The TP-Link Archer C7 wireless router is probably the most popular router on the market today. It has quickly risen to be one the top selling routers on Amazon and why not. For a dual band 802.11ac router under $100, you really get a lot for your money.
The C7 is a dual band AC gigabit router. And what this means is that you get both a 2.4Ghz channel (band) and a 5.0Ghz channel. This gives you support for both older devices that only support 2.4Ghz (like 802.11b, g and n) and new devices that support the 5.0Ghz channel (802.11a, n and 802.11ac).
For most people this will be perfect and provide some of the fastest speeds in wireless technology that is available today for not a lot of money. Plus don't forget you also get a gigabit router, where the WAN and LAN ports are all Gigabit.
This router is probably one of the best overall buys for home networking today and easily affordable on any budget.
When we first saw this quote from the New York Times, we were a little curious.
New York Times named "Best Router for most people" Oct 8, 2015
First thing that caught our eye was that the NYT was rating home routers. We didn't realize they had gotten into the business of rating tech. In a way that cool for tech! The second thing that got our attention was the strange category of the award - "...for most people".
Either way we were excited to dig into this new hot commodity and see how cool it really was.
When you first open the box, you see it contains all of the usually suspects as far as typical home router package contents go.
In the Box You Get:
Archer C7 1750AC Router
Power supply/Power cord
1 Ethernet Cable
Quick install guide
As we started going over everything we were surprised to see that this router claims to support Windows, Mac, Linux, and... Netware? (Wow we haven't seen Novel Netware mentioned in a long time, but thats good to know!)
Once we put the router together we couldn't help feel that the overall aesthetics of this router are really good. It just looks cool! It sits low and slim without being too gaudy looking and blends in nicely with other home media equipment.
When we first turned it on - we felt the green status led's look really cool, though we were sad to find out that the Chinese version (TL-WDR7500) has blue LED's and really gives a futuristic look of the device.
After we went over the contents of the box we started digging into the specifications of the Archer C7 wireless router itself. This is where we started to see that the lower price point was made possible by some fairly conservative and yet reliable hardware.
A single core Qualcomm CPU with 128MB of DDR2 Ram (x2) and 8MB flash for firmware storage.
The router sports Qualcomm chipsets for its radios and CPU - Atheros 5 GHz 3x3 AC radio (QCA9880-BR4A) as well as a QCA9558 for the 2.4GHz radio.
There are a three versions of this router that have been produced right now. Version 3 we found is currently available however the more popular hardware is Version 2 (we will explain this a bit later).
There are 3 internet antennas to handle the 2.4GHZ band and 3 external antennas for max coverage of the 5.0Ghz band. The external antennas are fully adjustable to help improve signal and reception.
The router also comes with full Gigabit routing across the WAN and Gigabit LAN ports (10/100/1000). Routing speed tests showed standard Gigabit wire speed that varied between 810Mbs and 840Mbs with spikes up to 900Mbs.
These kind of results are what we would expect for a home gig router considering you will have approximate 20% of your bandwidth needed for signaling and overhead. This is plenty for any home network need.
USB Ports - The TP-Link Archer C7 provides 2 USB 2.0 ports to be used for a home media center, a print server, FTP server, SMB or Samba file share and even a NAS (Network Attached Storage or Private Cloud). We would have liked to see at least one USB 3.0 port however for that we would have to go to the Archer C9.
One thing we discovered is that there is no printer support for Linux. If you plan on using the TP-Link Archer C7 as a print server, you'll find a lack of print drivers available for Linux. This wasn't part of our testing. We felt that if there is support for Mac (since a Mac is unix under the covers) then there should be a way to get printing going from a Linux box, even if you just using a generic post-script driver.
IPV4 and IPv6 - The router supports both IPv4 and IPv6. Most home users will most likely stick to IPv4 though the IPv6 support is nice to have for future growth.
Guest Networks - The router has excellent support for wireless Guest Networks. We found this one of the most handy features to have. There are two guest networks you can enable. One for both the 2.4GHz and 5.0Ghz channels. Both can be setup independently and each can have separate SSID's (network names). Both can also be setup to turn on or turn off on a schedule. This kind of feature is great for small offices that want to give their customers the ability to get online while waiting for services, such as a dentist or auto repair. And if your worried about your guests sucking up all your bandwidth, don't worry the TP-Link Archer C7 has a feature for that too!
IP based bandwidth control - This feature allows you to setup either a single static ip or a range of ip addresses and assign a max bandwidth to that range of ip's. If you setup your guest network to only use this range of addresses you never have to worry about not having bandwidth when you need it.
Wireless Bridge Mode - The wireless router supports WDS (wireless distribution system) bridge mode which will allow you to extend the wireless network using another wireless router. This essentially uses the wireless radio's to connect two wired LAN's together. This is really help for older buildings or large rented areas where you can't run wired ethernet cable. Of course the wireless router can also be setup as a normal access point. Finally the wireless network has a nice graphical statistics page that will give you a graphical representation of your wireless network usage.
Firewall - supports DoS (denial of service) attacks, SPI (stateful packet inspection) Firewall, IP filter, MAC Filter, Domain Filter, IP-MAC Binding
WAN port - supports Dynamic IP, Static IP, PPPoE, PPTP(Dual Access), L2TP(Dual Access), BigPond
Dyn DNS support for easily have the Archer C7 tell DynDNS when you WAN ip address has change. DYN DNS will then automatically update your DNS record. Very handy for home websites, file servers, and email, etc.
Phone app - TP-Link Tether is a great app for remote management of your router. Gives you access to your router right from your phone, lets you see who's online and even lets configure the router. Word of warning - Anytime you allow remote management access to your router you risk someone breaking and owning your network. This feature is very cool however we have not evaluated the security risks associated with enabling this feature.
To be sure you are getting the right internet download speeds from your Internet Service Provider, we have provided a test app to help with that. Your upstream speeds, both download and upload, should be checked independently from your wireless router speeds.
Be aware of manufacturer speed claims and numbers. The Archer C7 1750AC does not mean you will get 1750MBps of bandwidth from your laptop to your router. This number is an aggregate of the total capabilities of the router.
The following wireless standards and their associate channel
IEEE 802.11ac/n/a 5GHz
IEEE 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz
802.11ac almost 3 times as fast an 802.11n routers - 450Mbps x3 = 1300Mbps
As mentioned earlier, we were happy to find the wireless and Gigabit router speeds for the TP-Link Archer C7 1750 we tested were right on the money with what we might expect from an 802.11ac router.
Our Speed Tests showed the following:
802 Mbps (dependent on ISP connection)*
799Mbps (dependent on ISP connection)*
*To effectively test the WAN speed, we did not connect it to a real upstream Internet Service Provider, rather a Cisco 3750 switch was used for simulating the WAN connection to an ISP
Range is above average for this type of router. We found is out medium sized building, consisting of two floors, drywall covered walls, and square footage of approximate 2000 sq. feet. We had reception is all areas without trouble.
The Archer C7 has complete backward compatibility for older 802.11a/b/g wireless standards with many newer features that are not supported by most wireless devices currently out on the market. Most laptops and other home wireless devices don't support the 802.11ac standard as yet, but if yours does you will definitely be happy to have a router that will give you the speed and reliability you may be longing for.
There are a few features for forward looking folks who may want to ensure this router will last well into the future. Lack of support for USB 3.0, MIMO (multiple input - multiple output), and Beamforming are not supported in the Archer C7.
For those who love to tinker with their hardware, most people will be happy to know that the firmware on the TP-Link Archer C7 can be swapped out with OpenWRT or DD-WRT. We did not test this feature but these open source firmwares will only support V2 of the hardware due to the Qualcomm chipset.
You've read what we think - Now find out how others feel about the TP-Link Archer C7
From what we gather no is reporting bugs with the firmware, no issues with range or speed. We have seem some people say they have problems with strong 5.0Ghz signally, but this was a bit vague as to what the indicators were.
There is a lot of excitement around the ability to put DD-WRT or OpenWRT firmware on the V2 router. We did not replace our firmware so we're not sure what, if any, features would be lost or gained by swapping the manufacturers firmware with an open source firmware. Of course there is a coolness factor there!
Again for the money, this router has risen to the top of the heap as the reigning champion of affordably fast and feature rich home routers.
There are lots of amazing features for this router at this price point. Speed tests were exactly where we wanted to see them. The features were perfect for the average home/SOHO user. We totally understand now why the NYT gave this the "Best router for most people" award. TP-Link has created a base line for other router manufacturers to follow. This notoriety used to be owned by Linksys. For the money, features and esthetics, its hard to beat for less than a $100 bucks!
So here is where we get a little picky. We love this router, however it still only has 4 LAN ports. With so many things having a network connections it would be nice to start seeing 6 LAN ports.
No Print server support for linux and they dont have a printer controller for linux. But they
do have a printer controller for MAC which isn't a far stretch to make it compatible for Linux.
Only USB2.0 - you have to move up to the Archer C9 for USB3.0
No MU-MIMO support - again you would need to jump up to the Archer C2600 or C3200
Finally, no beamforming. I would expect an 802..11ac router to support this feature. The Archer C9 supports Beamforming (?) and is 4K compatible. Look for our review of the Archer C9.
Amazon Features Overview:
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TP-Link Archer C7 Review Rating
We gave the TP-Link Archer C7 a slightly higher rating than found on Amazon. 4.3 stars for all items reviewed. It's simply an amazing router, at a great price. It's incredibly stable with all of the newer features you might come to expect in a home wireless router. The one thing, and this is being a bit picky, we would like to see if more LAN ports.
Only 4 ethernet LAN ports (nothing special)
Lack of USB3.0 connections
Great speed and range
Best router for the money as a general purpose wireless router!