Scott Hanselman

Review: The AmpliFi HD (High-Density) Home Wi-Fi Mesh Networking System

July 6, '17 Comments [38] Posted in Reviews
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The AmpliFi Router is a cute small white box with a black circular touchscreenI've been very happy with the TP-Link AC3200 Router I got two years ago. It's been an excellent and solid router. However, as the kids get older and the number of mobile devices (and smart(ish) devices) in the house increase, the dead wifi spots have become more and more noticeable. Additionally I've found myself wanting more control over the kids' internet access.

There's a number of great WiFi Survey Apps but I was impressed with the simplicity of this Windows 10 WiFi Survey app, so I used it to measure the signals around my house, superimposed with a picture of the floor plan.

Here's the signal stretch of the TP-Link. Note that when you're using a WiFi Survey app you need to take into consideration if you're measuring 2.4GHz that gives you better distance at slower speeds, or 5GHz that can give you a much faster connection at the cost of range. As a general rule in a single room or small house, 5GHz is better and you'll absolutely notice it with video streaming like Netflix.

Below is a map of the 5GHz single for my single TP-Link router. It's "fine" but it's not epic if you move around. You can guess from the map that the router is under the stairs in the middle.

My older router's wifi map shows mostly Yellow

You can also guess where concrete walls are, as well as the angles of certain vectors that pass through thick walls diagonally and affect the signal. Again, it's OK but it's starting to be annoying and I wanted to see if I could fix it.

SIDE BAR: It is certainly possible to take two routers and combine them into one network with a shared SSID. If you know how to do this kind of thing (and enjoy it) then more power to you. I tried it out in 2010 and it worked OK, but I want my network to "just work" 100% of the time, out of the box. I like the easy setup of a consumer device with minimal moving parts. Mesh Networking products are reaching the consumer at a solid price point with solid tech so I thought it was time to make the switch.

Below is the same map with the same locations, except using the AmpliFi HD (High-Density) Home Wi-Fi System from Ubiquiti Networks. This is the consumer (or "prosumer") version of the technology that Ubiquiti (UBNT) uses in their commercial products.

AmpliFi HD includes the router and two "mesh points." These are extenders that use a mesh tech called 3x3 MIMO. They can transmit and receive via 3 streams at a low level. MIMO is part of the 802.11n spec.

The Singal from the AmpliFi HD is fantastic

Note that this improvement is JUST using the AmpliFi main router. When you do a Wifi Survey the "Mesh Points" will show up as the same SSID (the same wireless network) but they'll have different MAC Address. That means in my list of networks in the Survey tool my "HanselMesh" network appears three times. Don't worry, it's one SSID and your computers will only see ONE network - it's just advanced tools that see each point. It's that "meshing" of n number of access points that is the whole point.

These two maps below are the relative strengths of just the mesh points. It's the union of all three of these maps that gives the clear picture. For example, one mesh point covers the living area fantastically (as does the router itself) while the other covers the garage (not that it needs it) and the entire office.

The mesh points make the signal better in parts of the houseThe mesh points make the signal better in parts of the house

Between the main router and the two included mesh points there are NO dead spots in the house. I'll find the kids in odd corners with an iPad, behind a couch in the play room where they couldn't get signal before. I'm finding myself sitting in different rooms than I did before just because I can roam without thinking about it.

I would suspect I could get away with buying just the AmpliFi Router (around US$133) and maybe one mesh point extender but the price for all three (router + 2 mesh points) is decent. The slick part is that you can add mesh points OR a second router. It's the second router idea that is most compelling for multi-floor buildings that also have a wired network. For example, I could add a second router (not a mesh point) upstairs and plug it into the wall (so it's "wire backed").

The mesh points plug into the wall and just sit there. You can adjust them, bend them to point towards the router, and best of all - move them at will. For example, when I set up the network initially I put the two mesh points where I thought they'd work best. But one didn't and Netflix was dropping. I literally unplugged it and moved it into the hallway and plugged it in. A minute later that whole area was full speed. This means if I did/do find a dead spot, I could just move the mesh point either temporarily or permanently.

The router is adorable. Like "I wish it wasn't in a closet" adorable. It's pretty enough that you'll want it on your desk. It has a great LCD touchscreen and a lighted base. The touchscreen shows your IP, total bandwidth this month (very useful, in fact), and bandwidth currently used.

The router is best set-up with an iPhone/iPad or Android device. There is a VERY minimal web interface but you really can't manage the Amplfi (as of the time of this writing) with a web browser - it really is designed to be administered with a mobile app. And frankly, I'm OK with it because the app is excellent.

The AmpliFi App says "Everything is Great"35Mbs up/down

The download/upload numbers there aren't the maximum speed - it's the bandwidth being used right now. You can test the speed elsewhere in the app. I have 35Mb/s up and down (usually) in my house, but Gigabit inside (which is useful as I have a Synology server internally).

There a lot of ways to restrict internet for the kids. I like that the Amplify lets me group devices and apply time-limits to them. Here the Xbox and two tablets can't use the internet until 9am and they turn off at bedtime.

Notice the pause buttons as well. I can temporarily pause internet on any one device (or group of devices) whenever.

imagePhoto Jun 25, 7 41 23 PM

When you're setting up the network and positioning the mesh points you can see near-realtime signals updates in the app.

100% signal on this Mesh Point72% signal on this Mesh Point

And once it's all done, you can impose a basic QoS (Quality of Service) on individual devices by telling the AmpliFi what they are used for. Here I've setup a device for multi-player gaming, while some iPads are used mostly for streaming.

Setting up Streaming in AmpliFiNew Updates are available

Setup is a snap. It took longer to go to each device and connect them to the new network than it did to set up the network. I suppose I could have kept the same SSID and password as the old network but I wanted a fresh start and easier A/B testing.

So far I have been 100% thrilled with the AmpliFi HD. It's important to point out again that AmpliFi is the consumer arm of Ubiquiti (UBNT) and that a dozen programmer/techie-types on Twitter insisted suggested that I needed these Enterprise/Commercial Access Points. I get it. They are more advanced, fancier, offer more stats and more control. But honestly, my house isn't that big, the data I'm pushing around isn't that complex, and I don't want a Commercial Level of control. I was (and am) thoroughly impressed with the consumer stuff. The app is excellent and improving. The coverage is complete and fast. The AmpliFi is rated at 450 Mbps for 2.4 GHz and 1.3 Gbps for 5 GHz). Even if I upgrade my internet to my localities max of 150 Mbps (I only pay for 35 Mbps today) I'm not anywhere near that limit externally, and I'm not doing anything close internally.

That said, here's some things I'd like in future updates:

  • Simpler port-forwarding with common rules. "This xbox/that service"
  • An open source VPN server. I'd like to VPN directly into the Ubiquiti, rather than into my Synology.
  • More quality of service/prioritization details. "The office server always has preferred packets, period"
  • Mobile alerts - I'd like to know if I go over x bandwidth, or if we are streaming at x Mbs for y hours.
  • A fully featured administration web console.

And yes, I realize NOW I should have called the Network "Hanselmesh." Missed opportunity.

I highly recommend the AmpliFi HD. I frankly have no complaints other than my small wish list above. Buy one via my Amazon referral links so I can keep blogging in my spare time AND buy tacos. Your use of these links gives me walking around money. Thanks for reading!


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are an ABSOLUTE JOY

March 12, '17 Comments [21] Posted in Gaming | Reviews
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I bought a Nintendo Switch last week with my allowance and I'm utterly smitten. It's brilliant. It's absolutely brilliant.

The Nintendo Switch is FAB

Now, to be clear, I'm neither a hardcore gamer nor a journalist. However, I am someone who grew up on Mario, enjoys Retrogaming and my Xbox One, and most of all, I know genius when I see it.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a wonderful example of the very best that video games can offer as an art form in 2017. - Me

It may be the best video game ever. And it is because it borrows so much from the decades of refinement whose shoulders it stands upon.

Let's break this down into two halves. First, Zelda (which is available on WiiU and Switch), and later, the Switch itself.

If you don't feel like reading this, just trust me and buy a Switch and Zelda and bask in the hundreds of hours of joy and wonder it will bring you. It's the most fun I've had with a video game in recent memory. I also profoundly recommend the gorgeous hardcover The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: The Complete Official Guide Collector's Edition. The maps, the art, and the gentle walkthroughs are more fun than googling. The kids and I have enjoyed exploring the wilderness with the giant map unfurled in front of us.

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

It's HUGE. It's estimated at 360 square kilometers. They are saying it's 1.5x the Skyrim map and may be larger than Witcher 3. A cynic could call Breath of the Wild derivative, but an optimist like me says, well, they stole every game mechanic that was awesome over the last few decades, and made the near-perfect game. I love that this is a console launch game that is polished and has at LEAST 100 hours or more for the completist.

Zelda is gorgeousWhat is Zelda like?

  • Just Cause - Fly off a cliff with a paraglider, fly over a raging river and land on an elk, tame it and ride it. Because you're awesome and you can.
  • Witcher 3 - Massive map, armor sets, crafting and more.
  • Assassin's Creed - Climbing because...it's fun. Getting maps by unlocking towers and jumping off.
  • Grand Theft Auto - The first massive sandbox without loading. You enter a new area and get a brief subtitle announcing you're in a new "neighborhood" and then you wander.
  • Skyrim - The Elder Scrolls was the first video game I played where I climbed mountains "because they were there" and really had a sense of wonder when I got to the top. Draw distance!
  • Shadow of the Colossus - There's amazing HUGE boss fights that involve climbing the enemy, racing after monsters with horses, and sometimes going inside them.
  • Bard's Tale - Because I'm old.

Complaints? Honestly, if I had to truly nit. And I mean really nit I'd say the durability of weapons, particularly swords, is annoying. I would make them last maybe 50% longer. Also, moving in and out of Shrines has a load screen that takes 10-15 seconds. But really, that's like saying "I wish Beyoncé was 5'8", not 5'7". I mean, REALLY. Beyoncé. Shush.

The Nintendo Switch

It's portable. Just like in the ad, you can pull the Switch out and leave. In my video below I also switch to portable AND have to re-sync the controllers, so there is one additional ceremony, but it's easy.

It feels like a console when it's plugged in. I've got it plugged into my TV and from my couch it looks as nice as any of my devices. Sure, it's not an Xbox One playing Tom Clancy: The Division. But it's a brilliant tradeoff for a device I can simply pick up and go outside with (which I've done, with considerable appreciation.)

I'm surprised that folks are complaining about the gaming resolution, frame rates, battery life, older processor, or said "it's just like an iPad with an HDMI cable." Here's why:

  • Resolution - Zelda runs at 720p (the native res of the touchscreen) at 30fps. It's just 6.5" and 720p is just fine when it's a foot or more from your face.
  • Battery - I got an easy 3 hours out of it. If you're on a plane, carry a cable and extra battery. If you need to portably game more than 3 hours, take a break. ;) Seriously, though, given my appreciation of it's portability and power and experience this is reasonable. One can always complain about battery life.
  • Frame Rate - When you dock the Switch and run Zelda over your TV the resolution is 900p and sometimes it lags. If you're in the forest, and it's raining, and there's a bunch of enemies around there will totally be moments of 20 fps. But it passes. And it's still gorgeous. A small price to pay, and we don't know if it's fixable with a software patch. Given that launch titles rarely use the new hardware in an optimized fashion, it's more than reasonable to give them a break on this.
  • Older Processor - The Switch is using the older Nvidia Tegra X1 processor. As a business person this makes sense. It's a $300 device. It's not reasonable to expect all day battery life and 4k gaming on a device that weights two-thirds of a pound.
  • Innovation - Yes, you can plug your iPad into your TV. But most folks don't. And the iPad and iOS clearly haven't tried to optimize for this scenario. Apple has scandalously under-supported their MFi Controller Spec, even though the SteelSeries is brilliant. Frankly, Apple handed Nintendo a huge opportunity by not making a proper controller and supporting MFi better with Game Devs. The Switch might not exist if I could BlueTooth Pair any controller to my iPad and play Skyrim on an iPad. Oh ya, I'd have to have an iPad with expandable memory or a cartridge slot. ;) The Switch is a new category of device. It's not an iPad.

It's a fantastic device for the price and the promises, for the most part, were kept. That said, a few gentle warnings if you do get a Switch.

  • If you put the joy-cons on backwards they might get stuck and you could perhaps damage the system.
  • The joy-cons have these little wrist straps as well, and to be clear if you put these on backwards you're in trouble. Make sure you line up the plus + signs. There's a + on the right joy-con and a - on the left one. Use the correct strap for the correct joy-con.
  • If you slam the Switch into the dock it's possible you could scratch the screen. I always treat $300 equipment like it cost $300. Be somewhat careful.

My Recommended Nintendo Switch accessories (I own each of these)

These accessories are by no means required (the Switch has everything you need out of the box) but these are all 4+ star rated and I've purchased them myself and appreciate them. Yes, I've gone overboard and my $300 Switch is now a $500 Switch BUT I HAVE NO REGERTS. ;)

  • Some kind of Carrying Case. I have the Zelda Special Edition case, but all the cases that are official Nintendo are excellent.
  • The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. If you're going to hook your Switch up to the TV you might consider the pro controller. The Switch does come with a quasi-controller that has you pop the two joy-cons into a harness to simulate a typical Xbox/PS Controller but the ergonomics are exact by any stretch. The Pro Controller is fantastic. It's 99% the same as an Xbox Controller and includes (quietly) the full 360 degree gyro support that (I believe) Switch Games will be known for (see the second above on gyro in Zelda.)
  • Joy-con Grips. This was a frivolous purchase but a good one. I've got big hands and the Joy-Cons are NOT comfortable when turned horizontally and used for any period of time. These little holsters turn them into tiny Pro Controllers and make two player a LOT easier.
  • Compact Playstand. The Switch has one major hardware design "flaw" in that it can't be charged while it's using its kickstand. This little folding playstand is nice because it's 3-in-1 and can also perfectly fit a 3DSXL.
  • Large 128g EXTRA-FAST microSDXC SD Card. The Switch has only 32gigs of internal space and if you (theoretically) downloaded Zelda you'll use 13gigs. I can see myself using up a LOT of space in the next year so I got this 128G SD Card. And it's FAST.
  • 6 pack of Microfiber Cleaning Cloths  - I can't stand a dirty touchscreen. Can't. I have two dozen of these spread around the house, my car, my backpack. Can't have too many given laptops, TVs, and iPads.
  • USB C cables - Both the Switch and Pro Controller use USB C (finally!) so pick up a few USB C cables that you can use to charge in a pinch from your laptop, existing car charger, or portable battery. I only buy Anker Batteries.
  • A Zelda Amiibo - Amiibos are these little figurines with an RFID/NFC dealie inside. They are registered to you and they can "light up" features in all kinds of games. In Zelda specifically you can (a little later in the game) use them to get daily food and other bonuses. Plus they look nice on your desk.

My Predictions for the Nintendo Switch in 2017

I'm looking forward to seeing what the Nintendo Switch can become. I think/predict we'll see this on the Switch in 2017.

  • A thrilling Indie Game Community. Yes, the launch titles are weak. There aren't a ton of launch games. Call it a soft launch. But give it a few months.
  • Virtual Console - The ability to play SNES/NES and other games via some kind of emulation from Nintendo. We have already seen NEO-GEO games show up in the last few days! I can imagine we'll see a Mario Collection going back 30+ years.
  • Video Apps - If they add Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon, then I'll be taking my Switch with me to
  • A USB-C to HDMI cable - I don't want to take the dock with me on trips, so I'd love a USB-C to HDMI cable from Nintendo (It'll need their magic box/chip) to free up my bag.
  • A great balance between AAA Games and "classic" games. If Zelda and Shovel Knight are any indication, the future is bright.
  • Continued updates to the online experience. I suspect we'll get firmware and store updates quarterly.

But at the same time, what's the nightmare scenario? Nothing happens. No games come out and I have a $500 Zelda-specific device. I'm totally OK with that give the joy of the last week. So between the worst-case scenario and the best case, no matter what happens it's awesome and I'm a satisfied customer.

* I've used Amazon referral links here. Please use them and you'll support this blog and my Amiibo Habit.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Finding the Perfect Mouse

March 9, '16 Comments [109] Posted in Hardware | Reviews
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I have a small problem. I'm always looking for great computer mice. I've tried a number of mice (and keyboards!) over the years.

Five black computer mice, laid out left to right, and described in order below

Here's the current line up.

But the left one...oh this mouse. That's the Logitech MX Master Wireless Mouse and it's really top of the line and it's my current daily driver. It's usually $99 but I've seen it for $74 or less on sale.

The Logitech MX Master is a high end mouse, but rather than catering to gamers as so many mice do, it seems to be aimed more towards creators and makers. Prosumers, if you will.

Highlights

  • The MX Master has rechargeable LiPo batteries that are charged with a simple micro USB cable. So far they've lasted me two weeks or more with just a few minutes of charging. Plus, you can use the mouse with the cord attached. There's a 3 light LED on the side as well as software support so you won't be surprised by a low battery.
  • Fantastic customizable software.
    Exceptional Logitech Mosue Customization Software
  • Uses the "Unifying Receiver" which means a single dongle for multiple Logitech products. I also have the Logitech T650 Touchpad and they share the same dongle.
  • Even better, the MX Master also supports Bluetooth so you can use either. This means I can take the mouse on the road and leave the dongle.
  • Tracks on glass. My actual desktop is in entirely glass. It's a big sheet of glass and I've always had to put mouse pads on it, even with Microsoft Mice. This mouse tracks the same on a pad or a glass surface.
  • Heavy but the right kind of heavy. It's about 5 oz and it has heft that says quality but not heft that's tiring to push around.

One of the most unusual features is the Scroll Wheel. Some mice of a smooth scroll wheel with no "texture" as you scroll. Others have very clear click, click, click as you scroll. The MX Master has both. That means you can use "Ratchet" mode (heh) or "Freespin" mode, and you can assign a Mode Shift. If I click the wheel you can hear a clear mechanical click as (presumably) a magnet locks into place to provide the ratcheting sound and feel which is great for precision. Click again and you are FLYING through long PDFs or Web Pages. It's really amazing and not like any mouse I've used in this respect.

On top of that there is a SmartShift feature that automatically switches you between modes depending on the speed and vigor that you spin the wheel. All of this is configurable, to be clear.

It's a nice mouse for advanced folks or Devs because not only can you change basically every button (including a unique "gesture button" at your thumb where you click it and move the mouse for things like 'Next Virtual Desktop') but you can also have...

image

...configurations on a per-application basis!

image

This is fantastic because I want Chrome to scroll and feel one way and Visual Studio to scroll and feel another.

It's been 6 weeks with this new mouse and it's now my daily driver for code, blog posts, Office, and everything.

Trying out this new @Logitech MX Master mouse. This thing is SO SMOOTH.

A photo posted by Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) on

 

What's your favorite mouse or pointing device? Let's hear it in the comments!


PSA: Be sure to check out http://MarchIsForMakers.com all month long for great hardware podcasts, blogs, and videos! Spread the word and tweet with #MarchIsForMakers!

* Referral links help me buy mice. Click them for me please.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Using the Surface Pro 4 Type Cover with Fingerprint Reader on a Surface Pro 3

November 2, '15 Comments [21] Posted in Reviews
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Using the Surface Pro 4 Type Cover with Fingerprint Reader on a Surface Pro 3Last year in August I went and bought a Surface Pro 3 with my own money (it's not machine that work paid for) and I've been very happy with it. Now the Surface Pro 4 came out, and well, it's silly to upgrade for me when it's been just a year.

But. That Keyboard. The Surface Pro 4 has an all new Keyboard and Touch Pad.

The Surface Pro 3 keyboard is good, to be clear, but the touchpad sucks. After I used it for a few months I called it out as sucking. It's usable, but it's not fun to use.

Turns out that you can get a Surface Pro 4 Type Cover keyboard and it works and fits perfectly on a Surface Pro 3. You can upgrade your Surface Pro 3 (and pretend it's a 4, which is what I'm doing) by just adding the new Keyboard.

Fingerprint Reader

There's lots of new color Type Covers but the really interesting one is the Type Cover with Fingerprint Reader. Sadly, only available in Black, but it has an integrated Fingerprint Reader that lets you use the new "Windows Hello" login feature of Windows 10. Windows Hello means "using biometrics like fingerprints and faces and eye scanning to login to your computer."

It works and it works great. There was an Oct 26th "Firmware Update" in Windows Update that gives you the drivers you'll need. A Firmware Update for a Surface is essentially a "driver pack." Run Windows Update and attach the keyboard and you're set.

Windows Hello for Fingerprints

You enroll as many fingers as you want in Sign-In Options and that's it. Now you log in with your fingerprint. Lovely.

All new keyboard and touchpad

The picture before shows my original Surface Pro 3 Type Cover next to my new Surface Pro 4 Type Cover with Fingerprint Reader. First, the keyboard was already good on the Surface Pro 3, but it's just better on the 4. There are actual spaces between the keys, and you can see from the pic how the keys go even closer to the edge/bezel of the cover's surface. The keys are also slightly rearranged for the better. FN has been moved to the left, which makes sense, and a "context key" (which is effectively Shift-F10).

Another nice touch is that the FN key now has a light. On SP3 you had no way to see if it was locked, and you had to FN-CapsLock to force it on, and would have no visual indicator.

Finally, the silly Share and Settings secondary functions for Function F7 and F8 are gone and there's now an actual PrtScn button. It's the little things.

image

Now, to the touchpad. IT IS SO MUCH BETTER. It's actually usable. It's way larger (they say 40%) and it feels nicer. Before I always took another mouse with me because the SP3 touchpad was crippling. No longer. It's large enough for multi-finger gestures, including 3 and 4-finger taps. I'm still holding out for a "4 finger swipe" for Virtual Desktop switching, though.

One other subtlety that is worth pointing out...the fold. With the Surface Pro 3 Type Cover keyboard, when you fold it up to keep the Type Cover off the table, the fold makes it hard to press the "Start Button" on the screen because the keyboard butted right up against the screen. The Pro 4 Type Cover folds tighter and lower against the bottom bezel such that pressing icons in the taskbar and the Start button isn't a problem anymore. Subtle, but again, it's the little things.

I totally recommend this keyboard. It's given my Surface Pro 3 new life. It's the keyboard it should have always had.

* My links are Amazon Affiliate Links! Use them as they help support my blog and buy me tacos.


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Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Review: TP-Link AC3200 (Archer C3200) Wireless Router

September 29, '15 Comments [51] Posted in Reviews
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TP-Link AC3200 (Archer C3200) I've always been a Linksys or NetGear router person. I loved the legendary Linksys WRT54G and ran DD-WRT on it for years. A while back I updated my router to the Linksys WRT1900AC. This router was supposed to be the second coming of the WRT54G and promised enthusiastic support for alternate firmware. For about a year I ran the WRT1900AC with the stock firmware as there was a bit of controversy as to what that support would look like. Fast-forward a bit and it appears that Linksys and Marvel have been working together to solve some technical issues and have reached out to the OpenWRT and DD-WRT folks but unfortunately there is still no release place for DD-WRT for the WRT1900AC. I am tired of waiting and some recent instability in the stock firmware has got me shopping around.

I did some research and decided on the TP-Link AC3200 (Archer C3200). Now, before you say it, I will. This is a prosumer router. It's not cheap. But so far, it's been brilliant. I've tired $50 routers and they tip over with what I throw at them. I've got a minimum of about 20 devices on the network at a time, and often as many as 35-45. I want to be able to manage them differently, apply QoS (Quality of Service) rules, as well as segment my network. However, I am not a network engineer and I don't feel like being one. I've also had issues with range in the past but I don't feel like having two routers and one SSID. So far, it appears that this TP-Link Archer C3200 router can handle everything I throw at it.

TP-Link AC3200 (Archer C3200) 

First, let me say that this router looks like a UFO. It's a very dramatic design, but it's for a functional reason. Those are six folding antennas on the top.

router

Installation in my home took about 30 min from the moment it left the box until the whole house and every device was set up. I personally found the web interface to be simpler and more organized than any other router I've ever used, and I've used them all.

In this screenshot you can see that there are currently 18 devices connected and there are three wifi networks. I really like this feature. I've setup my own 5GHz SSID for my office, while the family gets their own 2.4GHz WiFi Network, and Netflix/Streaming/XBox devices get their own 5GHz SSID. It's nicely compartmentalized. Even more, I could optionally turn on one or more Guest Networks when folks visit from out of town. This gives guests internet, but keeps them off from seeing internal devices.

TP-Link AC3200 (Archer C3200) Wireless Router UI

If the idea of three SSIDs is too much for you, they also have a feature called "Smart Connect" which basically collapses a 2GHz and two 5GHz SSIDs and associated channels into a single Smart SSID that will abstract 802.11bgn across many channels. You get one SSID (Wireless Network Name) and the router handles the rest, automatically putting your devices on the right network given their capabilities.

There's also great Parental Controls built in, where you can set a Time Schedule per device. For example, you could make it so your child's iPad could only access the internet during certain times of the day. You would need turn off iOS Mac Address Randomization for this to work, I believe.

This TP-Link AC3200 (Archer C3200 also has some light NAS (Network Attached Storage) features that allow you to access disks via FTP, DLNA, or SMB (meaning you can talk to it via \\ROUTER\share for example). You could also even expose a disk over FTP externally if you wanted to. The router can also be a print server and make any USB printer a wireless/network attached printer which could be helpful if you've got a home office.

For the tech enthusiast/prosumer user the only nit I would say could use improvement is the Bandwidth Control (QoS) panel. It could be a little friendlier. For example, I can certainly figure out the IP Range and Port Range for Xbox Live or Netflix and set the Bandwidth rules, but since those are already pretty well understood it would be nice if there was just a dropdown or set of smart defaults. For example, we would ALL want to be able to check a box that says "make sure Netflix doesn't get slow when my spouse checks email." This dialog could be simpler.

Aside: My spouse asked me why Netflix gets slow sometimes when other people are streaming or pushing the network. I said that it's the same reason that the shower water changes temperature when someone flushes the toilet elsewhere in the house.

TP-Link AC3200 (Archer C3200) Wireless Router UI

So far I've been VERY happy with this router. Set up was a breeze, perf has been fantastic, and there hasn't been a single hiccup. I'll report back later.

Do you have this router? Or do you recommend another router? Sound off in the comments below.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.