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TP-Link Archer VR2800 Review

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Fast Wi-Fi for any type of broadband

We’ve come to expect TP-Link’s Archer routers to offer decent performance and features in an easy-to-use package. The VR2800 is no exception. Its shiny black case looks familiar, but a grille at the back hints at more power inside. For a bit more money than the average router, you’re getting a high specification that should make the most of very fast broadband connections.

A router to make the most of very fast broadband

An ADSL2+/VDSL modem is built in, so you can connect this box to any telephone-line-based internet service or fibre broadband, and one of the four Ethernet ports also serves as a WAN connection if you have cable internet, such as Virgin Media, that requires its own modem. The VR2800 also supports Sky routers, but Sky makes it difficult to use an alternative router by hiding the required username and password. Finding them is fiddly -see the instructions at www.snipca.com/24960.

The two USB 3.0 ports can be used to connect a printer or storage drive to share over your network or to plug in a 3G or 4G dongle from a mobile phone network provider, letting you go online if your broadband connection goes down. Setup is through a web browser, or you can use TP-Link’s Tether app on an Apple or Android phone or tablet Plenty of features are provided, including parental controls, guest networks and other essentials.

In our Wi-Fi tests, with our laptop close to the router, we hit download speeds of 109MB/S (megabytes per second) – which isn’t far off the theoretical limit of Gigabit Ethernet, so no complaints there. Moving to the other end of the house, this dropped to just under 11 MB/s, which is slower than the fastest wireless routers we’ve seen, but still good.

You’d need a mesh router setup such as BT’s Whole Home Wi-Fi to do significantly better.

Since Whole Home Wi-Fi is selling for almost the same price, for a set of three dishes to distribute the network around your home, it’s strong competition. But BT’s system is designed for simplicity; it’s not as configurable. Each dish only has one Ethernet port for wired devices, and there’s no USB sharing. Other mesh systems are a bit pricier, so single routers like the VR2800 aren’t obsolete just yet.

SPECIFICATIONS

Dual-band 802.11ac/a/b/g/n with MU-MIMO . ADSL2+/VDSL2 modem • 4x detachable antennas • 3x Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports • Gigabit Ethernet LAN/WAN port • 2x USB 3.0 ports . 37x264x198mm (HxWxD) • Three-year warranty

VERDICT:

There’s still value in having a high-performance single router, and the VR2800 is the best value around at the moment

ALTERNATIVE:

Netgear Nighthawk X10

This is even faster and supports quick networked storage, but if s twice the price with no built-in modem

GIVE US A WAVE

Wireless routers come with all sorts of software features for special purposes and specific preferences, but most of us probably just want to connect reliably at the highest possible speeds. In that case it’s the wireless hardware in the box that matters, and the VR2800 has the very latest.

For example, it has MU-MIMO (multi-user multi-input multi-output), which takes advantage of more powerful processors to make each connected device feel like it’s using its own network, not taking turns with all the others on a single network. It only helps when several devices are connected and they each support MU-MIMO, which means newer products, but as it becomes more common it’ll make a big difference to how fast Wi-Fi feels.

The VR2800 also supports 802.11ac Wave 2, another box of tricks that increases the available bandwidth and bumps up speeds while using more 5GHz channels to dodge interference. It all adds up to better reception, smoother video streaming around the house and fewer slow-downs.

10 Total Score
TP-Link Archer VR2800 Review

There's still value in having a high-performance single router, and the VR2800 is the best value around at the moment

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