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Wireless Reviews

AC3150 Wireless MU-MIMO Gigabit Router
At a glance
ProductTP-LINK Archer C3150 AC3150 Wireless MU-MIMO Gigabit Router   [Website]
SummaryAC3100 (aka 3150) class router with Gigabit Ethernet ports and USB 3.0 storage and printer sharing
Pros• Good wireless performance
Cons• No wireless bridging
• MU-MIMO works poorly, if at all

Typical Price: $190  Shop Amazon

Introduction

Update 8/16/16 - Added better internal photos

It's been a slow start for Broadcom's entry into the MU-MIMO router market. The company's 4x4 802.11ac chipset made its first appearence in super-high-end AC5300 class routers like NETGEAR's R8500 Nighthawk X8 and ASUS' RT-AC5300 late last year. These tri-radio routers had working "Smart Connect" automatic band-steering—although some would argue whether Smart Connect actually works—but shipped without their other key feature, MU-MIMO, enabled.

The lower cost alternative for getting Broadcom's 4x4 chipset comes in the form of AC3100 / AC3150 class routers. These are meant to go head-to-head with AC2600 class products using Qualcomm Atheros' 4x4 MU-MIMO technology. The only AC3100 class products to hit the shelves until now have been ASUS' RT-AC88U and RT-AC3100. These are essentially the same router, with the difference being the number of Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports; 8 for the AC88U and 4 for the AC3100.

Which brings us to TP-Link's Archer C3150 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router, the second Broadcom-based 4x4 router we've seen. After reviewing ASUS' RT-AC88U, I put in place a moratorium on reviewing AC3100 / 3150 class routers, preferring to review them with working MU-MIMO. So when TP-LINK said the C3150's MU-MIMO was working, I had them send it on in. More on that later.

The Archer C3150's design is very much like its QCA-based sibling, the Archer C2600. At first glance, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the two apart, since TP-LINK has chosen to not include the product's model number next to its logo on the top panel.

TP-LINK Archer C3150 LED callouts

TP-LINK Archer C3150 LED callouts

The rear and side panels, however, are a different story. The positions of WAN and LAN ports are swapped, and the USB connector panel is on the left side vs. the C2600's right. The C3150 also has one each USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports; the C2600 has two USB 3.0.

TP-LINK Archer C3150 rear & side panel callouts

TP-LINK Archer C3150 rear & side panel 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 C3150 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. You'll have to excuse the fuzzy pictures; they are taken from the FCC ID document. Fortunately, the document also had close-ups of the key components for accurate identification.

The first picture shows the router cover removed. There's one big ol' heatsink covering all the thermally-coupled RF cans below it.

TP-LINK Archer C3150 board top w/ heatsink

TP-LINK Archer C3150 board top w/ heatsink

Here's a shot stripped down to the board. The Broadcom BCM4709C0KFEBG dual-core processor SoC is in the left side can, with its 256 MB of DDR3 RAM. The four-port Gigabit switch and WAN port are built into the SoC. The Broadcom BCM4366 4x4 radio SoCs are in the right side RF cans. The large copper area between them provides a large surface to thermally connect the RF amplifiers on the board bottom with the heatsink.

TP-LINK Archer C3150 board top

TP-LINK Archer C3150 board top

Here's the bottom of the board, showing the flash above the left side RF can and the RF ampliers on the right; 2.4 GHz on top and 5 GHz below it.

TP-LINK Archer C3150 bottom view

TP-LINK Archer C3150 bottom view

The C3150's key components are in Table 1 along with ASUS' RT-AC88U. Remember the AC88U has 8 Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, hence the Realtek switch. The ASUS' key advantage over the C3150 is double the RAM. If you're considering the AC88U but want to spend around $20 less, remember the RT-AC3100 shares the same FCC ID (MSQ-RTGW00), so must have the same Wi-Fi performance characteristics.

  TP-LINK Archer C3150 ASUS RT-AC88U
CPU Broadcom BCM4709C0KFEBG dual-core @ 1.4 GHz Broadcom BCM4709C0KFEBG dual-core @ 1.4 GHz
Switch In BCM4709C0KFEBG 4 ports in BCM4709C0KFEBG + four ports in Realtek RTL8365MB
RAM 256 MB 512 MB
Flash 128 MB (?) 128 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - Broadcom BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz power amp (x4)
- Skyworks SKY85201-11 2.4 GHz SPDT switch w/ LNA (x4)
- Broadcom BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- Skyworks SE2623L 2.4 GHz power amp (x4)
- Skyworks SKY85201-11 2.4 GHz SPDT switch w/ LNA (x4)
5 GHz radio - Broadcom BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz PA module (x4)
- Skyworks SKY85605-11 5 GHz SPDT switch w/ LNA (x4)
- Broadcom BCM4366 4x4 2.4/5G single chip 802.11ac SoC
- RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz PA module (x4)
- Skyworks SKY85605-11 5 GHz SPDT switch w/ LNA (x4)
Table 1: Component summary

Here's a photo of the RT-AC88U's inside. The Realtek switch is on the bottom of the board.

ASUS RT-AC88U board top

ASUS RT-AC88U board top

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