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Wireless Reviews

AC3200 Tri-Band Wireless Gigabit Wi-Fi Router
At a glance
ProductTP-LINK AC3200 Tri-Band Wireless Gigabit Wi-Fi Router (Archer C3200)   [Website]
SummaryBroadcom-based AC3200 "tri-band" class router with Gigabit Ethernet ports and USB 2.0 & 3.0 storage and printer sharing.
Pros• Consistent total throughput gain with Smart Connect
• IPsec VPN server
• Up and downlink internet bandwidth control
Cons• Relatively slow storage performance
• No internet port / service blocking
• VPN serger gateway-to-gateway only

Typical Price: $154  Buy From Amazon

Introduction

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

The appearance of NETGEAR's AC5300 class R8500 Nighthawk X8 may have made AC3200 class routers obsolete in the eyes of router early adopters. But for smarter folks who like someone else to debug new tech toys, AC3200 is far enough out on the new Wi-Fi technology limb. So for those wondering which AC3200 class router to buy, there's now TP-LINK's Archer C3200 AC3200 Wireless Tri-Band Gigabit Router to consider.

Like other AC3200 routers, the Archer C3200 uses Broadcom's XStream "tri-band" architecture, described in MU-MIMO vs. XStream: The Coming Battle For Wi-Fi Airtime. The short story is AC3200's key feature is its potential to squeeze higher total throughput out of multiple 5 GHz devices. XStream doesn't bring range improvement to the party and maximum link rates are the same as AC1900 class, i.e. 600 Mbps in 2.4 GHz and 1300 Mbps in 5 GHz.

Important note: You need 3x3 AC1900 class devices to achieve the maximum link rates stated above. Most mobile devices are AC580 or N150 (1x1) and support much lower maximum link rates.

The TP-LINK's design philosophy for the C3200 is similar to NETGEAR's for its R8000 Nighthawk X6. Both have permanently-attached external antennas that fold up from the router top into fixed positions. Three of the antennas are dual-band, handling the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz "1" radio; three are 5 GHz only, dedicated to the (allegedly) higher-performance 5 GHz-2 radio.

Archer C3200

Archer C3200

All surfaces except for the rear panel have plenty of ventilation holes. There are two mounting screw slots on the bottom that can point the connectors up or down when wall-mounting the router.

The callouts for the front panel are shown below. Note these is only a single indicator for all four switched Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports and it doesn't blink to show activity. In fact, none of the indicators blink to show activity. Three handy buttons for Wi-Fi on / off, LED on / off and WPS are right there on the front panel so you don't have to hunt for them.

Archer C3200 front panel callouts

Archer C3200 front panel callouts

All Ethernet ports are Gigabit and you get one each USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports.

Archer C3200 rear panel callouts

Archer C3200 rear panel callouts

Inside

The Archer C3200 has essentially the same Broadcom XStream design as all other AC3200 class routers. The view below is the top of the board after a two heatsinks and inner RF can tops are removed.

Like other AC3200 designs, there is a PLX PEX8603 PCIe switch to provide the extra PCIe port needed for the third radio. It sits to the left of the Broadcom BCM4709A SoC near photo center. Note the shield surrounding the USB 3.0 port at photo bottom right.

Archer C3200 board top view

Archer C3200 board top view

The board bottom view shows the amplifiers and filters. The 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz -1 radios combine to feed the three right-side dual-band antennas (facing front of router), while the left-side 5 GHz-2 radio has its own set of left side antennas.

Archer C3200 inside view

Archer C3200 inside view

All key components are summarized in Table 1. Note the separate transmit power amps and receive LNAs in the C3200's 5 GHz-2 radio.

  TP-LINK Archer C3200 D-Link DIR-890L/R NETGEAR R8000 ASUS RT-AC3200
CPU Broadcom BCM4709A Broadcom BCM4709A Broadcom BCM4709A Broadcom BCM4709A
Switch in BCM4709A in BCM4709A in BCM4709A in BCM4709A
RAM 256 MB 512 MB 256 MB 256 MB
Flash 128 MB 128 MB 128 MB 128 MB ?
2.4 GHz Radio - Broadcom BCM43602
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz power amp (x3)
- Broadcom BCM43602
- 2.4 GHz power amp (x3)
- Broadcom BCM43602
- Skyworks SKY85309-11 2 GHz Front end (x3)
- Broadcom BCM43602
- Richwave RTC6649E 2.4 GHz power amp (x3)
5 GHz radio 1 - Broadcom BCM43602
- Skyworks SKY85710-11 5 GHz WLAN Front end (x3)
- Broadcom BCM43602
- Skyworks 5003L1 5 GHz Power Amps (x3)
- Broadcom BCM43602
- Skyworks SKY85712-11 5 GHz Front end (x3)
- Broadcom BCM43602
- Skyworks 5003L1 5 GHz Power Amps (x3)
5 GHz radio 2 - Broadcom BCM43602
- Skyworks SE5003L 5 GHz power amp (x3)
- Skyworks SKY65404-31 5 GHz LNA (x3)
- Skyworks SKY13408-465LF 6 GHz SP3T switch (x3)
- Broadcom BCM43602
- Skyworks 5003L1 5 GHz Power Amps (x3)
- Broadcom BCM43602
- Skyworks SKY85710-11 5 GHz Front end (x3)
- Broadcom BCM43602
- Skyworks 5003L1 5 GHz Power Amps (x3)
PCIe PLX Technology PEX8603 3-lane, 3-port PCIe switch PLX Technology PEX8603 3-lane, 3-port PCIe switch PLX Technology PEX8603 3-lane, 3-port PCIe switch PLX Technology PEX8603 3-lane, 3-port PCIe switch
Table 1: Component summary

The gallery below has more pictures showing various states of disassembly. All photos come from the FCC filing internal photos document.

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