Over the holidays I was asked a lot of tech questions from my extended family who look to me as their preferred form of tech support. It’s almost as if they bundle up all their questions throughout the year just to throw them at me during the annual holiday party. A common question this year was, “Why should we waste our money on an expensive router when the ISP provides an all-in-one modem for free.” Fair question, so let’s use this opportune review as an answer. Enter the TP-Link Archer AC2300, an affordable Mu-Mimo router that provides users with all of the modern performance and security features required to run a high quality home Wi-Fi network.
Retailing for $150 CAD, the TP-Link Archer AC2300 packs a modest punch of power, running off a 1.8GHz dual-core processor and 512mb of RAM. With these specs, the router is capable of achieving a dual-band connection with max speeds up to 2.25 Gbps. To be more specific, the 5GHz connection has a max speed of 1625 Mbps and the 2.4GHz connection reaches up to 600 Mbps. Compared to the estimated Wi-Fi speeds on ISP provided units, users should expect the TP-Link Archer to double their download speed and provide a more consistent upload speed all around the house. This reflects well in our testing.
To test the TP-Link Archer’s capabilities I pitted the router against my Rogers modem and 1 GB Ethernet connection at different times of the day for a week and averaged the scores to achieve my final conclusions. Obviously, Ethernet is the clear winner across all of the fields, but that requires users to ditch their wireless lifestyles, which is realistically never happening. It was honestly shocking how slow the Rogers modem was, only able to reach 33 per cent of the performance of my Ethernet connection. No wonder signal sucks when I go upstairs or walk out onto the porch. There are clear dead zones where this device can’t reach. The TP-Link Archer AC2300 showed much better performance scores, reaching 60 per cent of my Ethernet connection’s total performance. Not only were my upload and download speeds faster, but the Archer was also able to provide a more stable connection due to its wider area coverage and Range-Boost technology.
Another positive over an ISP unit is the quality of life improvements routers provide. For example, the TP-Link Archer AC2300 doesn’t need to be set up or managed using a desktop computer. Users can instead use their smartphone and download the free TP-Link Tether app and manage their network that way. The app is rather simplistic in layout and functions, but it does provide the user with essential information, including the number of devices on the network and their level of priority. Users can even set up guest passwords and assign restrictions, which is particularly good for using on a child’s device because it gives the parent a wider range of control.
My only real complaint with the TP-Link Archer AC2300 is that I think it looks like an eyesore and suffers from a poorly designed LED layout. Unless the Archer is mounted on the wall it’s nearly impossible to read the LEDs to tell the status of my networks if I begin to notice disruptions. The symbols are simply too tiny and only light up in one colour, unlike my ISP unit where they are bold and shine blue or green to indicate the level of performance.
While I may dislike the design, the TP-Link Archer AC2300 does provide enough performance for the dollar that I still recommend it as a good choice for users looking for an affordable router and a gateway to Mu-Mimo technology. Mu-Mimo is quickly becoming the industry standard for routers due to its low latency connections and top-notch efficiency with wireless devices, which is a huge benefit for households needing to support multiple users.
A retail version of this device reviewed was provided by the manufacturer. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.
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