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