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TP-Link TL-WDR7500 (Archer C7) 802.11ac Router Review

September 28th, 2014 14 comments

With several new Android devices coming with the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi, I decided I should buy a new router with AC1200 class or greater and Gigabit Ethernet support, and with a budget of $100. Xiaomi Mi Wi-Fi Mini router almost matched my requirements, but unfortunately only comes with Fast Ethernet ports. TP-Link Archer C7 selling for $96 Amazon US exactly matched my budget, and outmatched my requirements being an AC1750 router with 5x Gigabit Ethernet ports, and two USB ports. Since Amazon won’t ship to my location and shipping would have gone over budget, I expected to find it locally for a slightly higher price, but it ended up selling for over $200 here, allegedly because of a lifetime guarantee. Finally, I ended up buying TP-Link TL-WDR7500, the Chinese version of Archer C7 with 6 Wi-Fi antennas instead of 3, for $94.32 including shipping on Aliexpress.

I’ll take some pictures of the device, explain options to change the Chinese web interface into English, compare the Wi-Fi range to my existing router (TP-Link), and perform some transfer test using 802.11n and 802.11ac with Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta, and HPH NT-V6 Android media player both supported 802.11ac thanks to AP6335 wireless module.

Unboxing Photos

When I received the package I was surprised how big the parcel was, and it felt massive compared to the size of mini PC packages.

TP-Link_TL-WDR7500_Router_Package

The complete package is in Chinese, so this router is definitely designed for the Chinese market only. Based on the text on the package, it’s indeed an AC1700 router with a throughput up to 1.3Gbps @ 5 GHz, and 450 Mbps @ 2.4 Ghz.

Chinese_TP-Link_Archer_C7_Package_Content
The router itself is quite big, and the 6 antennas (3 for 2.4Ghz, 3 for 5Ghz) explain why you’d need such as large package. As expected all documents are in Chinese.

TL-DWR7500 Router and Accessories.

TL-DWR7500 Router and Accessories.

The router comes with a 2m-meter blue Ethernet cable, a 12V/1A power supply, a user’s manual in Chinese, a warranty card, and another small paper listing where traces of lead, mercury, cadmium… may be found.

TP-Link TL-WDR7500 Router (Click to Enlarge)

TP-Link TL-WDR7500 Router (Click to Enlarge)

TP-Link TP-WDR7500 router looks pretty neat once it’s installed. You’ll get a bunch of LEDS on the front panel (left to right): Power, System/Status, 2.4 GHz connection, 5GHz connection, 4x LEDs for LAN ports, 1x LED for WAN port, and WPS. On the back panel, we’ll find a power jack, a power button, two USB 2.0 ports with LED for mass storage (FTP, Samba…), a WAN port, four LAN ports, and a WPS/Reset button.

Bottom of Enclosure (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom of Enclosure (Click to Enlarge)

On the case’s bottom you’ll get a sticker with loin details, S/N, and MAC address. You’ll also notice two holes for wall-mounting the router.

TP-Link TL-WDR7500 / Archer C7 Review

Setting up the router

So I’ve installed my new router close to my old one to perform range and performance testing.

TP-LINK TL-WR940N_Archer_C7TP-Link TL-WR940N is wall-mounted, beer can optimized, and comes with 3 external antennas for 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi (no 5Ghz support). This is actually equivalent to TL-WDR7500 router with 3 external antennas for 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, and three more with 5GHz.

Once everything is connected, you’ll need to access the router with Wi-Fi or Ethernet using the router IP address (192.168.1.1), and login credentials (admin/admin). Provide the computer/device you use to connect to the router support dual band Wi-Fi, you should see two new ESSID: TP-LINK_5GHz_F9EB0E and TP-LINK_2.4GHz_F9EB0E for respectively 5 and 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi.

TP-Link_Archer_C7_ChineseFor most people, using the Chinese interface may be a problem. But luckily there are several options:

  • Use TP-Link Archer C7 simulator side-by-side the Chinese router.
  • Use Greasemonkey add-ons in Firefox with TPlink-WDR7500-UITranslate script
  • Download and flash Archer C7 firmware. There are several version of Archer C7 and TL-WDR7500, so you’d have to make sure you install the right, or you may brick your router.
  • Install OpenWRT. Depending on the model you bought, only 2.4 GHz may be supported, and the latest version of the PCB may not be supported yet. According to the router interface. mine is “WDR7500 v2″, the earlier model. I haven’t open it, so I can’t confirm. You can find picture of the PCB on OpenWRT. The wireless SoC used should either be Qualcomm QCA9880-AR1A (v1) or QCA9880-BR4A (v2).

Since I use Firefox as my main browser, I just installed the script as it’s fast and easy, and it automatically translates the left menu, and the most important settings.

TP-Link_TL-WDR7500_English

However, anything below DHCP server has not been translated. So it’s enough for basic settings, but for more access settings you’ll probably want to find a better option. The script limits itself so some IP ranges, and when I changed the default subnet to 192.168.2.x, I had to edit the script within Firefox to add 192.168.2.0. It’s very easy to do.

TP-Link TL-WDR7500 Signal Strength and Range

I haven’t kept the default ESSID in the router. My older TP-Link router is CNX-TRANLATION (2.4 Ghz), and I’ve configure TL-WDR7500 with CNX-SOFTWARE (2.4 GHz), and CNX-SOFTWARE_5G (5Ghz). In this part of the review, I just walked about with my phone (ThL W200) checking the signal strength in various locations with Wifi analyzer.

My Office

My Office – 1 wall about 6 meters from routers

Wife

Wife’s Office – 2 walls, about 18 meters from routers

Garden

Garden – 1 wall about 14 meters from routers

Street

Street – 1 wall about 50 meters from router

It’s quite clear both router have about the same range, and signal strength at various locations. The only small difference is that on the street, CNX-TRANSLATION (TL-WR940N) had a tendency to come and go, whereas CNX-SOFTWARE (TL-WDR7500) signal appeared to be more stable.

I was unable to test 5GHz 802.11n/ac range, since I don’t own any mobile devices supporting it.

TP-Link TL-WDR7500 Throughput Testing

Finding out a router range is interesting, but the reason to buy a 802.11ac is not really about improved range, but rather faster throughput. So I’ll put two Android TV boxes to test, transferring a 278 MB from SAMBA to their internal eMMC and vice-versa using 802.11n (2.4 GHz) with both TL-WR940N and TL-WDR7500 routers, and 802.11ac with the new router. I used ES File Explorer for this purpose, repeating the tests three times, and averaged the results.

The first device under test was Tronsmart Orion R28 Meta Android mini PC with Rockchip RK3288 processor and an AP6335 module with an external antenna.

Tronsmart_Orion_R28_Meta_Wi-Fi

Throughput in MB/s

OK, so that’s quite disappointing as 802.11ac is much slower than 802.11n… The 5GHz connection was initially set with a speed of 433Mbps (as reported in Android Settings), but it fell to 117 Mbps after a while. Orion R28 Meta has an external Wi-Fi antenna, but for some reasons the signal is not “Excellent” but only “Fair”, almost like if there’s a bad contact with the external antenna.

Let’s move to HPH NT-V6, another media player based on Rockchip RK3288 processor with AP6335 module, to see if performance is any better.

HPH_NT-V6_Wi-Fi

Throughput in MB/s

Performance in underwhelming again. The 802.11ac is connected at 292 Mbps, and the results are a bit better than Orion R28, but it’s not the real picture as I discarded one of the transfer which dropped to around 10 KB/s over a 17 Mbps connection. You may wonder why there’s no result with 802.11n using TL-WDR7500. The reason is simple: two of the three transfer were very slow and even stalled at times, so I canceled them. The transfer that went through took 3 minutes 50 seconds with an average of 1.20 MB/s… The connection was more stable with my older router @ 1.92 MB/s, a very average score among Android mini PCs, as the best device

The best device I’ve tested can reach 3.84 MB/s on average with 802.11n, so it’s clear disappointing that I haven’t been able to go faster with any of the devices I’ve tested over 802.11ac. Having said that it’s very difficult to draw a conclusion regards the performance of either TL-WDR7500 router, and the two Android TV boxes because I don’t have a reference platform that’s known to work properly that could help pinpoint the bottleneck in these tests. But at least I’ve learned that 802.11ac does not always beats 802.11n.

USB Mass Storage and Gigabit Ethernet

To complete my review, I connected a USB 3.0 hard drive to one of the USB 2.0 port on the back of the router to test both USB transfer speed, and Gigabit Ethernet. Normally I get about 30 MB/s transfer rate if my drive is connected to USB 2.0, but I only got 7.3 MB/s over a SAMBA connection, and quickly realized the LED on my Gigabit Ethernet switch (D-Link DGS-1005A) indicated a Fast Ethernet connection with the router… The Cat5e cable between the router and the switch is is 15 meter long, so I thought maybe it could be an issue. I brought my router closer to try several cables and I could get a Gigabit connection with some, but not all. Again, I can’t be sure 100% of the reason for this issue, but based on experience I’d tend to think the problem is related to with Gigabit switch, which has been picky with other devices too.

Gigabit Ethernet has been introduced in 1999, so I was naively thinking after 15 years it should just work with no problem, but actual testing showed it was not the case…

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SinoVoIP BPI-R1 Board Based on AllWinner A20 Features 5 Ethernet Ports, a SATA Interface, and More

September 2nd, 2014 13 comments

SinoVoIP, a company known for its Banana Pi board and related spamming, has been working on another AllWinner A20 product called BPI-R1 (Banana Pi R1), a router/NAS platform that features 5 Gigabit Ethernet ports, a SATA interface, HDMI, audio output, and more.

SinoVoIP_BPI-R1_Router
BPI-R1 Board specifications:

  • SoC- Allwinner A20 dual core Cortex A7 processor @ 1 GHz with Mali-400MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 1 GB DDR3
  • Storage – SD card slot up to 64GB, SATA connector for hard drive or SSD up to 2TB
  • Video output – HDMI, LVDS/RGB via DSI connectors
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, 3.5mm stereo jack, and on-board microphone
  • Camera – CSI connector possibly interfacing with their upcoming BPI-D1 camera
  • Connectivity – 5x Gigabit Ethernet (RJ45) ports including 4x LAN ports, 1x WAN port, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi (RTL8192CU module) with two antenna connectors.
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x micro USB OTG port, 1x micro USB for power
  • I/O Expansion Headers:
    • 26-pin header (but not fully R-Pi compatible) with access to GPIO, UART, I2C, SPI, CAN, PWM, 3.3V, 5V and GND pins
    • 8-pin header with UART7, 2 more GPIOs, and power signals
    • 2-pin header for UART0 Tx and Rx.
  • Misc – Power and reset buttons, Power and user LEDs, IR receiver, Battery connector
  • Dimensions – 148 x 100 mm
  • Weight – 83 grams

The company will provide Linux and Android 4.2.2 images and source code for the board. They also claim BPI-R1 is an “open source router”, but based on their previous products, that only includes the software, not the hardware.

AllWinner_A20_Router_NASThe board is expected to be available in October 2014 for $65. OS Images should eventually become available in the Download section of Bananapi.com, and source code in their github account. Further details may be available on SinoVoIP BRI-R1 product page.

Thank you Lalith!

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$25 GL.iNet 6416A is an Hackable OpenWRT Router with Easy UART and GPIO Access

August 25th, 2014 6 comments

There are plenty of low cost routers supporting OpenWRT, but GL.iNet 6416A has several advantages compared to devices like TP-Link WR703N. Both are based on Atheros AR9931, but GL.iNet router has more memory and storage (64MB RAM + 16MB Flash vs 32MB RAM + 4MB Flash), two Ethernet ports instead of just one, and 6 GPIOs, the serial pins, and power signals (5V, 3.3V and GND) are all easily accessible via though holes or headers. Gl.iNet 6416A can be purchased for about $25 on DealExtreme or Amazon US, and it used to be listed on eBay, but is now out of stock.

GL.inet_6416AGl/iNET 6416A specifications:

  • Wi-Fi SoC – Atheros AR9331 MIPS processor @ 400 MHz
  • System Memory – 64MB RAM
  • Storage – 16MB Flash
  • Connectivity – 2x 10/100 Mbit Ethernet ports, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-FI up to 150Mbps
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x micro USB port for power
  • Debugging – Serial console via UART header (GND, Tx, Rx)
  • Expansion – 6 GPIOs, 5V, 3.3V, and GND.
  • Misc – Reset button, LED indicator
  • Power – 5V (micro USB)
  • Dimension – 5.8 x 5.8 x 2.2 cm
  • Weight 42 grams.

The device is also said to support USB webcams (MJPG or YUV), and USB mass storage with FAT32, EXFAT, EXT-2/3/4, and NTFS file systems using the stock firmware. There are also Android and iOS apps to manage the router.

GL.iNet_6416A_Board

GL.iNet 6416A Board Description – Source: Stian Eikeland

6416A router, and its little brother, 6408A, with 8 MB flash, are now part of mainline OpenWRT. You can also follow news and access short tutorials for the board on GL.iNet website, and check out the product page.

Thanks to Nanik for the tip.

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How to Use an Android TV Box as a Wi-Fi Access Point

July 3rd, 2014 3 comments

Today, I’ve come across another potential use case for Android TV boxes with Wi-Fi and Ethernet. Let’s say you are in a room with Ethernet, but there’s no Wi-Fi signal or the signal is too weak, and want to use your smartphone to connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi. If you don’t have one of these small (openWRT) Wi-Fi router with you, but instead brought an Android mini PC, you can configure the “Portable Hotspot” function to transform it into a secure Wi-Fi access point.

Assuming you’ve connect an Ethernet cable, and powered the device, first make sure Ethernet is enabled\, and Wi-Fi is disabled in the Settings menu. To click on Settings->More.. in the Wireless & Networks section, and select “Tethering & portable hotspot” or simply “Portable hotspot” depending on your firmware. In the next menu, click on Portable Wi-Fi hotspot to enabled it, then “Set up Wi-Fi Hospot” to optionally change the Network SSID and Security protocol, and enter a password. Click on Save, and you’re done. Now you can connect with your smartphone to you Android mini PC SSID, by default “AndroidAP”. I’ve tested it with Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite, and it worked nicely.

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Soap is a Touchscreen Enabled Router Supporting Gigabit Ethernet and Lots of Wireless Standards (Crowdfunding)

June 12th, 2014 2 comments

Soap is a strange creature, and I’m not convinced there are that many use cases for such hardware, but I find it interesting that the developers decided to pack a Freescale i.MX6 Solo/Dual or Quad SoC powered Android 4.4 tablet and a router supporting five Gigabit Etherner ports, as well as WiFI 802.11ac, Wi-0Fi 802.11 b/g/n,  Zigbee, Z-wave, Bluetooth 4.0 (BLE), Insteon RF, X10, 433Mhz, NFC, and infrared into one and only device which they call an “Intelligent Home Management Hub”.  It’s also complete with an HDMI output port so that you can use it as a media player.

Soap_Router_Tablet_Automation_Gateway_STB

Let’s go through the specifications for the four version this little monster (Soap Solo, Soap Dual, Soap Quad, and Soap 8.4):

  • SoC
    • Soap Solo – Freescale i.MX6 Solo single ARM Cortex A9 @ 1 GHz with Vivante GC880 3D GPU
    • Soap Dual – Freescale i.MX6 Dual dual ARM Cortex A9 @ 1 GHz with Vivante GC2000 3D GPU
    • Soap Quad and 8.4 – Freescale i.MX6 Quad quad ARM Cortex A9 @ 1 GHz with Vivante GC2000 3D GPU
  • System Memory – Soap Solo: 1GB DDR3 @ 1066MHz, Others: 2GB DDR3 @ 1066MHz
  • Storage
    • Soap Solo – 8GB internal storage,
    • Soap Dual and Quad – 32GB internal storage
    • Soap 8.4 – 32 GB internal storage, and 128GB SSD
    • All – Internal micro SD card slot and SATA II connections
  • Display
    • Soap Solo/Dual/Quad – 7″ TFT LCD display; SVGA resolution (800×600)
    • Soap 8.4 – 8.4 TFTP LCD display; SVGA resolution (800×600)
  • Connectivity – 1x WAN Eternet port, 4x LAN Ethernet ports, 4 SMA antenna ports for a dual band 802.11ac Wi-Fi 4×4 MIMO module (Up to 1.3 Gb/s), and a dual band 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi module. Bluetooth 4.0 LE, Zigbee, Z-Wave, Insteon RF, X10 RF, 433MHz RF and NFC
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0
  • Video & Audio Output – HDMI
  • Misc – Infrared sensor
Android and iOS Apps are Available for Soap Routers

Android and iOS Apps are Available for Soap Routers

The Freescale i.MX6 is brought to the device via Congatec SoM, probably their conga-qmx6 Q7 modules. Beside the Android kitkat tablet, router, home automation, and media player applications possible with this device, the developers are also promoting the device for its parental control abilities, controlling when you kids can play games by the touch of a button, preventing them to access not-safe-for-kids websites, and so on.

The project is now on Indiegogo (Fixed funding) where Soap’s designers plan to gather $42.000 or more to start production. Soap Solo starts at $240, Soap Dual at $280, Soap Quad at $360, and the most expensive option, Soap 8.4, will go for $500. Shipping to North America is $6, and $35 for the rest of the world. Delivered is scheduled for February 2015. Please note it’s not the first time the project is crowd-funded, as it was on KickStarter last March with perks at a much lower price point.

Via Hack a Day

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802.11ah Wi-Fi (900 MHz) to Provide Low Power, Long Range Connectivity for the Internet of Things

February 21st, 2014 3 comments

Most devices now feature Wi-Fi modules capable of handling 802.11 b/g/n at 2.4 Ghz (and 5 GHz for dual band Wi-Fi), and newer devices and routers boast 802.11ac connectivity @ 5GHz with increased bandwidth (up to 1.2 Gbit/s in theory, maybe around 400 Mbit/s in practive), and in some case increased range with  beam-forming. But thanks to an article on EETimes, I’ve learned there’s another upcoming Wi-Fi standard called 802.11ah operating in the 900MHz range, with data rates from 150 Kbit/s with a 1 MHz band to as much as 40 Mbit/s over an 8 MHz band, lower power consumption, and a least double of the range of a typical 802.11n device,capable of covering an area of about 1 km2. The target applications are sensors networks, backhaul networks for sensor and meter, and extended range Wi-Fi, as the standard allows long range and more clients at low bitrates.

Smart Grid with 802.11ah - Source:

Smart Grid with 802.11ah – Source: Seoul National Univeristy

This new Wi-Fi standard will compete with other sub 1GHz wireless standard such as Zigbee, and Z-Wave, and it seems to have similar applications as Wi-Fi 802.11af standard operating in the TV white band. Companies such as Broadcom, CSR, Huawei, Intel, LG, Marvell, NEC, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Samsung, and ZTE are participating in IEEE 802.11ah standard which is expected to get ratified by the end of 2015. If you want to learn more about technical details, you could read a publications entitled IEEE 802.11ah: A Long Range 802.11 WLAN at Sub 1 GHz by the Department of ECE and INMC from Seoul National University.

802.11ah_specturmA Greek company, Antcor, will demonstrate its 802.11ah DSP block supporting 4×4 MIMO for home gateways and industrial automation networks at Mobile World Congress 2014, and the first 802.11ah SoCs should hit the market before the end of this year, using the draft specifications.

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Xiaomi MiWiFi 802.11ac NAS Powered by Broadcom BCM4709 SoC

December 16th, 2013 8 comments

Last month, Xiaomi teased the public with pictures of a new device, but gave very few details. The company have now provided further details, and the box shown below turns out to be an 802.11 NAS (Network Access Storage) powered by Broadcom BCM4709 dual core Cortex A9 Wi-Fi 802.11ac SoC.

MiWiFi_NASXiaomi provided the following technical specifications for MiWiFi NAS:

  • SoC – Broadcom BCM4709 dual-core Cortex A9 processor @ 1 GHz
  • System Memory – 256MB DDR3
  • Storage – SATA interface with 1TB Hard drive
  • Connectivity
    • 2x Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 ports
    • Dual band WiFi 802.11ac (2.4/5GHz)
    • NFC (at the top of the device)
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port
  • Misc – Fan for cooling

The company will launch a sale for Beta units on the 19th of December, for the Chinese market only, and the NAS will come disassembled in a wooden case with a TB harddrive, a power supply, cables, and the tools to put all pieces together. It will also include a membership card to access a movie download service.

MiWiFi_Suitcase

The SATA drive is inserted via the bottom side of the NAS, and the top features an NFC chip to communicate with a your smartphone. I understand (via Google Translate) that the NAS will be somewhat customizable, as you’ll be able to develop and install your own plugins, an smartphone app is available for management, and you’ll also be able to use it as an home automation platform to control your lights, aircon, TV, etc… It also appear the router features a technology, not involving beer cans, to direct the beam to extend Wi-Fi range. You can find details on miwifi.com (Chinese).

Retail availability and pricing is not available at this time, and the device may never officially be sold outside China, excluding of course, via sites like Aliexpress.

Via AndroidPC.es

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Categories: Hardware Tags: automation, nas, router, wifi, xiaomi