TP-Link AC5400X Router Review
In the twenty-two years since it was founded, the network hardware company TP-Link has risen to the forefront of network solutions for home and businesses. Their offerings include Whole-Home WiFi with their Deco line, WiFi Routers, Modems/Gateways, Network Expansion, Smart Home devices, plus various adapters and network accessories. And that’s just on the home side. Recognizing that home Internet and WiFi are now considered as necessities in the modern home and that the demands on the bandwidth available are ever increasing, TP-Link has jumped on the opportunity to give more control of that bandwidth to the users.
Between gaming, downloading, WiFi devices, and the ever-accelerating rate of streaming, home bandwidth can falter depending on each household member’s usage preferences. Compounding the issue for household members is their location in the home. Some may be right next to their home modem while others may be in a room at the other end of the house, far away from the modem and WiFi source. If you live in a multi-floor dwelling, it gets even worse. Additional hardware may be needed to boost the WiFi, be it WiFi extenders, powerline adapters, or routers.
Unleash the Beast
Enter the TP-Link AC5400X, a MU-MIMO Tri-Band Gaming Router that happens to be the company’s first router with hardware architecture based on battle tested gaming networks. The AC5400X is a beast, no matter which way you slice it, both physically and in its performance. Physically the aesthetics of this router ooze power, with not one, not two, not even three, but eight antennae – each jet black with red highlighting. The AC5400X looks like an upside down, over-sized spider. The unit is big and bold, demanding to be noticed, and if you’re one who prefers hardware to be unobtrusive and blended into the home decor, you’re out of luck. The AC5400X measures an inch shy of a foot on each side and extends half a foot into the air with the antennae. It comes with one WAN port, eight LAN ports, and two 3.0 USB ports to cover all your connectivity needs.
The power inside the unit is even more impressive. In the heart of this beast sits a 1.8 GHz 64-bit quad-core CPU to handle all the services and applications the AC5400X is capable of running. As a further boost to offload processor use, there are an additional three co-processors, one for each of the WiFi bands – one 2.4GHz band and two 5.4GHz bands. All three bands are optimized to give the maximum WiFi output possible, which is a boon for those gamers in your household who don’t have hardwire access. A further gaming performance enhancement is the ability to LAN aggregation, effectively doubling 1 Gbps to 2 Gbps for wired devices.
All of this sounds impressive, but what does it mean in real-world performance? As someone who lives in a multi-floor dwelling, I can attest the TP-Link AC5400X is a dream come true. I’m on a DSL modem and the wired connection is in the basement where I have my home office, so my Internet needs are met with no problem. However, the rest of the family is not so fortunate. The next floor is where my son is with his gaming computer; then the floor above is the main one where we watch most of our media. Finally, the top floor is where my wife’s office and the master bedroom are. It’s no surprise that each floor suffers from progressively worse internet throughput.
Several solutions have been tried. A Wifi booster in the basement and powerline adapters improved the situation slightly but the numbers remained pretty low and my son complained about the constant fluctuation in his ping and download speeds. He was getting an average ping of 34ms and download speeds of 15.15Mbps using WiFi. On the main floor on the Android box the numbers were a dismal ping of 185ms and 17.93Mpbs download speed. Things on the top floor were worse.
Power and Control
After the TP-Link AC5400X was turned on, things improved drastically. For all floors, WiFi pings dropped to 6ms and download speeds topped 40Mbps – an impressive halving of pings and near-tripling of download speeds. Streaming media on the main floor is now super snappy with nary a dropout. The AC5400X also gets a big “thumbs up” from my son who also gleefully reports no more fluctuations and he has no more audio dropouts on Discord. Very, very impressive results; and all accomplished via Wifi.
The goodness doesn’t stop there, however. TP-Link also provides a mobile app for Android and iOS devices that lets you control the router from your smartphone. The Tether app lets you connect remotely to the AC5400X through the Cloud. You can see how many devices/clients are connected to the router and further control is allowed. You can grant priority to each client – so for example, my wife’s iPad used heavily on the top floor gets first consideration on Internet bandwidth over other devices.
The Tether app also comes with a HomeCare suite of apps that allows tailoring of Internet content to fit the profile of a user. Parents can invoke parental controls so that their kids cannot access material deemed inappropriate. Antivirus protection is provided and can be enabled or disabled. Then there is the QOS – Quality of Service. From this nifty utility you tailor how the TP-Link AC5400X handles Internet usage. Priority can be placed on categories of gaming, streaming, surfing, downloading or chatting. Customized setups can be arranged to give each category Low, Normal,or High priority – very easy to use and very handy. There is even built-in Amazon Alexa compatibility. No longer do you need to access a web browser of a device connected to your network to configure the router. There is also an extensive suite of tools where you can even limit the hours that a user on the network will have WiFi access. Parents rejoice!
Worth the Extra Cost
The AC5400X also touts 16 GB of free storage built-in and protected behind its firewall, which you can access through the TP-Link FileBank app whenever you have an internet connection. Storage can be expanded by connecting USB drives to the router. Plus, if you pair it with a purchase of an MSI Gaming Notebook – the GL73 RC-049CA 17.3” Intel Core i7 Nvidia GTX1050 – at participating Canada Computers locations, you can even get the AC5400X at a heavily reduced price.
It’s true what they say: you get what you pay for. After fumbling around with low cost solutions and putting up with spotty home WiFi for years, the TP-Link AC5400X has been a true eye opener for me, with power and range that meets and exceeds my family’s Internet needs. This product may be targeted at gamers (which it does support in spades), but it is also a great choice for those needing extended WiFi coverage due to the size or layout of their dwelling.
** A review unit was supplied by the manufacturer **
- Excellent performance for large dwellings
- Customization and tuning options
- A little pricey but totally worth it
- Some may find the aesthetics of the router too bold