Router design just gets weirder and weirder every year. This is at the top of the strange list - is it a pie plate with ears, an alien, a dish, or just a crazy black thing?
In the end, it is a fairly low profile, somewhat discreet router - the black tends to vanish in the background.
The small blue LEDs on the front panel are dim enough that they aren't a night light and there are no Ethernet activity lights on the back.
The router is strong and relatively easy to set up. In fact it more or less works right out of the box with no configuration.
My acid test for routers is to set them up with a phone. When I used the TP-Link app, this thing was super easy to configure. On a phone, don't even attempt the web based setup, page loading takes an eternity.
I got some pretty amazing results with this router. The beamforming technology really works. I went to a really difficult area - wireless reception was really bad, almost nonexistent.
The first time I ran SpeedTest, the results were horrible. By the second test, the router had figured out where I was located and cleared up the signal.
The speed results ended up being equivalent to standing right next to the router.
I compared this router to the Linksys equivalent, the AC3200 tri-band router (the two are similar price and have similar features and advertise the same speed AC3200).
Setting up both routers was about the same. Linksys did a great job with a web browser in a phone; not so great with their app.
TP-Link did a pitiful job with the browser on a phone, but excelled with the app. In fact, I'd say the app setup with the TP-Link was some of the fastest easiest I've ever seen.
Linksys prints the SSID and password on a piece of paper and the box. TP-Link made me get out my magnifying glass and read a silly password on the bottom of the router (I hate that - toss a sticker in the box so I can read it easily).
Both routers were super easy to change the SSID, the password, and the admin user name and password. Both routers come configured with security enabled.
Design of the two - well the Linksys is huge. It stands straight up and down and has a big old Linksys light on the front that you can't turn off.
It has absolutely no lights for wireless or internet connectivity. The three antennas on the top are funny looking. The ports are at the base and a little hard to mess with. It kind of stands out, a lot.
The TP-Link is a flat plate about two inches high, about the size of a desert plate, and has six antennae that stick up about four inches.
The front panel lights are subtle (you could easily put black tape over them if they really annoyed you). The back panel is standard old school connections, easy to use and familiar.
Both have a power button!!! Yeah, I love power buttons on routers. Both use a laptop style AC adapter (yeah again).
The TP-Link is a lot easier to put in a room where it will be seen. If you're putting all this in a closet, design doesn't matter. I think the TP-Link wins in design even over the Asus routers.
Signal-wise, the TP-Link wins. In a regular room with clear reception, both routers delivered consistent strong 30 mbps connectivity (exactly the same as I get wired to the router).
When I moved to a fringe area (my garage with a tree and some walls in the way and about 50 yards away), the TP-Link did a much better job.
On 2.4 GHz the Linksys delivered 11, 18, and then 27 mbps. The TP-Link delivered 10.5, 30, and 30. My conclusion, the TP-Link's beamforming technology worked faster and better at getting a strong signal to my location.
The 5 GHz band was even more dramatic. The Linksys never really improved, it delivered 18 and 19 mbps. The TP-Link just flat out delivered 29 both times.
The 5 GHz band is a difficult band - it works really well at close range, the signal falls off very quickly.
However, if you can connect, it seems to work really well and stays solid. It just doesn't have the reach of 2.4 GHz.
The other evil thing I did to this router - it is sitting right next to the Linksys router. The two are competing for channels and interference. Older b/g/n and early AC routers get stupid in this situation.
They tend to fight each other and never work very well. Both routers played nicely and work really well. If you live in a crowded area with a lot of wireless routers, the TP-Link is probably your best choice to avoid interference.
The router comes with the standard USB 2 and USB 3 ports to add an external hard drive or printer. I don't fiddle with that stuff anymore.
The router comes with a guest network that is turned off by default. The guest network will allow access to the internet, but not your computers or other network resources.
I like this router a lot. TP-Link is always on the trailing edge of technology. They introduce new models after the other companies have competed to be the first to market.
TP-Link tends to have more mature products when they introduce the new models. This is absolutely the case. This router is well thought out and works solidly.