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Router Comparison Spring 2016

Router Comparison Spring 2016

The chances are that you already have a router. Whether it be one that was provided by your Internet Service Provider, or maybe a stand alone model which plugs into your modem. It connects the various devices (wired and wireless) in your home or office to the internet and for the most part should sit there, invisible to you.

Our demands on routers are ever increasing though and while the average router will be functional for most people as we add devices to stream HD video, share audio, game and even just browse on our smartphones and tablets having a higher specification model can improve the experience. Take smartphones as an example, if your router is a few years old and your handset is less than two years old there is a good chance that you are not taking advantage of the improved speed and signal which the phones 5GHZ WiFi provides. Slowing down page loading, notifications and impacting smoothness of video streaming.

In this article we are going to take a look at a selection of high end routers and what they could offer to enhance your internet use.

Router Comparison – The Products

router-comparison-spring-2016372 (1)

Today’s first router is the Linksys WRT1900ACS, a brand new model released in October 2015. You may not have heard of Linksys but they are owned by the more familiar Belkin and have now sold over 100 million routers, an industry first. The WRT1900ACS goes with quite a retro styling, sharing design with their popular range from days gone by. Inside though the device is very much up to date with plenty of memory, a dual core processor all running a stylish operating system/user interface. Support for both common WiFi bands is present (2.4Ghz and 5GHz) and it will connect to the latest Wireless-AC devices as well as those from the past decade.

header-r7500-hero-photo-large header-r7500-back-photo-large

Up next is the Netgear R7500, or Nighthawk X4 as it is also known. The Nighthawk certainly has a stand out design in its own way, looking like some sort of sci-fi craft. It too uses a dual core CPU and supports the latest Wi-Fi technology (Wireless-AC and 2.4/5GHz). Netgear also go a little bit above and beyond many other manufacturers, such as offering two USB 3.0 ports along with eSATA which maximises our potential for attaching storage or devices such as shared printer.

Archer_C2600_un_V1_1012_large_0_20150614181008 Archer_C2600_un_V1_1012_large_5_20150614184346 Archer_C2600_un_V1_1012_large_1_20150614181731

TP-LINK are a company we have been watching for a while now (founded in 1996 and now operating in 120 countries). They may not be the first name that comes to mind in the average consumers thoughts about network equipment but we have no doubt that will change. Their devices are on sale everywhere from supermarkets who might have their average specification kit to Amazon who offer that and more recent higher end kit such as the C2600 we are using today. It matches the Netgear and Linksys models with its dual core CPU, four GB ports for connecting wired devices and all the latest wireless-AC support and 2.4/5GHz bands.

Router Comparison – Features

The first thing which is worth noting about the three routers we have been testing is that all offer quick and easy setup (known as WPS). We unbox, attach their antenna, turn them on and then search for the Wi-Fi using our PC/Tablet/phone… or whatever device we plan on using (SmartTV, Console, etc). Select the network which the router is transmitting and then hit the WPS button on the router to begin accessing the internet. Done. No passwords, no messing about (though the manual method is still available).

Here is a summary of the key specifications of each router:

  Linksys Netgear TP-LINK
Wireless a/b/g/n/ac Yes Yes Yes
2.4GHz support Yes Yes Yes
5GHz support Yes Yes Yes
Processor 1.6GHz Dual Core 1.4Ghz Dual Core (and Dual Core 730Mhz Packet Processing Engine) 1.4Ghz Dual Core
Memory 128MB Flash/ 512MB RAM 128MB Flash/ 256MB RAM 32MB Flash / 512MB RAM
GB LAN Ports 4 4 4
2.4GHz speed 600Mbps 600Mbps 800Mbps
5GHz speed 1300Mbps 1733Mbps 1733Mbps
USB 3.0 ports 1 2 2
USB 2.0 ports 1 0 0
eSATA ports 1 1 0
Guest Networks Yes Yes Yes
Parental Controls Yes Yes Yes

Router Comparison – Software

linksys-wrt-1900acs-review-software-1 linksys-wrt-1900acs-review-software-5

7500c 7500b

c2600d c2600e

Management of your new router very much varies from brand to brand as the screenshots above show. We’ve tested all of them extensively and it would be fair to say that while the appearance varies, the functionality is very similar. Our preference was for the Linksys. Well set out, intuitive and responsive. TP-LINK feels more minimalist on the surface but has plenty of features when delving into the advanced mode. Netgear offer good functionality but their interface doesn’t quite feel as modern and when accessing through a browser it can take time to move between screens. That said, they do offer a desktop client which is faster and firmware updates are easier than TP-Link. Automatic download and install for Netgear, manual for TP-LINK. (Linksys are automatic too).

Router Comparison – Apps

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apps (2) apps (1)

apps (5) apps (6)

So, on each of the routers we can configure our network (for example changing passwords, setting up access for guests so we don’t need to share our password, etc) using an internet browser… as a nice bonus all three also offer the ability to do the same on our phone/tablet. Styling is very similar to the main control panels we would access on our PC and each is very quick to install and open. All the key functionality is available and each offers compatibility with Android and iOS devices.

Router Comparison – Summary

As well as checking out the functionality and ease of use for the three routers above, we also checked performance on all of them. In terms of signal strength, the C2600 just edged things in our test which was passing the signal across 30ft and through 3 walls. It offered around 5dB stronger signal than the Netgear with the Linksys sandwiched between (Tested on 5Ghz using a Sony Xperia Z Series handset). That said, signal strength will vary depending on your environment and even with the small variation in signal strength and rated Mbps figures each was more than capable of providing full speed from the UK’s leading ISP packages for home users.

Overall, a very closely matched set of routers all of which are designed to offer strong signal strength and enough bandwidth for many devices, HD streams and gaming. Each will offer top notch performance and features with the TP-LINK rated for the fastest speeds, which may make it a touch more future proof. Linksys being the easiest to manage while offering some cool optional extras like high gain antennas which enhance signal strength and Netgear leading the way on balancing performance and connectivity/features.


Review Date
Reviewed Item
Wireless AC Routers
Author Rating

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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