Best wireless router under $100 [ TP-Link Archer C7 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router (AC1750) ]

TP-Link’s Archer C7 AC1750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router (V2) is an affordable router that performs like a more expensive one. Its scores in our 2.4GHz and 5GHz throughput tests were significantly faster than the competition, and it offers a nice feature set, including four Gigabit LAN ports and a pair of USB 2.0 ports. Management settings are plentiful, but the web console is slow to respond and lacks user-friendly icons to help you navigate the menu system. Neither gripe prevents it from earning our Editors’ Choice for budget routers.

Design and Features

The latest Archer C7 is a dual-band AC1750 router that uses a 720MHz CPU. It can reach speeds of up to 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1,300Mbps on the 5GHz band. Design-wise, the C7 hasn’t changed from the TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750 Dual Band Wireless AC Gigabit Router we reviewed back in 2014. It uses the same glossy-black enclosure, which measures 9.6 by 6.4 by 1.3 inches. The rear of the router is home to three removable, adjustable antennas, four Gigabit LAN ports, a Gigabit WAN port, and two USB 2.0 ports. Joining them are an On/Off button, a Reset/WPS switch, a Wi-Fi On/Off switch, and two USB activity LEDs. The front of the router has LED indicators for power, both radio bands, all four LAN ports, the WAN port, and WPS activity.

The web console is the older, text-based version used on the original TP-Link Archer C7 and lacks the graphical elements that you’ll find on newer TP-Link routers. There’s also a noticeable lag between the time that you make a change and the time that the change is saved; in some cases I had to wait up to 30 seconds. That said, it offers a wealth of basic and advanced settings. The main Status page has a list of settings on the left side and LAN, WAN, Wireless, and Traffic Statistic information in the center. Off to the right is a detailed explanation for each setting. Network settings include WAN, LAN, MAC Clone, and IPTV options, and each radio band has basic wireless settings (SSID, Mode), as well as WPS, Security (WPA/WPA2 Person and Enterprise), and MAC filtering settings

The Guest Network page allows you to create separate networks with limited access for guests, and it lets you set bandwidth control and access schedules for each network. In Parental Controls you can create access schedules and compile a list of allowed websites for specific clients. There’s also a separate Access Control option that allows you to create network-wide internet access rules. Other settings include Advanced Routing, Bandwidth Control, Port Forwarding and Port Triggering, VPN Pass-Through and Firewall settings, and Dual-Band Selection, which lets you enable and disable each radio band. In System Tools you can change time settings, run network diagnostics, update the router’s firmware, back up settings, and view system logs.

Installation and Performance

Installing the Archer C7 was easy. After connecting it to my desktop PC and the internet, I powered it up and typed tplinkwifi in my browser address bar to access the management console. I clicked the Quick Setup tab on the left and chose Auto-Detect. The console found my internet connection and asked me if I wanted to run Concurrent (dual-band) Wi-Fi or just single band (2.4GHz or 5GHz, but not both). I selected Concurrent and was taken to the wireless settings screen to configure security settings. Once configured, I was ready to go.

Conclusion

The TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router (V2) may cost less than $100, but you’d never know it based on its performance and feature set. Its 2.4GHz and 5GHz throughput scores were better than similarly priced budget models, including the $90 Linksys EA6350 AC1200+ Dual-Band Smart Wi-Fi Wireless Router, and it offers numerous management settings and plenty of I/O ports. The Archer C7’s user interface could use an update, however, and its file-transfer performance could be better. That said, it’s the fastest dual-band router in its class and our Editors’ Choice for budget routers.