With its new AC5400 Wireless Tri-Band MU-MIMO Gigabit Router (Archer C5400 for short), Chinese networking firm TP-Link joins rivals such as Asus, Linksys and Netgear in offering a high-end tri-band router.
The Archer C5400 supports two 5GHz wireless bands over the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, and a single 2.4GHz band on the 802.11n protocol. The router provides an aggregate speed of around 5,400Mbps.
Like its competitors, the Archer C5400 has a Smart Connect feature that generates a single wireless network name (SSID). You simply connect to the network and the router automatically assigns your device to the most appropriate wireless band.
Other advanced networking features that you'd expect to find on a high-end router are here, include beamforming (focus the wireless signal towards the location of your devices for better signal strength) and MU-MIMO (send data simultaneously to multiple compatible clients). The latter feature, however, will be implemented in a future firmware update.
The Archer C5400 can be mounted on a wall, unlike some larger routers. Its eight external antenna can be folded into its squarish black plastic chassis.
ETHERNET INTERFACE: 1 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit WAN, 4 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit LAN
SECURITY: WPA2, WEP
ADVANCED FIREWALL FEATURES: NAT, SPI and DoS protection
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
It has the standard four Gigabit LAN ports, as well as a USB 2.0 port and a USB 3.0 port that can be connected to an external storage drive or a printer.
The front LED status indicators can be turned off by pressing a button at the front, or via the router's browser-based interface.
The first time you access this interface, you are required to change the default router password, and set up your wireless networks and Internet connection. This quick setup process is helpful for novices.
The user interface, too, is user friendly. It is clean and welcoming, with the router settings organised into Basic and Advanced tabs.
There are parts that do not make sense though. For instance, the Basic parental controls only let you block devices during certain periods of the day. This seems inadequate, as parental controls should also let users blacklist websites based on keywords or whitelist or allow specific websites to be accessed.
It turns out that these latter options are available after all, except that they are found in the Advanced settings, a decision that I found bewildering.
While the user interface felt responsive most of the time, there were a few occasions when it would seem to freeze while applying some changes. This prompted me to restart the router.
I was also disappointed to find out that the Android version of TP-Link's Tether mobile app, prominently displayed on the Archer C5400's box packaging, does not support the C5400 yet. The iOS version, however, does support it.
The Archer C5400 performed decently in my download speed test. It achieved an average speed of 569Mbps compared with 695Mbps for the Asus RT-5300.
While the Archer C5400 is more affordable than the Asus ($469), I would recommend waiting for TP-Link to add support for this router to its mobile app before considering it.
• Verdict: TP-Link's tri-band router is not quite as fast as its rivals, but it is more affordable.