TP-Link's new Archer AX11000 router goes after the gaming crowd with a flashy design backed by support for the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard.
Also known as 802.11ax, Wi-Fi 6 promises faster wireless performance than its predecessor, though the caveat is that only a compatible Wi-Fi 6 client will experience any speed boost.
While Wi-Fi 6 routers have been around for about a year, client devices are only now making their way into the market in significant numbers.
Many of the laptops launched late last year and upcoming smartphones this year, for instance, are compatible with Wi-Fi 6.
TP-Link seems to have modelled the look and feel of its Archer AX11000 router in the vein of PC gaming products. It is drenched in red and black, from chassis to app to browser interfaces.
Its exterior has a meshed, well-ventilated design. At the base of the router are four holes for mounting on a wall. Like many high-end routers, it weighs more than 1kg.
Its eight external antennas point up and cannot be adjusted. There are eight Gigabit LAN ports, as well as a WAN port that supports speeds of up to 2.5Gbps. It also has a USB Type-A port and a USB Type-C port that can be used to connect to devices such as an external hard drive or a printer.
TP-Link's Tether mobile app (available for iOS and Android) can be used to set up the router and configure its settings.
The app is adequate for simple tasks such as switching on guest Wi-Fi networks and checking the list of connected clients in real time.
But for more advanced settings such as port forwarding and VPN server, you have to log on to the router's Web-based interface.
For added security, only one user can be logged on to the app or the Web interface at the same time.
• Many LAN and USB ports
• Excellent wireless performance, especially with Wi-Fi 6 client devices
• Mobile app offers ease of use
• Bulky chassis
ETHERNET INTERFACE: 2.5Gbps WAN port, 8 x Gigabit LAN ports
SECURITY: 64/128-bit WEP, WPA/WPA2, WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK
ADVANCED FIREWALL FEATURES: NAT and SPI
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3.5/5
The app also lets you access TP-Link's HomeCare suite of networking features that is included with the router.
These features, powered by Trend Micro, help to protect users against malware, block and filter Internet access and manage the Quality of Service (QoS) for selected clients.
They come with basic options that even novices can understand. For instance, you simply choose from one of several presets such as Gaming or Streaming for the QoS feature.
My usual router-speed test involves two notebooks - one connected to the router via Ethernet cable, while the other is connected wirelessly. I would then measure the download speed of the two laptops.
As the key metric here is the router's Wi-Fi 6 performance, I substituted my usual laptop, which uses the older Wi-Fi 5 standard (802.11ac), with the HP Elite Dragonfly laptop, which has an Intel Wi-Fi 6 chipset. The HP notebook was placed in the living room, where the router was about 5m from it.
In my test, the average download speed using Wi-Fi 6 was 830Mbps. This dropped to 602Mbps when tested with a Wi-Fi 5-compatible notebook.
In short, compatible client devices using a Wi-Fi 6 network will experience an increase in wireless speed.
Other benefits of the new wireless technology include the ability to support more devices concurrently and lower power consumption for client devices.
However, the 5GHz wireless bands used by Wi-Fi 6 are similarly affected by obstacles such as thick walls and doors. When I placed the Wi-Fi 6 notebook in a bedroom with the door closed, its speed dropped to about 110Mbps, similar to that of a laptop using the Wi-Fi 5 standard.
Overall, the Archer AX11000 offers plenty of features and is relatively easy to use.
Even if you do not have any Wi-Fi 6 client devices yet, it could be worth a look for the future.