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Wireless Reviews

AC 2600 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router
At a glanceAC Router Performance
November 2015
ProductTP-LINK Archer C2600 AC 2600 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router   [Website]
SummaryMU-MIMO enabled AC2600 class wireless router with Gigabit Ethernet ports and dual port USB 3.0 storage and printer sharing.
Pros• MU-MIMO total bandwidth gain in all test scenarios
• High 2.4 GHz throughput with strong signals
Cons• No internet port / service blocking
• No VPN server

Typical Price: $100  Shop Amazon  Buy Direct

Introduction

Updated 3/29/16 - MU-MIMO performance retested
Updated 2/25/16 - Router performance retest due to measurement process error

TP-Link's Archer C2600 AC 2600 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router makes the third QCA-based 4x4 router with working MU-MIMO to hit the SmallNetBuilder test bench. So excuse me if I dispense with the MU-MIMO background provided in the previous reviews. Hit Part 1 of the Linksys EA8500 review for a quick review of what MU-MIMO is and why you might care. You can also do a quick skim of the Amped Wireless "Athena" RTA2600 review to see how it fared.

TP-LINK Archer C2600 top view

TP-LINK Archer C2600 top view

The rear of the C2600 has four RP-SMA antenna connectors, power connector, on / off switch and four Gigabit LAN ports and one Gigabit WAN port. There are no link / activity lights for the individual Ethernet ports. All you get is one LAN indicator on the top panel that lights steadily when something is connected to one or more LAN ports.

The two USB 3.0 ports are on the router's right side, with other buttons shown in the callout graphic below.

TP-LINK Archer C2600 callouts

TP-LINK Archer C2600 callouts

The bottom and back part of the top panel of the router have plenty of vent slots. There are no vents on the sides. The C2600 is designed to sit flat on a desk, but can be wall mounted via two bottom-panel screw slots that will orient the rear panel toward the ceiling.

Inside

TP-LINK didn't put a short-term hold on its FCC ID docs, so I didn't have to open the router for component identification. The first picture shows the main board out of its shell, but with RF cans and heatsinks in place.

TP-LINK Archer C2600 inside

TP-LINK Archer C2600 inside

Here's a closer picture with the cans removed. It's still not clear enough for component ID. But the FCC internal pictures file had close-ups of most key parts.

TP-LINK Archer C2600 board top

TP-LINK Archer C2600 board top

Here's the bottom of the board with the two radios' RF cans intact. There are no heatsinks on these cans.

TP-LINK Archer C2600 bottom view

TP-LINK Archer C2600 bottom view

Key components for the TP-LINK, Linksys and Amped Wireless AC2600 routers are summarized and compared in Table 1. Component-wise, the three are the same except for Amped's choice of QCA9990 radio vs. the QCA9980 used in the TP-LINK and Linksys designs. QCA describes the 9980 as aimed at router and gateway designs while the 9990 is for enterprise access points.

  TP-LINK Archer C2600 Amped Wireless C2600 Linksys EA8500
CPU Qualcomm dual-core IPQ8064 Internet Processor @ 1.4 GHz Qualcomm dual-core IPQ8064 Internet Processor @ 1.4 GHz Qualcomm dual-core IPQ8064 Internet Processor @ 1.4 GHz
Switch Qualcomm Atheros QCA8337 Qualcomm Atheros QCA8337 Qualcomm Atheros QCA8337
RAM 512 MB 512 MB 512 MB
Flash 32 MB 128 MB 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - QCA9980 4-stream 802.11ac MU-MIMO radio
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz power amp (x4)
- QCA9990 4-stream 802.11ac MU-MIMO radio
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz power amp (x4)
- QCA9980 4-stream 802.11ac MU-MIMO radio
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz power amp (x4)
5 GHz radio - QCA9980 4-stream 802.11ac MU-MIMO radio
- Skyworks SKY85405 5 GHz power amp (x4)
- QCA9990 4-stream 802.11ac MU-MIMO radio
- Skyworks SKY85405 5 GHz power amp (x4)
- QCA9980 4-stream 802.11ac MU-MIMO radio
- Skyworks SKY85405 5 GHz power amp (x4)
Table 1: Component summary

Here are the Amped (top) and Linksys (bottom) board top shots for comparison. The components used may be similar, but these are three very different board designs, with TP-LINK the only one with the radios on the bottom of the board.

Amped Wireless RTA2600 & Linksys EA8500 boards

Amped Wireless RTA2600 & Linksys EA8500 boards

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