TP-Link Archer VR2800AC

Ex­cel­lent per­for­mance and a wide range of fea­tures make this a great re­place­ment for an ISP-sup­plied router

PC Pro - - News - SCORE ✪✪✪✪✪ PRICE £142 (£170 inc VAT) from box.co.uk

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

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