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TP-Link Archer AX6000 router review: A fast and user-friendly Wi-Fi 6 router

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
291
Inc VAT

This 802.11ax router is a great all-rounder, with strong performance, plenty of connectivity options and easy management

Pros 
Fast wireless on both 802.11ac and 802.11ax
Good range of settings and connections
Nicely accessible administration options
Cons 
Not quite the fastest router out there
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The Archer AX6000 is TP-Link’s first router to support 802.11ax (also known as Wi-Fi 6). This enables much faster wireless performance than 802.11ac when you connect from a compatible device although, needless to say, older wireless clients are still supported, too.

This technology isn’t entirely new to us, however: we’ve already seen 802.11ax routers from Asus and Netgear. So the question is, how does TP-Link’s debut offering measure up to the competition?

TP-Link Archer AX6000 router review: What you need to know

The Archer AX6000 is a dual-band 802.11ax router. The name reflects its theoretical wireless bandwidth, which totals 4,804 Mbits/sec on the 5GHz radio band plus 1,148Mbits/sec over 2.4GHz. While you won’t ever see those speeds in practice, those are impressive headline numbers and the AX6000 also supports upstream and downstream 8x8 MU-MIMO for 802.11ax connections.

Wired connections are well covered by eight Gigabit Ethernet ports and an incoming WAN port with support for 2.5GbE connections. The specification is rounded off by a pair of USB 3 ports – one standard USB Type-A socket and one in the newer Type-C format. In short, if you’re looking for an upper-mid-range 802.11ax router, this one ticks all the key boxes.

TP-Link Archer AX6000 router review: Price and competition

Right now, the Archer AX6000 can be had online for £291. That puts it in head-on competition with our current favourite 802.11ax router, the Asus RT-AX88U, which costs a similar £297. The Asus has lots of features and superb performance but the Archer has some advantages of its own – as we’ll discuss below.

For the time being, your only other 802.11ax options are from Netgear. The Nighthawk AX4 isn’t the fastest or most feature-packed router out there but it’s the cheapest way we’ve seen so far to get Wi-Fi 6, coming in at just £201. There’s also the mid-range Nighthawk AX8 at £284 and the superlative – but very expensive – Nighthawk AX12, which matches the AX6000’s 8x8 MU-MIMO but costs an eye-watering £360.

Of course, there’s still no shortage of 802.11ac contenders out there too. The Linksys EA9500 remains one of the top routers of its generation, but it’s not cheap at £250. At this point I’d be inclined to pay the extra for a future-proof 802.11ax solution.

TP-Link Archer AX6000 router review: Features and design

As with previous Archer routers, the AX6000 is of an uncompromisingly geometrical design, rendered in a stylish combination of matte and high-gloss black plastic. Its footprint measures 261mm square and it stands 60mm tall – not including the eight rather stubby antennae set around its edges. On the top there’s a reflective badge, set into a surround that lights up in various colours to indicate the router’s status. Overall it’s not exactly low-key but you could hardly call it an eyesore.

It’s well connected too, with a full eight Gigabit Ethernet sockets of which (slightly oddly) numbers 2 and 3 can be aggregated to create a single 2Gbits/sec link. The WAN port can also support both standard Ethernet and 2.5GbE,not that many homes in the UK will be able to take advantage of the latter. On that note, although the router doesn’t contain a modem, it supports a good range of internet connection types, including PPPoE, L2TP and PPTP, so it’ll work with most providers. There’s even an option to clone or spoof your MAC address if required.

At the side, a pair of USB 3 ports let you connect external media. You can share files, stream video over DLNA and store Time Machine backups, although there’s no support for sharing printers – an unexpected omission at this price.

When it comes to managing the AX6000 you have two options: you can use either the built-in web portal, or TP-Link’s Tether app for Android and iOS. While some router apps can be sluggish and rudimentary, Tether isn’t bad at all, with a fairly responsive front-end exposing most of the features you’re likely to want on a day-to-day basis. You can browse connected clients, tweak their priority, set parental controls, configure your guest network and even switch between router and access point mode. There’s also an option to grant management rights to other household members, once they’ve created an online account with TP-Link, a great feature that other router manufacturers would do well to emulate.

For the most advanced features you’ll have to dip into the browser but this isn’t an imposition at all. TP-Link advertises that the AX6000 is built around a 1.8GHz quad-core CPU with two co-processors, and while it’s impossible to quantify what that really means, the front-end certainly feels slick and snappy. It’s nicely laid out, too: tabs down the left-hand side of the main pane let you browse through the various settings on offer, while clicking from “Basic” to “Advanced” at the top expands the list to show all available options.

All the network management tools you’d expect are here, such as IP address reservation and port forwarding. One noteworthy feature is a versatile QoS control, which lets you assign priorities to either devices or traffic types. It’s partnered by a handy live traffic monitor, so you can see which clients are currently hogging your connection.

Then there’s TP-Link’s HomeCare system, which provides parental controls and antivirus facilities. The parental controls are quite versatile, letting you filter web content according to broad categories such as gambling, social networking and adult content, and apply total time limits and schedules to selected devices.

The antivirus side of things meanwhile is powered by Trend Micro, and automatically blocks any websites that have been identified by the security specialist as malicious. HomeCare is free for three years; after that you’ll have to pay a monthly fee to keep using it, although at present it seems TP-Link hasn’t decided how much that’ll be.

Other features we like are the optional Wi-Fi schedule, the automatic reboot schedule, and the fact that band steering feature is off by default. That means you won’t have to worry about clients latching onto a slow 2.4GHz signal, although if you prefer you can combine the radio bands with a mere click.

There’s also a built-in VPN server, for those who want to access their home network from elsewhere on the internet, with support for various dynamic DNS services to give you a consistent, memorable address to connect to. There’s no straightforward support for “dial-out” VPN, so you can’t simply configure this router as a gateway to a third-party VPN service, as you can with the Asus RT-AX88U but if your VPN provider supports PPTP then you can set one of its servers as your primary internet gateway.

Finally, TP-Link includes integration with both Alexa and IFTTT. The range of operations you can carry out isn’t exactly extensive but it’s better than we’ve seen on some previous routers: voice commands can be used to control the status LED, turn the guest network on and off, activate WPS pairing, carry out a speed test or adjust your QoS settings to prioritise different types of task.

TP-Link Archer AX6000 router review: Performance

As we’ve mentioned, the Archer AX6000’s twin radios are rated at the same speeds as the lightning-fast Asus RT-AX88U: 4,804Mbits/sec on the 5GHz band and 1,148Mbits/sec over 2.4GHz. However, its generous antenna count lets it deliver 8x8 MU-MIMO like the Netgear AX12, so it can use that huge bandwidth to service twice as many simultaneous streams as the Asus RT-AX88U.

To get a sense of how this translates to real-world performance, I carried out my usual tests. First, I set up the router in my living room with default settings, and installed the latest firmware. Then I took a Dell Latitude 5490 laptop (equipped with a 2x2 MIMO Intel AX200 802.11ax adapter) to various rooms in my home, connected on the 5GHz band and measured transfer speeds while copying large files to and from a NAS appliance connected directly to the router via Ethernet.

Here are the speeds I saw, along with the results from the Asus RT-AX88U for comparison:

Speeds over 802.11ax (MB/sec)Asus AX88U uploadTP-Link AX6000 uploadAsus AX88U downloadTP-Link AX6000 download
Living room39.734.170.560.1
Rear terrace24.719.251.644.3
Bedroom27.826.156.850.5
Bathroom16.615.132.626.1

As you can see, the Archer AX6000 is quite a performer. It’s not just fast, but consistently fast, delivering a minimum of 15MB/sec downstream even at the furthest extremes of my home. That’s equivalent to 120Mbits/sec – nearly five times what Netflix recommends for 4K streaming. At close range it hit a fantastic 480Mbits/sec, which is around half as fast as a Gigabit Ethernet connection.

The only thing that takes a little of the shine off this magnificent performance is the fact that, in this particular test with this particular hardware, the Asus RT-AX88U proved even faster, delivering download speeds that were on average 18% faster than the Archer. However, as we’ve mentioned, the TP-Link’s 8x8 MU-MIMO means it should cope better when lots of devices demand data at once and the QoS settings we talked about earlier will help you ensure that the right ones get priority.

What’s more, while we’re obviously most excited about sexy new 802.11ax technology, it’s a good bet that a majority of your home devices will continue to rely on 802.11ac for many years to come. And when you connect using the older wireless standard, the AX6000 acquits itself very positively indeed:

Speeds over 802.11ac (MB/sec)Asus AX88U uploadTP-Link AX6000 uploadAsus AX88U downloadTP-Link AX6000 download
Living room17.826.832.236.3
Rear terrace4.23.889.3
Bedroom7.87.416.919.2
Bathroom55.910.813

These figures were obtained by carrying out the same test as above, but using a Surface Laptop, with its integrated 2x2 MIMO Marvell Avastar 802.11ac adapter. And over this connection, the Archer comprehensively bests the Asus, with faster downloads in every location and an average advantage of 16%. In all, that makes the Archer AX6000 a more balanced all-rounder.

One final point though: if you’re seeking the very best performance over 802.11ac, both of these routers are bested by the Netgear Nighthawk AX12. It costs £60 more than the Archer but it proved even faster in most of my tests and, since it too has 8x8 MU-MIMO, it should cope equally well with demanding scenarios. If you’re serious about keeping contention to a minimum, there’s a tri-band version as well, although this will set you back a steep £435.

TP-Link Archer AX6000 router review: Verdict

The Archer AX6000 has a lot going for it. It’s very fast on both 802.11ac and 802.11ax, it has all the ports and connections you’re likely to want, and it offers a good set of features, accessible through both a responsive web interface and a pretty decent smartphone app.

Of course, as with all 802.11ax routers, it’s pricey. And it doesn’t quite take the crown in any arena: the Asus RT-AX88U is faster over 802.1ax, while the Netgear Nighthawk AX12 wins out over legacy connections.

Even so, if you’re eager to start enjoying the fruits of 802.11ax – while recognising that your 802.11ax clients are likely to be outnumbered by older hardware for the foreseeable future – the AX6000 strikes the perfect balance, offering a great experience for devices of all generations.