The first testing of TP-Link Archer C7 with support for the latest generation of wireless standard 802.11ac was published on the pages of our resource more than a year ago. Over the past time, we managed to get acquainted with just one more router and a pair of 802.11ac wireless adapters, which indicates a cautious attitude to this standard by most manufacturers. It can be noted that only some market leaders presented their solutions with its support there is no talk of mass distribution today. One of the reasons for this situation is a very limited number of client solutions, and without them changing the router to a new one does not make sense.
However, some development of this direction is still taking place. The first solutions are based on Broadcom chipsets, and today on the market you can also find products based on Qualcomm and Realtek chips. In addition, attention was paid to the new standard by Intel Corporation.
Another important step is the appearance of smartphones with built-in 802.11ac. Despite the fact that existing models do not show a large increase in speed, the potential in the new technology is very large. This is due to the fact that this standard allows you to increase the productivity of working with a single antenna, which is usually used by mobile devices.
In this article, we will consider the top model of the TP-Link router – Archer C7.if you are looking for TP Link ac1750 review we have a separate article for that In addition to implementing 802.11ac, it is interesting in that it is based on the Qualcomm platform. The main characteristics of the model include gigabit WAN and LAN ports, two radio modules for simultaneous operation in the 2.4 GHz (802.11b g/n) and 5 GHz (802.11a n/ac) bands and two USB 2.0 ports for connecting drives printers and multifunction devices.
Contents of delivery
The router turned out to be quite large so that it has a corresponding box – a little less than 32 × 24 × 7 centimeters. It provides photos of the device, a description of the connectors, specifications and other information.
The delivery set of all TP-Link Archer C7 is standard: a router, three removable antennas for the 5 GHz range, a switching power supply unit of 12 V 2.5 A, one-gigabit network patch cord, a warranty card, a quick setup guide in English, a GNU license, a mini-compact – a disk with documentation and programs.
It is perhaps only the high power supply unit that attracts attention. However, given the presence of two USB ports, it may well come in handy for external hard drives.
On the manufacturer’s website, you can download firmware updates, utilities, and electronic versions of documents. The warranty on the device is one year from the date of sale.
Archer C7 Appearance
TP-Link ac1750 comes in large case (24.3 × 16 × 3.3 cm) is made of black plastic. The width is clearly overestimated, but the lateral protrusions serve this time not only for decorative purposes – they have hidden 2.4 GHz internal antennas.
The top cover is glossy, which is not at all practical. At the beveled front edge there are ten indicators of the device, while the logos themselves are highlighted, which increases the convenience of monitoring the work. The LEDs in this model have a green color, low brightness and blink when network connections are active.
Also note the presence of ventilation grilles on the top cover and on the bottom. It should be noted that during operation the device heats up very weakly.
The rear panel contains three connectors for external antennas in the 5 GHz band, a power supply input and a switch, a hardware switch for wireless interfaces, two USB 2.0 ports with connection indicators, a gigabit WAN port and four gigabit LAN ports, and a WPS / reset button.
Given the dimensions of the device, difficulties with access to all connectors should not be. The only comment concerns the WPS button: it’s better to place it in a more accessible place.
TP-Link Archer C7 is based on Qualcomm platform announced more than a year ago. The QCA9558 central processor operates at a frequency of 720 MHz, has a built-in 2.4 GHz radio unit with 802.11n support at speeds up to 450 Mbps and a USB 2.0 controller. For 802.11ac and 802.11n in the 5 GHz band, a separate chip is responsible – Qualcomm QCA9880. Thanks to him, the router is able to work in this range with speeds up to 1300 Mbit / s with 802.11ac and up to 450 Mbit / s with 802.11n. Interestingly, for 2.4 GHz, built-in antennas are used, and 5 GHz works with external ones. Previously, there were images of a device where all the antennas were external and were located on three sides of the case. Wired ports are served by the Atheros AR8327N switch. The RAM is 128 MB (two Winbond W9751G6KB-25 chips), and there is only 8 MB of flash memory for firmware (cFeon Q64-104HIP).
Of the interesting design features, we note the absence of heatsinks on microcircuits, a place for a console connector and the implementation of a 5 GHz radio module as an additional board with a Mini-PCIe interface. In general, only the amount of flash memory causes some concerns. It seems that with the additional capabilities of the router, the situation will be less attractive than other top models.
The router was tested with firmware version 3.13.33 Build 130729 Rel.56122n. With alternative versions for this model, the situation is not very good. The lack of support for an external radio block in an accessible open source driver does not allow the device to operate at 5 GHz.
Customization and features
Manufacturers usually use similar firmware options for their models. The product in question was no exception. The appearance of the web-interface and the functions of the Archer C7 firmware correspond to the previously tested TP-Link devices. However, there are several new features, some of which are realized thanks to the fast processor. Note that the web-interface has a built-in help system and is presented only in English (according to information from the manufacturer, work is underway on translation into Russian). Local access to it can be limited by the MAC addresses of clients (up to four entries). There is the possibility of remote access via the Internet with a choice of port number and optional indication of the IP address of the remote system.
After logging in using the administrator password, the user sees a status page that displays information about the current state of the router: firmware version, data on network interfaces, general traffic and uptime.
You can use the Quick Setup Assistant for quick initial setup. It indicates the parameters of access to the Internet and sets the operating modes of wireless networks.
The router supports all popular Internet connection options: IPoE, PPPoE, PPTP and L2TP. All of them support changing the MAC address of the WAN port and manually specifying the IP addresses of the interface. In case of work through the access server (with name and password), it is possible to organize a second connection to the provider’s local network (Dual Access). It is possible to use several modes of connecting to the Internet: on demand, permanent, manual, at a specified time interval (only for PPPoE).
The router can pass PPTP, L2TP and IPSec traffic through itself, and also has ALG for FTP, TFTP, H323 and RTSP protocols.
The user can view the current routing table and it is possible to add their own routes. To provide external access when using white dynamic addresses, there is a built-in DDNS client with support for three services (Comexe, DynDNS and No-IP).
Like other modern models, the router has support for the IPv6 protocol in several modes of operation. Given the fact that a router of this level is purchased for a long time, this function may be in demand after a while
The first page of setting up wireless networks is the choice of the range of work. You can use simultaneously 2.4 and 5 GHz or only one of them. You can’t completely turn off the program radio. For this operation, you must use the hardware switch on the router case.
Next are two similar groups of settings for the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. The basic parameters of wireless networks include the choice of the network name, region, operating mode (b/g or b/g/n and a/n or a/n/ac, respectively), the channel number (in Russia – 1–13 for 2, 4 GHz and 36-48, 132-161 for 5 GHz), channel width (only for 2.4 GHz), protection (open network, WEP, WPA / WPA2-PSK and with a RADIUS server).
In additional options, you can select one of three transmitter power levels and enable features such as WMM, Short GI and AP Isolation. WPS support and MAC address filters are also implemented. On a separate statistics page lists of connected clients are presented with their MAC addresses and the number of received and transmitted packets.
The function of guest wireless networks is unusually implemented. In addition to specifying your own network name and encryption option (open network only or WPA / WPA2-PSK), you can restrict access to local network resources and program the network uptime in the form of a time interval for the required days of the week or a specified interval from the moment it is turned on. But the most interesting thing is the possibility of limiting the speed of access to the Internet for guests of guest networks – the administrator can rigidly specify for them the maximum transmission and reception speeds.
In most configurations, clients access the Internet using NAT technology. But if necessary, you can turn it off. Note that this platform also has a hardware module for translating network addresses, which significantly improves performance in some modes (it also has the shutdown option).
The standard mode of operation uses the built-in DHCP server to automatically configure clients in the local network segment. Among its options are the range of addresses used, setting the lease time of the address, choosing the default router address and DNS servers. We did not forget about the MAC-IP fixed assignment table, though all the values will have to be entered independently, they can be seen in the current assignment table. Note the existence of a separate IP & MAC Binding, which can be used to increase the level of network security.
There is the possibility of changing your own IP address of the router on the local network. There is also a point on enabling IGMP proxy, which, along with IGMP snooping, is useful when working with some types of IPTV.
The router supports programming network address translation rules to ensure the services are running on systems on the local network. Rules allow you to specify a range of ports at once, as well as have different external and internal numbers. There is also an option of “switching” rules, which will be useful for some games and special applications. The manufacturer did not forget about the DMZ and UPnP technologies (including viewing the list of current automatic broadcasts).
The device has a built-in firewall (SPI) with protection against DoS attacks. User-defined rules can use information from lists of hosts, remote systems (by hostname or IP addresses and ports) and schedules.
A separate section is the settings for the Parental Control function. In this model of the router, it is implemented as follows: you can program the number of rules you need using the client’s MAC address, a list of domain names and a schedule to allow the use of the services of these sites for this client at this time. Separately, up to four addresses are indicated for which the locks do not work. The ban works for DNS queries, so it will still be possible to access the servers by their IP address.
Thanks to its powerful hardware platform, it can also be useful to implement a traffic management function. On the first page of its settings, the characteristics of the used Internet channel are indicated, and on the second – the rules are recorded. Each of them involves a range of local addresses, a port range of remote systems, a protocol and a range of speeds for receiving and transmitting data. These parameters allow you to limit the speed of certain clients or the required remote services. It should be noted that when using the PPPoE, PPTP or L2TP options for accessing the Internet, activating this function can reduce the maximum Internet access speed by 25-30%.
The System Tools section contains traditional items: updating the firmware from a file, changing the administrator password, saving/restoring/resetting the configuration. In addition to them, there is the possibility of rebooting, setting the built-in clock, diagnostics with ping and traceroute utilities. The system log of the router is quite detailed.
This model supports not only its local storage but also sending by e-mail on a specified day or at a specified interval. Another page in this section is dedicated to customer traffic statistics. When you enable this service, the router calculates the total amount of received and transmitted data by clients, as well as the current speed. Unfortunately, it is not possible to analyze by days or hours, which reduces the interest in this function.
The router has two USB 2.0 ports. They can be used to connect drives and printers. Separately, we note the support of USB hubs. External hard drives and flash drives can have several partitions, and only NTFS and FAT32 file systems are supported.
Safely disconnect drives through a web-based interface. In total, up to eight volumes are supported on each port. You can access files using the SM /CIFS and FTP protocols. For the first, you can selectively disable partition access.
By default, access via SMB is implemented without restrictions. If necessary, the administrator can program several users in the system, specify for each access right (“read only” or “read and write”) and allow FTP (the rights to this protocol are only full).
The names of the shared resources, host, and workgroup cannot be changed. The service for users of guest networks looks interesting – the router can be configured to access from the guest account to another list of shared resources (only via SMB) and select the rights for this user (read or full access).
The FTP server supports passive mode and has the UTF-8 option permanently turned on, so there are no problems using Russian file names. Additionally, it is possible to change the service port number and enable access from the WAN interface. To work on this protocol, the user must specify the required folders from the list of available. They will be presented as directories in the root of the server.
File access speed is average. Perhaps it was worth implementing support for EXT2 / 3/4 file systems as well.
Files on disks can be used to create a DLNA server media library. To do this, select the directories (the maximum number is six) in which the required information is located, and set the re-scan interval. The server supports popular formats, including JPEG, MP4, M4A, WMA, AVI, MP4, M4V, MOV, MPEG, MKV, WMV, TS. Scanning with several utilities for mobile devices showed that catalog sorting is used, which is convenient for video, but may not be optimal for music.
Work with the printer is possible only when installing a proprietary utility in Windows operating systems. The documentation mentions support for Mac OS, however, utilities for this operating system were not provided at the time of testing the device. The advantage of this solution is the ability to work not only with printers, but also with the scanner unit in the MFP.
TP-Link Tether Utility
The TP-Link Tether utility is for devices based on Android and iOS, which allows you to configure the router, access multimedia files on a USB drive and perform other actions. At the moment, it supports only a few top models of routers, but it is expected that the list of compatible devices will be expanded.
The main screen shows a graphical image of a network with a router and clients. For the first, you can see the firmware version, for clients – MAC and IP addresses. Here, you can block the client from accessing the Internet (this is done by the firewall rule in the router). The settings provide options for the WAN port and wireless interfaces, as well as resetting and rebooting the router.
There is access to parental control functions and a DLNA client for reading media files from the corresponding service on a router or other servers on the local network. Unfortunately, the iOS version does not allow the use of alternative video players, which significantly limits the list of compatible formats. There is no such problem in Android, you can use streaming, for example, with the MX Player.
Configuring the router to work with Beeline Internet using the L2TP protocol did not cause any difficulties. The speed of operation corresponded to the tariff plan of 75 Mbps. The router also coped with the load in the form of a p2p client without problems, showing the maximum possible speed in this utility. At the same time, IPTV could be used on another PC, so there are no comments on the implementation of multicast streams. Note that IPTV can also be watched wirelessly.
Checking the maximum speed indicators of the router was carried out on a special stand using the IxChariot program. In the device settings, only the parameters for access to the Internet and wireless interfaces were changed. The first graph shows the results of testing the routing speed in IPoE, PPPoE, PPTP, and L2TP modes.
The TP-Link Archer C7 router is primarily interesting for its high-performance platform. The Qualcomm chipset used allows it to efficiently use Internet access channels at speeds of 100 Mbps or more for any type of connection. Built-in radio modules with support for 802.11n and 802.11ac also proved to be good in our testing.
The router has a large and convenient housing that can be mounted on the wall. It is a pity that it was not possible to do without impractical gloss. The indicators located on the front edge are clearly distinguishable even from a long distance, and the sufficient width of the rear panel allows you to freely install the required connectors and other elements, so there will be no problems with access to them.
Another important feature of the product is its relatively low heating during operation, including at high load. If you recall the previously tested solutions of this level, with huge radiators that did not always do their job, you can see obvious progress.
As for the firmware capabilities, then the router lags behind the top models of other manufacturers. It contains all the basic functions of a wireless router (including port translation, IPTV and a firewall), but working with external drives, in our opinion, needs to be improved. True, this will not be easy, since the flash memory of the device is small. On the plus side, we note an interesting implementation of guest networks, which allows limiting the speed of work of “alien” users and support for a special configuration utility for smartphones.
The router is already available in the local market. At the time of writing, its average retail price was about 5 thousand rubles.