Reviewing the TP-LINK Archer C7 - Here's what a 100 USD wireless router can do!
TP-LINK Archer C7 has been launched for more than a year and it's one of the few wireless routers with a strong reputation on the market. This is the reason why we wanted to test it, so late after its launch. Its price has plunged in recent months and it's one of the most popular wireless routers in the 100 USD price-range. We tested the TP-LINK Archer C7 for two weeks, we made lots of measurements and now we want to share our opinion about this router, in this review. There's a lot of ground to cover, so let's get started:
Unboxing the TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router
TP-LINK's Archer C7 comes in a green package which features a picture of the device on the front, as well as some of its most important specifications.
Where To Buy
On the back cover, you can find more detailed specifications, you can see all the ports that are available on this wireless router, as well as a comparison with other routers made by TP-Link.
When you open the box, you will find the following items: the TP-LINK Archer C7 wireless router, 3 detachable antennas, the power supply unit, a resource disc, an Ethernet cable, the quick installation guide, as well as the warranty and other leaflets.
As you can see, the unboxing experience is not that spectacular. In the end, we are talking about an affordable device which costs around 100 USD or the equivalent.
TP-LINK Archer C7 has a Qualcomm Atheros QCA9558 processor, running at 720 MHz, with 128 MB of RAM memory and 16 MB of storage space. It offers support for all the modern networking standards, including 802.11ac, which means that this router offers two wireless networks: one for the 2.4 GHz frequency and one for the 5 GHz frequency. The maximum theoretical bandwidth is of 450Mbps on the 2.4 GHz frequency and 1300Mbps on the 5 GHz frequency, leading to a total of 1.75Gbps. One aspect that is not exactly obvious is that this wireless router has a total of 6 antennas. There are three external antennas for the 5 GHz wireless frequency and 3 internal antennas for the 2.4 GHz frequency. You can see their positioning in the diagram below.
On the back side of the router you will find a WPS button, 5 Ethernet ports (one of which is for the Internet connection), two USB 2.0 ports, LEDs indicating the activity of the two USB ports, a switch for turning the wireless network On and Off, a button for turning the router On and Off, and the power jack.
Setting up & using the TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router
As we mentioned , TP-LINK Archer C7 is not a new wireless router. Therefore, we were not surprised to see that the user interface offered by TP-LINK is a bit old-school and different from what we've seen on the Archer C9, for example .
Luckily, the quick setup wizard is easy to use and it can be started from any web browser.
When you start it, it asks what kind of Internet connection you have. In the screenshot below you can see the types of Internet connections the TP-LINK Archer C7 can work with.
Once the router connects to the Internet, you get to set the wireless networks that it broadcasts. You can enable only one of the two bands that are available or both of them.
Once the wireless networks are configured, you have to reboot your router. And this is one of the very few quibbles we have with TP-LINK Archer C7: each time you change an important system setting, like how your wireless network works, you have to reboot the router in order for the change to be applied. This is especially frustrating when you setup your network for the first time and you have to make many changes to the default settings of this router. Also, the restart procedure takes quite a bit of time.
After the router has rebooted, you can start using your network. However, you should not stop here with your initial configuration. First of all, you should change the default username and password for managing your router. The defaults are admin/admin and anyone can hack your router once they connected to your network.
The user interface is available only in English and it's split into three areas:
- On the left you have a column with all the settings organized by groups
- When you click a group of settings, all the settings in that group are loaded in the middle of the screen
- On the right there is a column which explains the settings that are shown in the middle of the screen. This column functions like the Help files you're accustomed with when using Windows applications.
The language used by TP-Link is on the technical side of things, so casual users will have some issues understanding everything. Luckily, the Help documentation is generally well done and explains most things that you need to know. Also, the more advanced features are difficult for casual users to set up and understand. You will need some networking knowledge, on top of the available documentation.
One aspect that users will appreciate is how fast and responsive the user interface is. All settings load almost instantly and browsing through all the sections takes very little time. The only downside is that the router has to reboot in order to apply your changes.
When we tested this router, we used the latest firmware version available at the time: 3.14.3 Build 150427 Rel.36706n. We had no performance issues during our test s. However, we did encounter a few stability issues, especially with the 5 GHz wireless network. Once or twice a week, the 5 GHz wireless network would just drop and it wouldn't recover without a reboot of the router.
Other than that, we were satisfied with the speed of the network and how well things like network sharing and streaming worked. But more about the performance of this router, later in this review.
One of the more practical aspects of using the TP-LINK Archer C7 is that this router is designed for wall mounting. There are two mounting holes with slots that allow you to use screws that will fit in the holes and then slide the unit down. This feature is not available on the more expensive TP-LINK Archer C8 and Archer C9 models.
As you can see in the picture below, TP-LINK Archer C7 has a glossy smooth casing. Unfortunately this is a dust and fingerprint magnet and you will need to clean it regularly.
One minor aspect that may annoy some users is that the status LEDs on this router blink all the time and they can't be turned off. Depending on where you place this router, this may be annoying to you, especially during the night.
Overall, the TP-LINK Archer C7 offers a positive user experience, especially when you consider its affordable price. While it has some downsides, its positives generally overcome the negatives.