FOX 11, Los Angeles - For some time, one of the most lauded home routers among many online reviewers has been the TP-Link Archer C7. A quick trip around the interwebz would show you that the router scores high marks for it's coverage and speed. Recently I was offered the chance to give the similar Archer A7 a spin and it did not disappoint. But is it as solid a performer as the C7? Read on to find out.
Removing the A7 from the box, what you'll find is fairly pedestrian. No "extreme" design. It doesn't look like something from Skynet meant to hunt humans. But that's all a part of the package. The Archer A7 is a traditional dual-band AC1750 router that will be suitable for most people, at a price point that most people can afford.
One the front face of the router you'll find LEDs galore. Brightly lit status indicators which let you know at-a-glance about everything from wired connection status to throughput to USB connection status. Don't worry though, if your router is anywhere near where you sleep, you can turn these LEDs off. On the outside of the router you'll also get three screw in antennas. Around the back, the router is equipped with 4 gigabit LAN ports, your traditional WPS/Wi-Fi easy connect button, your Gigabit WAN port to connect with your modem, a USB 2.0 port, reset button and power on/off button.
Getting the router all configured is simple! Mesh network routers have taken a lot of the guesswork out of that process, thanks for their mobile apps which do much of the work for you and have simplified interfaces and options. TP-Link's A7 follows suit providing their Tether app which made setup a breeze. The app does a lot of things for you, including providing some very basic parental controls. With these parental controls you can blacklist or whitelist websites and control the amount of time your children spend connected to the interwebz. Not the most robust set of tools, considering some of the competition offers much more granular control of devices connected to their routers, but still the controls are there.
And that's it. It's fairly pedestrian but that's the point here. This is a no frills router that will serve its purpose for most people who live in apartments or small homes. In my particular case, I've had close to twenty items connected to the A7 simultaneously without a hitch. This includes both of my sons' Xboxes while I'm streaming Netflix, in addition to a couple Echoes and Google Home devices and IoT hubs and products. One evening, both of my sons were playing Smite or Fortnite (a highly popular MMORPG) while my wife and I were streaming Luke Cage Season 2 in the bedroom, which is one of the furthest points from the router. No hiccups, no lag on any of the streams.
Speedtesting the router, the 5GHz band was a champ! At the farthest reaches of my apartment, I've had some issues with routers, even one of the mesh network routers with just one of the expansion units active in the middle of the apartment had a hard time sending a solid enough signal to consistently stream Instagram and Facebook videos to that location, but not this single router's 5GHz band. The performance of the 2.4GHz band on the other hand was nothing to write home about. I think it'll be fine in homes where you're going to primarily connect things like an Echo or other items, while you connect your most used, most bandwidth hungry items to the 5GHz band. If you're using a home server for streaming movies, music and photos, your wireless LAN speeds are going to look something like this. I connected a LaCie rugged drive to the USB 2.0 port on the A7. I used a folder of photos I took and transferred those across the network to test the speed of the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. These were the results:
208.5 MB file took approximately one minute to write to the drive from my Macbook Pro.
Writing the same file (renamed) back to my MBP took approximately a minute and a half.
Over this band, it took 40 seconds to write the folder from my MBP to the drive.
Writing from the drive to my desktop took just 29 seconds.
Those aren't terrible speeds and will be more than sufficient for the crowd who'll be buying this router. I'd love to have USB 3.0 included here, but again, this one is all about practicality minus the "extras." I say that because folks who have massive libraries of digital files are probably already looking elsewhere, at higher price points, with very particular expectations.
The Archer A7 is a fine router. It will work well for most households and I was quite satisfied with the performance of the router on the 5GHz band. It's ability to carry several high quality, lag-free streams on that band was impressive. Just know that if you're running a serious Plex server or other NAS, you're going to have to settle for USB 2.0 connectivity. And there's only one. You do have other Gigabit ports on the router if you want to connect to your NAS via ethernet, which will obviously get you much faster LAN speeds.
For most users, I can definitely recommend TP-Link's A7 Archer, which is currently going for just $70 on Amazon. Considering the fact that mesh network routers are starting around $300, the A7 is definitely priced right for the performance and great range of the 5Ghz band.
Disclosure: TP-Link sent me a demo unit for the purpose of this review.