PC

Modest price for a modern and feature-rich router

The C3150 has a solid set of features, including guest network and access and parental controls.
The C3150 has a solid set of features, including guest network and access and parental controls. PHOTO: TP-LINK

The TP-Link AC3150 Wireless MU-MIMO Gigabit Router, also called Archer C3150, is designed for modern homes filled with tens of devices that are streaming high-quality video or engaged in online games.

As far as I know, it is the second dual-band Wi-Fi router after the D-Link DIR-885L to support an aggregate data transfer speed of 3,167Mbps on its 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless bands. The typical 802.11ac dual-band router supports up to 1,900Mbps.

But most client devices do not support these advertised speeds. So, for now, the best bet for a wireless speed boost is with a 802.11ac feature called Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO).

Supported by an increasing number of clients, MU-MIMO improves performance as the router transmits data to multiple clients simultaneously, instead of one at a time in a round robin fashion.

The caveat is you must have a few of these compatible clients, which currently include most flagship smartphones and certain Acer and Alienware laptops.

The C3150 looks boring next to its direct and more flashy D-Link rival. It is simply a black rectangular box that can be placed on a desk or hung on the wall. Its LED status indicators can be turned off at the press of a button.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $339

    ETHERNET INTERFACE: 1 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit WAN, 4 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit LAN

    STANDARDS: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac

    SECURITY: WPA2, WEP

    ADVANCED FIREWALL FEATURES: DoS, NAT and SPI

  • RATING
     

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 3/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

In addition to the standard four Gigabit LAN ports, the router has one USB 3.0 port and one USB 2.0 port to connect to external storage devices or a printer. This router comes with four detachable and adjustable antennas.

The C3150 has a solid set of features, including guest network and access and parental controls. The settings for these are shown in the router's browser interface in two tabs - Basic and Advanced.

As their names suggest, Advanced offers more options than Basic, though some features such as parental controls offer identical Basic and Advanced settings.

Most users probably do not need to delve into the Advanced settings, which is a good thing.

The interface felt snappy during my testing. It looked bright, modern and welcoming.

The TP-Link Tether app lets users manage the router on their Android and iOS mobile devices. This no-frills app works well enough, though you can control only a few features such as guest networks and wireless settings via the app.

In my speed test, the C3150 has an average download speed of 451Mbps, which is slightly below the 495Mbps managed by the D-Link DIR-885L. The MU-MIMO feature was not tested because I did not have compatible clients.

•Verdict: The C3150 is one of the cheapest MU-MIMO routers in the market. It has a clean and user-friendly interface, but its performance is middling.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Modest price for a modern and feature-rich router'. Print Edition | Subscribe