For the past 2 years I have been running 2 separate access points to facilitate a 2.4ghz and a 5ghz wireless network. Since I moved into a condo a year and a half ago I have had to rely on the 5ghz band to provide me with fast wireless access since there are over 20 SSIDs on the 2.4ghz band in my living room. With all the sales on equipment on Black Friday and all the other holiday sales I saw the TP-LINK Archer C7 router on sale for $100. I managed to get $5 off with a NewEgg.com promotion and then on top of that there is a $20 mail in rebate. All in all I got an 802.11ac router for just under $75.
Now I suspected that there may be some weird issues since it is a cheaper router but I was actually pleasantly surprised at it’s performance. Now I am only running this as an Access Point (DHCP disabled) and not as a router so I can only comment on it’s wireless throughput and stability.
For my main router I am running a custom built Atom powered embedded solution with PfSense 2.1 running under the hood. All my switches are 8 port HP ProCurve 1410-8P gigabit switches.
I am running the 2.4ghz on Channel 1 with a width of 40mhz and I am running the 5ghz channel on channel 36 with a width of 80mhz. There are separate SSIDs for each band.
The wireless card in the laptop I am testing with is the Intel 7260-AC Mini-PCIe card in my Asus X202E laptop. Android testing was done with a HTC Droid DNA running the Venom 4.2.2 ROM v2.0.3.
I should add that I have friends over all the time with different Android devices, iPhones, and laptops. So far they have all been able to connect and use the wireless network without any issues.
2.4ghz Band Performance
In my heavily saturated 2.4ghz enviroment with a 40mhz channel width I regularly see speeds of 15-30mbps on the downstream and the same on the upstream. I am very happy with the 2.4ghz performance and range. I am able to pickup my 2.4ghz network almost 500ft on the ground from my 3rd story condo. My previous DD-WRT powered Linksys Valet M20 AP barely could manage 10mbps on a good day in the same conditions. Some users were complaining of low signal on both 2.4 and 5ghz bands but this covers my 1500sq feet condo and my friends same condo above me through the flexicore ceiling just fine.
5ghz Band Performance
Luckily the 5ghz band in my condo is almost completely untouched at the moment. There are only 2 other SSIDs on this band and they are both at the higher end of the spectrum. Since I am using a lower channel number these do not affect me.
Now the 5ghz channel is running in full 80mhz AC mode and the speeds are great. On the download and upload I manage between 300mbps and 600mbps. These speeds are great and it reliably transmits files over the LAN without any issues.
Until today I was getting random slow downs and some dropouts from the router on all the devices that I am using. I already checked that the router was not getting too hot to rule that out. Then while searching to see if anyone else has this issue I managed to stumble upon a beta firmware on the TP-LINK .de site. I flashed it on my router and appears to be working the best without these issues. I have posted a copy of the firmware for download here: TP-LINK Archer C7 130625 Beta Firmware.
Conclusion and Thoughts
This is my first 802.11ac and TP-LINK router. I have seen these before and they also seem to usually get supported by DD-WRT or OpenWRT at some point so that is why I decided to give them a try. For the more advanced users that would want to tweak more this router may annoy them as they have some more common settings locked down (channel width selection on the 5ghz band, b/g/n/ac mode selections are limited). But for the average user who just wants a solid 802.11ac router or access point this is a good solution. If I have any other issues with this router or the above mentioned firmware proves to be unstable I will post an update.
All in all I am happy with my purchase and it is nice to have the 802.11ac in my home. It’s also nice to only have 1 AP instead of 2 separate ones. Thanks for reading!