QUICK FIX: 802.11ac router recommendation (2015)

Discussion in 'Networking and Wireless' started by downloads, Nov 29, 2013.

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  1. downloads

    downloads Super Moderator Super Moderator

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    I took my sweet time waiting for three stream ac cards to hit the market hoping to update router recommendations thread only then.
    Unfortunately it's not looking very good at this time and I thought it would be better to give you guys two recommendations rather than leave you hanging.

    It's not a full blown thread like Wireless router buyer’s guide 2012/2013 is but I'm hoping to get rid of 802.11n recommendations entirely (with possible exception of the cheapest routers) and move to 802.11ac which is not really possible at this time yet.

    So in the meantime:

    Q: I have no understanding of the concept of money- what router do I buy?
    A: Buy Netgear R7000 and be done with it.


    [​IMG]

    No, it's not an ASUS RT-AC68U, although it sort of is. Both use (almost) the same CPU/SoC although the one in Netgear is clocked higher. Both have the same amount of RAM, the same radio for 2.4GHz and the same for 5GHz. The only differences (apart from the faster SoC in Netgear) are different amps and firmware quality- something ASUS is not particularly good at.
    Unfortunately this means significantly slower USB transfers on ASUS (at least untill firmware fix arrives) and slightly lower throughput. Wireless performance is pretty close with ASUS edging it in terms of upload but only very close to the router. You can expect NTFS read-write from a HDD connected via USB 3 to be between 40 and 50MB/s which is pretty great for a cheap NAS let alone a router.

    Overall Netgear has better hardware and better firmware which makes it a winner.

    Q: Are you nuts!? I don't want to spend $200 on a router- what do I buy?
    A: TP-LINK Archer C7 v2. It's "only" $99...


    [​IMG]

    So It's not exactly what you call cheap but recommendation by definition has to refer you to something good. There are probably cheaper ac routers out there but there are no cheaper routers worth buying.
    TP-Link's Archer C7 is built around Qualcom's second generation ac SoC supplemented bu 128MB RAM. It uses good amps on 5GHz radio (which shows in its range) and "some" amps on 2.4GHz one (which also shows).
    Also unlike Netgear R7000 it doesn't offer USB 3 ports but USB 2 ones. What you get for your money is very good 5GHz performance (range is very good, and so is throughput) and undistinguished 2.4GHz performance (while throughput is good, range is less than impressive).

    Lack of USB 3 is not a big deal- it's not the limiting factor. The CPU of a router is a bit weak to deal with NTFS partitions so don't expect TP-Link to exceed 12MB/s. While it may sound poor in comparison with Netgear you have to realize that it's the Netgear that is outstanding, not the TP-Link that is poor. Similar results of 10-12MB/s are to be expected from routers like ASUS RT-AC66U, Netgear R6300 and many others.

    Overall (USB performance aside) TP-Link's throughput is very close to Netgear's one but the price-tag isn't.

    NOTE This router doesn't work properly with Broadcom radio chips on 5GHz range in version 1. Apple devices tend to be based exclusively on Broadcom chips. Beta firmwares are in the works (three released in 2014 alone) but until fixed DO NOT BUY if you own Apple notebooks. Do avoid v1 id you can.

    Q: How is $100 cheap, are you kidding me?
    A: Fine, Fine. How about TP-Link Archer C20i or Archer C2 for less than $50?

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Archer C20i (left photo) This is hands down the most interesting chap router I've seen in years. It costs between $37-$50 depending on where you live. For that kind of money you shouldn't expect much but what you get is 802.11ac dual band router with USB port.
    It's based on MediaTek SoC running at either 580 or 600MHz paired with 64MB RAM. MediaTek also provided a 2.4GHz radio (two spatial streams for 300mbps connection) and a single stream 802.11ac radio (433mbps connection). Both radios work simultaneously.
    USB port can be sued for sharing media or more interestingly to connect a network printer.
    While Ethernet ports are only 100mbps it's not a deal breaker for most people as it's clearly not a device for heavy NAS users anyway.

    Archer C2 (right photo) is identical to Archer C20i except for its looks and the fact that it does have a gigabit switch instead of 100mbps one.

    In Europe you can buy Archer C20i for roughly $37 and Archer C2 for $50 whereas in the US Archer C2 is slightly cheaper (in spite of its better hardware) so your purchase decision might depend on where you live.

    Thanks @Carcozep for pointing out Archer C2's US price.


    ...and a card to match

    Your choice of Wi-Fi card to pair with either of those is pretty much limited to Intel 7260/7265 (internal) or Killer 1525.
    Mind you Intel is yet to iron out the bumps on 7260's driver so it might be a bumpy ride while Killer 1525 is only available in M.2 format and has its own issues with Bluetooth (supposedly solved by a firmware update).
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2015
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  2. Gandalf_The_Grey

    Gandalf_The_Grey Notebook Evangelist

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    Are there any USB wireless cards (external) that you recommend?
     
  3. downloads

    downloads Super Moderator Super Moderator

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    There's an interesting test from smallnetbuilder if you are after USB Wi-Fi card.
    Personally I'd go with an Edimax EW-7822UAC. It's almost half the price of an ASUS USB-AC56 yet is based on the same chipset and has very similar performance.

    Not to mention I'm a bit surprised to see realtek-based devices outperform Broadcom ones.
     
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  4. Gandalf_The_Grey

    Gandalf_The_Grey Notebook Evangelist

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    Thanks for the answer. I have added smallnetbuilder to my bookmarks.
     
  5. cshaida

    cshaida Newbie

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    Thanks for the recommendation. A further question. Do you have a recommendation for an additional access point(s) to use with the Nighthawk?

    (I currently have the ActionTec FiOS router plus 3 cisco WAP4410Ns). I want to upgrade the whole mess but the configuration of my house (walls are stucco (concrete essentially) with wire lath inside and out and built into the side of a hill with non-contiguous rooms) makes it likely that even with better coverage from the Netgear I'll still need an Access Point or two in the nether reaches.
     
  6. downloads

    downloads Super Moderator Super Moderator

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    To be perfectly honest - no. I have no real recommendations. I could come up with some APs right now but I don't want to stand by a recommendation that wasn't thought through and I wasn't into 802.11ac APs yet.
     
  7. sgogeta4

    sgogeta4 Notebook Nobel Laureate

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  8. be77solo

    be77solo pc's and planes

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    Thanks for the info here! Curious, anything on the horizon or is now a decent time to buy? I'm looking to upgrade to AC for my home network. Thanks!

    EDIT: Following up, I ended up picking up the Netgear R7000 from New Egg while they were offering the Motorola SB6141 combo... totally happy with the router, working great on all bands. Thanks downloads.
     
  9. The Underdog

    The Underdog Notebook Guru

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    I picked up a nighthawk on sale based on this rec (replacing a DIR-615), and it's awesome. Also huge.

    Upgrading things around the house, I've added an intel 7260AC in my new eurocom m4/clevo w230ss - great as long as I'm connected to 5Ghz. Upgrading to the latest drivers from station drivers have it holding an 866.7 Mbps connection. Transfers between my Samsung S4, netgear nighthawk, usb3 hard drive hooked up to the nighthawk and laptop are all ridiculous fast compared to what I was experiencing before. I'm also a fan of the simple router software and netgear app - covers enough basic functionality that I probably won't bother with open source.

    The router is dealing well with a mixed array of devices on wireless N and AC. Surprisingly, though, I'm finding that the signal at both 2.4 and 5Ghz is about the same strength as my dir-615. I was expecting it to reach a bit further.

    Only downside (size is inconvenient, but not really game breaking) is the discovery that I can't easily install the 7260 AC cards I bought in a couple of lenovo laptops. It might be a year or two before remaining devices (laptops, iphone, tablets, cams, etc.) are upgraded/grow into the new AC environment.

    Thanks for the recommendation.
     
  10. NovaTornado

    NovaTornado Notebook Consultant

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    Can someone explain what the AC1900 vs AC1750 vs AC1600 vs AC1200 means? I'll only be using laptops with Intel 7260 ac, one with a Intel 6205, one with Killer 1202, and a Dell Venue 8 Pro that has some Atheros wifi card that has wireless n.
     
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