TP-Link Archer VR900 AC 1900 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Modem Router Review

by - 6 years ago

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Introduction


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For today’s review I am taking the TP-Link Archer VR900AC 1900 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit VDSL/ADSL Modem Router for a spin in our test area to see how well it performs, it surely sounds like a great device. While the Archer VR900 looks very similar to the Archer C9 that we reviewed not long ago, it’s quite the different device and it also sports some general improvements over the C9.

Most noticeable is the built-in modem that allows you to connect it directly to your phone line when using that sort of connection. There is no need to keep the old modem around and couple a router on the back of it in order to gain the features and functionality you want; The Archer VR900 does it all. It supports all current ADSL as well as VDSL formats right out of the box.

TP-Link didn’t just stop after adding the DSL modem to the VR900, they also made sure that it will work with pretty much any connection. At some point, and as it becomes available in more and more regions, there is a good chance that you’ll switch from your DSL line to a more modern Fibre optical connection. When you do so, you don’t need to replace the VR900 with something new as it also supports a direct WAN connection via the fourth LAN port. But once again, TP-Link weren’t satisfied with the connection options, so they made sure that you’re also able to connect it to 3G or 4G/LTE network via a USB dongle and the two onboard USB ports. All in all, there isn’t much that this router can’t do and connect to.

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The TP-Link VR900 is an AC1900 dual-band router, meaning it can perform with up to 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and up to 1300 Mbps on the 5GHz band for a combined throughput of 1900 MBps. It has a great coverage thanks to the three 5 dBi omni-directional antennas. The wireless range and performance is further enhanced thanks to the beamforming technology that is applied on both wireless bands.

Inside the router is a 1GHz dual-core processor that makes sure that you don’t encounter any bottlenecks as the router has to perform its tasks.

The wireless bands feature the normal 64bit and 128bit WEP, WPA, and WPA2 encryptions for secure connections and the WPS button makes connecting devices as easy as it can be. The software parts feature everything from Wireless MAC filtering, QoS control, NAT Firewall, VPN, Virtual server and Port Triggers, as well as any other function you could want from a router. Guest networking and parental control is also present and both are great features to have around.

Specifications

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Packaging and Accessories

A great router like this also deserves a beautiful wrapping and TP-Link delivers that. The Archer VR900 has a simple yet very beautiful package. The front shows the device itself as well as providing all the basic feature information.

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On the rear of the package, we find more details about the specific functions as well as a comparison table with other TP-Link devices. That way it’s even easier to pick just the right model when you’re visiting your local tech shop and have them all in front of you.

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Inside we find everything we need to get it set up. The router itself and a power supply for it, two RJ11 cables and a splitter for your DSL connection, an RJ45 LAN cable, and the three detachable antennas as well as a quickstart guide and technical references.

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A Closer Look


At the first glance, the TP-Link VR900 looks very similar to the Archer C9, but it does hold a few differences. The ports and buttons have been moved a bit around and I quite like this way. The USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports have been switched and the USB 3.0 is on the back now. The rest and WPS button has also been separated, now you’ll find the reset on the back and WPS on the side.

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Taking a closer look on the rear connections, we first spot the RJ11 connector for your DSL connection, that is if you use that. Next we find the USB 3.0 port for high-speed storage connection followed by the four Gigabit Ethernet ports. The fourth LAN port doubles as a WAN port when you connect to a static connection such as a fiber optical.

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As mentioned, the USB 2.0 port is located on the one side of the VR900 and there is plenty of room surrounding it to fit even larger USB drives and dongles.

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On the other side of the unit, we find one of the best improvements over the Archer C9. The Vr900 has three buttons here where the first one lets you turn off the LEDs on the router. If you don’t need them, why have them running. The next button will allow you to quickly turn the WiFi on and off while the last is the WPS button that allows easy connection with other devices.

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The silver frame runs all the way around the unit and that includes the top. This design helps to hide the antenna mounts a little better and give it a more spacious design.

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The frame does make mounting the antennas a bit tricky, but it is easily bendable with a finger, allowing you to secure the antennas with more ease.

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For a secure stand, it features two smaller rubber feet on the router itself and a long one on the rear stand.

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User Interface


Connecting to the user interface is just as easy with the TP-Link VR900 as it is with almost any network attached smart device these days. Windows will automatically detect network devices and all you need to do is open the File Explorer. Under the Network infrastructure, you’ll find the new router and all you have to do, is right-click it and select View device webpage. The user interface will now automatically open in your default browser.

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The most important thing when you get a new network attached device such as a router, and especially when it is the first and last point between you and the world, is to change the default password. The TP-Link VR900 automatically loads the page to do just that when you connect to it the first time. To get a strong password, it is recommended to use both uppercase, lowercase, and numbers in it.

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Once you have changed your password, you can login with it.

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Quick Setup

When you enter the user interface for the first time, it will load the Quick Setup. This will help you get the router up and running and is mainly needed when the DSL modem will be used for the internet connection.

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The router has a long list of pre-configured ISP setups and you’ll most likely only need to select your region and then your provider. Username and Password are either in your sign-up notice from your ISP or it will be automatically transmitted to the router. Which depends on your ISP.

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Since I don’t connect through DSL but I am on a fibre optical connection, I can not get past this point and will have to move on to the more manual setup. But that’s nothing to worry about. You don’t need any login details on such a connection and the external settings such as IP and DNS will be provided automatically. Anything else is a breeze to change and modify to your needs and you’d have to do that anyway after the quick setup.

Basic

Most users will probably never make it past the Basic tab. You can find all the important settings that most common users need right here. The first page will show you the Network map where you quickly can view the connection status and get details about each point by selecting them.

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The Internet mode will allow you to set the type and not much else, whether the details are provided via PPPoE, Dynamic, or Static IP.

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The Wireless page allows you to set the SSID and password for each band separately and also enable or disable one of them, in case you don’t need it. After all, there is no need to run a wireless signal that you’re never going to use.

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Guest networking is a very useful feature. It allows you to grant guest access to your internet connection while still keeping a lid on what they can do and what not. That way you don’t need to share your normal password with them either.

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The TP-Link VR900 features both a USB 2.0 and a USB 3.0 port that allow you to connect both storage drives and printers. In return, you can access those devices from all connected systems, may they be computers or other smart devices.

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I’ve previously mentioned that the router also supports 3G and 4G connections. That will have to be enabled in the router setup, but it isn’t difficult. You’ll, of course, need a USB adapter plugged in to do this.

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The final part of the Basic setup is the Parental Control. It allows you to limit the internet access in several ways to protect your kids, or yourself. You can set time frames where internet connections are allowed for specific systems as well as restrict web addresses via black and whitelists.

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Advanced

The first page on the Advanced tab will basically show what the first one on the Basic tab did, just with more details right away.

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As previously mentioned, for the most parts you’ll never really need to enter the Advanced settings, at least if you’re an average PC user. There is, however, one function that wasn’t selectable in the quick setup or basic tab and that is the operating mode. This is needed if you want to connect another way than through DSL. Well, that’s not entirely true. If your details are transmitted to you via DHCP, then the router will do it on its own when the WAN cable is connected to the proper port.

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As for the rest of the Advanced settings, they are pretty much self-explanatory. They do what you see and most don’t require any more explanation.

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The scheduler is a wonderful feature to make sure that you, or anyone else in your household, will keep to their bed times. That is of course just one option to use the scheduler for, but it will probably be the most used. Anyway, why should it broadcast a lot of wireless signals when it isn’t being used? Like when you’re at work or asleep.

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User Interface Continued


continuing with the Advanced settings and we get to another great feature that we see in more and more routers: The Guest network. You might not want to share everything on your network with your guests, including your normal WiFi password. With a guest network, you don’t have to anymore.

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Those who run private servers and other software that require more specific traffic redirection will be satisfied with the TP-Link VR900 too. It features it all, from application layer gateway over normal virtual server forwards and port triggers to demilitarized zones and UPnP for easy setup by devices and software themselves.

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The USB settings are pretty much the same as we saw on the Basic tab.

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Parental control allows you to manage connected PCs individually. Stay on top of what your kids do and when they do it.

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The system tools include backup and restore functions as well as built-in diagnostics.

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The firmware update function sadly doesn’t allow for a direct online connection and upgrade. You’ll have to visit the page manually and download possible new version before uploading them to the router and flashing it.

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Testing & Methodology


Testing a router’s performance is a pretty straight forward process from my point of view. I will first test the wired network performance with several tests followed by the wireless performance on each available band.

When testing the wireless performance I will adjust the distance between the router and the receiving WiFi connection from short over medium to long distance throughout my apartment.

Hardware

We would like to thank our sponsors for supplying us with the equipment needed to perform these tests.

Software

  • Lan Speed Test
  • PassMark PerformanceTest Suite

For both the wired and wireless tests, I’ll be using both static and variable package sizes. The final test will be of the built-in storage ports such as USB 3.0 and eSATA with their file-sharing functions, if they exist. These test together should give us a fair image of what the router is capable of. USB 2.0 ports aren’t really needed to test as they always perform the same; slow.

While it’s easy to test and give you comparable view on the wired connections, we need to keep in mind that environmental factors can’t be avoided with the wireless signals. I live in a pretty big apartment complex where many of the residents have multiple WiFi networks. This will have a natural impact on the shown performance, but at the same time give a great view of how the device can handle itself in a heavy traffic area.

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Wired LAN Performance


Fixed Block Size

To test the maximum throughput speed that a connection can handle, a fixed block size of 16384 Bytes is sent from the client to the server over a period of five minutes. The higher block size will allow the transfer rate to stay as high as possible – in the same way that large files transfer from one drive to another quicker than lots of small files of the same total size.

Variable Packet Size

In a real world situation, the blocks of data that pass through a network adaptor are not of the same size each time, so to give a more realistic impression of how an adaptor performs, the adaptor is once again tested for a period of five minutes. This time, however, the block size will vary from 32 Bytes up to 16384 Bytes in increasing steps of 148.7 Bytes each time.

TCP Performance

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UDP Performance

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WLAN Performance


WLAN 2.4GHz 802.11n

The 2.4GHz band is the older of the two wireless bands that are in use today. On this band, we find 802.11b/g/n wireless standards with up to 600Mbps bandwidth on offer when using wireless-n compliant devices. Due to the lower operating frequency, 2.4GHz signals offer a wider level of coverage, but the lower throughput speeds are a disadvantage to this aging band.

Fixed Block Size

To test the maximum throughput speed that a wireless connection can handle, a fixed block size of 16384 Bytes is sent from the client to the server over a period of five minutes. The higher block size will allow the transfer rate to stay as high as possible – in the same way that large files transfer from one drive to another quicker than lots of small files of the same total size.

TP-Link_VR900-Bench-WLAN_2_fixed_graph

TP-Link_VR900-Chart-WLAN_2_fixed

Variable Packet Size

In a real world situation, the blocks of data that pass through a wireless adaptor are not of the same size each time, so to give a more realistic impression of how an adaptor performs, the adaptor is once again tested at each range for a period of five minutes. This time, however, the block size will vary from 32 Bytes up to 16384 Bytes in increasing steps of 148.7 Bytes each time.

TP-Link_VR900-Bench-WLAN_2_variable_graph

TP-Link_VR900-Chart-WLAN_2_variable

WLAN 5GHz 802.11ac

5GHz is a more recent addition to the consumer WiFi specification and on this frequency we find both 802.11n and AC standards on offer. We note that 802.11n is the only standard to run at both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies and this is the most common standard for ISP routers to feature. Unlike the 2.4GHz band, 5GHz radio waves and solid brick walls do not go that well hand in hand, so whilst it does support a much faster throughput speed, its range can be severely crippled in a dense operating environment.

Fixed Block Size

To test the maximum throughput speed that a wireless connection can handle, a fixed block size of 16384 Bytes is sent from the client to the server over a period of five minutes. The higher block size will allow the transfer rate to stay as high as possible – in the same way that large files transfer from one drive to another quicker than lots of small files of the same total size.

TP-Link_VR900-Bench-WLAN_5_fixed_graph

TP-Link_VR900-Chart-WLAN_5_fixed

Variable Packet Size

In a real world situation, the blocks of data that pass through a wireless adaptor are not of the same size each time, so to give a more realistic impression of how an adaptor performs, the adaptor is once again tested at each range for a period of five minutes. This time, however, the block size will vary from 32 Bytes up to 16384 Bytes in increasing steps of 148.7 Bytes each time.

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TP-Link_VR900-Chart-WLAN_5_variable

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USB 3.0 Connected Performance


The TP-Link Archer C9 comes with a built-in USB 3.0 port, so I’ll be testing that one too. The management of the USB ports is real easy as we’ve seen on the previous pages, but how does it perform.

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I’m using LAN Speed Test for this benchmark. It’s a simple tool that allows me to test network connected storage by setting the amount of packets and their size for the test. I get minimum, maximum and average throughput speeds in return.

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Final Thoughts


Pricing

It doesn’t look like the TP-Link VR900 AC 1900 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit VDSL/ADSL Modem Router has reached the US at the time of writing, but us people located in the EU have a good availability. At the time of writing, it can be had at Overclockers UK for £139.99 or with a temporary discount via Amazon for £125.56. German readers can find it starting from €148.27 plus shipping and handling.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed reviewing the TP-Link VR900 Modem Router and it easily convinced me. The first thing I really like about this unit is the universal connectivity that it offers. Whether you use ADSL, VDLS, Fibre or other static connection, it doesn’t matter. It can even connect to 3G and 4G networks, either primary or as a backup, through optional USB adapters. That is impressive and with a router like the VR900 you know that you won’t have to upgrade for quite a while.

The design is simple and pretty close to the Acher C9 that I reviewed a little while ago. While the base shape, white colour and simplistic design has been kept, it also features some improvements. The USB ports have been switched around and the USB 3.0 is located on the rear. Further it got an LED button to turn the front LEDs off and the WPS and reset button have been separated. Especially the last part is great as you wouldn’t want to reset your router instead of connecting a device it to it. You’re also able to easily turn the WiFi on and off by a button, which can be very beneficial.

We can’t fault the VR900 in the area of performance either. It did very well and surprisingly performed best on the furthest distance. It should have no trouble providing even large homes with trouble-free WiFi in most corners. If it still shouldn’t be good enough despite the beam forming technologies and high-gain, then you have the option to replace the 5dBi antennas with something more powerful of your choice.

The user interface is very nice, but it could use a few tweaks in width and height limitation as well as an online firmware update function. But those are minor things that easily can be improved in future updates. Other than that, the user interface is great. It’s easy to use for both novice and advanced users. If there is something that you don’t understand, then you most likely don’t need it. And the rest is self-explanatory.

Pros

  • Good Interface with easy setup
  • Connects to almost any internet connection: DSL, Static, Dynamic, and Mobile
  • Good performance and great coverage
  • Simplistic design that blends well.
  • Easily accessible buttons for WPS, LEDs, and WiFi.

Cons

  • No online update function in GUI

“TP-Link easily convinced me with the VR900 Modem Router. It’s easy to use and provides a versatility that’s worth having. I would recommend it to both friends and family without hesitation.”

Editors-Choice

TP-Link Archer VR900 AC 1900 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit VDSL/ADSL Modem Router Review

Thank you TP-Link for providing us with this review sample

Article Index

  1. Introduction
  2. A Closer Look
  3. User Interface
  4. User Interface Continued
  5. Testing & Methodology
  6. Wired LAN Performance
  7. WLAN Performance
  8. USB 3.0 Connected Performance
  9. Final Thoughts
  10. View All

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