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Wireless Reviews

MU-MIMO Performance

Since the AD7200 is at its core an Archer C2600, it also supports MU-MIMO. But like its sibling, it doesn't support it very well. I ran our standard MU-MIMO test process using the Ixia Veriwave system. The Veriwave requires cabled connection to the router under test's radios, so I had to open the AD7200 and use pigtails to connect to the 5 GHz radio U.FL connectors.

Since the AD7200 is a 4x4 MU-MIMO router, it's fair to compare it to other 4x4 routers with working MU-MIMO, most of which are AC2600 class. The AD7200 doesn't do very well for average MU-MIMO throughput, managing only 331 Mbps over the test, which uses from one to 16 devices. This is well below the best performer, NETGEAR's R7800 Nighthawk X4S.

MU-MIMO Average Throughput comparison

MU-MIMO Average Throughput comparison

The MU, SU Throughput Difference graph lets you quickly zero in on products with better MU-MIMO throughput gain. The AD7200 clearly doesn't do very well, managing only a 15 Mbps average throughput gain.

Average MU, SU Throughput difference

Average MU, SU Throughput difference

The MU, SU Difference vs. STA plot provides a look at the difference between MU and SU total throughput for each benchmark in the test. The NETGEAR R7800 is the clear winner here, providing throughput gain in all cases for up to 16 simultaneous devices tested, with 453 Mbps maximum gain with three devices. In contrast, the AD7200's peak throughput gain was only 181 Mbps with two devices, dropping to -4 Mbps with three devices. The rest of the test run showed moderate gain for six and 11 simultaneous devices and essentially no gain or a loss for the other points.

MU, SU Throughput difference

MU, SU Throughput difference

In all, like the Archer C2600, the Talon AD7200 isn't a strong MU-MIMO performer.

Closing Thoughts

Over the past few years, TP-LINK has been steadily transitioning from a lesser known manufacturer of value-focused (cheap) networking products, aiming to take its place beside more well-known and respected brands. To advance that effort, I think TP-LINK pushed the Talon AD7200 to market primarily to claim bragging rights to having the first router to support 802.11ad and try to polish its cred as a Wi-Fi technology leader.

Be that as it may, I have to give TP-LINK credit for shipping a new technology that actually works. Not 802.11ad "ready" and waiting for a firmware update that never comes. But real, working product, if you're willing to part with the $800+ for an Acer 802.11ad equipped notebook to use it with and be satisfied with Gigabit throughput for practical file transfer use.

Most of us, however, will experience the Talon AD7200 as an AC2600 class 4x4 router with competitive 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi performance (albeit a little range-challenged on 2.4 GHz), weak storage sharing performance and not the best MU-MIMO performance. And pay over twice as much in many cases for the alleged future-proofing the AD7200 provides over an AC2600 or AC3100 router. (You can currently pick up an Archer C2600 for $150.)

The draw for most uninformed shoppers will be that bigger ol' number on the box, touted as "with up to 7200 Mbps with Multi-Band". But TP-LINK doesn't go out of its way to inform prospective buyers that the biggest contributor to that inflated number (4600 Mbps) is in-room only technology. In fact, let's see if you can find the information in this clip from the AD7200's product page.

Can you find the 60 GHz range disclaimer?

Can you find the 60 GHz range disclaimer?

Or how about this clip from the product datasheet?

How about here?

How about here?

Wi-Fi marketeers have been skating on thin ice for awhile with the "speed" number game they've used as their primary marketing tool. Disclaimers are usually asterisked and buried deep in small print on data sheets and product boxes. And no one tells you that you get the advertised super-fast speeds only with devices that don't really exist, except usually in the form of the same router used as a wireless bridge. But I think TP-LINK needs to do a much better job of making the limitations of 802.11ad clear and informing buyers of what they need to actually use the technology.

So kudos again to TP-LINK for shipping the world's first router supporting 802.11ad. Just don't think for a second that the Talon AD7200 will future-proof your Wi-Fi any more than a much less expensive AC2600 router.

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