TP-Link Archer C3150 Wireless MU-MIMO Gigabit Router

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Introduction:

Today we' have a new router from TP-Link on our bench and to be honest, this is my first time I've had a chance to spend some quality time with a TP-Link product. While TP-Link may not conjure up visions of excellent performance and quality, they probably should. Most consumers are introduced to TP-Link as a low-cost alternative to something better. Those days are long gone and TP-Link has really stepped up their game in the past few years. This product we are looking at today comes at well under $200 USD - ($169.99 currently) and offers a lot of performance, features and options that other routers simply do not. In addition to these offerings, it's affordable and is currenlty the fastest router we've used - ever. If that hasn't got you interested in just what this router can offer, please keep reading as we'll take a quick look and then dive into this router.

The Archer C3150 is a MU-MIMO router that supports multiple-input/multiple-output for multiple users. This MU-MIMO standard has not been finalized, but the Archer C3150 seems fully equipped and ready to handle a lot of wireless data at once - in addition to wired data. In theory, this router can handle a total of 3150Mbps over the wireless bands - all at once, but a single user probably won't experience that level of performance. Let's take a closer look.

Box

 

First Look:

The Archer C3150 from TP-Link has a nice sleek overall style and comes equipped with fout antennae for your extended coverage and use. This is a dual-band unit - using a single 2.4GHz band in addition to the 5GHz band. Internally, the C3150 houses a 1.4GHz dual-core processor that should be able to handle QoS, lots of wireless and wired connections as well as File and Print Sharing through the two USB ports. We hope to really push this router to the limits down the road and will see if it can be the backbone to a large gaming event. In the meantime, it will be used at BCCHQ South and we've still pushed it pretty hard.

Bundle

 

In the bundle above, you can see all four antennae, a power brick, cord, Ethernet cord, support brochure, quick install guide and more. It is pretty standard, but more than adequate for a router. There isn't much more that you would expect to find in any router box - let alone one that claims serious performance with a less-than-serious pricetag.

Router Front Profile Router Rear Profile

 

With the router unboxed and antennae hooked up, there isn't much more to explain as we continue. The front is not exciting, but there is one feature that is pretty nifty. If you press and hold a button hidded under the grey trim by the main power LED, you can shut all the LEDs off. If you don't like blinking lights, this is a nice touch. In fact, the finish and appearance of the entire unit is pleasing. The back shows the four Ethernet ports for LAN connections (yellow) as well as the single WAN port (blue). Also on the back of the router is a power button to toggle the power on and off.

The side of the router holds a few more interesting bits - including a USB 2.0 port and a USB 3.0 port. It's interesting that the USB 3.0 port and the 2.4GHz radio share the same co-processor and according to the software, if you maximize performance of the USB 3.0 port, the 2.4GHz wireless performance will suffer. The opposite is also true. If you crank up the performance of the 2.4GHz band, the USB 3.0 port will lose some performance potential.

Side Profile

 

Also on this side is a WiFi button to toggle WiFi on and off as well as the WPS button and a recessed reset button. I like the addition of WiFi and power buttons as it is much easier to turn things off physically with a switch, rather than unplugging or disabling WiFi through software. It's a more classy solution that makes this much more convenient for consumers.

On the next page we'll cover the features and specifications of the TP-Link Archer C3150 before we carry on through setup and performance testing.


Features:

  • Boost Your Wi-Fi — The Archer C3150 runs at combined speeds of up to 3150Mbps across its 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands
  • Larger Data Streams — Broadcom® NitroQAM™(1024-QAM) technology with 4-Stream lets the Archer C3150 transmit 25% more data
  • Multiple Reliable Connections — MU-MIMO(Multi-User MIMO) technology allows the router to run several devices at the same time to achieve speeds up to 4X faster than standard AC routers
  • Smoother Performance — Smart Connect technology assigns each of your devices to the best available Wi-Fi band
  • Powerful Processing — A 1.4GHz dual-core processor ensures simultaneous browsing, streaming, and gaming without delay

 

Making Incredible Speed a Reality
With combined speeds of up to 3150Mbps, the Archer C3150 easily handles demanding activities at the same time. The router uses the latest innovations in Wi-Fi technology to create a faster, stronger, more reliable wireless network for your home. With the Archer C3150, lag, dropped connections, and dead zones will become a thing of the past. - 3167Mbps

NitroQAM and 4-Stream for Maximum Wi-Fi Speed
The Archer C3150 boasts a powerful combination of advanced Broadcom® NitroQAM™ technology and 4-Stream technology, which boosts wireless speeds up by 25%. This provides the speed and elite performance that you need to support your most demanding online applications, including simultaneous 4K streaming and online gaming.

More Connections and More Speed for Everyone
The Archer C3150 does more than just create faster Wi-Fi, it helps your devices achieve optimal performance by making communication more efficient. With MU-MIMO technology, the Archer C3150 can provide four simultaneous data streams, allowing all connected devices to achieve speeds up to 4X faster than standard AC routers. Moreover, dynamic Smart Connect technology automatically selects the best available band for each device.

Extraordinary Home Entertainment
Archer C3150 can support many devices when you invite friends to your large house to entertain. It can maintain multiple simultaneous HD streaming, online gaming and other content consumption without lag. The Archer C3150 can provide a maximized coverage and enable your devices to stay covered, near or far as it. Don’t let your mobile lifestyle stop the streaming and enjoy your home party.

The Power at the Heart of Your Router
Unlike normal routers, which usually have single core processors, the Archer C3150 features a powerful 1.4GHz dual core processor.
This unlocks the full potential of MU-MIMO and 4-Stream technologies, helping your dual band router maximize its performance potential.

Coverage for Your Entire Home
Four high-performance dual band antennas and high-powered amplifiers help create a strong, far-reaching network for your home. Beamforming technology focuses the Wi-Fi transmission in the direction of your connected devices, concentrating the signal where you need it the most. This allows you to enjoy fast, stable Wi-Fi in every part of your home, as well as on the patio, by the pool, and even in the yard.

A Router You Can Show Off
An elegant, minimalist design allows the Archer C3150 to be integrated seamlessly into the decor of any room. The LED indicators can be switched off to prevent distraction at night when placed in bedrooms or common spaces.

Plug Into Sharing, Plug Into Stability
You can quickly and easily share photos, music, and other files with family and friends. Just connect an external hard drive to the Archer C3150’s USB 3.0 port or USB 2.0 port and immediately start enjoying lightning-fast transfers. To help your wired devices reach peak performance for smooth gaming and streaming, you can also create fast, stable wired connections using the four Gigabit Ethernet ports, which transfer data at speeds up to 10x higher than standard Ethernet ports.

Easy Setup and Use
Whether you prefer the powerful Tether App or the intuitive web interface, you can set up your Archer C3150 in minutes. The Tether App allows you to manage network settings, including parental controls and media sharing preferences, from any Android or iOS device.

 

 

Specifications:

Specs

 

On the following page, we'll take a quick look at the router web interface, set it up and then jump into testing.


Web Interface & Setup:

The interface of the TP-Link Archer C3150 is very nice and is refreshing. Over the years, I've looked at some interfaces that were so graphical heavy that they ran slow on the router and greatly and negatively affected performance. On the flip side, there have been a few router setups that were so text heavy that it took you extra long to read everything and the input fields weren't even lined up to look nice.

TP-Link has pretty much married the best of both. There are some light graphics and a good balance of text, but the overall finish of the GUI is quite good. The performance of the router during setup is great. The pages load fast and many settings are applied almost instantly, a few take a few seconds to apply but there are a few major settings changes that require a reboot. The router boots quickly though and you won't be waiting for too long to get things back working again. 

There are some really great bandwidth management options on the C3150 that look to offer an extra level of configuration and tweaking for people that manage extended networks.  Please check out the video below as we try to quickly do a router interface run-through to help you get a better feel at what you're getting with the Archer C3150.

Please watch full-screen at 1080p for the best viewing experience.

 

 

Testing:

As far as performance goes, we fired up iperf to do a little benchmarking on this router. Iperf results show bandwidth that the network is capable of without the limit of hard drive read and write speeds. In the real world, you don't often see wired transfer speeds reaching 1000mbps due to mechanical drive write speed limits. Also, CPU overhead and other network congestion and such can limit speeds. We use iperf with confidence as it shows how good the network hardware actuall is and if it can perform anywhere close to rated specs. We will be testing both wired and wireless performance.

Gigabit Wired Performance

For reference we compared this router to Trendnet’s TEW-672GR, TEW-691GR, TEW-812DRU routers as well as D-Link's DGL-4500 and DGL-655 units. Also compared are the Linksys' WRT610N, E4200, EA6500, WRT1900AC, E8350 and EA7500 routers as well as one unit from Rosewill – the T600N. Many of the wireless adapters have changed over the years but we have always been using the current equivalents throughout these tests to keep everything as close to realistic as possible. As you can see, the results of the C3150 from TP-Link are listed at the top of the chart and the performance is very good. It is just 3 Mbps shy of the top router we ever reviewed and that difference could be as simple as a cable, connection or a number of things. Either way, it performs right at the top of the chart - with many other routers.

On the next page we'll continue on with testing and cover wireless performance.


Testing (Continued):

In the wireless testing we compared the C3150 against the same batch of routers using 5GHz networks at the best speed if possible. For some of the older routers, they are limited to 2.4GHz and we'll remove them in a future review, but for now it helps you appreciate the speed of these new machines. 

When connected to a solid 5GHz client, the router performed like a champ. I was able to consistently run over 420Mbps over a wireless connection to my aging Thinkpad T540p.  The reality is that it beat out the closest competitor - the E8350 from Linksys by over 42Mbps. This is a nice boost and one that you get with fantastic router that is priced for the mainstream market.

Wireless Performance

 

Final Thoughts:

Not only is the TP-Link Archer C3150 an affordable 802.11ac router; boasting features like MU-MIMO and over 3100Mbps of wireless performance, it is the fastest router we've looked at - for any price. This is not a coincidence or something to overlook either. If you need a high-end router, you don't have to pick other brands that cost more. The TP-Link C3150 is solid and it performs like an absolute champ. Wired speeds are approaching full 1Gbps saturation and wireless performance is better than anything we've had the pleasure to test before.

With all that performance at an affordable price, you might be expecting something to be seriously wrong somewhere else. We were too, but were unable to find it at this point. The interface is clean and responsive. The configuration is simple and powerful. The extra features like full bandwidth control per IP range or series of ports is something I've never seen in a router at this price point. If you want those features, you either have to run third-party software on the router, or spend a lot more.

The thing is that TP-Link even lets you know there is 3rd Party firmware available and say that you can use it - but they won't support the software. They appear to still support the hardware though, and that's awesome.

Not only is the TP-Link Archer C3150 an affordable 802.11ac router; boasting features like MU-MIMO and over 3100Mbps of wireless performance, it is the fastest router we've look at - for any price. This is not a coincidence or something to overlook either. If you need a high-end router, you don't have to pick other brands that cost more. The TP-Link C3150 is solid and it performs like an absolute champ. Wired speeds are approaching full 1Gbps saturation and wireless performance is better than anything we've had the pleasure to test before.

With all that performance at an affordable price, you might be expecting something to be seriously wrong somewhere else. We were too, but were unable to find it at this point. The interface is clean and responsive. The configuration is simple and powerful. The extra features like full bandwidth control per IP range or series of ports is something I've never seen in a router at this price point. If you want those features, you either have to run third-party software on the router, or spend a lot more.

The thing is that TP-Link even lets you know there is 3rd Party firmware available and say that you can use it - but they won't support the software. They appear to still support the hardware though, and that's awesome.

Parental controls, access control, DHCP reservations, MAC filtering, virtual servers, port triggering and more - are exactly where they should be. While configuring my first TP-Link router, I expected to get lost or have to hunt to find the appropriate settings page, but the interface is so well thought out that setup and administering the router was a breeze. It is simply a fantastic product.

Pros:

  • Great wireless performance (best we've testing on client devices)
  • Dual-band configuration with robust guest access
  • MU-MIMO works well
  • Full file server/FTP/Print options integrated
  • Real bandwidth control - not just machine priority

 

Cons:

  • I wish I knew it was this good sooner. It would have saved me money.

 

 

I'd like to thank TP-Link for sending this router our way for a review. If you have any questions, comments or general feedback, please feel free to post it in the forum right here.