Most home or small business users never even think about upgrading the router that was supplied by their internet service provider. But by simply sticking with the default box you may well be missing out on the extra features and performance of a more sophisticated router.
The Archer D9 from TP-Link offers a smart design and decent performance but at a price that undercuts much of the competition. So, is this a good choice or a budget manufacturer trying to punch above its weight?
The first thing to note is that it’s quite large and it’s designed to stand upright. The stand is fixed so there’s no option to lay it down flat or mount it on a wall. The router itself stands around six-inches tall and you can almost double that when you’ve attached the three antennas to the top.
A row of LEDs along the top of the shiny, white front panel allow you to monitor its status, though there’s only one Ethernet light so you can’t check on individual ports. On the back you have three LAN ports and a LAN/WAN port, a power switch and buttons for WPS and for turning Wi-Fi on and off – a handy touch that many routers don’t offer.
There are also two USB ports, a 3.0 on the back and a 2.0 on the side, for attaching storage or other devices.
Plug it in and you can access a Quick Setup mode via the browser interface that will auto detect your ISP settings so all you have to provide is a username and password. There’s also a mini CD with an Easy Setup Assistant which is good for less experienced users who aren’t confident with the web interface.
That interface is not hard to navigate but it has a vast array of options and feels like it’s very much for techies. If you know what you’re doing you’ll have no problem forwarding ports or configuring VPNs and the like.
This is a dual-band router so it provides 2.4GHz and 5GHz connections and there’s support for a guest network on both. You get limited parental control via a MAC defined whitelist. It has a bandwidth control feature too that lets you limit the amount a particular port or IP address can use. The USB ports provide access to storage, media streaming and printer support – though you’ll need to download and install TP-Link’s own printer controller software.
Signal strength is more than adequate to cope with most domestic or small office situations. The 5GHz band offers good performance with fast data transfers (up to 1,300Mbps) and smooth streaming.
The lower speed 2.4GHz band comes into its own at longer ranges though allowing you to connect where the faster one struggles. Beamforming technology concentrates the signal towards connected devices to give more reliable operation.
At just over £120 currently on Amazon the Archer D9 has a lot to offer. It performs well, has plenty of features and it feels solidly built.
There are some minor niggles, like the lack of individual status LEDs for the Ethernet ports, but if you’re looking for a good value router with lots of configuration options it’s well worth considering.