The TP-Link Archer C7 undeniably failed to impress in our range or throughput testing and is noticeably sparse in terms of features. However, this router is fantastically easy to use and retails for much less than most of the competition, earning it a Best Buy award. In reality, this model can more than handle most moderately sized households, provided they aren't too jam-packed with devices and won't break the bank.
TP-Link Archer C7 (AC1750) Review
Pros: Inexpensive, Easy to use
Cons: Lackluster throughput, minimal features
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TP-Link Archer C7 (AC1750)
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|Pros||Inexpensive, Easy to use||Extremely easy to use, packed with features||Relatively inexpensive, exceptional range||Very easy to use, more affordable, solid set of features||Super easy to use, decent set of features|
|Cons||Lackluster throughput, minimal features||Average range, throughput||Sparse on features, average throughput||Unimpressive throughput and range||Below average throughput, somewhat expensive|
|Bottom Line||The Archer C7 isn’t the fastest router around, but it’s great if you are on a tight budget||Taking home the top score, the Asus is the best of the best when it comes to routers||The NETGEAR would be a good option for those shopping for an upgrade pick on a budget and have a larger home||The Nighthawk AC1750 is our top recommendation for those budget-conscious shoppers that are willing to spend a little bit more for better performance||While this router did alright, it seemed a little expensive relative to its results|
|Rating Categories||TP-Link Archer C7...||ASUS RT-AC88U...||NETGEAR AC1750...||Nighthawk AC1750...||ASUS RT-AC68U...|
|Ease Of Use (20%)|
|2 4 Ghz Throughput (20%)|
|5 Ghz Throughput (20%)|
|Specs||TP-Link Archer C7...||ASUS RT-AC88U...||NETGEAR AC1750...||Nighthawk AC1750...||ASUS RT-AC68U...|
|Wireless Specification||802.11ac||802.11ac||802.11ac||802.11ac|| 2.4 GHz: 802.11n
5 GHz: 802.11ac
|LAN Ports Available||4||8||4||4||4|
|Security||WPA/WPA2 Personal, WPA/ WPA2 Enterprise, WEP, TKIP and AES Encryptions||WPA2 Personal, WPA Auto Personal, WPA2 Enterprise, WPA Auto Enterprise||WPA2-PSK [AES], WPA-PSK [TKIP] + WPA2-PSK [AES], WPA/WPA2 Enterprise||WPA2-PSK [AES], WPA-PSK [TKIP] + WPA2-PSK [AES], WPA/WPA2 Enterprise||WPA2 Personal, WPA Auto Personal, WPA2 Enterprise, WPA Auto Enterprise|
|Frequency||2.4GHz and 5GHz||2.4GHz and 5GHz||2.4GHz and 5GHz||2.4GHz and 5GHz||2.4GHz and 5GHz|
|USB Ports||2: 2.0||2: 3.0 and 2.0||2: 3.0 and 2.0||1: 3.0||2: 3.0 and 2.0|
|Dimensions||9.6" x 6.4" x 1.3"||11.8" x 7.4" x 2.38"||7.2" x 11.22" x 2.4"||7.26" x 11.22" x 1.97"||6.3" x 3.3" x 8.6"|
|Antenna||3 external||4 external||3 external||3 external||3 external|
|Processor||720 MHz single-core||1.4 GHz dual-core||880 MHz dual-core||1 GHz dual-core||1 GHz dual-core processor|
|Memory||8 MB Flash
128 MB RAM
|128 MB Flash
512 MB DDR3 RAM
|128 MB Flash
256 MB RAM
|128 MB Flash
256 MB RAM
|128 MB Flash
256 MB RAM
|2.4 GHz. Short Distance Throughput - Line of Sight||36 Mbits/s||51 Mbits/s||47 Mbits/s||48 Mbits/s||45 Mbits/s|
|2.4 GHz. Short Distance Throughput - Obstructed||42 Mbits/s||39 Mbits/s||37 Mbits/s||47 Mbits/s||44 Mbits/s|
|2.4 GHz. Medium Distance Throughput - Line of Sight||41 Mbits/s||39 Mbits/s||39 Mbits/s||43 Mbits/s||29 Mbits/s|
|2.4 GHz. Medium Distance Throughput - Obstructed||35 Mbits/s||38 Mbits/s||40 Mbits/s||37 Mbits/s||23 Mbits/s|
|2.4 GHz. Long Distance Throughput||9 Mbits/s||27 Mbits/s||22 Mbits/s||25 Mbits/s||13 Mbits/s|
|5 GHz. Short Distance Throughput - Line of Sight||211 Mbits/s||212 Mbits/s||220 Mbits/s||211 Mbits/s||186 Mbits/s|
|5 GHz. Short Distance Throughput - Obstructed||184 Mbits/s||211 Mbits/s||184 Mbits/s||201 Mbits/s||161 Mbits/s|
|5 GHz. Medium Distance Throughput - Line of Sight||192 Mbits/s||204 Mbits/s||196 Mbits/s||211 Mbits/s||153 Mbits/s|
|5 GHz. Medium Distance Throughput - Obstructed||166 Mbits/s||186 Mbits/s||181 Mbits/s||194 Mbits/s||167 Mbits/s|
|5 GHz. Long Distance Throughput||18 Mbits/s||37 Mbits/s||17 Mbits/s||11 Mbits/s||35 Mbits/s|
|Video Playback Range Test||135 ft.||158 ft.||204 ft.||155 ft.||144 ft.|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Archer tied with the NETGEAR AC1200, though it had slightly different performance characteristics. The Archer is much easier to operate and had mediocre throughput in both the 2.4 GHz. and 5 GHz. band. On the other hand, the AC1200 did quite poorly in our 2.4 GHz. testing, it performed above average in the 5 GHz. band. The Archer retails for about $10 less than the AC1200 as well, cementing its position as a Best Buy award winner.
To find out which router truly routed the rest of the pack, we bought all of the best products available on the market and compared their performance side-by-side. We split our testing process into five weighted rating metrics, with the results of the Archer and how they compare to the competition explained in the sections below.
Comprising the most weight out of any of the metrics in this test, our Features metric accounts for 25% of the total score. The score is based on a detailed comparison of all the features and functions each router had, with particular attention paid to a handful of critical ones. The Archer didn't do particularly well, being a little sparse in terms of features and earning a 4 out of 10 for its efforts.
Right off the bat, the Archer's score took a hit by the lack of both MU-MIMO and Beamforming. These features are commonplace on higher-end routers and act to speed up your network. However, you can probably get away without these features if you have a small to medium size house and you don't have too many devices. If that isn't the case, then it is probably worth paying a little bit more to upgrade performance.
Next, we looked at if you had the ability to turn off or adjust the brightness of the indicator LEDs on the Archer.
Unfortunately, the TP-Link Archer does not give you the option, forcing you to store it in an out of the way location if the blinking lights bother you. This router also lacks the ability the ability to be remotely reset, forcing you to do it manually.
This router is able to be affixed to a wall and has 4 LAN ports available for use — par for the course with most of the routers that we reviewed. It also has two USB 2.0 ports and the ability to enable a guest WiFi network, as well as supporting IPv6.
Ease of Use
For our next metric, we looked at the difficulties associated with setting up and operating each router. This set of tests accounts for 20% of the total score, with the score based on how hard it was to set up and configure the network, as well as interact with the router and set parental controls. The Archer did very well, meriting an 8 out of 10 for its performance and comparing quite favorably with the rest of the products in the review.
This router had one of the easiest setup processes of the entire group, with an extremely simple wizard popping up automatically to guide you through the initial network configuration. The wizard is very easy to use, but you do have to complete it before you can begin browsing the internet.
We also had to update the firmware of the router upon unboxing, but this was a relatively painless process as well. The Archer has one of the best user interfaces that we have seen, with a modern design that was very intuitive and easy to use. You can control the router through either a web interface or a mobile app
The parental controls on this router are decent, allowing you to block off the internet from certain devices based on a schedule. It also allows you to blacklist sites by keywords.
This model also features QoS, or Quality of Service. This allows you to set priority by device, port, or applications.
2.4 GHz. Throughput
This next metric gets into how fast each router actually transmits data and accounts for 20% of the total score for each product. We used the results of an iPerf3 test to determine throughput, with the average of three trials for each of the five tests we did to determine the score. The TP-Link Archer delivered a somewhat mediocre performance, meriting a 4 out of 10 for its throughput over the 2.4 GHz. band.
We tested at short, medium, and long distances, doing both an obstructed and unobstructed test for the short and medium distances. The TP-Link started off with a slightly subpar showing in the short distance, unobstructed test, averaging a throughput speed of only 36 Mbits/s — significantly lower than the 57 Mbits/s of the top scoring model. These tests were done with about 10' separating the router and the test computer. The Archer did a little better in the obstructed version of the test, averaging 42 Mbits/s and finishing in the middle of the pack.
In the medium distance tests, about 35' of distance separating the laptop and the router, the Archer scored in the middle of the pack in both, with its average throughput rate of 41 Mbit/s in the line of sight test and 35 Mbit/s in the obstructed version of the test. This actually put it quite near the front of the pack in the unobstructed test.
For the final test of this metric, the long distance obstructed test, we had about 70' and a few walls separating the test computer from the router. The Archer didn't do particularly well.
The Archer only averaged 8.6 Mbit/s at this distance, though this wasn't the worst performance of the group. This router exceeded the performance of the D-Link, Linksys AC1900, and the NETGEAR AC1200.
5 GHz. Throughput
Similar to the previous metric, this one also accounts for 20% of the overall score. Our testing procedure and process was also the same, with the exception of using the 5 GHz. band instead of the 2.4 GHz. band. The Archer again was a slight disappointment, earning a 4 out of 10 for its efforts.
Again, we started with the short distance tests. The Archer actually did quite well in the line-of-sight version, averaging a speed of 211 Mbit/s. However, its performance dropped in the obstructed version of the test, delivering a below average speed of 184 Mbit/s.
Next, we moved on to the medium distance tests. The Archer again delivered a relatively subpar performance, averaging throughput speed of 192 Mbits/s in the line-of-sight tests and 166 Mbits/s in the obstructed version. Finally, we conducted the long distance test, with about 70' and multiple walls separating the router from the test computer. The 5 GHz. band isn't really meant for this kind of distance, so the performance of all the routers plummeted.
The Archer finished in the lower half of the pack, but it still outperformed the Linksys AC1900, the D-Link, and the Nighthawk AC1750.
For our final metric, responsible for the remaining 15% of the overall score, we evaluated and judged the range of each router. To do this, we attempted to play a 5-minute long YouTube video in 720p on our test computer at various distances from the router, recording at what point the video began to experience interruptions. The Archer delivered another uninspiring performance, meriting a 4 out of 10 for its lackluster range. The following chart shows how this compares to the rest of the products in the pack.
The Archer had an effective range of about 141' in our test, putting it towards the back of the pack, about 73' less than the top scorer.
All in all, the TP-Link Archer is a fantastic value, offering solid performance at a relatively affordable price compared to the other products in the pack.
Earning the Best Buy Award, the Archer is our top recommendation when searching for a router on a tight budget. While this product doesn't have the best performance when it came to throughput or range, it's a solid router that is very easy to use and won't break the bank.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer