Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
A cheap 802.11n router
- Price point, fairly fast throughput
- Bandwidth speeds decrease dramatically at 15-20m, restricted configuration options
If you need a cheap, close range router that’s 802.11n-capable, then TP-Link’s TL-WR841ND is a viable option. Although its configuration options are somewhat limited, it's quite speedy.
Price$ 139.00 (AUD)
TP-Link's TL-WR841ND is a no-frills router that offers 802.11n draft 2.0 wireless at a relatively cheap price. Its wireless configuration options aren't the most versatile, and the router isn't ideal for covering sizeable areas. Those who need a decent router for data transfer and low-bandwidth Internet use at close range should find this router acceptable.
The TL-WR841ND is an average-sized router that features four 10/100Mbps Ethernet ports as well as a WAN port for connection to a standalone modem. For wireless connections, the router uses two external antennas, rated at 3dBi each. The antennas are detachable, meaning that users can attach more powerful ones or antenna extenders.
Configuration is easy using the embedded web server. Users can initiate a step-by-step quick setup function, or manually configure a number of standard settings, including DHCP and port forwarding. The router has a basic firewall, but its only options are to turn it on or off. There are also IP, domain and MAC address filtering options.
Given the router's price, we aren't surprised that Quality of Service (QoS) isn't included on the device. This means that bandwidth-heavy applications, such as BitTorrent clients, will heavily impact on the speed of other applications and users.
The router has support for WEP, WPA and WPA2 keys, with WPA/WPA2-PSK passphrases as well as AES and TKIP encryption. There is no option to switch between wireless standards, so the router is stuck in a mixed mode of 802.11b/g/n. Users have a choice of up to 13 separate wireless channels, and the ability to switch between 20MHz, 40MHz, or automatic mode.
We tested the router for data transfer speeds by transferring a 5GB file from a computer connected using 100Mbps Ethernet to a laptop with an 802.11n wireless connection. Using several different wireless radio channels, and alternating between 20MHz, 40MHz, and automatic mode, we had some surprising results. At close range, the router manages an average throughput of 6.69 megabytes per second: a very fast pace. At 10 metres, the same file was transferred at 6.06MBps, making it faster than the Billion BiPAC 7300N.
Unfortunately, at 20 metres it quickly slowed to 3.03MBps — half the speed at twice the distance. Given the theoretical range of 802.11n draft 2.0, this huge drop in speed at what is still a relatively close distance is unfortunate. As these tests were done with only glass as an obstacle, they give a close approximation of how the router performs in ideal settings — using the router on a different floor with concrete and brick as obstacles is likely to yield poorer performance.
The WR841ND is perfectly capable of fast throughput at close range, making it a decent router for data transfer over a short distance. But the quick drop off in speed at moderate distances makes it less attractive for large homes and medium businesses.
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