TP-Link has become a staple in the global networking market, providing a range of affordable kit that works well. Its range of products has expanded from budget offerings to the high-end including the Talon AD7200 router offering speeds at a theoretical 7200 Mbps.

Today we are looking at another high-end device, the Archer C3150. This uses one of the fastest AC chipsets to bring you a theoretical throughput of 1000 Mbps at 2.4 GHz and 2165 Mbps on the 5 GHz band. This is classed as AC3150 by TP-Link and uses the same 1024-QAM Broadcom technology as we’ve seen in ASUS’s AC3100 routers (read our review). You might be tricked into thinking that AC3150 is almost the same as AC3200, but there is a fundamental difference. AC3200 routers use a tri-band setup (one 2.4 GHz and two 5 GHz bands) to achieve the advertised (combined) speed. Theoretically, this dual-band, AC3150-class router should be able to provide faster speeds on the 5 GHz band by using newer AC technology, but only if you use compatible hardware, supporting that 1024-QAM Broadcom chipset.

The Archer C3150 retails at £169.99/$199.99, which makes it a good deal cheaper than ASUS’s competing RT-AC3100 or RT-AC88U. So is this a good buy for the money?

Specifications

As mentioned, the TP-Link Archer C3150 supports Broadcom’s NitroQAM technology that enables 4-Stream AC3150 speeds. This is also combined with MU-MIMO to provide higher overall throughput when connecting to multiple compatible devices. At the heart of the C3150 is a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor.

There are the standard four Gigabit Ethernet ports and one Gigabit WAN port, as well as a USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 port that can be used for storage, a 3G/4G dongle or to connect a printer. On the software side the router not only supports the usual array of QoS and parental controls, but also offers a handy VPN server.

What’s in the Box?

TP-Link markets their current range in glossy product boxes designed for the store shelf. The features are well advertised and the box provides adequate protection. Once inside, you find the main router sitting on a second layer that contains the four detachable antennas, power supply, Ethernet cable and getting started guide.

The Archer C3150 is styled as per the current Archer range, which hasn’t really changed much since we reviewed the Archer VR600 (read the review). The main differences are the additional antenna and a refined ventilation design. Overall, the design is very smart but it still feels a little lightweight and the glossy plastics scratch oh so easily.

Along the top edge, there’s a recessed strip that houses the indicator LEDs. This looks really good when powered on but can be switched off if you want to keep things discrete.

The majority of the connectors are found on the rear of the Archer C3150. Here you find the four antenna connectors, Gigabit WAN and Ethernet connections, power socket and power switch.

On the left side, you’ll find buttons for WiFi, reset, WPS as well as the two USB ports.

The build quality is okay, but it doesn’t feel like the most robust of devices. The antennas are secure enough but are easily toppled out of position. If you’re going to set it and leave it on the sideboard then it’ll be fine, but if there are little kids’ hands around then those fingerprints are going to show up quickly.

Getting Up and Running

Setup is simple and similar to most of the current crop of routers. You plug in all your connections, power up and connect to the router’s Wi-Fi network, before being guided through an installation wizard. When connected to the router, you simply enter the address http://tplinkwifi.net (or 192.168.0.1) into a browser and the router automatically resolves it to its own IP address. You are then presented with the Quick Set-Up screen.

The setup wizard walks you through your time zone, internet settings and WiFi settings. This is all completed within a couple of minutes and you are ready to go.

Using the Archer C3150

TP-Link has refined their router software, now featuring a standard design across their routers. When you log in to the router, you are presented with a well-designed home page featuring a ‘network map’ that shows you which devices are connected to the router via each band, whether there is a printer or USB storage connected and so on.

Navigating through the Archer’s menus is easy. For example, setting the Parental Controls just requires you to switch to the appropriate tab and add the restrictions you require.

Switch to Advanced settings and you’ll be faced with a wider range of options to control including Wireless Schedule, VPN Settings, Firewall and System settings.

There’s also the TP-Link Tether app that’s available for Apple and Android smartphones. This allows you to perform basic maintenance features such as change your network settings, set up parental controls or monitor network access.

Overall the feature set is good with some advanced features that stand out amongst the competition. The VPN is particularly attractive for serious network enthusiasts. Reliability, too, has been excellent.

Performance

We test network throughput using iPerf3 networking Test. This involves us connecting a “server” PC to the router with a wired Gigabit Ethernet connection and then connecting a second “client” PC to the router. First we connect the client with an Ethernet cable, then a 5 GHz wireless connection and finally a 2.4 GHz wireless connection. The Archer C3150 has performed admirably during day-to-day usage. In a household with an above average number of connected devices (as I count now, there are 30+ wireless devices, and 18 wired), the combination of beamforming, MU-MIMO and multiple frequency bands has meant that Internet/network access is always fast, on every device.
A wired speed test on the local network yielded an average result of 886 Mbps, which is great for a residential router and will work perfectly for all but the most demanding of users.

So how does the latest generation of TP Link Archer perform when it comes to Wireless throughput? Starting with the 2.4 GHz band we can see the performance clocks in at 129 Mbps, which is considerably worse than the other router we’ve tested in this class. This certainly isn’t a disastrous result, especially when you consider that the ASUS RT-AC88U is one of the fastest 2.4 GHz performers around.

Things move up a notch when it comes to the 5 GHz performance. Here the TP Link Archer C3150 performs much more admirably clocking in at 475.1 Mbps almost matching the ASUS RE-AC88U. While this is still a long way off the theoretical speeds, it is a great performance and will only be improved when you update your client devices to support MU-MIMO and AC3150.

Summary

The TP Link Archer C3150 offers cutting edge technology at a great price. The setup is nice and easy and day-to-day use is helped by the clean and modern interface. If you need AC3150 then this is a great way to get the wireless technology, but remember that you’ll need a compatible Broadcom 1024 QAM device which currently limits you to AC3100/AC3150 routers in bridge mode. Most users won’t see the benefits and will see just as good performance from an AC2600 device. Other downsides of this router are the lightweight build with it’s easily marked casing, the standard four Gigabit Ethernet ports, and the uninspiring 2.4 GHz wireless performance.

Even when you account for these downsides you can still find the Archer C3150 for less money than a lot of AC2600 devices. That’s a lot of technology for your cash, even if it’s just future-proofing for now.