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Wireless Reviews

{mospagebreak toctitle=Introduction, Inside}
AC3200 Dual Band Wireless Router
At a glance
ProductTRENDnet AC3200 Dual Band Wireless Router (TEW-828DRU)   [Website]
SummaryBroadcom XStream-based AC3200 class "tri-band" router with Gigabit Ethernet ports and USB 2.0/3.0 storage and printer sharing
Pros• USB 3.0 & 2.0 ports
• Strong wired routing throughput
• Port-based VLANs
Cons• Could not complete storage tests
• Not Wi-Fi Certified
• Undistinguished wireless performance

Typical Price: $349  Buy From Amazon

Introduction

Updated 2/25/16 - Router performance retest due to measurement process error
Updated 5/23/15: Corrected 5 GHz amplifier info

With this review, the TRENDnet TEW-828DRU AC3200 Tri Band Wireless router joins the four other AC3200 class routers in our charts, i.e. NETGEAR's Nighthawk X6 Tri-Band WiFi Router (R8000), the D-Link's AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Route (DIR890L/R), Linksys' AC3200 Tri Band Smart Wi-Fi Router (EA9200) and ASUS' Tri-Band Wireless Gigabit Router (RT-AC3200). All five products are based on Broadcom's XStream technology which features two 5 GHz 3X3 radios and the ability to steer "slow" and "fast" clients to different radios to maximize total wireless bandwidth utilization.

The physical design of the TEW-828DRU is a significant departure from TRENDnet's other routers, with its move from internal to external antennas. But unlike other AC3200 routers, the TEW-828DRU's antennas are hardwired to the router. There are two antennas on each side of the router and two antennas on the rear. The chart below shows the front panel indicators. Note that there are separate LEDs for each of the 5 GHz networks.

TRENDNET TEW-828DRU Front Panel Callout

TRENDnet TEW-828DRU Front Panel Callout

The rear panel has a color-coded Gigabit Ethernet WAN port along with four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports.

TRENDnet TEW-828DRU Rear Panel Callout

TRENDnet TEW-828DRU Rear Panel Callout

Inside

The TEW-828DRU is powered by the same Broadcom BCM4709A router SoC with three Broadcom BCM43602 dual-band radios found in all of the AC3200 class routers reviewed to date. TRENDnet chose Skyworks' SE2623L for the 2.4 GHz power amps (x3) and Anadigics' AWL5911 (x3) for the 5 GHz power amps (x3). Facing front of router, the 5 GHz-2 hi-band radio is on right. The shared 2.4/5GHz-1 low band radio is on the left. The lone heatsink sits atop the BCM4709A SoC.

TRENDnet TEW-828DRU Component side of the main PCB
TRENDnet TEW-828DRU Component side of the main PCB

Table 1 below summarizes the key components of the TEW-828DRU as well as the components of our currently top-ranked ASUS RT-AC3200. The two are basically the same except for some of the power amplifiers.

Updated 5/23/15: Corrected 5 GHz amplifier info
  TRENDnet TEW-828DRU ASUS RT-AC3200
CPU Broadcom BCM4709A Broadcom BCM4709A
Switch in BCM4709A in BCM4709A
RAM 512 MB 256 MB ESMT M15F2G16128A
Flash 128 MB 128 MB ?
2.4 GHz Radio - Broadcom BCM43602
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz power amps (x3)
- Skyworks SKY13377 6 GHz SPDT switch (x3)
- Broadcom BCM43602
- Richwave RTC6649E 2.4 GHz power amp (x3)
5 GHz radio - Broadcom BCM43602
- Anadigics AWL5911 5 GHz Power Amps (x3)
NOTE: There are two 5 GHz radios.
- Broadcom BCM43602
- Skyworks 5003L1 5 GHz Power Amps (x3)
NOTE: There are two 5 GHz radios.
PCIe PLX Technology PEX8603 3-lane, 3-port PCIe switch PLX Technology PEX8603 3-lane, 3-port PCIe switch
Table 1: Component summary

Features

The feature set and user interface for the TEW-828DRU are very similar to TRENDnet's other 802.11ac routers. Specifications for the TEW-828DRU can be found here on the TRENDnet site. I've included the landing page from the TEW-828DRU below as well as a short gallery of screenshots that highlight interesting features of the router including setting up Smart Connect, configuring port-based VLANS, Guest network options and DLNA server options. If you'd like to poke around the user interface and discover some additional features, you can use the Online emulator, or download the User's Guide.

TRENDnet TEW-828DRU Landing Page

TRENDnet TEW-828DRU Landing Page

Storage

Unfortunately, we were unable to run our storage performance tests on the TEW-828DRU. We made multiple attemps and even tried a different USB 3.0 drive, but got the same error message on each attempt:

2015/05/03 14:51:49 ERROR 2 (0x00000002) Time-Stamping Destination Directory z:\firefly4\. The system cannot find the file specified. Waiting 30 seconds... .

TRENDnet was able to duplicate our error, which they found was related to robocopy in Windows 8.1. But they weren't able to explain why the TEW-828DRU has the problem and other AC3200 routers we have tested don't.

Routing Performance

Updated 2/25/16 - Router performance retest due to measurement process error

Routing throughput was measured using our standard router test process with the router loaded with 1.0.2.0 firmware. Table 2 summarizes the results, along with all other AC3200 routers we've tested. For the most part, routing throughput is very similar among this group of routers.

Test Description TRENDnet TEW-828DRU ASUS RT-AC3200 D-Link DIR890L Linksys EA9200 NETGEAR R8000
WAN - LAN (Mbps) 767 726 784 762 806
LAN - WAN (Mbps) 783 790 797 776 782
Total Simultaneous (Mbps) 1338 1418 1428 1382 1392
Maximum Simultaneous Connections 14,983 45,672 33,828 15,851 34, 083
Firmware Version 1.0.2.0 3.0.0.4.378_4120 1.03 1.1.5.163672 1.0.0.90
Table 2: Comparative routing performance
For the unidirectional routing throughput tests, the IxChariot chart below shows the usual cyclical variation and uplink with slightly higher average throughput than downlink.

TRENDnet TEW-828DRU unidirectional throughput

TRENDnet TEW-828DRU unidirectional throughput

The simultaneous uplink/downlink tests show uplink again favored over downlink. Note the absence of battling between the two streams, indicating sufficient routing horsepower.

TRENDnet TEW-828DRU simultaneous throughput

TRENDnet TEW-828DRU simultaneous throughput

Wireless Performance

The TRENDnet TEW-828DRU is not Wi-Fi certified. For throughput testing, all tests were run using our Version 8 Wireless test process with 1.0.2.0 version firmware loaded. The router was first reset to factory defaults and Channel 6 was set for 2.4 GHz and 20 MHz bandwidth mode. The 5 GHz-1 radio was disabled and the 5 GHz - 2 radio was set to Channel 153 and 80 MHz channel width. Throughput tests were run on the 5 GHz -2 radio since it is the only one that supports our standard Channel 153 test channel. The NETGEAR R7000 bridge mode standard test client was connected using WPA2/AES encryption.

Our standard practice is to center the router under test's antennas on the turntable, both front-to-back and side-to-side in the chamber. The chamber antennas are also centered on the turntable (front-to-back of chamber). This method is intended to keep maximum distance between the router under test and chamber antennas. The photo below shows the TEW-828DRU in the test chamber.

TRENDnet TEW-828DRU in test chamber

TRENDnet TEW-828DRU in test chamber

The Benchmark Summary below shows the average of throughput measurements made in all test locations. We'll drill down on the wireless performance in the Throughput vs. Attenuation charts below. Note: There aren't any storage results, as we were unable to successfully perform the storage benchmark tests.

TRENDnet TEW-828DRU Benchmark Summary

TRENDnet TEW-828DRU Benchmark Summary

Our throughput vs. attenuation plots include the TEW-828DRU and NETGEAR R8000, Linksys EA9200 and ASUS RT-AC3200 for comparison.

For 2.4 GHz downlink, the ASUS held a slight edge over the others in the low attenuation tests (strong signals). Linksys' downlink performance started to trail off at 33 dB of attenuation and stayed below the other three routers for the duration of its test. The TRENDnet had very similar performance to the ASUS RT-AC3200 and the NETGEAR R8000 for all of its range. However, the TRENDnet router was the first to lose its connection at 60 dB of attenuation. Only the ASUS stayed connected through the entire test range of 63 dB of attenuation.

2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput vs. Attenuation

For 2.4 GHz uplink, tests show very similar performance for all four routers throughout the testing range. Once again, the ASUS had a small advantage with stronger signals and was the only router to maintain its connection throughout the entire testing range ending at 63 dB of attenuation. As with the 2.4 GHz downlink tests, the TRENDnet router was the first to lose its connection at 60 dB of attenuation.

2.4 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

2.4 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

For 5 GHz downlink, you can group the routers into two groups. The ASUS and NETGEAR routers had better performance than the other two routers throughout their entire range. Both had similar plots, with the ASUS holding an edge over the NETGEAR router throughout the entire range. Both routers lost their connections at 45 dB of attenuation. The Linksys and the TRENDnet routers had poorer performance throughout their entire range than the ASUS and NETGEAR. The TRENDnet had the poorest throughput out to about 24 dB of attenuation. Thereafter, it had slightly better performance than the Linksys. Both products lost their connection at 39 dB of attenuation - 6dB less than either of the routers in the first group.

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

For 5 GHz uplink, the ASUS held a clear performance edge over all the other routers throughout their ranges. As with the 5 GHz downlink tests, the Linksys had better performance than the TRENDnet through much of its range. At 24 dB of attenuation and beyond, their performance was almost identical with both routers dropping their connection at 39 dB of attenuation - the same point where they both dropped their 5 GHz uplink connections.

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

5 GHz Uplink Throughput vs. Attenuation

Smart Connect

As with all other AC3200 class routers except the ASUS RT-AC3200, your only options for Smart Connect are enable or disable. With Smart Connect enabled, both 5 GHz networks use the same SSID. If you want to manually configure your 5 GHz networks with different SSIDs and security settings, you have to disable Smart Connect. (See slide # 1 in the gallery above.)

For Smart Connect testing, the TEW-828DRU was located in the wireless testbed upper test chamber with the door open. The bridge mode R7000 was in the lower chamber with the door closed. This allowed using the testbed programmable attenuators to control the signal and therefore the link rate of the R7000. 20 dB of attenuation was set so that the R7000 throughput wouldn't dominate the other AC devices. All other devices were located within 6 feet of the TEW-828DRU, outside the test chamber and all received a nice, strong signal.

Since we couldn't see how wireless clients were distributed among the TEW-828DRU's three radios, the only thing we can report is observed throughput. The same five devices used in previous AC3200 router tests were used to test the TEW-828DRU. Table 3 shows the devices and the device descriptions shown in the Legend panel in the following IxChariot plots.

The table below shows the devices and the device descriptions shown in the Legend panel in the following iXChariot plots.

Device Type Client ID
Moto X smartphone 1x1 AC android-d4c097
NETGEAR R7000 in client bridge mode 3x3 AC WLANTEST-STA
Laptop with NETGEAR A6200 USB adapter 2x2 AC x220i
iPad 2nd gen 1x1 N SNB - iPad 2
iPod Touch 5th gen 1x1 N Tim-Touch-G5
Table 3: Smart Connect Test devices

In order to establish a reference point for uplink and downlink throughput, we first disabled Smart connect and connected all clients to the 5GHz-2 radio set to Channel 153. The iXChariot plot below shows that the downlink test yielded 99.8 Mbps of total throughput.

Total downlink throughput - All clients on 5GHz-2 radio

Total downlink throughput - All clients on 5GHz-2 radio

Total uplink throughput on this reference test was 88.7 Mbps.

Total uplink throughput - All clients on 5GHz-2 radio

Total uplink throughput - All clients on 5GHz-2 radio

Smart Connect was then enabled with its default settings and all wireless clients reconnected. The screenshot below shows how the clients connected. This wasn't really the expected result. Normally, the highest link rate clients connect to the "5GHz-2" high network, and the lower link rate clients connect to the "5GHz-1" network. In this case, the two iOS devices connected to the 5GHz-2 network and the higher link rate devices connected to the 5GHz-1 network.

Client connection for each 5 GHz wireless network with Smart Connect enabled - first test
Client connection for each 5 GHz wireless network with Smart Connect enabled - first test

On the first test with Smart Connect enabled and clients attached per the table above, total downlink throughput was 239.1 Mbps with the three 1x1 clients (Android, pair 3; iPad, pair 5; and iPod, pair 7) grabbing the bulk of the throughput. With an average throughput of only 3.1 Mbps, the 2x2 NETGEAR A6200 was starved for throughput. While downlink had higher throughput than uplink, you can see that a significant portion was hogged by the R7000 bridge.

Downlink throughput performance after enabling Smart Connect

Downlink throughput performance after enabling Smart Connect

The uplink tests after enabling Smart Connect had a lower total throughput of 163.1 Mbps. However, in this plot, you can see that the individual clients had more usable throughput than on the downlink tests.

Uplink throughput performance after enabling Smart Connect

Uplink throughput performance after enabling Smart Connect

The router was power cycled, clients reconnected and tests run again. The same clients associated with the same 5 GHz wireless radios and the results were very consistent with the first test: Downlink: 212.9 Mbps, Uplink: 173.1 Mbps.

After a second power recycle, the tests were run again. The same clients again associated with the same 5 GHz wireless networks and the results were again very consistent with the first Smart Connect test: Downlink: 220.9 Mbps, Uplink: 170.6 Mbps. For all three Smart Connect test runs, for the downlink tests, the R7000 AC 3X3 bridge hogged a significant amount of bandwidth. The table below summarizes the results of the reference test and the three Smart Connect tests.

  Total Downlink (Mbps) Total Uplink (Mbps) % change downlink % change uplink
Reference 99.8 88.7 N/A N/A
Smart Connect 239.1 163.1 240% 184%
Smart Connect Powercycle 1 212.9 173.1 213% 195%
Smart Connect Powercycle 2 220.9 170.6 221% 192%
Table 4: Smart Connect Test summary

The gallery below shows client association and iXChariot uplink and downlink plots after the first and second power cycle.

To see how the TRENDnet TEW-828DRU compared to the other AC3200 routers, I updated the chart from the D-Link DIR-890LR review. This table compares the best results from all five products. The best result for the TRENDnet was a 240% increase in total throughput using Smart Connect vs. our reference test where all clients were connected to a single 5 GHz network. That test result, from the table above, was for downlink before the first Power cycle.

Product Without (Mbps) With (Mbps) % gain
TRENDnet TEW-828DRU 100 239 240
D-Link DIR-890L/R 221 322 46
ASUS RT-AC3200 138 205 49
Linksys EA9200 86 237 276
NETGEAR R8000 83 247 298
Table 5: Smart Connect Total Throughput gain comparison

Router Ranker

Using the Router Ranker, I filtered for test method Revision 8 and AC3200 class routers. The TRENDnet TEW-828DRU had a Total router Rank of 4.0 which ranked it last among all tested AC3200 class routers. With the current pricing, you could step up to the #3 ranked NETGEAR R8000 router for $14 more, or to the #1 ranked ASUS RT-AC3200 for $21 more.

Product Rank for AC3200 class routers using Revision 8 testing

Product Rank for AC3200 class routers using Revision 8 testing

Closing Thoughts

The only performance category where the TEW-828DRU excelled was in routing performance. And, as noted, we were unable to test attached storage performance. Since it ranked #5 out of 5 in every other performance category as well as #5 for Total Router ranking, the TEW-828DRU certainly isn't a game changer.

Best bang for your buck in AC routers is still AC1900 class if you have lots of devices and/or a larger area to cover, or AC1200 class for apartment-sized spaces and a handful of wireless clients. The "Smart Connect" feature of AC3200 class routers is still too dumb to be worth the extra cost for most of us.

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