Review: TP-Link Archer AC5400x [UPDATED]

The gaming router space is super competitive with entrants from all the major brands occupying it. TP-Link has decided to get into this space by bringing the Archer AC5400x to market. Let’s start with the looks:

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TP-Link likely won’t like me saying this, but it kind of looks like a couple of ASUS routers that I’ve reviewed in the past. Which is that it looks like something out of a Transformers movie with those 8 antennas sticking up. That makes it huge and you might have an issue placing it someplace because of the size. But if you can get past the looks, it does have some neat features:

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It has a pair of USB ports that you can use for printers or storage devices. It even supports the Apple Time Machine backup protocol. I’ve set this up for clients and it works really well.

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It also has 8 gigabit ports. Where ports 2 and 3 can be aggregated to get better throughput for a NAS or a gaming rig with dual network cards.

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The top has a light that gives you the ability to see if everything is working. If it looks like the picture above, you’re good to go.

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There are three buttons on the front that allow you to use WPS (left), turn your WiFi on and off (center), and disable the top mounted LED that I showed you earlier (which you can also schedule to turn on and off which is kind of a neat trick).

In terms of WiFi, you get one 2.4 GHz (1000 Mbps) band and two 5 GHz (2167 Mbps) bands. The latter two supports MU-MIMO assuming your devices support that. To keep things running smoothly there’s a 1.8 GHz quad-core CPU with three co-processors and 1GB of RAM.rend Micro’s HomeCare protection is along for the ride to stop malware from getting onto your network, or isolating infected computers so they don’t spread whatever they have been infected with. Rounding out the feature set is an integrated Speeedtest, the ability to enable the router to function as an OpenVPN server which can encrypt the internal network traffic, and parental controls. Not to mention the ability to tweak the quality of service so that you can set specific tasks such as gaming or streaming as a priority, or specific computers or devices as a priority. As well as support for Alexa and IFTTT. Finally he Archer AC5400X can also use band steering to put each of your Wi-Fi devices on the optimum band, and can use load-balancing to ensure that no one band is overburdened.

Setup of the Archer AC5400x is very simple. The router can be set up via the webpage by going to 192.168.0.1 or by launching the Tether app which has Android and iOS flavors. I chose the former and had it up and running in ten minutes as I had to suck down a firmware update.

The two things that I noted about this router is the range and the speed. In terms of range, it easily covered areas in my condo which has concrete walls to deal with that are usually WiFi dead spots. In terms of speed over WiFi, that was a bit of a mixed bag for me. Latency from what I tested was as close to non-existent as you could get. First person shooters, Netflix, YouTube all worked without a hitch. So did throwing multiple computers doing bandwidth hogging activities. But none of my 802.11ac Macs that I used for testing could get above a 600 Mbps connection with this router. Other router hardware that I have tested with could get 1300 Mbps connections easily (but the connection sometimes becomes flaky I will admit). But the flipside to that is that I have a very noisy environment when it comes to WiFi. There are at least 30 other WiFi access points that I can see at any given time. So what I could be seeing is the C5400x capping the connection to ensure that it is sending out a stable WiFi connection as it does have the smarts to not only increase your range, but ensure that you get the best connection possible. In other words, you won’t likely complain about this while pwning your friends. I know that I didn’t. Having said that, I did reach out to TP-Link for some clarification on this and I will update this post when I hear back as they didn’t get back to me prior to the posting of this review.

The TP-Link Archer AC5400x router goes for $450 CDN and is worth looking at if you’re in the market for a gaming router that has a huge feature set and delivers stable speeds with next to no lag. Sure its looks are kind of out there, but this is a pretty solid platform for you to game on.

UPDATE: I had a very long conversation with a representative from TP-Link who gave me some useful information and some tests to run. Based on that I can conclude that the reason why I am seeing my Macs connect at 600 Mbps is what I suspected. Which is that the environment I live in is very “busy” from a WiFi perspective and the router has the smarts to limit the speed of the connection to something that it can deliver with lag free stability. This is unique as I have not seen a router do this before and a it is another reason why this router is worth a look.

 

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