TP-LINK Archer C5
|At a glance||AC Router Performance|
|Product||TP-LINK AC1200 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router (Archer C5) [Website]|
|Summary||QCA based AC1200 Class router using AC1750 hardware with Gigabit Ethernet ports and USB 2.0 storage and printer sharing|
|Pros||• Gigabit wire-speed routing|
• Up and downlink bandwidth limiting
• Guest network bandwidth controls
|Cons||• No HTTPS admin option|
• Dated user interface
• Log doesn't log admin or FTP logins
Typical Price: $69 Buy From Amazon
The three external antennas are the first thing that you notice about the Archer C5. You might be wondering why an AC1200 class router that uses 2X2 radios on both bands would need three antennas. It turns out that the Archer C5 is a rebadged Archer C7 (Version 1) AC1750 class router.
The only difference between the C5 and C7 is the 5 GHz maximum link rate is limited to 867 Mbps on the C5 vs. 1300 Mbps on the C7. The 2.4 GHz radio link rate isn't capped, so it will link at 217 / 450 Mbps (20 / 40 MHz bandwidth) when used with a 3x3 2.4 GHz client.
Note: TP-LINK has released a Version 2 of the C7 (reviewed), which uses a slightly upgraded 5 GHz Qualcomm-Atheros QCA9880-BR4A vs. QCA9880-AR1A used in the Archer C7 V1.
The case is high gloss black plastic like the NETGEAR R6220, which quickly attracts fingerprints. There are holes on the bottom of the case for wall mounting. The front panel has 10 green LEDs that provide status for power, status, 2.4 GHz activity, 5 GHz activity, activity for each of the Gigabit LAN ports, Internet activity and WPS status. Of the routers included in this roundup, the status indicators on the front panel of the C5 were the most complete and the easiest to read from across the room.
The rear panel, in addition to the LAN and WAN ports, has three RP-SMA antenna connectors, power socket, reset button hole, WPS pushbutton and two vertically mounted USB 2.0 ports - each with a status LED. Like the NETGEAR R6220, there's a power on/off switch as well as a switch to disable the wireless radios on both bands.
TP-LINK Archer C5
The Archer C5 is a Qualcomm-Atheros (QCA) based router. Here is a summary of key components.
|TP-LINK Archer C5|
|CPU||QCA9558 dual-band, 3x3 802.11abgn SoC|
|2.4 GHz Radio||- In QCA9558
- Skyworks SE2574BL-R 2.4 GHz power amps (x3)
|5 GHz radio||- QCA9880 3-stream 802.11ac radio solution
- Skyworks;SE5003L1 5 GHz power amp (x3)
TP-LINK Archer C5 component summary
As noted above, the Archer C5 uses the same circuit board and components as the C7 V1. The photo below shows the top side of the Archer C5 PCB. The antenna connectors on the rear of the router (top of the photo) are RP-SMA connectors for the three external 5 GHz 5 dBi dipoles.
The three 2.4 GHz antennas are formed metal and arranged along the side of the case - two on the left and one on the right. The mini-PCIe module for the 5 GHz radio is located in the left center of the board. The 2.4 GHz radio, part of the Qualcomm QCA9558 SOC, is at the bottom center.
TP-LINK Archer C5 PCB
As with most modern routers, when connecting to a modem that provides your WAN address via DHCP, there's really not much involved in setting up the Archer C5. The instructions advise that you can use a wired or wireless connection to set up the device. Should you use a wireless connection, the wireless credentials are provided on the label affixed to the bottom of the router. The default LAN address is 192.168.0.1 and the DHCP server is configured to pass out IP addresses from 192.168.0.100 through 192.168.0.199 with a lease time of 120 minutes. Maximum lease time is 2880 minutes (2 days)
The C5 supports the same features as the C7, which Tim covered extensively here. The screenshot below shows the landing page for the C5. The left pane contains a long list of menus, some of which I think could be reorganized and categorized to result in fewer top level choices. For example, many routers have either a Security or Firewall menu. Organized under that menu are features such as Forwarding, Access control, Parental control. Similarly, you normally find DHCP configuration options under Network -> LAN settings.
Wireless settings are usually configured using submenus rather than having multiple top level menus. On the C5, you have Wireless 2.4 GHz, Wireless 5 GHz, Guest Network, and Dual Band Selection. While you can find all of the features using the somewhat "flat" menu system, I find that a hierarchical menu structure helps me find what I'm looking for faster.
The center panel shows LAN, 2.4 and 5 GHz wireless and WAN status and traffic statistics and router up time further down the page. I didn't find the status page especially useful. There seemed to be wasted screen real estate that could have been used to provide more useful information such as found on NETGEAR's landing page.
For example, the LAN status didn't show the number of connected clients. Nor did either of the two Wireless status panes. They two wireless panes also didn't show what, if any, security was being used or if any guest networks were configured. The WAN tab just showed MAC and IP address information for the WAN port, but didn't report whether the connection was up or not, or how long the WAN connection had been up.
The right pane shows context sensitive help. For some menus, such as parental control, the help included actual setup examples.
TP-LINK Archer C5 Landing Page
Although Tim has covered the features before, there are a few that I'd like to highlight.
I found the Dual Band Selection a bit confusing. You choices were work with: Concurrently with 2.4 GHz and 5GHz; Only work in 2.4 GHz or Only work in 5 GHz. Why not just have an "enable" check box for each of the wireless bands?
Guest Network - The C5 supports guest networks on both bands. You can optionally allow guests to access your local network. You can also schedule when the guest network is active and limit both upstream and downstream bandwidth for the guest networks.
Forwarding - The C5 supports single port forwarding, but not port range forwarding. 10 common service ports are pre-configured. Similarly, for port triggering, 9 common applications are pre-configured. In the Forwarding menu, you'll also find UPnP configuration. The C5 (and other Archer routers) supports a UPnP port list that shows which apps made the UPnP request, the internal and external ports and protocols used along with the IP address of the host that initiated the UPnP request. Other than NETGEAR routers, these are the only routers I've seen that provide this valuable information.
Security - There's a simple enable/disable function for the SPI firewall. The C5 supports VPN Pass through for PPTP, L2TP and IPSec and all are enabled by default. The five ALGs (application layer gateways) also enabled by default are FTP, TFTP, H323, RTSP and SIP. Advanced security gives you options for DoS protection. You can individually enable and set thresholds for the following: ICMP FLOOD Attack filtering; UDP-FLOOD Filtering; and TCP-SYN-Flood Attach Filtering. You can also forbid ping packets for the WAN or LAN ports.