The Bottom Line
As the market stands right now, nearly every vendor has an AC3200 solution on the market. In past reviews, we have seen solution from Linksys, TRENDnet and Netgear, while today we add yet another AC3200 solution to the list from TP-LINK. The Archer C3200 is, as it sounds, an AC3200 Tri Band router.
The TP-LINK Archer C3200 shares the same platform characteristics found in all three AC3200 solutions we have tested. This means we have a dual-core 1GHz processor covering six 802.11ac streams and three 802.11n streams, but no mention is made about the amount of RAM or flash included on this model, but as the previous three tested platforms have confirmed, we should have 256MB of memory and 128MB of flash.
As I have stated many times in the past, AC3200 solutions give the consumer the best mix of both old and new technologies offering two 5GHz bands that can be split along with a single 2.4GHz band for legacy and long-range devices. The TP-LINK C3200 offers a "Smart" option as do many AC3200 solutions allowing the router to determine the best band for a device based on signal strength.
Looking over the specifications, we find the Archer housing four-gigabit LAN ports next to a single gigabit WAN. A single USB 3.0 along with a USB 2.0 port allow FTP, Samba and printer access over the network. The wireless bands are split into a single 2.4GHz 802.11n network capable of 600Mbps via TurboQAM, while both of the 5GHz bands are capable of 1300Mbps.
The TP-LINK Archer C3200 carries a MSRP of $259.99 with a two-year warranty.
TP-LINK C3200 Wireless Router
TP-LINK Archer C3200
A photo of the Archer C3200 covers the front of the box as we look at the packaging. To the left, we have marketing information including its wireless capabilities.
Scope of delivery includes an Ethernet cable, power adapter, and reading materials.
Looking at the Archer C3200, we find this solution to be quite small when compared to previous AC3200 solutions. Each of the six antennas are built into the chassis similar to the Netgear Nighthawk X6.
The front edge of the Archer houses all the LEDs that there are quite a few. To the far right, we have buttons for WPS, Wireless, and the LED control.
Extending all of the antennas, you can see this TP-LINK device is much more conservative in its design than previous solutions we've reviewed.
The rear of the router houses a single USB 2.0 and 3.0 port on separate ends of the rear I/O. In between, we find a WAN in blue with four yellow gigabit LAN ports.
The Archer C3200 carries a solid WebGUI that is easy on the eyes and streamlined. Above, we have the landing page that includes an overview of the router and its status.
Moving on, we take a quick look through the basic menu items. Above, we have the wireless settings with both the SSID and password listed for each network.
Next up, we have the USB sharing settings that gives access to storage and printers.
The advanced menu takes things into further detail, as you can see with the Status menu being a starting point.
The Archer C3200, as mentioned in the introduction, is capable of using a "smart connect" feature for those that want to enable it. The TP-LINK also allows you to change channel and width for each band, and unlike other routers, you can lock in 40MHz on the 2.4GHz band with this solution.
Looking a little deeper into the sharing settings, you can see the Archer has access for both SMB, FTP, and Media sharing.
Bandwidth control is how TP-LINK addresses QoS.
Lastly, we have Traffic Statistics that when enabled can give you an idea of how traffic is moving through the router.
Test System Setup and Transfer Performance
Wireless throughput is tested using the ASUS PCE-AC68 PCI Express Network Adapter. Range is tested with a Late 2013 MacBook Pro.
We perform all tests in a real-world environment. You may get better range and throughput results in a spacious facility with few internal walls or outdoors. Our tests provide a benchmark for estimating the range and throughput of wireless networking devices in an indoor setting, with some obstacles.
In the chart above, we have all four of our now tested AC3200 routers. The TP-LINK device is probably the strongest solution with 2.4GHz, while it does fall back only slightly when it comes to 5GHz and 802.11ac. Remember, all these solutions share the same platform.
Benchmarks - Wired and Wireless Throughput
LAN-to-LAN throughput puts the Archer near the top and on par with other AC3200 routers we have tested in the past.
WAN to LAN throughput reached a peak of 917.93 Mbps, which is one of the quicker solutions in our charts.
Benchmarks - Wireless Throughput
As you will see in the next two charts, the TP-LINK Archer C3200 sets itself apart with 40MHz throughput touching 234 Mbps, and 124 MBps on 20MHz.
5GHz performance was rather impressive at the top end 80MHz throughput touching 437 Mbps. For the 20MHz and 40MHz channel widths, the Archer produced 153 Mbps and 196 Mbps, respectively.
Benchmarks - External Storage Test & Final Thoughts
External Storage Testing
In our external storage performance test, we map the USB 3.0 storage port on each router as a network drive, then run ATTO Disk benchmark and record the best results over three runs.
External storage performance for the Archer C3200 was not the highest we have recorded, but was respectable at 40 MB/s read and 55 MB/s write.
Picking a router in the current market is like a kid in a candy store. There really are so many choices that it's probably one of the most difficult solutions for those wanting to upgrade or expand their network. For those that want the latest in technology, AC3200 solutions afford you the option of upgrading to 802.11ac, while maintaining a level of backwards compatibility for legacy devices using 5GHz 802.11n.
The TP-LINK Archer C3200, like all other AC3200 solutions, is a solid platform for a consumer network. Build quality is really top notch, but perhaps the biggest selling point of this router is its small form factor. I have seen nearly every AC3200 solution come through the lab here at TweakTown and the Archer is about three fourths the size of the Linksys EA9200 and half the size of the mammoth Nighthawk X6. With that said, it still does carry a bit of weight thank to all the components being packed in a tighter space.
Performance of the Archer C3200 was quite impressive as well. In my testing, we found this solution to offer top notch LAN and WAN throughput. The same can be said with the wireless throughput on the C3200, as the 2.4GHz band was close to being the best we have seen with the 20MHz band reaching 124 Mbps and the 40MHz band touching 234 Mbps.
5GHz performance was equally impressive as the device was able to produce 153 Mbps on the 20 MHz band, 18 Mbps more than the X6 and moving over to the 40MHz width 196 MBps. 802.11ac performance of the Archer was very nearly the quickest we have seen coming in at 437 Mbps, just below the 439 Mbps benchmark set by the Nighthawk X6 for AC3200 solutions.
As stated in the past, performance may not be everything for all consumers and as such, the WebGUI and ease of use comes into play for the TP-LINK C3200. We have seen many routers come through with solid management options and the same can be said for TP-LINK, the GUI is very easy to understand and navigate through basic mode, and for those needing a little more in terms of options, switching to advanced takes things to another level with more control. It's also priced fairly well, so with all considered, this is a router for you to add to your list of considerations.
|Quality including Design and Build||90%|
|Bundle and Packaging||90%|
|Value for Money||89%|
The Bottom Line: TP-LINK's Archer C3200 carries all the performance of the larger AC3200 solutions, yet comes packaged in a small form factor for those wanting an elegant solution for the home.
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