Overview of the router TP-Link Archer C3150 MU-MIMO Gigabit Review
New devices and interesting technologies don’t appear on the market of network every year. Usually development in such area takes some time. In other words, it emerges like a quiet whirlpool. But if you look at the results achieved in a few years, then you realize that in reality there are progresses are happening with drastic force. Before the New Year, we evaluated the results of their work using the example of the mid – segment TP-Link Archer C60, and now we will talk about a higher class – TP-Link Archer C3150.
What is it
TP-Link Archer C3150 is the representative of the top line of routers from TP-Link. As a class indicator, this model uses a gigabit wired part, as well as a dual-band Wi-Fi with a theoretical maximum connection speed of up to 3150 Mbps. Innovativeness of this pragmatic router lies in its receiving the support from MU-MIMO – multiuser multi-threaded connection mode. The two available USB ports (the second and the third version) isn’t superfluous. In general, at a first glance, it’s worth 5555 hryvnia.
What is in the box
The most boring part of router reviews is the description of the contents of the box. Manufacturers rarely add anything else, except the standard set router, power supply, patch cord and instructions. The new design of this box and the removable antennas bring some changes though. Yes, TP-Link experimented with color selection by altering the usual white-green gradient. And it should be noted that the new design of the packaging emphasizes the high level of the device with its elegance.
What does it look like?
The first thing you’ll notice about the TP-Link Archer C3150 is its dimensions. Recently, the decreasing sizes of network equipment irritate us. And even the six-antenna Archer C3200 was not perceived to be so large (yet non-removable antennas, located around the perimeter of the body, conceal its dimensions). But when you see Archer C3150 out of the box, the “Wow” sound involuntarily will break from the lips. In fact, it looks like the 3.7 cm netbook with a diagonal of 13 inches.
According to the TP-Link design, the Archer C3150 looks more like a radio receiver or a Bluetooth column in a vintage style. At least the holes on the top of the casing just screams: “the speakers are hidden behind me”. But in fact, it’s placed there by the designers hide a powerful system of passive cooling.
And the hole on the top panel covering half of its area results in almost completely mesh from below the body. The cooling system even made its way to the ends. But not in the form of separate ventilation grilles, but as a barred gap between the top cover and the casing.
At the back of the device are five gigabit ports – 1 for Internet connection and 4 for a wired LAN. The same panel displays connectors for connecting 4 antennas, a power socket and a power button of the router.
On the left end, the developers took out a physical button for disabling the wireless network, a hidden reset switch, an activation key for WPS (automatic connection of wireless clients), and 2 USB ports – versions 2.0 and 3.0. The other ends are completely free. Both the right and the left sides are kept similar to give it the appearance of a more advanced model. More communication connectors and controls are also placed conveniently.
On the top panel, you’ll see status indicators. A number of LEDs are located exactly in the center of the opening part of the case. Recently TP-Link has become more attentive due to the brightness of the indicators, their color and the ability to disable through the settings.
What does he know?
In the description of the Archer C3150, the manufacturer focuses on the new (home routers) MU-MIMO technology. This abbreviation stands for multi-user multiple-input and multiple-output, multi-user multithreading and data transmission. The vast majority of routers on the market support only single-user MIMO. In both cases, all clients with MIMO support receive the data in multithreaded mode. But if in devices with single-user MIMO, there is a constant switching between clients (i.e. the router sends a portion of data first to one client, then switches to the second one, then to the third one and so on in order), then the gadget with MU-MIMO can support multithreading simultaneously with several customers, without wasting the time to switch between them.
What’s more? The Archer C3150 received dual-band antennas and support for Broadcom NitroQAM technology, which increases the bandwidth of each link by 25%. As a result, each of the antennas provides 541 Mbps (433 Mbps + 25%) link at 5 GHz and 250 Mbps (200 Mbps + 25%) link at 2.4 GHz, which in total gives a maximum speed of 3167 Mbps (2,167 Mbps 5 GHz band and 1000 Mbit in 2.4 GHz). One additional traffic optimization technology allowed the dual-channel router to come close to the performance of the three-channel devices of the previous generation. To feel the performance gain, it is necessary that the client devices support this technology. So, it is more likely influence the future, when you have gadgets with NitroQAM support.
Another interesting technology used in the Archer C3150 is Smart Connect. When the user connects, the router determines the optimal channel for communication with it, and jumps to it, transmitting the corresponding command to the user. New gadgets work out this situation perfectly. However, during such switching, it simply loses the network with a six years old laptop. Consequently, it constantly “runs away” to another channel. Notwithstanding, it functions reliably well, but it can become a source of problems when there are old devices on the network.
It is clear that all these innovations could not be realized depending on the old elements. To ensure the required level of performance, the TP-Link Archer C3150 used a dual-core Broadcom processor and two separate coprocessors for servicing wireless channels. Actually, the use of more powerful components led to an increase in the physical dimensions of the router.
Two USB ports of TP-Link Archer C3150 can be used to connect an external drive or printer (with 3G modems or MTP devices). When the printer is connected, we get access to the print server. And if you connect an external drive, then we have some sort of NAS (network drive). And by default, it will be available not only in the network environment of Windows, but also in the local network via FTP, and also as a source of content for devices that support Windows Media Server. So, you can throw on the disk some frequently used data that are accessible from anywhere in the world through Internet when necessary.
Is it easy to configure it?
To configure the TP-Link Archer C3150, you can use two methods. One is the web interface, and another is using the TP-Link Tether program. In the web-interface, there is a step-by-step master of the initial configuration of the router, as well as 2 levels of parameter detailing- (i) basic and (ii) advanced. In basic, only basic settings are available, with some nuances regarding the control of automation. In advanced level, automation is not workable, and all parameters are set manually. Of course, higher level of control over the router is desirable, but you’ll be disappointed if you want to get 100% control over the traffic going through the Archer C3150. For example, you cannot separately limit the width of the channel allocated for a guest Wi-Fi.
If we carefully look at the settings of the wireless network, it becomes clear that even in the advanced configuration mode, we do not have the opportunity to choose the operating mode. That is, Wi-Fi in Archer C3150 works only in access point mode. You can connect wireless relay clients with it, but it cannot be united. Also, it is not able to work with providers supplying wireless access to the Internet.
In the mobile application, the detailed configuration corresponds approximately to the basic level of the web interface. But to access the advanced settings, you would need to face a complicated TP-Link Tether interface. The only notable drawback of the mobile application is that it is impossible to change the settings of the devices connected to the USB ports of the router from it.
How is it doing?
High-end network devices are always difficult to test. If everyday tasks are possible with basic and average models, then the top-end devices won’t show any problems either. And even increasing the load, adding to the network a couple more test devices (up to ten), we did not feel any slowdown of the network. Of course, the office load (with a couple of dozens of wireless users), this router may not pull, but for home use, its capacity is beyond expectation.
Let us know the ultimate result. With wired clients, the Archer C3150 almost completely works on the Internet channel. Speed test shows results for downloading / downloading close to gigabit, and it’s entirely clear that this provider or the router is working. That is, the results for the Ukrainian and foreign servers are approximately the same. Among them all, only one provider is knocked out. In this case, the router was apparently connected to the most unloaded parity channel and it demonstrated that there is still a gigabit download speed on the network.
But the wireless clients have the minimum speed. It is understandable, because in order to squeeze everything out of the router, it is necessary that the client supports the four-band MIMO mode. The modern consumer devices (smartphones, tablets and laptops) that participate in the test as a payload are usually limited to a two-band MIMO. Of course, they get 400 megabits (in ac mode) in the speed test, but I would like higher and stronger network. Clients that support only the protocol version n, they enjoy maximum 100 megabits. When testing with obstacles (reception signal weakened by several reinforced concrete panels), the indicators are more modest, which Are about 42 megabits on tests and up to 12 MB /s in the incentive. However, the router models are lower in class and such results are unbelievable.
The drives connected to the Archer C3150 operate at an acceptable speed. Its performance depends more on the connection channel used – wired or wireless. However, when the drive is directly connected to the PC, the speed is still slightly higher.
There are many good routers, but we particularly liked the TP-Link Archer C3150. Yes, it has its own shortcomings (which are sometimes the consequence of the orientation of the device to the consumer). For everyday use, these drawbacks do not affect the users’ performance. At the same time, the Archer C3150 has many undeniable advantages. Its parameters, design speed and performance – everything is so good. And for this reason, it is worthily entitled as the “editorial choice”.
Four Reasons to Buy TP-Link Archer C3150
• You enjoy a gigabit channel for Internet access
• you have several gadgets with MIMO support and you need to provide them with the maximum communication speed
• you need a router and a NAS, but do not want to invest on two devices
• you want to make your network a reserve for development for the coming years
Two reasons not to buy TP-Link Archer C3150
• Your ISP only provides wireless access
• You need 100% control over your traffic