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Router Charts

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Mesh Charts

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Wireless Performance - 5 GHz

The 5 GHz performance table below once again shows the DIR-827 the strongest of the three running downlink in both 20 and 40 MHz bandwidth modes. Top uplink honors, also once again, go to the TP-LINK, but with a catch.

5 GHz throughput comparison

5 GHz throughput comparison

If you look carefully at the table, you'll see that there are no Location D results for either up or downlink in 20 MHz mode. But, curiously, there are results for 40 MHz mode. I say "curiously" because I usually find poorer range performance using 40 MHz mode vs. 20 MHz mode.

Fortunately, a new feature in IxChariot lets us explore this. IxChariot now reports RSSI for uplink tests. A comparison plot of Location A and C average RSSI values for 20 and 40 MHz bandwidth modes shows higher (less negative) RSSI readings for 40 MHz. (-46 vs. -48 dBm in Location A and -60 vs. -67 dBm in Location C.)

Put a different way, the test client appeared to be receiving a stronger signal when operating in 40 MHz mode vs. 20 MHz mode. I don't know why this would be, but the difference was apparently enough to allow a stable Location D connection in 40 MHz bandwidth mode, but not 20 MHz.

5 GHz RSSI comparison

5 GHz RSSI comparison

Highest 5 GHz unidirectional throughput for the 3500 was 89 Mbps in Location A, uplink in 40 MHz bandwidth mode. Running simultaneous up and downlink tests yielded 110 Mbps in 40 MHz bandwidth mode.

Throughput stability is once again not that great, as shown by the frequent throughput dropouts in the 20 MHz IxChariot plot below.

TP-LINK TL-WDR3500 IxChariot plot - 5 GHz, 20 MHz, downlink

TP-LINK TL-WDR3500 IxChariot plot - 5 GHz, 20 MHz, downlink

The droputs seem to lessen in the 40 MHz plots linked below.

Closing Thoughts

I have to give TP-LINK credit for pushing the envelope for simultaneous N600 routers. The TL-WDR3500 packs a lot of features, including storage sharing, up and downlink bandwidth control and simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi for a mere $50. Unfortunately, its wireless performance is too uneven for me to give it an unqualified thumbs-up.

But on the other hand, if you want USB storage and printer sharing along with your simultaneous dual-bands, there aren't any other contenders out there, even considering older and factory refurbed products. The cheapest you can get away for with a Cisco-Linksys refurb is a E3200-RM, which currently will cost you $65 but includes Gigabit Ethernet ports.

However if you are willing to forego the USB port, both the EA2700-RM and E2500-RM come in cheaper than the 3500 ($40 and $35, respectively) and the EA2700 will also upgrade you to Gigabit ports.

Of course, there is always the D-Link DIR-827, which came out pretty well in our comparison. But at $118, it's priced waaay above what you need to pay these days to get a decent simultaneous N600 router.

All things considered, if your budget is tight, router feature wishlist is long and you don't need the speediest or widest-coverage Wi-Fi or Gigabit ports, you might pick up a TL-WDR3500 and see if it works for you.

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