TP-Link TD-W8950ND review
TP-Link specialises in networking kit of the cheap, cheerful and surprisingly effective variety, but the low costs of its TD-W8950ND even surprised us. At just £27, it's the cheapest 802.11n router that we've ever seen. To clarify, it's only an N-Lite router, lacking the twin antennas required by the full 802.11n standard, so its theoretical maximum speed is just 150Mbit/s rather than a full 300Mbit/s.
At this price, you can't expect anything much beyond the basics in terms of features. The router has an ADSL WAN port, four 10/100Mbit/s Ethernet LAN ports and a Quick Secure Setup button, which uses the WPS standard to securely connect compatible devices simply by pressing two buttons. The router gets very warm and we were surprised by its high 9W power consumption
There are configuration wizards on the accompanying CD and built into the web interface. The CD version, with its animated step-by-step setup guide, is better for novices. If you know what you're doing the web utility is quicker.
The web interface is simple, well-designed and easy to use. Most of the features you'll need are in the Wireless and Advanced Setup menus. If you do nothing else, you'll want to go through the Basic and Security settings in the wireless menu to enable wireless security, as this isn't done during the setup wizard. It's worth switching the router's region from the US to the UK, as we have access to wireless channels 12 and 13.
Wireless performance was good in short-to-medium range tests using our Centrino 2 laptop, producing throughputs of 31.9Mbit/s at 1m and 28.6Mbit/s at 10m. However, like many N-Lite routers, performance tailed off sharply at 20m, where we saw speeds of just 5Mbit/s. That's fast enough for web browsing, but we wouldn't recommend transferring any large files. We also tested the router using TP-Link's own TL-WN-727N adaptor, which costs around £8. This produced noticeably better results at 1m, with throughput of 57.3Mbit/s, had less benefit at 10m and was slightly slower at 20m.
The features in the router's Advanced menu are a typical, if rather limited selection. A simple parental control allows you to block a designated device from accessing the internet at specified hours. You can set up a maximum of 32 static IP addresses on your local network, and the router's port forwarding table is limited to 16 entries. For home users neither of these limits is too restrictive and few people open more than a couple of ports.
Although the TD-W8950ND's wireless throughput isn't going to break any records, it's incredibly cheap, easy to use and its performance at short-to-medium ranges is good enough to make it a bargain unless you have a large area to cover. It's a perfect Budget Buy.
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