It's hard to remember what life was life in the days before WiFi. We take for granted the wireless world we now live in and ensuring we have a robust, fast and effective connection in our homes is more important than ever. A modern wireless router is bombarded with devices looking for a connection - smartphones, computers, laptops, game consoles, TVs - the list is near endless, so anyone with a broadband modem that doesn't have built-in WiFi - or has one that is perhaps getting overwhelmed by the demands placed upon it - needs to get a wireless router that is up to the task. With the recent launch of the new 802.11ac wireless standard, which is capable of speeds surpassing a gigabit, you could look for a router that includes the new standard. However if you don't need such fast speeds or don't want to pay the premium that the new standard will attract, what else is available?
The wireless router market is highly competitive and saturated with products, making choosing one rather confusing for the consumer. However there are some well spec'd and feature laden products out there, such as TP-Link's N750 wireless dual band router or, to use its full and slightly less catchy model number, the TL-WDR4300. The N750 offers dual bands, with 2.4GHz capable of speeds of up to 300Mbps and 5GHz capable of speeds up to 450Mbps. Since the two can run simultaneously, the N750 can theoretically deliver a total of 750Mbps (hence the name) and to achieve this, TP-Link has included two radios and three fairly large antennas. The N750 also includes two USB ports to easily share printers, files or media and a gigabit Ethernet that includes accelerated WAN to LAN speeds with hardware NAT. The N750 has a host of other features and offers all this for only £80, so let's see how it performs.
Design and Connections
The N750 has a rather glossy and sleek appearance, although the addition of the three large antennas give the impression of an armoured hedgehog, although the antennae are very flexible and can be moved left, right and up or down to make them easier to squeeze in to confined spaces. The main body of the N750 is reasonably well made but the use of black plastic results in a light and slightly cheap feel. The unit measures 243 x 161 x 33mm and along the front lip there are a series of LED indicators. These LEDs indicate that the unit is on, that the radios are broadcasting, the status of the four Ethernet ports, the status of the broadband connection and when the unit is being reset.
At the rear are all the connections, starting with the socket for the power adapter and an on/off button. Next to that is a switch for turning the wireless on or off and next to that are two USB 2.0 ports, with indicator LEDs for each port sandwiched between them. The first USB port can be used for connecting a printer and the second for connecting a flash memory or external HDD. Then there's the gigabit (10/1000Mbps) WAN port for connecting your modem to the router and next to that are four gigabit (10/1000Mbps) LAN ports. Finally there is a button that can either be used to reset the router or for WiFi Protected Setup (WPS).
Setting up the N750 is simplicity itself, thanks to clear instructions and a provided setup disc. All you need to do is connect the WAN port on the N750 to your broadband internet using an RJ45 Ethernet cable and then connect your computer to one of the LAN ports. Using the provided disc, you simply follow the setup wizard to connect the router to the internet and get all your numerous devices online. The setup disc is of the smaller variety but don’t worry if you have no disc slot or don't have a disc drive at all, because you can just as easily access the wizard from a provided web address.
The setup wizard is a bit text heavy but it does offer detailed explanations on each page, which really help with some of the more advanced features. The first option shows the status of the router and how it has been set up and the second option is the Quick Setup wizard. The wizard is easy to follow and overall the different pages within the menus are clear, concise and well explained. Aside from the current status and basic setup, there are also options for the Network, Dual Band Selection, Wireless 2.4GHz, Wireless 5GHz, DHCP, USB Settings, NAT (Network Address Translation), Forwarding, Security, Parental Control, Access Control, Advanced Routing, Bandwidth Control, IP & MAC Binding, Dynamic DNS and System Tools.
The N750 has an impressive list of features, starting with the dual band capabilities that offer simultaneous 2.4GHz 300Mbps and 5GHz 450Mbps, giving a total available bandwidth of 750Mbps. Thanks to the simultaneous dual band, users can use the 750Mbps of total bandwidth to power numerous bandwidth intensive applications at the same time around your home. Simple tasks such as e-mail or web browsing can be handled by the 2.4GHz band at 300Mbps and more latency sensitive tasks such as online gaming or HD video streaming can be simultaneously processed over the 5GHz band at 450Mbps. The 5GHz band also has less interference which TP-Link claim will offer improve performance for HD streaming and downloading.
The N750 also includes high-speed Ethernet connections, including a gigabit (10/1000Mbps) WAN port and four gigabit (10/1000Mbps) LAN ports, along with accelerated WAN to LAN speeds and hardware NAT. This allows the N750 to be able to support a robust and extremely fast wired network, which is ideal for latency-sensitive applications such as HD media and online gaming. The hardware NAT function allows the N750 to provide a WAN to LAN throughput of over 800Mbps, allowing users to utilise the full potential of their networks. In addition, there are two multi-functional USB 2.0 ports allowing you to share flash storage, printers or media players over your home network.
The N750 also supports IP QoS (Quality of Service), allowing optimum utilization of bandwidth and offering bandwidth control over congestion, preventing bandwidth abuse. In this way, users of a small network receive committed and specific bandwidth, preventing non-critical applications from degrading network performance. The N750 is compatible with Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) and it features Quick Security Setup that allows users to quickly setup their security simply by pressing the WPS button on the router and automatically establishing a WPA2 secure connection, which is more secure when compared with WEP encryptions. Not only is this faster than normal security setups but more convenient because you don't need to remember a password.
In terms of performance, the N750 certainly proved itself capable of meeting the demands of even the most wireless of households. We found that at about two metres the N750 managed to deliver speeds of around 8MB (64Mbps) and 9MB (72Mbps) per second when transferring a 3GB file using the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands respectively. This performance dropped to around 4MB (32Mbps) and 5MB (40Mbps) per second at about 6 metres, with line of sight, which is the limit before walls start to get in the way in our test environment. Interestingly, even with the thick walls of our test environment in the way, the performance remained remarkably steady over a similar distance, with 2.4GHz and 5GHz at around 3MB (24Mbps) and 4MB (32Mbps) per second respectively. All of these measured performance speeds are enough to reliably stream HD content and the addition of dual band will be very useful for any tech-heavy households. We found the N750 could maintain these performance figures with both bands transferring data simultaneously, which makes multiple HD network streams a viable proposition as long as your NAS or Internet connection can maintain the pace.
- Dual band capability
- Excellent performance
- Impressive connections
- Great features
- Good price
- Setup wizard text heavy
- Build quality could be better
- Antenna rather unattractive
TP-Link N750 (TL-WDR4300) Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router Review
The N750 has a sleek gloss black appearance, although the smooth lines of the unit are somewhat ruined by the three large antennas. There are LED indicators across the front lip and an excellent set of connections including two USB 2.0 ports, a 10/1000Mbps WAN port and four 10/1000Mbps LAN ports at the rear. Setup is simplicity itself, thanks to clear instructions and a setup disc. The setup wizard is quite text heavy but there are explanations and it does offer a surprising level of control and flexibility.
The N750 has an impressive list of features, starting with the dual band capabilities that offer simultaneous 2.4GHz 300Mbps and 5GHz 450Mbps, giving a total available bandwidth of 750Mbps. The N750 also includes high speed Ethernet connections, including a 10/1000Mbps WAN port and four 10/1000Mbps LAN ports, along with accelerated WAN to LAN speeds and hardware NAT. In addition, there are two multi-functional USB 2.0 ports capable of sharing flash storage, printers, FTP servers and media players. The N750 also supports IP QoS (Quality of Service), as well as being compatible with Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) for quick setup simply by pressing the WPS button on the router and automatically establishing a WPA2 secure connection.
In terms of performance, the N750 certainly proved itself capable of meeting the demands of even the most wireless of households. We measured speeds of around 8MB (64Mbps) and 9MB (72Mbps) per second when transferring a 3GB file using the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands respectively. This performance dropped to around 3MB (24Mbps) and 4MB (32Mbps) per second at distances over 6m and through walls or floors. These speeds are enough to reliably stream HD content and we found the N750 could maintain these performance figures with both bands transferring data simultaneously.
The TP-Link N750 (TL-WDR4300) is an impressive wireless router, that offers dual band capability, a wide range of features and excellent performance, all at a great price. If you're looking for a new wireless router, we certainly recommend that you consider the N750.
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