TP-Link Archer VR2800AC
Excellent performance and a wide range of features make this a great replacement for an ISP-supplied router
Buying a router with an integrated ADSL modem can often mean making sacrifices elsewhere, so it’s great to see a top-of-the-range model such as the TP-Link Archer VR2800 setting the standard this month. Not only is this router replete with features and stacked with the very latest the Wi-Fi world has to offer, it backs this up with solid, reliable performance and great ease of use.
Admittedly, it’s not much to look at – the Archer is a nondescript black slab with four antennae sticking up at the back, along with four Gigabit LAN ports and a VDSL2/ADSL2+ compatible socket, plus a couple of USB 3 ports on the left-hand edge.
There’s plenty going on inside, though, and when it comes to Wi-Fi specifications, it’s a match for even the most expensive models. Over 5GHz, it’s capable of delivering link speeds up to 2,167Mbits/sec thanks to 4x4 stream MIMO and 1024QAM support. It’s slightly less impressive over 2.4GHz, but still promises up to 600Mbits/sec with compatible devices and adapters.
You won’t be able to connect at those speeds with any single device, simply because no laptop comes with 4x4 MIMO – most have 2x2 at best. However, connected to the 3x3 adapter in our test MacBook Pro, performance was excellent.
In our close-range tests, we saw throughput speeds reach 109MB/sec (872Mbits/sec) on the download, which is almost as fast as Gigabit Ethernet and the fastest close-range speed this month.
It wasn’t quite as impressive in the long-range test in our kitchen location, but still returned an average download speed of 10.8MB/ sec. This is slower than all the mesh systems and the very fastest single routers this month, but it’s still enough to deliver access to every single megabit of most people’s broadband connection – even if you have BT’s fastest 74Mbits/sec broadband service.
USB transfer performance hit the high notes as well, with sequential reads from our USB 3 thumb drive reaching a heady 41.8MB/sec. Again, this isn’t as quick as the fastest on test, but it certainly won’t feel slow.
In fact, of the single routers in this Labs, only the Netgear Nighthawk X10 is a better all-rounder than the TP-Link. And it couples this sterling performance with an excellent range of features and good ease of use.
Setting up DSL connections is a doddle: simply run through the router’s Quick Setup routine, select your provider from the list, which includes all the biggest UK ISPs, pop in your username and password and the router does the rest.
Sky users will have to jump through a few technical hoops to gain their credentials as the firm doesn’t support the use of third-party routers. Specifically, you’ll need to use Wireshark to “hack” your username and password; but when we tested the router on our connection, it worked like a dream.
TP-Link’s Tether app (available on both iOS and Android) is excellent. It gives access to most of the features available via the router’s web-based admin pages, including firmware updates and parental controls. We had to disable mobile data on our test Android phone, though, before it would connect.
Those parental controls are pretty useful, too. There are whitelists and blacklists for allowing/limiting access to specific websites, and you can also control access on a per-device basis on specific days and at specific times. That’s exactly what we expect to see.
Elsewhere, the USB ports can be used to connect a 4G adapter or printer as well as storage. There’s user-configurable QoS, which can be assigned on a device or application basis. You can set up guest networks easily as well, and the router supports OpenVPN.
The TP-Link Archer VR2800 isn’t as powerful an all-rounder as the Netgear X10, but then again it is half the price. And although £170 is still a lot to spend on a router, this is well worth the money. If, therefore, you want to replace the router your ISP provided, the VR2800’s combination of performance and selection of features makes it our favourite non-mesh wireless router.
ABOVE The Archer VR2800 isn’t much to look at, but it’s packed with features
BELOW There are only four Gigabit LAN ports, but two USB 3 ports sit on the left-hand edge