The router delivers the performance level of existing available clients at a cost most of us won’t need to think twice. Indeed, available at Walmart at just around $130 or even lower — well less than a third the price of the Netgear RAX200 — the new TP-Link router is more affordable than even some Wi-Fi 5 ones.
It’s important to note right away that this is not a cheap device, but you do get what you pay for. The router is pretty thin on power and Wi-Fi specs and delivered a comparatively modest performance in my testing.
At the end of the day, if you’re looking to get a new router for a small home, TP-Link Archer AX3000 still is a sensible Wi-Fi 6 buy.
- Reliable Wi-Fi, good coverage
- Tons of network settings and customization
- Responsive web user interface, useful mobile app
- Light weight, wall-mountable
- Middling Wi-Fi specs
- Fluctuating Wi-Fi connection speeds
- No multi-gig port, USB 2.0
For a router that supports the latest Wi-Fi standard, the Archer AX3000 looks modest. It’s small and light and takes the shape of a typical Wi-Fi router with four external (non-removable) antennas sticking up from its back.
The router has four usual Gigabit LAN ports and one Gigabit WAN port. It has no multi-gig port, no dual-WAN, no Link Aggregation, and a USB 2.0 port for its NAS function. So, port-wise, the Archer AX3000 is a downer for a Wi-Fi 6 router. (Note: The Archer AX50 has USB 3.0., which is the only difference between the two.)
On the inside, the Archer AX3000 sports an Intel Home Wi-Fi WAV654 chipset that’s capable of delivering up to 2.4 Gbps on the 5GHz band and up to 574 Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. For comparison, all other Wi-Fi 6 routers I’ve reviewed — such as the Netgear RAX200 or the Asus GT-AX11000 — have higher 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 specs, capable of delivering up to 4.8 Gbps on the 5GHz band.
In short, the Archer AX3000 is indeed a modest dual-band 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 router. However, considering there are only 2×2 clients on the market, like those Intel AX200-based adapters, it, for now, has the just-right Wi-Fi specs.
Like most other TP-Link routers, the Archer AX3000 has a web user interface that you can access via its default IP address, which is 192.168.0.1, or the tplinkwifi.net link. Consequently, it has the same standard setup process any experienced users, including you truly, will appreciate.
Easy to use mobile app
If you’re one of those millennials who do everything on a mobile phone, you can opt for the TP-Link Tether app. The app can cover both the initial setup and ongoing management but has less access to the router’s settings. If you go to the Advanced area of the app, you’ll be prompted to use the web UI instead.
By default, the app only works within the local Wi-Fi network, but you can sign up for a TP-Link Cloud account to use it while you’re out and about. Using the account means you’ll link your router with TP-Link at all times, which might raise privacy concerns. The good news is you can skip that and use Dynamic DNS to create your private remote management.
Lots of settings, useful features
And Dynamic DNS is just one of many things you can do with the Archer AX3000. The router has the same level of features and customization as that of high-end routers.
For one, it has a built-in VPN server that supports both OpenVPN and PPTP protocols. There’s a HomeCare section that includes Parental Controls and QoS. The parental control feature is quite flexible, by the way.
You can block content by keywords (like “Facebook” or “porn”) and manage Internet access based on a schedule for one or a group of clients. The QoS feature is a bit simplistic. You can only enable or disable the access priority for a client.
There’s also Alexa integration. I find this a bit of a gimmick, but if for some reason you want to use voice control with the router, you can.
In all, I was able to find everything I’d like to use in a network in the Archer AX300. The only thing missing is the built-in online protection, which is not a standard feature.
In-depth Wi-Fi customization
What’s most impressive is the Wi-Fi customization part of the router’s web UI. Here, you can make change the settings of the Wi-Fi channel, channel width, as well as the mode of the router, be it Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 5, or mixed.
The Archer AX3000 is the first router I’ve seen that has the option to work only with Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) clients. Since it’s a dual-band (and not a tri-band) router, however, you can’t benefit from this setting. You’ll need to use it in a mixed-mode to support all legacy clients.
The Archer AX3000 proved to be reliable in my testing. It passed my three-day stress test with no disconnection at all. It also has a good range, able to cover a house of some 1800 ft² (170 m²) good Wi-Fi signal throughout, when placed in the middle.
Wi-Fi coverage generally varies depending on the environment, but you can expect the router’s range to be slightly better than that of any Wi-Fi 5 one. I did have some mixed feelings about the router’s speeds, however.
Fluctuating Wi-Fi speeds
First of all, my Wi-Fi 6 clients had a hard time connecting to it at the top 2.4 Gbps. Most of the time, the negotiated rate was shown at 1.2 Gbps or lower, even when I made the router work in the 802.11ax mode, using the 160MHz channel bandwidth. As a result, the router’s performance was lower than that of other Wi-Fi 6 router I’ve reviewed.
At a close range, the router averaged just 730 Mbps, and when I increased the distance to 40 feet (12 m), it now registered 515 Mbps. Considering I wasn’t able to get the Wi-Fi 6 clients to connect at top speeds, high-end Wi-Fi 5 clients did better in the long-range test, by the way, with higher sustained rates, as you can see on the chart above.
On the 2.4GHz band, the router did about the same as most routers. There’s nothing to brag about, but it was fast enough to deliver a moderate broadband connection in full.
Slow NAS performance
Considering the Archer AX3000 features a USB 2.0 (and not 3.0) port, I didn’t expect much from its network-attached storage performance. I tested it with a SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD and, via a Gigabit connection, got the average speeds lower than that of a typical USB 2.0 connection.
With the write speed of just 18 MB/s and the read speed of 34 MB/s, the TP-Link Archer AX3000 is just too slow to work as a NAS server on its own. You should get a dedicated server instead.
By the way, in case you’re wondering, the router does support Time Machine backup when hosting an external drive. It even allows for limiting the backup size so you won’t need to do that on your own.
With modest specs, the TP-Link Archer AX3000 doesn’t aim to break any records. Instead, it means to make Wi-Fi 6 no longer cost-prohibitive, and for that, it’s a smashing success.
You won’t get to brag, but for now, this router will give some benefits as those costing many times more.
So, if you’re looking to replace that aging low-end Wi-Fi 5 router, keep the Archer AX3000 in mind. Chances are you won’t go wrong with it. Or you can pay a little more and get the Archer AX50 which has even better performance and more features.