The TP-Link AC3200 Wireless Tri-Band Gigabit Router Archer C3200 uses three radio bands to help ease network congestion and offers a wealth of management options, but its overall performance comes up short.
If you have a high-traffic network with multiple clients vying for bandwidth, you may want to consider upgrading to a tri-band router. Whereas dual-band models offer one 2.4GHz and one 5GHz Wi-Fi band, tri-band routers offer one 2.4GHz and two 5GHz bands. The extra 5GHz band goes a long way in easing wireless network congestion and gives you more control over how clients connect wirelessly. With the TP-Link AC3200 Wireless Tri-Band Gigabit Router Archer C3200 ($259.99), you get good 5GHz throughput and a slew of management settings, and it does a solid job of transferring files to and from attached USB storage devices. However, it can’t match the overall performance of its triple-band competitors.
Design and Features
The C3200 is an AC3200 router; its 2.4GHz band has a maximum data-link speed of 600Mbps and each of the 5GHz bands can reach speeds of up to 1,300Mbps. It is powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor and supports the 802.11 b/g/n/ac networking standards. In addition to Beamforming, which sends Wi-Fi signals directly to clients rather than in a broad spectrum, this router features TP-Link’s Smart Connect technology, which, when enabled, automatically assigns the best frequency band to clients based on network traffic.
Measuring 1.5 by 7.9 by 7.9 inches (HWD), the C3200 is of average size and sits horizontally. It can also be mounted on a wall using the two mounting brackets on the bottom of the chassis. The router is black, and the top is covered with a grille that gives it a touch of style. It has six external antennas that fold flush into the top when not in use and nine LED activity indicators on the front panel for power, USB, all three bands, Ethernet and WAN ports, and Wireless Protected Setup (WPS). Also on the panel are buttons to initiate WPS, disable the LED lights, and turn Wi-Fi on and off. Around back are four wired Gigabit Ethernet ports, a WAN (Internet) port, a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 port, and a Power switch.
The C3200’s management interface is clean and easy to navigate and offers comprehensive descriptions for each setting. The Basic Settings page includes a network map showing the number of connected wireless and wired clients, printers, and storage devices. It also shows which Wi-Fi bands are enabled and the status of your Internet connection. Clicking on any of the Wi-Fi band icons opens a status page that displays the SSID, channel, and MAC address for each band and any guest networks. The Basic Wireless settings allow you to edit and hide the SSID for each band, enable or disable a band, and change passwords. The USB Settings page is where you go to set up folder shares for attached USB hard drives and enable print sharing for attached printers. In the Parental Controls section, you can restrict Internet access to specific times and days and create content restrictions based on keywords. The Guest Network page lets you create guest SSIDs for each of the three bands and choose to let guests see each other and/or your local network.