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TP-LINK Talon AD7200 Multi-Band Wi-Fi MU-MIMO Gigabit Router
  • eggxpert iconEggXpert

4 out of 5 eggs Solid performance, firmware needs a lot of work. 07/24/2016

This review is from: TP-LINK Talon AD7200 Multi-Band Wi-Fi MU-MIMO Gigabit Router

Pros: Super fast GUI. Probably the most responsive router GUI I have ever seen. There is no delay when saving changes, and even changing something as significant as the LAN IP range only took a few seconds and the router didn't even reboot.

The main page status display is clean and provides a lot of information. At a glance you can see:
- Which of your radios is enabled and whether they have security enabled. Missing is any indication of whether guest wireless is enabled or secured, though.
- Your internet connection status.
- Wired, wireless, and wireless guest clients.
- USB printer and storage status.

Each page has a help button with fairly comprehensive information. The 121 page PDF manual is also quite informative.

You are forced to change the admin username and password when you first connect to the management GUI. There are also default passwords on all wireless channels so you don't inadvertently give the world access to your network.

Even though the front panel blue LEDs are quite subdued, you can turn them off from a button on the front of the router or from the management GUI. You can also enable “night mode” which will automatically turn them off during designated hours.

In the wireless setup, you can set each radio to broadcast at high (default), medium, or low power and each radio can be turned on or off independently.

When configuring the LAN, you can choose a full class A, B, or C (default) network, or any custom split that you want. You can also completely change the IP address range to whatever you want - being careful to only use designated private network ranges like 192,168.xxx.yyy or 10.xxx.yyy.zzz, of course. While most home users would never use more than the 253 available IPs in the default class C 192.168.0.xxx range, it is nice to have the ability to expand this if the needed.

There is a DoS protection option, which is disabled by default. Three levels of protection are available, with warnings of increasing levels of impact to the routers performance. You can even see a list of hosts that the DoS protection tool blocked. Oddly, pings from the WAN are allowed by default. Conventional wisdom is to keep this disabled unless you are troubleshooting.

This router supports OpenVPN for connecting to your network devices from the internet. PPTP is also supported if you want to use it instead. Connected VPN clients are displayed in the GUI and can be disconnected with a mouse click.

There is a password recovery feature on the management login page, which will enable you to regain access to the router via email if you forget the admin password.

There are 2 USB 3.0 ports for connecting storage or a printer.
- USB storage can be shared with the LAN via DLNA, Samba or FTP or with the WAN via FTP. See other comments for test results, and cons for the lack of user account management.
- The manual makes a reference to connecting a maximum of 4 devices using a USB hub connected to the router, however I got pretty unpredictable results when connecting multiple devices to a hub. 2 flash drives seemed to work OK, but adding a portable hard drive to the mix likely pulled too much power and one or more of the devices failed to be recognized.
- I was unable to determine the maximum size storage device that could be connected, but it handled a 9TB disk array like a champ.
- A USB printer can be shared using TP-LINK's USB Printer Controller Utility, which is available from their web site. I did not test this, since I don't have a USB printer.

Offline download feature. Once you attach a USB storage device, you can schedule the router to download files automatically at a later time. This might be handy for downloading the same large file nightly, or perhaps to download a few huge files while you sleep without having to leave your computer on, but for the average user, this is probably of limited benefit. Where this could really become a useful tool is if you could schedule file uploads. Download speeds are constantly increasing, but upload speeds pale in comparison, usually hovering around a few Mbps, so allowing uploads to happen offline would be huge. It would be great to be able to designate a “cloud sync” folder that trickle uploads to your cloud storage provider at night or when upload bandwidth is available, or maybe uploads a pile of images to your Google drive. I will definitely be submitting that to TP-Link as an enhancement request.

I really like simplicity of the QoS GUI, and that you can prioritize not only devices, but also applications (Skype, Vonage, HTTP, etc...), physical interfaces (LAN ports, normal wireless, guest wireless), and even specific TCP or UDP ports. Unfortunately, there are some serious QoS problems with this firmware, so see cons.

I had no issues getting the full 1Gbps through both the WAN and LAN ports.

Wireless coverage and performance is excellent. See other comments for test results.

Cons: Passwords are displayed in wireless configuration pages.

With at least a dozen free DDNS services out there, it is a shame that the only free service supported by this router is No-IP, and they have provided no mechanism to manually create your own configuration for another service.

When sharing a storage device connected to the USB port, everyone must use the same username and password. This can be the same as the admin account or you can configure another account for this.

There appears to be a bug in the GUI that prevents more than one USB storage device from displaying in the status screen. It simply combines all of the the storage space (used and available) in the summary and lists the first device connected. This doesn't seem to affect any functionality, though.

Device-level parental controls do not work. I was still able to access the internet when internet access was not allowed. Content restrictions do work, but they get applied to all devices, rather than just those that were added to the devices under parental control.

The QoS section also has some glaring problems:
- First of all, QoS is supposed to prioritize bandwidth when there is bandwidth contention, not all the time. So, lets say a device is set to the lowest priority (10% of maximum bandwidth, by default). If the WAN connection is being heavily used, this device should be limited to 10% of both the upstream and downstream maximum. If, on the other hand, no one else is using the WAN, this device should get as much of the bandwidth as it wants. That is not what happens with this router. Instead, configured limits are enforced regardless of overall bandwidth usage, and even then, the limits were not enforced correctly, giving me 3 times the specified download limit (30% instead of 10%) and the full upload bandwidth. When there was contention, the download limit was still at 30%, but the upload limit was kept at about 10%.
- Second, if you have devices set up in the QoS rule list (priority bins), QoS rules will continue to be enforced even if “Enable QoS” is unchecked.
- When I click “Add” in one of the priority bins, my computer will sometimes be listed by the actual computer name, while other times by the name “WORKGROUP” which, of course, is the Windows default work group name.

There is a “Diagnostics” section under the advanced options tab, which I was looking forward to exploring, thinking there would be some cool router diagnostic or monitoring tools. Sadly, the only tools are ping and traceroute.

“Traffic Statistics” was even more of a let down, showing only port counters since last reset. They even combined sent and received traffic into one number, making the counter even less useful.

The system log can be periodically sent to an email address, but there is no option to direct messages to a syslog server.

As I was looking through the quick start guide, I found a reference to TP-Link Tether App, with a QR code to scan. I thought I would give it a try with my Android phone, and it sent me to the Google Play store, sort of. It kept asking me to log into my Google account, which I have never seen it do before, so I bailed out and went directly to the Play store. I fount the app there and installed it with no issue. It is odd that it required access to my media files, but for the sake of testing it, I agreed. Then I started the app. As it turns out, this is a management app, not an easy way to tether your router off your phone's data service. The interface is very limited and it only works via WiFi, so forget checking on your network while away from home.

Other Thoughts: USB storage transfer rates were tested using a wired 1GBps LAN port. The same hard drive was connected to my PC and those results are also provided for comparison.

Large file Windows copy (read): 80MB/s connected to router, 102MB/s connected to PC.
Large file Windows copy (write): 35MB/s connected to router, 120MB/s connected to PC.

CrystalDiskMark benchmarks:
Single-threaded read: 53MB/s connected to router; 110MB/s connected to PC.
Multi-threaded read: 95MB/s connected to router; 155MB/s connected to PC.
Single-threaded write: 47MB/s connected to router; 109MB/s connected to PC.
Multi-threaded write: 39MB/s connected to router; 112MB/s connected to PC.

2.4GHz Wireless coverage and throughput**:
- 300 Mbps link speed, 19MB/s transfer rates - next to router, and within 60 feet of router.
- 216 Mbps link speed, 7.5MB/s transfer rates - outside about 100 feet from router.
- varying link speed, 3MB/s transfer rates - outside about 130 feet from router.

5GHz Wireless coverage and throughput**:
- 866 Mbps link speed, 54MB/s transfer rates - next to router.
- 650 Mbps link speed, 45MB/s transfer rates - inside about 60 feet from router.
- 117 Mbps link speed, 4.5MB/s transfer rates - outside about 100 feet from router.
- varying link speed, 3MB/s transfer rates - outside about 130 feet from router.

60GHz Wireless could not be tested since I do not have access to anything with this capability.

** Note that wireless testing was done using a laptop with an Intel dual band wireless-ac 7265 adapter. Although not specified, this adapter appears to align with AC1200 advertisements, while this router appears to align with AC2600. Even when quite close to the router, sustained transfers capped out about about 60% of the available AC1200 bandwidth of my laptop. It is therefore questionable whether a better 802.11ac adapter would yield better transfer rates.

A new version of firmware was available, so it was upgraded before any testing was done. The most recent version at this time is 1.0.9 Build 20160602 rel.37987. No new features or enhancements were listed. Upgrading was a simple 2 click process from the GUI: check for updates, then install. The process took a surprisingly long 6 minutes and 15 seconds to complete.

The router itself is very solid, and at 9” x 9” x 5” with the antennas up, it is by far the largest consumer router I have ever seen. It also has a pretty hefty 50W wall-wart power supply. Fortunately, it plugs in sideways and still only covers 1 outlet. I wish the power cord was longer. At only 5', your placement options are limited. There are mounting holes on the back of the router, but no hardware is included and the manual states that for best performance, horizontal mounting is recommended.

I was a bit concerned when I saw that monster power supply, but actual power consumption is quite low:
7-8W: under normal use, all radios at full power
10W: after connecting a single portable USB powered hard drive
12W: heavily using USB hard drive

- - -

Final thoughts...

As with any new technology, someone needs to be the trail-blazer, and hats off to TP-Link for stepping up to the plate and releasing the first and so far, the only 802.11ad consumer router. But until 802.11ad host adapters are more readily available (there are currently none here at Newegg, and only a couple at that other site), spending $350 on a router you can't even fully utilize yet might be a tough pill to swallow. Add to that all of the missed opportunities and bugs in the firmware, and I am not sure this router is quite ready for general consumption. Sure, there will always be people who absolutely must have the latest and greatest hardware despite the initial glitches, and for you guys, this will make you very happy. For everyone else, I think I would wait a little while.

The one silver lining is that every single one of my complaints about this router are firmware problems, and as such can be easily fixed if TP-Link puts in the effort. They certainly have the potential for an awesome product here. I have my fingers crossed, and I'll be watching for updates.

READ FULL REVIEW
TRENDnet TEW-824DRU AC1750 Dual Band Wireless Router with StreamBoost Technology
  • eggxpert iconEggXpert

4 out of 5 eggs Quite good, but probably not for hard-core wireless users 07/16/2016

This review is from: TRENDnet TEW-824DRU AC1750 Dual Band Wireless Router with StreamBoost Technology

Pros: Excellent manual. Without a doubt, this is the best router manual I have ever read. They really took the time to explain what each feature does, why you would want it, provides warnings regarding the risks of using the feature, and even gives real-life examples of how to configure the feature. Since it is available for download right from Trendnet's web site, I would recommend grabbing it just for a reference since most of the features are fairly standard, but no one else actually explains them.

You can host up to 8 completely separate SSIDs from this router, each with different WiFi security settings and passwords, schedules, and access levels. 4 can be 5GHz, and 4 can be 2.4GHz. While this feature will likely not benefit many people, for an environment with a large user-base requiring varying security or access restrictions, setup would be very easy from just this 1 router.

I like the idea of being able to set a schedule for when SSIDs are enabled. Instead of setting up parental controls for every single device, simply schedule the SSID to turn off! You can do this with the main, guest, or the extra 4 “multiple” SSIDs you can configure.

The monitoring tools in the StreamBoost section are pretty comprehensive. You can see raw bandwidth to all of the devices on your network from a single screen. From there, you can click on any device and see a breakdown of what that traffic is (web, video, file sharing, etc..). You can also see an overall breakdown of which web applications are most heavily used from your network, as determined by bandwidth consumed, or time accessed.

While all routers offer NAT and port forwarding in their firewall configuration, this router has a “gaming” section with dozens of game configurations already programmed in. So if you want to get Xbox live working, for example, you don't have to do an internet search to figure out that you need to enable TCP port 3074, and UDP ports 88 and 3074, you just select Xbox Live from the pull-down, enter your Xbox IP, and click Add.

There is a USB 2.0 port on the back of the router which can be attached to storage device and shard over the network using DNLA (Digital Living Network Alliance), Samba (SMB - Windows file sharing) or FTP (File Transfer Protocol). You can even create 25 different user accounts.

Wired performance was excellent, providing full gig capability through WAN and LAN ports.

Supports Wireless bridging using WDS (Wireless Distribution System). This is quite handy if you want to repeat or boost a wireless signal or connect wired devices to a wireless network.

I love the fact that you can increase the auto-logout timer from the default of 3 minutes to up to 60 minutes.

As feature rich as this firmware is, I am also very excited that it supports DD-WRT, so if you really want to dial in your configuration, you can. I have used DD-WRT on several different routers and I have never seen some of the abilities that the factory firmware offers, though, so you might find yourself wanted to stick with what comes with it. I'll be installing DD-WRT on this router to play, but those results will have to wait for a future review.

Cons: Unfortunately, my biggest con with this router is the wireless performance:
- When connected to the router using the old-school 2.4GHz radio, my sustained transfer rates capped out at about 2.5MB/s (20 or so Mbit/S). With 4 bars of reception, like in my backyard about 125 feet from the router, I was getting 0.5 to 1 MB/s. Below 4 bars, the link was completely useless. File transfers wouldn't just sit at "calculating", and if I disconnected from the router, it wouldn't reconnect.
- When connected to the router at 5GHz with a new 802.11ac laptop (allegedly sporting "up to 867 Mbps" transfer rates), my sustained transfer rates capped out at about 35MB/s (280 Mbit/s). Once the reception dropped to 4 bars (same spot in my backyard), my sustained transfer rate dropped to between 1 and 2MB/s. And like the 2.4GHz antenna, anything less than 4 bars was useless.

Light and unstable with cables attached. Cannot be mounted horizontally as base is securely attached.

The power cord is quite short (maybe 4 feet).

There is nothing on the included CDROM except the user manual, which you can easily download from Trendnet's web site.

There are definitely some oddities in the GUI. For example: In the main WiFi configuration page, the WiFi radio status is not really shown. It says “Radio On/Off” and next to it is a button that says “RADIO OFF” if it's on, and “RADIO ON” if it's off. But on the guest wireless and multiple SSID configuration pages, there is a check-box next to “Radio On/Off.”

It is also rather comical that the “Setup Wizard” is buried 8 items down in the Setup section of the Advanced Setup tab! This seems like a feature that would be best located on the main page.

Why, oh why, does a screen appear saying “Processing, please wait......” for 10 to 45 seconds every single time I change a setting?

You cannot check for firmware updates from the GUI. You must go to Trendnet's web site, search for the router model, then look for updates in the downloads section. If there is an update, you must download it, extract it from the zip file, then select that .bin file from the GUI and click Apply.

Dynamic DNS options are very limited, offering support for only DynDNS (now a paid service) and no-ip.com (currently free).

On at least 2 occasions, while going through the configuration pages, perhaps too quickly, the GUI went black and refused to reload. Network activity was still working normally, though. A reboot was required to reset the GUI. This may have been fixed in the upgraded firmware (v1.0.1) as I have been unable to repeat the problem since upgrading.

Other Thoughts: StreamBoost Traffic Shaping seems to have completely replaced QoS on this router. You can assign a priority to each device, similarly to the more familiar QoS groupings (premium, bulk, etc...), but they clearly want you to click the “Enable StreamBoost” check box and let them do it for you. The only downside to this is that they tell you right on that page that they will stop updating StreamBoost on April 1st, 2017, so any new applications that come out after then will be unknown to your router and may be “shaped” incorrectly, forcing you to turn off this feature.

I really like that they have set a WiFi password for each radio by default, as opposed to so many manufacturers whose default settings are enabled and wide open. However, it would have been even better if the preset password was actually set to what was printed on the included label!

There is also a non-standard default admin password. Don't worry if you throw away the bag with the label showing this password. It is also stuck on the bottom of the router. Of course this means you better change it!

Looking at the system log, I noticed this odd error after boot. Perhaps this was the cause of my odd lockups.
"WARNING overcommit_memory is set to 0! Background save may fail under low memory condition. To fix this issue add 'vm.overcommit_memory = 1' to /etc/sysctl.conf and then reboot or run the command 'sysctl vm.overcommit_mem"

-

Overall, I would say this is a pretty decent router with a lot of really nice features. If you stay within 100 feet or so of the router and the majority of your traffic comes from the WAN, you will probably be fine. If, on the other hand you are looking for a high performance wireless LAN with multiple heavy users, you might want to look elsewhere.

It is entirely possible that the performance will improve after switching to DD-WRT, however my guess is that it's not going to help a lot. Perhaps if the router had an external antenna or 2 or 3, it would help.

READ FULL REVIEW
SteelSeries Rival 300 Gaming Mouse - Silver
  • eggxpert iconEggXpert

4 out of 5 eggs Better with new SteelSeries Engine 3 version 05/17/2016

This review is from: SteelSeries Rival 300 Gaming Mouse - Silver

Pros: This mouse seems to have a pretty high quality build, as you would expect at this price. The weight is decent, but I would have preferred it to be slightly heavier.

The performance of the mouse is very nice. Even before installing the SteelSeries Engine software, the sensitivity was just about right.

The buttons feel solid, and produce a noticeable feel when they are actuated.

Once the SteelSeries Engine software is installed, the sky is the limit to the customization options. Each button can be programmed to application specific tasks, as can the sensitivity and colors.

Cons: Note that this a right-hand only mouse. That does not apply only to the left side buttons, but to the whole grip of the mouse. A lefty will find this mouse very uncomfortable.

This mouse is also designed for very large hands. My wife refers to my hands as shovels, and I am unable to comfortably use the front left button. I must adjust to a much less comfortable grip to access the button, or stretch to reach it. Unfortunately, the mouse naturally moves back when I stretch to reach it, so if you were using it in a game as a trigger, your aim will be affected by this unwanted movement.

The mouse has raised texture sides, and while I can see that some people may like the extra grip, the mouse is not heavy enough to need it and I can see the area getting caked with crud in no time.

All of the buttons emit a much louder than average clicking sound when actuated. The track wheel button is quiet, but the wheel itself is rather loud and quite abrupt when rolling.

This is likely caused by a problem on my main computer, but I was not able to get this mouse to function on it. When I connected it, I would get the normal New Hardware popup and it would attempt to install drivers (even though I already had an older version of SteelSeries Engine 3 installed). It would then fail to install 2 of the 5 drivers and the mouse would not function. Both lights would be on, however. I upgraded and even removed and reinstalled the Engine 3 software, but neither helped. I also tried several other USB ports, rebooted, and even removed my existing mouse, all to no avail. I finally gave up and tried my work laptop. The mouse was immediately recognized. I installed the Engine 3 software and began testing.

When I first started the Engine 3 software, a line under the Rival 300 device appeared saying "CRITICAL UPDATE: Click to install new firmware." I clicked this, and immediately after acknowledging the next warning not to disconnect the mouse during the upgrade, the mouse stopped working. I assumed this was a normal result of the upgrade in progress. After several minutes, a dialog appears informing me that "An error occurred that prevented the successful completion of the firmware update." The mouse was still non-functional at this point. I disconnected the mouse, then reconnected it and it came back online. I tested the update again, with the same result.

Other Thoughts: I am sure some people will like the feel of this mouse, but for me, it's just not a good fit. And while I am disappointed that it will not work at all on my non-ancient Z77 based computer for some unknown reason (their SENSEI wireless mouse works fine), I am more concerned that it also has problems on my brand new work laptop. Perhaps I got a bum unit to evaluate, but from this experience, I would have to say this mouse is not quite ready for prime time.

Update (5/17/2016) - With the latest update of SteelSeries Engine 3 (v 3.7.4) this mouse suddenly started working on my computer and the firmware could be upgraded.

READ FULL REVIEW

Steve F.'s Profile

Display Name: Steve F.

Date Joined: 06/27/05

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