the system. Which in this case, significantly reduced the available uplink bandwidth to the router/internet as a result. Using the TP-Link nano-router in Rx only client mode, the DL bandwidth is almost exactly twice as much what I observed on the TP-Link range extender. This makes this range extender less ideal for high bandwidth applications.
Other Thoughts: Avoid using method 1 in the quick guide to set up this unit. Push button WPS mode of connecting a wifi device often reduces the key space for the encryption so even if you use WPA2, the access is more vulnerable to brute force pin attacks, so DO NOT use method 1 to set up the system. Use method 2 or use the RJ45 jack directly to set up the unit. Make sure to use a long and secure password this will prevent the range extender from becoming the weak link in your home network setup.
Also, I have seen several reviews here commenting about the current handling of the unit on the AC outlet. It is clearly written on the the back of the unit that the maximum AC output current from this unit is 15Amp, which is the same as a standard single outlet according to electrical code. This on a standard 120V AC system will deliver up to 1.8KVA of power, and conforms to a single home use outlet current rating. So it should be fine for any normal home appliance system rated for a single outlet current rating at 15 amps beyond which point your home circuit breaker would trip, not sure what all the concerns are all about.
All in all, this unit will serve quite well as a pure wifi access range extender in that if placed in an ideal location, it will serve well to extend good quality wifi signal to further range (just as what the unit is designed to do). However, when doing this, the overall system could most likely see reduced link bandwidth between the range extender and the upstream router due to the simultaneous Tx/Rx operational nature of the range extender unit. If what you need is to extend wireless range in a very large home and you have no other method of doing that (in the case of a wifi nano router in client mode or a electrical line network), then this range extender would be the right solutions, just be mindful that you will not see the full bandwidth to the internet as a result. But as an easy to setup and convenient way of fully covering a large home with wifi service, it serves its purpose quite well, and will do it without sacrificing any AC outlet in the process.
Pros: The unit is, like many of other TP-Link products, very well built. It is nicely mechanical designed. The molding for the unit casing is smooth. The look and the feel of the unit is very good. The unit is rather large, due to the need to fit in MIMO antenna and provide separation for those antennas. It will probably not fit directly into a thin laptop with closely spaced USB ports. This unit comes with a 3 ft USB extension cable that will allow the unit to fit into any USB port and provide the distance needed to separate it from the connected computer to get better WIFI reception. Overall the unit feels well designed and the inclusion of the USB cable allow it to be connected securely in a variety of situations.
The installation of the device driver is also very simple. I used this under 2 different systems with Windows 7, all that was needed was to find the device under Device manager, and point the device manager to update the driver using the include mini-CD. The device uses Ralink chip set, which provides good windows device driver.
Cons: Despite of good mechanical design of this WIFI USB adapter, the WIFI connectivity leaves much to be desired.
I used this unit on two separate systems to test the connection performance. I used IPERF TCP session to ensure only fully acknowledged TCP packets are counted for data throughput. The server end of the IPERF link ran on a 4th Gen i5 4670K workstation running at 4.2 GHz with 16GB of RAM connected to the WIFI router via a Cisco 3650 Gigabit switch.
The first client system is an older model Thinkpad system T61 with only 802.11G WIFI built-in, this unit has a Q2D chip running at 2GHz and 4GB of RAM, a very typical system that could use the 802.11N upgrade in this adapter. I placed this system very close to the WIFI router (~ 10 ft away) which is a Cisco EN4700 unit. The unit could connect at the top speed of the wifi router at 300mbps both on 2.4GHz and 5GHz, but the resulting link is very unstable. When the IPERF session pushed for higher throughput, the link speed on this adapter quickly reduced to 144mbps and then 112mbps. The actual user data rate is 72mbps best case (over TCP sessions). More troublesome issue is the fact that often this adapter's link state was too unstable to maintain consistent connection to the WIFI router. It started quite aggressively at the router's top connection speed, but once the data connection started, it had to throttle down the link speed to reduce bit errors. This link thrashing caused significant pauses on the link, to the point where it caused loss of IP connectivity for up to a minute before the link could be restored. This happened both in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. I also had to use the USB extension cable to connect the adapter to the Thinkpad as the adapter was too wide to fit directly into the laptop's USB ports.
I also tested this USB adapter on my Home Theater PC which was located in a basement home theater 3 stories away from my home office where my WIFI router was located. This should be another typical use case for such a device. The Home Theater PC has a quad-core C2Q chip running at 3.2GHz with 8GB of RAM. This WIFI adapter was only able to connect on the 2.4GHz band in this case, it is unable to get enough 5GHz signal to get onto the 5GHz SSID. My cell phone's dual band chip on the other hand could connect to the 5GHz SSID at the same location as does the dual band built-in Intel WIFI adapter on my new Thinpad T430S system. Using IPERF TCP session, I was only able to achieve about 18mbps link speed with a 65mbps connection between the HTPC and the WIFI router 3 stories away.
I was quite disappointed with the range and the speed of the adapter.
Other Thoughts: I liked the unit quite a bit opening the box, the unit is well designed, even the packaging is well thought out. However, when it comes to what really counts, this unit falls short. Even though the adapter claimed to connect at very high link speed, the actual TCP data throughput from IPERF indicated poor results and erratic link despite of very good WIFI signal conditions. At moderately long range, this adapter seemed to have poor signal gain and was only able to connect at very low speeds compared to Intel built-in WIFI 802.11n chip often seen in higher end laptop systems.READ FULL REVIEW
Pros: The heat sink massive, and has a lot of razor sharp fins and a highly polished CPU surface that minimize the thermal resistance to the CPU itself. The package of the CPU is well done, everything unpacks nicely. The packaging is well thought out and the product is well documented. The build quality is very high, someone paid a lot of attention to the "look" department. There's also a huge fan that means the blades do not have to spin very fast to push a lot of air, which leads to very low noise level when this heat sink is operating.
Cons: This heat sink is MASSIVE, I tried to install it into my primary work station system inside a large workstation class chassis from a well known brand, the CPU would not allow the fan to be properly installed. My existing CPU cooler has a 120mm fan that fits in, but the 140 mm fan on this bad boy just would not fit properly on top the heat pipe extensions. Also the design of the heat sink is such that the fins sit quite low above the heat pipe structure, my system has high performance memory with attached heat sink that would not clear the bottom of the fan if the fan is mounted in the way that it would flow with the air current inside my case. My system also has a high performance MB that has the RAM slots quite close to the CPU socket and it has a lot of RAM slots. To minimize trace latency, the RAM slots have to be fairly close to the CPU, this causes significant issue with this heat sink as the fan would at least block 2 RAM slots. Another negative point on the fan, the fan and the heat sink is so massive, it would often require one to mount the fan on the side opposite to the RAM slots to avoid blocking the RAM. However, any high performance case would have side or top mounted intake fan that should guide air stream from the side or top of the case, through the CPU fan and out of the exhaust fan in the back of the case, if the CPU fan requires mounting on the opposite side of the RAM like it is here, then the direction of air flow would be against the air current inside the case, which work AGAINST the overall system cooling. Also to install this cooler into an existing system you have to disconnect the entire system, remove the motherboard, and mount a bracket on the opposite side of the board, while this is common for high performance coolers, given all the issue I am seeing with this cooler on my primary 4th gen i7 workstation, I chose to try it out on a test system that is a open case test bed in my work shop instead.
My test bed has an open MB with a C2Q 9650 chip overclocked and normally operate with a copper core CPU cooler with copper heat pipe and a 120mm fan. After switching in the "Lecifer V2", the CPU temp under load actually was higher than the previous install, despite lower idle temperature, which is a clear sign that the aluminum CPU block is not wicking heat fast enough under load to fully utilize the massive fins attached to the aluminum heat pipes. The "Luciver V2" works well as a good heat sink, but it is not as efficient as the market leader out there. What it does have is "brawny" look, but if you have a closed case and want the best efficiency, this CPU is an average performer that requires a lot of finessing to fit in.
Other Thoughts: Its name is Lucifer?! REALLY.
The comically odd name aside, I have to say the designer of this heat sink is making a product for someone who values "look" over performance. For one, why would a huge heat sink like this use an aluminum based CPU interface instead of copper, the basics of thermal dissipation design mandates in an application such as concentrated hot spot like a high performance CPU chip the most important design factor is to have the contact material with the least thermal resistance possible, that means any high performance CPU heat sink SHOULD have a polished copper CPU interface and copper heat pipe as copper has 2X the thermal conductivity when compared to aluminum. It doesn't matter how massive the fins and the fan are, if the CPU interface can't wick the heat away from the CPU chip fast enough into the rest of the cooler, all you get is a really cool set of fins, but not a really cool CPU. The extra large fan may give you lots of air flow at low speed and low noise level, but fitting it into a case is problematic in most circumstances unless you have a bathtub sized case and a mother board has a lot of space between the RAM slots and the CPU socket and you don't use high performance RAM with attached heat sink. All that seems to contradict with the components often found inside a high performance PC system.
At the end of the day, for my use case, I almost never look at my CPU cooler inside my workstation, while I like a quiet system, I also don't want to have to buy a boat sized case or sacrifice RAM slots to fit in a CPU cooler.
But this CPU does look cool, if you're into that, performance wise it could use some copper and better consideration on fitting into an average system.