Wireless network performance
First, let's take a look at the apartment that was used in our testing and how it is set up. You can see that the router is placed in the living room.
Our testing was done using a fast 1 Gigabit Internet connection that's capable of uploads on the Internet of up to 200 Mbps. We used a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 for all our measurements and several software tools. To get a better perspective of the performance offered by TP-LINK Archer C7 , we compared it with TP-LINK Archer C8 ( its more expensive brother) and ASUS RT-AC56U - a competing router at a similar price.
First, we evaluated the 2.4 GHz wireless network and measured the signal strength offered in each room, using a tool named inSSIDer. As you can see in the graph below, the signal strength was slightly worse than that of the other two routers in the rooms that are farther away from the router.
Next, we used SpeedTest to measure how fast the Internet connection offered by this router is. In t he download test, TP-LINK Archer C7 was outperformed by the other two routers in all the rooms of our test apartment.
The same trend was noticed when we measured the upload speed, with one exception: in the living room (the room where the router was placed) TP-LINK Archer C7 was just as fast as its more expensive brother - TP-LINK Archer C8.
For the last set of measurements on the 2.4 GHz wireless network, we used LAN Speed Test Lite to measure downloads and uploads when transferring a 350MB file between two computers connected to the network. Again, TP-LINK Archer C7 was outperformed by the other two routers.
When we measured the upload speed, the same trend was noticed. However, there was one room where TP-LINK Archer C7 outperformed the other routers, as you can see below.
If there is a conclusion to draw from our measurements on the 2.4 GHz wireless network it is that the speed offered by TP-LINK Archer C7 is good in the rooms that are closer to the router. However, if you have a large home or apartment, the wireless routers we compared it to, tend to perform better in the more remote rooms.
Next, we analyzed the performance offered by the 5GHz wireless network. First, we looked at the evolution of the signal strength, from room to room. TP-LINK Archer C7 performed well in all rooms except the one furthest away from the router, as you can see below.
We moved to SpeedTest , to measure the speed of the Internet connection on the 5GHz wireless network. The download speed we obtained was great in the rooms that were closer to the router. In the rooms that are farther away from the router, the download speed decreased below the level offered by other routers.
When measuring the upload speed, TP-LINK Archer C7 faired surprisingly good, offering very fast uploads, close to those offered by its more expensive brother - TP-LINK Archer C8.
Lastly, we used LAN Speed Test Lite to measure downloads and uploads when transferring a 350MB file between two computers connected to the network. When looking at the download speed, we noticed that TP-LINK Archer C7 performed well in the rooms that are close to the router and less well in those which are farther away from it.
The same trend was noticed when we measured the upload speed over the wireless network.
TP-LINK Archer C7 is capable of offering fast downloads and uploads when using the 5GHz wireless network but only in small to medium apartments. If you have a large home or apartment, the speed you will get in the rooms that are farther away from the router will not be very satisfying.
Wired network performance
In order to test the quality of the wired Ethernet connection, we used a desktop PC, equipped with an Intel Core i5 4460 processor, running at 3.20GHz, 16GB of RAM and a very fast Samsung 850 Pro 512GB SSD and a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with an Intel Core i5-4300U processor, running at 1.9 GHz, 8 GB of RAM and a fast 256 GB SSD drive from Samsung.
First, we measured the download and upload speeds using SpeedTest. As you can see below, TP-LINK Archer C7 is able to deliver a maximum download speed of 790.88 Mbps, which is good, but it's not the Gigabit it promises. Our ISP doesn't allow uploads which are faster than 200 Mbps. TP-LINK Archer C7 was able to deliver a maximum upload speed of 135.59 Mbps.
For the last measurement, we transferred an 883 MB file between the same two c o mputers connected to the network, both of which were using an Ethernet cable. This time, TP-LINK Archer C7 performed better, delivering downloads and uploads at 900 Mbps.
In our testing, TP-LINK Archer C7 delivered fast Ethernet connections but they were not close enough to the 1 Gbps that it promises.
TP-LINK Archer C7 offers a couple of extra features alongside the standard that you expect in any wireless router:
Guest Network - you can create a maximum of two wireless networks for your guests, which give Internet access but don't give access to other devices in your network. We liked the fact that you can also set a schedule for each Guest network.
Parental Control - a basic set of controls which allow you to control the Internet access for the devices that are used by your children. We found it relatively hard to configure when compared to routers made by other manufacturers.
Access Control - this router offers the ability to create all kinds of advanced rules that apply to the traffic on your network. Again, this feature is rather hard to configure for novice users.
Secondary Connection - this feature is available only for PPPoE connections. If your ISP provides an extra connection type such as Dynamic/Static IP to connect to a local area network, then you can check the radio button of Dynamic/Static IP to activate this secondary connection.
TP-LINK Tether - this iOS or Android app allows you to manage the router from your smartphone. You can see the status of your router, who is online and what their privileges are. Unfortunately, there is no version for Windows Phone.
These extra features are useful but they are relatively hard to configure for casual users who don't know much in terms of networking.
TP-LINK Archer C7 is not a new wireless router by any means. It's been on the market for quite a long time and it has a pretty solid reputation. Most of it is well deserved. For a router that costs about 100 USD, you do get generally good performance that you can count on and a router that's easy to mount on walls. However, other wireless routers are able to deliver either better coverage in larger areas or slightly faster transfers.