- Simultaneous Dual Band, 300+450Mbps
- USB Storage, Printer, Media Server
- IP based bandwidth control
- Wireless On/Off Switch
- 3 External antennas
- Windows 8 compatible
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Jack of all trades, master of none 09/08/2013
I received the router and the installed firmware was 3.13.23 Build 121225 Rel.37950n which I immediately updated to the current version, 3.13.33 Build 130617 Rel.46239n. Judging from the Favicon in Chrome (stable) while logged into the router, the stock firmware is based on DD-WRT.
The unit itself is built very nicely, with a glossy piano black finish and easily readable ports and icons. The lights on front of the unit are all a bright blue color. I like the fact that the unit has a wireless on/off switch, in case I want to further secure my LAN by shutting off wireless completely. Speaking of the wireless, the 3 antennas are removable and could most likely be replaced with higher power antennas (if your needs or requirements change). It also has a power on/off switch which is also nice, and something that isn’t typically available on routers. The firmware is feature-rich and offers a ton of options for someone more experienced with networking to tinker with. The pages are also broken down into 3 sections, with the left section being for selection, the middle section being the area that you make your changes, and the right section listing directions and explanations of the currently selected options.
Setting up the router for my home network was very easy and within minutes I was sharing my 30/4 Charter cable internet in my home wired across 2 Windows 7 Professional 64-bit workstations, a DirecTV Genie HD DVR receiver, a Xbox 360 Pro (fat), and wirelessly across 4 Android smartphones, 1 Android tablet, and a Playstation 3 (fat). The router’s speeds over GbE are excellent; using the freeware LAN Speed Test (Lite) v1.3.1 application, I achieved speeds of 711 Mbps (down) and 805 Mbps (up) from PC to PC using Cat5e. My WAN speeds were also excellent - with Charter I get 30 Mbps minimum (down) and usually pull closer to 40-50 Mbps depending on things; with the TL-WDR4300, I did get an average (over 5 tests) of 46.824 Mbps (down) and 2.278 Mbps (up) with a ping of 30 ms.
The 2 USB ports also came in handy as an easy way to concurrently share an external 750GB USB 2.0 HDD and 32GB USB 2.0 thumb drive to all network users, both wired and wireless. You can also set up the router for Guest WiFi access at home, which helps if you are working on cleaning up a malware infection on a friend or relative's computer and you need to get online to download anti-malware applications and definitions (but you don't want to risk cross-contaminating your own personal systems). The router also includes VPN passthrough, which helps for users that work remotely from other locations.
The wireless performance of the router is not very good. At first, I attempted to use the router without the attached antennas, to see how well the unit functions without them. The wireless signals, both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz, were very low. Once I installed the antennas, the signal jumped up quite a bit to better levels; however they were still +5 dBm worse from 3’ away (living room) and only -1 dBm better from 25’ (through 3 walls on the same floor in a bedroom) away than my old Netgear WNR834B v2 Draft N router that this unit replaced. Wireless speeds close to the unit in the living room were pretty good, but they were horrible in the bedroom 25’ away; again on an average of 5 tests, my transfer rates dropped to 6.484Mbps (down) and 2.712Mbps (up) with a ping of 111.6ms using the 2.4Ghz channel, and 13.956Mbps (down) and 3.228Mbps (up) with a ping of 215ms on the 5Ghz channel. Comparatively, the WNR834B v2 achieved 12.562Mbps (down) and 4.62Mbps (up) with a ping of 28ms.
In a few other (minor) cons, if I’m nitpicking, the front lights are very bright, and oddly enough, they match up with the wired ports in the back – meaning the 1st wired ethernet port is on the leftmost position on the back, but on the front, the light that corresponds to port 1 is on the rightmost position. Typically, the lights on the front are reversed in this fashion (and read ports 1-4 from left to right).
As an educated network specialist with an Associate’s Degree in Network System Administration, the configuration options and choices of this router makes me giddy with delight; it’s just a shame that the wireless performance severely hinders what is otherwise a phenomenal unit. If you can be somewhat forgiving on wireless performance, then you might be happy with this router. However, I would think that buying a wireless router without expecting good (if not great) wireless performance would be somewhat of a foolish idea – you’d just go buy a wired GbE router which is cheaper instead. This is a very nice router with a ton of bells and whistles, but as my review title states – I think it’s a jack of all trades, master of none. Wireless performance is very disappointing for a unit that is built so well that you would expect better performance out of it. The phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” also comes to mind. I did check to make sure that the ‘Transmit Power’ on both of the wireless radios was set to its highest option, which it was. As a wired unit, this is a beautiful product. As a wireless unit, I think you’ll be let down so I would advise you to look elsewhere.
Thank you for your detailed review on this router!
We're glad to hear you like many features on the router.
Regarding to the wireless performance, I found the 2.4GHz wireless is a bit slow.
May I suggest you change the wireless channel and try again?
You may use a free software, called inSSIDer, to detect the idle channel.
We would like to discuss with customers like you on how to improve our products.
If you have further comment or suggestions, please feel free to let me know.
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TP-LINK Support Team
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