TP-Link AC2600 Wireless Dual Band Router Archer C2600
The TP-Link AC2600 Wireless Dual Band Router Archer C2600 ($249.99) is the latest Wi-Fi router to offer Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) data streaming. As with theAmped Wireless Athena High Power AC2600 Wi-Fi Router RTA2600 and the Linksys EA8500 Max-Stream AC2600 MU-MIMO Smart Wi-Fi Router, the Archer C2600 uses Qualcomm’s VIVE 802.11ac technology to serve multiple devices simultaneously without sacrificing bandwidth. However, MU-MIMO only works with compatible client devices, of which there are precious few as of this writing. The C2600 offers a solid selection of settings in a user-friendly management interface and performed relatively well on our 5GHz close-proximity and MU-MIMO-throughput tests, but its 2.4GHz throughput and range performance are no match for our Editors’ Choice, D-Link’s DIR-890L/R).
Design and Features
The Archer C2600 is packed with the latest Wi-Fi technology, including a dual-core 1.4GHz processor, Qualcomm’s 802.11ac MU-EFX chipset, and two radio bands with maximum data rates of 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1,733Mbps on the 5GHz band. The sleek-looking cabinet has a two-tone gloss-black/matte-black finish with a thin band of silver trim around the outer edge. It measures 1.5 by 10.4 by 7.8 inches (HWD).
There are four adjustable and removable antennas at the rear of the router, along with four gigabit Ethernet ports, a WAN (Internet) port, a Power jack, and a Power switch. I like that the two USB 3.0 ports are mounted on the right side of the router where they are easy to reach. They are joined by a Wi-Fi On/Off button, a Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button, and a Reset button. A strip of silver trim at the top of the router holds LED indicators for Power, Internet, and both 2.4 and 5GHz bands.
The Web-based management console is easy to use and offers a wealth of basic and advanced settings. Basic settings allow you to choose an Internet connection type and create SSID names and passwords for each radio band and for guest networks. Here, you can also configure parental controls to restrict content based on keywords for any device, and set up folder and media sharing for attached USB devices.
In the Advanced setting menus, you can view network details on the Status page and configure DHCP, Dynamic DNS, and Advanced Routing settings on the Internet page. Advanced wireless settings include Security (WPA/WPA2, WEP, Enterprise), Wireless Mode, Channel Width, and Transmit Power settings. There’s also a Statistics page that displays connected wireless devices with their security type, MAC Address, and wireless ID.
Other Advanced menu items include Security settings that let you blacklist devices, enable SPI Firewall and Denial of Service (DoS) protection, and configure Quality of Service (QoS) settings. The NAT Forwarding menu allows you to set up virtual servers and configure port triggering, and the System Tools menu is where you go to upgrade firmware, perform router diagnostics, view system logs, and change system parameters such as Beacon Interval, MU-MIMO, and DoS Protection Levels.
Installation and Performance
Installing the C2600 is easy. I followed the Quick Setup Guide’s instructions and connected the router to my desktop, plugged in my Internet cable, and entered tplinkwifi.net in my browser’s address bar. The online Quick Setup procedure walked me through my Internet and Wireless settings and tested my connection. The entire process took around 4 minutes.
To test MU-MIMO performance I used three identical Acer Aspire E15 laptops equipped with Qualcomm Atheros QCA9377 wireless 802.11ac network adapters as my clients, an Intel-Core-i7-equipped desktop as my server, and the jperf throughput-measurement utility. With MU-MIMO enabled and the clients located in close proximity to the router (the same room), the C2600 measured an average throughput speed of 132Mbps. That’s a bit slower than the Amped Wireless Athena AC2600 (148.6Mbps) and a good deal slower than the Linksys EA8500 (209Mbps). With the clients located 30 feet from the C2600 the average throughput speed dropped to 60.9Mbps. The Linksys EA8500 delivered the fastest long-range MU-MIMO performance with an average speed of 90Mbps, and the Athena AC2600 trailed the pack with an average speed of 54Mbps.
With MU-MIMO disabled (SU-MIMO mode), the C2600 averaged 67.5Mbps on the close-proximity tests with three clients hitting the 5GHz band simultaneously. That came in well behind the Linksys EA8500 (113Mbps) and the Athena AC2600 (91.7Mbps). At a distance of 30 feet, the C2600 averaged 36.2Mbps, compared with the Linksys EA8500’s score of 82.3Mbps and the Athena AC2600’s score of 64.7Mbps.
On my standard single-user tests, the C2600 delivered an impressive 311Mbps on the 5GHz close-proximity test. That’s right in line with the EA8500 (313Mbps) and the Google OnHub (297Mbps), but a far cry from our leader, the AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Router (DIR-890L/R), which delivered a blistering 558Mbps. At 30 feet, the C2600’s throughput dropped to 79.2Mbps, which is better than the Google OnHub (38.6Mbps), but significantly slower than the Linksys EA8500 (140Mbps) and the D-Link AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Router (DIR-890L/R) (310Mbps).
The Archer C2600 delivered mixed results on my 2.4GHz throughput tests. Its score of 52.9Mbps on the close-proximity test trails the Athena AC2600 (76Mbps) and is a good deal slower than the Google OnHub (193Mbps) and the D-Link DIR-890L/R (92.7Mbps), but it beats the Linksys EA8500 (54.4Mbps). At 30 feet, its score of 46.5Mbps beat the Athena AC2600 (29.5Mbps) and the Linksys EA8500 (43Mbps), but couldn’t keep pace with the D-Link DIR-890L/R (82Mbps).
I used a 1.5GB folder containing a mix of music, photo, video, and document files to test file-transfer performance between a connected USB drive and the desktop system. The Archer C2600 turned in a read speed of 34.9MBps and a write speed of 30.7MBps, both of which are merely average compared with the Linksys EA8500’s speeds of 57.3MBps (read) and 66MBps (write).
Armed with Qualcomm’s MU-MIMO technology, the TP-Link AC2600 Wireless Dual Band Router Archer C2600 is a good choice for households where multiple devices, such as laptops, smartphones, and smart HDTVs, are vying for wireless bandwidth. It delivers respectable 5GHz throughput speeds and sports a sleek design and a generous array of management options, but we expect better 2.4GHz throughput speeds and range performance from a router in this price range. If your Wi-Fi devices are not MU-MIMO-compliant and you don’t plan on upgrading them anytime soon, consider our Editors’ Choice for high-end routers, the D-Link AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Router (DIR-890L/R). Its list price is around $60 more than the Archer C2600, and it’s not a MU-MIMO router, but it is the fastest router we’ve tested.