The TP-Link Archer AX11000 MU-MIMO Tri-Band Gaming Router looks like a duck. It tries super-hard to walk like a duck. But it can’t swim, nor does it quack. So chances are it probably still is a chicken.
OK, it’s neither, but the point is this new high-end Wi-Fi 6 router is not what TP-Link would like you to think it is. Eerily similar to the networking vendor’s other router of the same type, the Archer C5400X, the Archer AX11000 is also not a gaming router.
Sure, you can play games just fine with it. But that’s because you can do so with almost any routers. Game-specific features, this one has none.
But if you’re in the market for a fast, reliable, and cool-looking Wi-Fi 6 broadcaster that has a ton of other things for you to brag about, the Archer AX11000 is still worth the investment. I dig it.
TP-Link Archer AX11000 Next-Gen Tri-Band Gaming Router
- Fast and reliable Wi-Fi performance
- 2.5 Gbps WAN port with eight Gigabit LAN ports
- 160 MHz channel bandwidth support
- Excellent, Antivirus, QoS and Parental Control features
- Robust full web user interface, helpful mobile app
- Eye-catching and convenient hardware design
- USB-C ready, wall-mountable
- Misleading gaming veneer, no actual gaming-specific features
- No multi-gig LAN port, bulky design
- Not mesh-ready
- Artificial "Game" items make the interface unnecessarily confusing
- Mobile app require a login account
TP-Link Archer AX11000: The Wi-Fi 6 version of the Archer C5400X, plus extras
From almost all angles, you can’t tell the Archer AX11000 and the Archer C5400X apart. The two share the same squarish box design, color, and more.
TP-Link Archer AX11000’s detail photos
Eye-catching look with excellent antenna connector design
The first thing you’ll note while getting the Archer AX11000 out of the box is how massive it is. Just the body itself is a huge square, measuring 9.5-inch (240.5 mm) wide and 2.2-inch (55.4 mm) tall.
Next, you’ll note the eight antennas and might feel a bit taken aback thinking about the pain of having to assemble them to the router’s body. The good news is it’s a no-brainer job. Pick one and push it into a connector, and it will get firmly attached after a click sound. Now to detach, just jank it out.
I love this design. Not only it’s a time saver, but the antennas also stay tightly connected — they will not budge at all. Indeed, you can’t even swivel them around.
The Archer AX11000 is designed to say put on a flat surface but you can also mount it on a wall. And that’s the only time you can get the antennas to stay in the horizontal position, though that won’t make any meaningful difference in the router’s range.
Eight Gigabit LAN ports with a 2.5 Gbps WAN
Similar to its older cousin, the Archer AX11000 comes with eight Gigabit LAN ports. But it now has a 2.5Gbps WAN port — it’s ready to host a multi-gig Internet connection.
Locally, though, chances are the best you can get out of it is 1Gbps, unless you use a server with Link Aggregation. Indeed, the router can combine its LAN2 and LAN3 ports into a single 2 Gbps connection.
And that makes the Archer AX11000 more similar to the different-looking Archer AX6000 than to the Archer C5400X. In fact, add an additional 5Ghz band to the former and you’ll almost get yourself the Archer AX11000.
Hardware specifications: TP-Link Archer AX11000’s vs. Asus GT-AX11000
TP-Link Archer AX11000: The same feature set but now with a “gaming” veneer
The Archer AX11000 comes with a similar web interface found in the Archer C5400X — as well as the latest TP-Link Wi-Fi 6 routers, including that of the Archer AX3000 or Archer AX6000 — but now with a twist. The interface has a red gaming-oriented theme, similar to that of the Asus GT-AX11000.
But before we get to the gaming stuff, let’s acknowledge the fact this new router shares the same setup process, settings, and features as most previous TP-Link Archer routers.
Familiar setup process and feature set
Indeed, thanks to the web interface, you can get the Archer AX11000 up and running the same way you do any standard routers.
Specifically, from a connected device, launch a browser (like Chrome or Firefox) and go to the router’s default IP address, which is 192.168.0.1, or tplinkwifi.net, and you’ll reach the initial setup wizard. The rest is self-explanatory.
Alternatively, you can also use the TP-Link Tether app for setup and on-going management. Note though, that the app will require a login account with TP-Link, which can cause privacy concerns.
Like most Archer routers, the AX11000 comes with a standard set of network settings and features. These include Dynamic DNS, port forwarding, IP reservation, and so on. You can also customize your Wi-Fi networks to the max.
What’s more, the router can work as a VPN server. And when hosting a storage device, it can function as a mini NAS server with the support for Time Machine backup.
On top of that, most significantly, it shares the same useful HomeCare suite as that of the Archer AX6000. The suite includes a flexible QoS engine, an effective Parental Control feature, and the TrendMicro-powered Antivirus function that protects the entire network in real-time.
By the way, the Antivirus is free for the life of the router, making the Archer AX11000 an excellent rival to the Asus GT-AX11000, at least until you look into the “gaming” part.
Gaming vs. non-gaming routers
There’s no exact definition of what constitutes a gaming router. Generally, you can play games with all routers. Most routers feature a Quality of Service which allows for prioritizing the Internet for any applications or clients, and you can use that to better online gaming experience.
So, to be qualified as a gaming router, the device needs to deliver more than what most routers can do. In the case of the Asus, among other things, it has the built-in support for WTFast gaming VPN with one free account, which normally costs some $13/month.
Or the Netgear XR500 is also qualified as a gaming router because it runs on a game-oriented firmware that, among other things, automatically detects a game being launched within the network and adjusts the router’s settings accordingly.
Most users will enjoy games the same with almost any router, and for them, using a gaming router might not bring in any improvement at all. However, pro-gamers might find themselves having a bit of an edge when using a router explicitly designed for them.
TP-Link Archer AX11000’s gaming bluff: A thoughtless marketing ploy
In the case of Archer AX11000, the gaming notion mostly just a marketing ploy and that has zero relevance to the facts. As it seems, TP-Link just artificially changes the names of many common settings of the router’s web interface to include the word “Game” in them.
For example, there’s a new section in the interface called “Game Center.” Within it, the “Game Protector” includes the Antivirus and Parental Control.
As mentioned above, these are two common features. The irony is if you go to the web interface’s Advanced area, you’ll note that they are still part of their original home, the HomeCare section. So, you’ll find them in different unrelated sections of the interface. Now that’s confusing.
Similarly, the support for Alexa voice command is now “Game Assistant,” though it has nothing to do with gaming whatsoever. The “Game Diagnostic” is nothing more than a general ping test and a standard traceroute tool. Again, nothing to do with gaming.
Even more comical, when customizing your Wi-Fi networks, you’ll note that if the SmartConnect — where all three bands of the router use the same network name — is not in use, the router automatically adds “Gaming” as a suffix to its 2nd 5GHz band’s SSID.
If putting “Gaming” on a Wi-Fi network’s name made it better for gaming, I’d just call myself “Dong the Stable Genius” and automatically consider myself the president of the United States.
The “Game Accelerator” feature that does nothing
To be fair, the Archer AX11000 has this new “Game Accelerator” setting that supposedly reduces lag when you turn it on. But that applies to the entire network, which begs the question of why this setting even exists.
That’s because this setting does should part of the router’s normal function at all times. It’s not like there are situations where high latency is a good thing.
But, it did exist and was off by default. The thing is when I turned it on, that didn’t change a thing. The router still had the same level latency, which generally fluctuates each time you check.
The potentially-bad-for-gaming QoS setting
Believe it or not, some of the Archer AX11000’s “game” settings are potentially bad for gaming.
Take “Device Priority,” which is part of the “Game Center,” for example. It’s where you can set up QoS rules for specific connected clients. Turning that on for a particular device means that the device will have the first dibs on the Internet before all others.
That seems like a good idea. However, once prioritized, the device can hog the Internet even when you use it for non-gaming activities, such as downloading a large file. And then, it will make gaming on other game consoles in the network a terrible experience.
That’s why a good router needs to be able to prioritize the traffic for particular applications, regardless of which device within the network you use them.
And here’s the sad part: To some extend, you can do that with the Archer AX11000, using its normal Gaming QoS setting, which is similar to that of the Archer AX6000. But this setting, for some reason, is not part of the Game Center.
So, the Archer AX11000’s added “gaming” section actually makes tuning it properly for games a harder job.
In short, the whole gaming notion on the TP-Link Archer AX11000 is a thoughtless charade that causes the router’s interface to be more confusing than necessary. And as far as gaming is concerned, this new router delivered exactly the same as the Archer AX6000 in my trial.
TP-Link Archer AX11000: Excellent overall performance
So the gaming notion of the Archer AX1100 is… meh. But if you can overlook that, you’ll love this router’s performance.
Fast Wi-Fi speed
The Archer AX11000 has no multi-gig LAN port, so in my type of testing, its performance was capped at the speed of its Gigabit network port. Still, the router did well.
My 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients were able to connect to it at 2.4Gbps of negotiated speed and had a sustained rate of around 880 Mbps at both close and long-range, which meant the router indeed delivered much higher bandwidth — it’s a 4×4 router after all.
I also did some special tests on this router.
Since it’s the first tri-band router I’ve tested with no faster-than-Gigabit LAN port — both the Asus GT-AX11000 and the Netgear RAX200 have a 2.5Gbps LAN port –, I decided to do some extra tests on it by connecting two 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients, one to each of its two 5GHz bands, to find out how fast it Wi-Fi speed could get.
And the result was quite impressive. My 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients were able to average some 1300 Mbps at close range and almost 1120 Mbps at 40 feet (12 m) away. (One of the clients remained close to the router at all times.)
The takeaway here is that if you really have multi-gig Internet speed and a bunch of Wi-Fi 6 clients, you will be able to enjoy the broadband in full at multiple devices at a time.
The Archer AX11000 did well with Wi-Fi 5 devices, too. At close range, my 4×4 client registered sine 880 Mbps and at 40 feet away, my 3×3 client got some 520 Mbps.
On the 2.4GHz band, though, the Archer AX11000 did similar to all routers, averaging between 140 Mbps and 180 Mbps in all tests.
Excellent range, reliable signals
I tested the Archer for four days continuously and had no problem with it. The router had an excellent range, similar to that of the GT-AX11000 or the Netgear RAX2000.
If you live in a home of some 2000 ft² (186 m²) without too many thick walls, place this router near the middle, and chances are its signals will reach every corner. You can figure that out a bit more precisely via this post of how to pick the best router, by the way.
Decent NAS performance
Both of the Archer AX11000’s USB ports delivered the same performane in my testing.
I used the Crucial X8 for the job, and via a Gigabit wired connection, the router did quite well as a mini NAS server. It registered some 54 MB/s for writing and almost 105 MB/s for reading.
That said, the router is fast enough for casual data sharing and even Time Machine backup.
The Archer AX11000 is an excellent regular Wi-Fi 6 router that could be even better if TP-Link didn’t spend too much effort in trying to make it something it’s not: A gaming router.
That said, get it if you’re looking for a reliable, fast home router with an eye-catching design.
Again, you can play online games with it, just like you do with almost any routers. But if you’re a pro-gamers looking for an edge, the TP-Link Archer AX11000 is not for you, unless if you believe in the placebo effect in hardcore gaming.