TP-Link Archer C5400X

£349.95 | $399 www.tp-link.com Su­per-fast Wi-Fi for fam­i­lies, with a gam­ing fo­cus

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It wasn’t so long ago that we were treated to TP-Link’s sec­ond-gen Archer C5400 router, and that wowed us with its smart home fea­tures and its out­ra­geous power.

By adding an ‘X’ to the name, past­ing on some red flashes, us­ing far more ag­gres­sive mould­ing and boost­ing just about ev­ery sin­gle as­pect of the hard­ware, TP-Link’s Archer C5400X is a gam­ing router aimed at the gam­ing mar­ket… For gamers. Ei­ther that or, judg­ing by its looks, it’s a sac­ri­fi­cial plinth for cats who’ve been very naughty.

But is it only for gamers? If you can cope with the styling – which is, it must be said, more di­vi­sive than the slightly sub­tler looks of the non-X va­ri­ety – then the C5400X’s specs prom­ise a su­per­pow­ered, al­most en­ter­prise-grade router that can cope with any­thing.

It’s not ca­su­ally priced, that’s for sure. But can it match that blus­ter and all those num­bers with the per­for­mance that counts? Let’s see.

Price and avail­abil­ity

The TP-Link Archer C5400X costs around £350 ($399), which isn’t an in­signif­i­cant chunk of change. At the time of writ­ing, many re­tail­ers are ask­ing for sig­nif­i­cantly more than that, sug­gest­ing that it may be in short sup­ply.

A £350 price point places this gam­ing up­grade at £100 more than the C5400 v2, for what might be a rea­son­ably non-es­sen­tial up­grade.

There’s also the com­pe­ti­tion to worry about; yes, this is cheaper in terms of MSRP than the sus­pi­ciously sim­i­lar (though slightly more de­monic) Asus GT-AC5300, but far more ex­pen­sive than the cur­rent ask­ing price of the Asus RT-AC5300, and about twice the price of the ex­cel­lent Asus RT-AC86U.

And that’s just one com­peti­tor. The TP-Link C5400X is as ex­pen­sive as a good mesh setup like Google Wifi or Net­gear’s as­ton­ish­ing Orbi which, how­ever pow­er­ful the ter­ri­fy­ing an­ten­nae on top of this router may be, will likely get you bet­ter over­all cov­er­age if that’s your con­cern.

De­sign and fea­tures

We’ve talked about the phys­i­cal de­sign of the TP-Link C5400X al­ready, so we won’t get ex­cited about it again. You can make your own de­ci­sions – just bear in mind that if you hide it away to avoid of­fend­ing vis­i­tors, you’re likely to see a drop in through­put.

There’s a huge amount to talk about in terms of fea­ture here. Let’s start with the non-wire­less part: a full eight-port gi­ga­bit switch. That’s not a com­mon sight on home routers in the first place, but this switch also does a lit­tle more, sup­port­ing link ag­gre­ga­tion. This en­ables you to pair up ports to po­ten­tially get 2Gbps trans­fers to NAS de­vices or LACP-sup­port­ing PCS. You can also use a LAN port in con­junc­tion with the WAN port to con­nect to a DOCSIS 3.1 modem.

The pur­suit of ridicu­lous net­work per­for­mance con­tin­ues on the MU-MIMO wire­less side; the C5400X runs two 2167Mbps 5GHz ra­dios (ap­pear­ing as in­di­vid­ual net­works, giv­ing you the op­tion of shap­ing traf­fic) as well as a sin­gle 1000Mbps 2.4GHz ra­dio. Each is backed by an in­di­vid­ual co­pro­ces­sor, and run from a cen­tral 1.8GHz quad-core CPU with 1GB RAM. This is a sig­nif­i­cant com­put­ing de­vice in its own right.

Then there’s the lit­tle ex­tras. It beam­forms, tar­get­ing spe­cific

“The pur­suit of ridicu­lous net­work per­for­mance con­tin­ues on the MU-MIMO wire­less side”

de­vices for max­i­mum through­put. It fea­tures some­thing called Range­boost, which we pre­sume is a term which boils down to ‘this has good range’ rather than be­ing any­thing par­tic­u­larly tech­ni­cal.

It man­ages Air­time Fair­ness, which is TP-Link’s take on mul­ti­de­vice Qual­ity of Ser­vice (QoS). And there’s a host of VPN man­age­ment tricks on board, in­clud­ing built-in OpenVPN sup­port and the abil­ity to spread a five-con­nec­tion pipe to your favourite VPN provider.

Some­how, un­be­liev­ably, that’s not all. There are AV and parental con­trols, as well as cus­tomis­able de­vice pri­ori­ti­sa­tion. Plus you’ll find sim­i­lar Alexa and IFTTT sup­port to the stan­dard C5400 v2. Plug in a USB drive and you can take ad­van­tage of NAS fea­tures, and there’s even a tiny chunk of cloud stor­age right on the router, be­hind its fire­wall – if you’re away from home and want to save a file, you can.

Per­for­mance

We have ab­so­lutely no com­plaints about the abil­i­ties of the Archer C5400X to throw around the pack­ets. None what­so­ever – al­though if you’re on a de­vice re­stricted to the 2.4GHz band, you might not be quite so happy.

Right next to the router, we hit a de­cent 46.8MB/s down on 2.4GHz, and a beau­ti­fully speedy 173Mb/s on the 5GHz band, on a con­nec­tion (the­o­ret­i­cally) ca­pa­ble of top­ping out at 200Mb/s.

Mov­ing away to a few known blackspots around the home, the C5400X man­aged a pass­able 2.4GHz 18.6Mb/s a floor up on the op­po­site side of the house; the same spot on 5GHz some­how hit 184Mb/s, bet­ter than the router man­aged mere inches away.

On the same floor, with a wall – and around 20 me­tres – in be­tween, this as­ton­ish­ing router man­aged 33.4Mb/s on 2.4GHz, and hit its peak in our test­ing, grind­ing out an ex­cel­lent 191Mb/s on the 5GHz band.

Up­load speeds were con­sis­tent across bands and lo­ca­tions, hit­ting around 21.5Mb/s ev­ery time. That’s what we’d ex­pect from our se­verely im­bal­anced con­nec­tion.

Re­al­is­ti­cally, the 2.4GHz per­for­mance isn’t ac­tu­ally bad – it’s just stan­dard 2.4GHz per­for­mance. And it’s good enough, be­cause the C5400X has far bet­ter range than our stock router. On the 5GHz band, it’s un­be­liev­ably good.

Sum­mary

It’ll be po­lar­is­ing in terms of its looks, no doubt, but the TP-Link C5400X is an ex­cel­lent router with the log­i­cal and phys­i­cal chops to sat­isfy packet-hun­gry gamers. It’s easy to set up, easy to ad­min­is­ter, and easy to for­get about once it’s up and run­ning.

Plus, this thing is fast. Very fast. And, we were im­pressed with the num­ber of fea­tures TP-Link packed in on the back­end. If we were stream­ing or gam­ing hard, and didn’t need the cov­er­age of a solid mesh net­work, this would be a top choice. And if you’re look­ing for some­thing that’ll suit your fam­ily as well as your own net­work­abus­ing predilec­tions, it’s also a great choice.

It’s a great choice if you can af­ford it, at least. The C5400X is in­cred­i­bly ex­pen­sive, and if you’re not go­ing to take ad­van­tage of its many fea­tures there’s a level of overkill here that’s go­ing to cost you more than you ab­so­lutely need to spend; its more rea­son­able lit­tle brother, the C5400 v2, is prob­a­bly just as good for most peo­ple at a slightly lower price.

An in­cred­i­bly fast en­thu­si­ast­grade router which re­tains an easy-to-use in­ter­face.

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