TP-Link TL-WR2543ND review
802.11n dual band, 4x 10/100/1000Mbit/s Ethernet ports
The TP-Link WR2543ND seems like a bargain product. Not only is it a dual-band router, it also has a USB port to which you can attach USB storage and printers, four Gigabit Ethernet ports and dynamic DNS support, all for just £50. There's no built-in ADSL modem, so you'll need to plug an ADSL or cable modem into the router's WAN port.
We were impressed by the router's web interface. It’s clearly laid-out and filled with informative text and easily found options, although some text could be better translated. The web interface was so straightforward that we quickly had the WR2543ND set up and could conduct our wireless test within minutes of switching it on.
A good web interface, like this one, is one of the most important features on any router
Sadly, it's during testing that the WR2543ND's shortcomings become apparent. When using the 2.4GHz band and our Centrino laptop’s built-in Wi-Fi adaptor, we saw speeds of 44.1Mbit/s at one metre and 26.6Mbit/s at 10 metres. The router couldn't maintain a stable connection at 25m. The speeds increased dramatically, however, when we switched to TP-Link’s TL-WDN3200 Wi-Fi adaptor (£20 from www.dabs.com). With the new adaptor we saw transfer rates of 69.9Mbit/s at one metre and 53.6Mbit/s at 10 metres. Sadly, we still couldn’t get a stable wireless connection at 25 metres.
We saw another slight performance increase when we switched to the less congested 5GHz band. Over 5GHz and using our laptop's built-in Wi-Fi adaptor we saw data transfer speeds of 64.5Mbit/s at one metre and 53.6Mbit/s at 10 metres. Once again, the test failed at 25 metres. When using the TL-WDN3200 USB adaptor, we saw transfer speeds of 63Mbit/s at one metre, an impressive 74.1Mbit/s at 10 metres and 8.25Mbit/s at 25 metres.
Unfortunately, all those big aerials don't translate into good Wi-Fi speeds
You must use the 5GHz band to get the best out of the TL-WR2543ND, but this is impractical because the router can't broadcast on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands simultaneously. As many devices such as smartphones and tablets can only use 2.4GHz, this means you have to choose between fast transfer rates with your PC or laptop and being able to get your phone on the Wi-Fi. The router's poor long distance performance also limits its usefulness, especially if you’re using it in a house.