I have been testing the TP-LINK Archer C5400 at home, thanks to TP-Link Singapore for sending the review unit. It would have been a good comparison to the D-LINK DIR-895L which I had just reviewed last month. Both routers are top-of-the-line tri-band routers that are capable of delivering over 5300 Mbps, 1000Mbps from the 2.4GHz N-band and 2x 2165Mbps from the 2x 5GHz AC-bands.
Design-wise, the TP-LINK Archer C5400 sports a square-shaped router with 8 antennas that fold neatly into the grooves. The antennas are not removable and they can push at most at the vertical position. The D-LINK model has a more contemporary and bold outlook with larger antennas that can turn in any orientation. Personally, I would prefer the C5400 for its smaller footprint.
There are no surprises in the ports and connectivity, sporting 4 Ethernet-out ports, 1x USB 2.0 for printers and other peripherals, 1x USB 3.0 for HDD to run as network access storage.
Replacing Current Router: Step by Step
Installation-wise, TP-LINK is just as easy. Usually, one would need to plug a direct cable from the router to the computer and login to the control panel to set up the router SSID and password. Alternatively, I use the TP-LINK Tether smartphone app, but rather than swapping my current router to the new one immediately, I want to configure the new router with identical network names and passwords as the current one so that there is no disruption to all the wireless devices.
First, I plug the Archer C5400 to a power socket anywhere in the house and turn it on. Next, I use the smartphone to manually connect to the router via Wi-Fi by entering the default password printed underneath the router. Once I am connected, I then run the TP-LINK Tether smartphone app, modified the Wi-Fi network names and passwords of all 3 bands to be identical to my current. Once that is successful, I can then safely disconnect my old router, connect the cables to the new router, and turn on.
Smartphone App and Configuration Setting
The TP-LINK Tether app has a clean modern UI using large icons, thin fonts, spacious layout that looks friendly and easy to navigate. Its functions are limited to setting wireless network, blocking devices, parental controls, LED timings, rebooting or resetting the router. All advanced settings have to be done from the browser.
Logging in the router through the web browser, the UI is similarly clean and the navigation is amazingly fast and responsive. With every click of the menu, the options appear instantly. Icons and colour highlights are used to simplify the experience.
One thing that may daunt consumers is the sheer number of features that are placed in multiple menu sections, making it hard for basic users to find them. It would be great if there is a quick search option to allow users to enter the function they want to access.
TP-LINK Archer C5400 also supports Smart Connect but is disabled by default. As mentioned in my review on the DIR-895L, Smart Connect will intelligently select one of the 3 bands to connect your device based on the traffic content type. But personally I would prefer to manage that myself.
The current firmware that is installed in the router is 1.0.0 Build 20160727 Rel. 53254. Like all other router reviews, I do not run technical tests, hence my opinions are based entirely on day-to-day experience of using the routers at home. Occasionally, I would run speed tests, which by now everyone knows should not be taken in its entirety.
In most other routers, when I connect using the 5 GHz AC-band, I would expect to see the connected speed to be above 100Mbps. What I noticed with the Archer 5400 is that most of the time, the connected speed reflected on the Wi-Fi status is around 86Mbps or 93Mbps. In such cases, my speed tests reflect the bandwidth of below 100Mbps, even when I am standing next to the router.
On better times when the router manages to connect at higher bandwidth, the speed test will reach up to 180Mbps. Like the D-Link, the Archer C5400 does not perform exceptionally well in the coverage of my apartment. On the whole, I did not experience any bandwidth issues with all the 8 devices that are connected to the router, which is essentially the reason for getting such top-performance router.
TP-LINK has this feature to turn off the blue LED that indicates the operation against each icon at the front of the router. You can also set a timer to turn off and on at certain times, for instance, at night. But I find that even if I leave it on, the LEDs are small and quite dim so they do not bother me.
While the C5400 can plug a storage device, TP-LINK does not have any app to allow ease of accessing the files. It requires the clients to support the standard network access protocols. For instance, Windows should detect the storage device on the router as a network drive, or you can FTP into the network drive over the Internet.
The TP-LINK Archer C5400 has the hardware specs to deliver the full 5400 Mbps bandwidth. Despite my devices not connecting at higher bandwidth, I experience good wireless coverage across all devices. I would prefer the Archer C5400 for the square router design and the smartphone UI, while I find the D-Link DIR-895L does better with speed tests and is easier to access the USB storage via the D-Link SharePort Mobile app.
The C5400 retails at S$399, or with bundle TP-LINK T9UH AC1900 high-gain wireless dual band USB adapter at S$429.
Archer C5400: Key Features in Summary
- Supports the 802.11ac standard, the latest generation of Wi-Fi, providing combined tri-band wireless speeds of up to 5400Mbps (1000Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 2167Mbps on both of the 5GHZ bands)
- NitroQAM Technology boosts speeds by up to 25% on each band
- Beamforming Technology enhances wireless range and stability
- MU-MIMO serves multiple devices simultaneously for up to 3X faster performance
- Smart Connect function automatically assigns devices to the best available band
- 1.4GHz dual core CPU with three co-processors supports complex tasks and applications
- Eight external antennas maximize coverage and boost wireless performance
- Four gigabit Ethernet ports provide fast, stable connections
- Intuitive Tether app and powerful web UI support easy setup and management