TP-Link Archer AX50 Review: A Nice Surprise of a Wi-Fi 6 Router

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The TP-Link Archer AX50 is a compact, yet typical-looking Wi-Fi 6 router.

The Archer AX50 is the international and better variant of the slightly stripped-down Archer AX3000 TP-Link made exclusively for Walmart in the U.S late last year.

Since the two are so similar, I had a pleasant surprise finding out how much better the AX50 is, via testing. It’s not only clearly faster than its sibling but also includes more useful features. This review focuses on these differences, so you might want to read my take on the Archer AX3000 first.

In all, at its current price of around $150, the Archer AX50 is an excellent buy. It’s a perfect Wi-Fi 6 upgrade for a medium or small home on a budget.

TP-Link Archer AX50 Wi-Fi 6 AX3000 Smart WiFi Router

8.4

Performance

8.5/10

Features

8.5/10

Ease of Use

8.0/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • 160 MHz channel support with fast and reliable performance for mid-tier router
  • Tons of useful networking and Wi-Fi settings
  • Valueable features, including free real-time online protection
  • Comparatively affordable
  • Compact design, wall-mountable

Cons

  • No multi-gig network port or Dual-WAN
  • HomeCare requires mobile app and login account with TP-Link to work
  • Slow NAS performance when hosting a portable drive
  • Runs a bit warm

TP-Link Archer AX50: The Archer AX3000 plus some extras

The Archer AX50 comes in slightly different packaging where you can see its model names and features vs. those of the Archer AX3000. Out of the box though, you can hardly tell the two mid-tier Wi-Fi 6 routers apart.

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In fact, they look exactly the same from the top, front, and side angles. You have to flip them up or look at them from behind to see any differences.

USB 3.0 and built-in Antivirus

Indeed, on the back, you’ll note that the AX50 has a USB 3.0 port (instead of a USB 2.0). And on the underside, you’ll see the two are slightly different in their name and model number. And that’s about it, for the most part, these are two extremely similar-looking routers.

That said, the Archer AX50 is still standard compact Wi-Fi 6 router with four swivelable but non-removable antennas sticking up from its back.

The Archer AX50 has an additional feature, however. Its HomeCare suite now includes Antivirus, besides QoS and Parental Controls.

TP-Link Archer AX50’s hardware specifications

On the inside, the Archer AX50 shares the same hardware specs as that of the Archer AX3000, sporting an Intel Home Wi-Fi chipset.

It’s a dual-band router that’s capable of delivering up to 2.4 Gbps on the 5GHz band and up to 574 Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. So both routers are AX3000-class Wi-Fi 6 router and neither has any multi-gig ports or support Dual-WAN. However, with the latest firmware, the AX50 does have link aggregation where you can combine two LAN ports into a 2 Gbps connection.

TP-Link Archer AX50 vs Archer AX3000: Details photos

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The TP-Link Archer AX50 (right) and Archer AX3000 look identical from the front.

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The two’s retail boxes are distinctive however.

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech On the back of the boxes, you’ll note that the Archer AX50 has the full HomeCare suite.

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech From behind, the TP-Link Archer AX50 (top) has a USB 3.0 port, while that port of the Archer AX3000 is a USB 2.0.

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The TP-Link Archer AX50’s underside. It’s wall-mountable.

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech Here’s a close-up of the Archer AX50’s label. Note its model name.

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech And here’s the label of the Archer AX3000.
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech From this angle the TP-Link Archer AX50 looks exactly the same as the Archer AX3000.
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech That’s also the case from this angle.

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The TP-Link Archer AX50 vs. its Asus rival, the RT-AX3000.

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The TP-Link Archer AX50 next to the Netgear RAX40.

TP-Link Archer AX50: The same standard web user interface and optional mobile app

Like the Archer AX3000 and most other TP-Link routers, the Archer AX50 comes with a standard web user interface.

You can access this interface by pointing a browser on a connected computer to the router’s default IP address, which is 192.168.0.1 or tplinkwifi.net. That said, it has the same standard setup process as most routers.

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

In-depth Wi-Fi customization

The AX50 comes with most Wi-FI customization you’d expect from a standard router.

You can combine its two bands into a single network via Smart Connect or use them as two separate SSIDs. There are options to set each band to work in the compatibility mode (Auto) or as a certain Wi-Fi standard, be it Wi-Fi 4, Wi-Fi 5, or Wi-Fi 6.

Similarly, you can also change the router’s channel and channel bandwidth. By the way, the router supports the 160 MHz channels, which is always a big deal for a Wi-Fi 6 router — many other more expensive routers, like the AmpliFi Alien, don’t.

Standard network settings, VPN server

Like other TP-Link routers, the Archer AX50 comes with standards set of network settings.

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This means it has Dynamic DNS, port-forwarding, IP reservation, and so on. The router also has a built-i VPN server. So it’s ready to host a home office.

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The TP-Link Archer AX50’s HomeCare suite, which you need to use the Tether mobile app to activate and manage, now includes Antivirus.

HomeCare requires Tether mobile app

What’s most significant is the HomeCare suite now includes Antivirus, in addition to QoS and Parental Controls which are also available in the Archer AX3000. All these three are among the best of their type.

It’s worth noting, though, that you can’t use HomeCare via the web interface. Instead, you’ll have to resort to the Tether mobile app and log in with an account with TP-Link. In return, this feature is now completely free for the life of the router.

Initially, the Antivirus part was only available as a 3-month trial before users have to pay a subscription-free. Starting early May 2020, you still need to log in and subscribe, but the subscription will auto-renew itself when it expires every couple of months.

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech You need to use the Tether mobile app to “activate and subscribe” to use HomeCare, but the feature is free for life of the Archer AX50.

TP-Link Archer AX50: Excellent performance

The Archer AX50 proved to be a much better device compared to its twin sibling.

Clearly improved Wi-Fi performance

For one, it’s faster with significantly less fluctuation in Wi-Fi speeds.

The AX50 supported the 160 MHz channel width well in my testing and my 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients could connect to it at 2.4 Gbps at a close range with ease. However, considering it has no multi-gig port, the fastest rate one can get from it caps at 1 Gbps according to my testing method.

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

And that was indeed the case. On the 5GHz band, my 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 and high-end Wi-Fi clients got the sustained speeds ranging from some 660 Mbps to 840 Mbps.

When I move the test clients to some 40 feet (12 m) away, they now averaged between 490 Mbps to 840 Mbps. And yes, as shown, on the charts, the router’s Wi-Fi 6 speed remained almost the same as the long-range. That was likely because the connection’s speed was limited by the router’s 1 Gbps port.

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On the 2.4 GHz band, the AX50’s performance was even more impressive. It was among the fastest I’ve seen. However, this was likely because there was less interference in the vicinity during my testing, for some reason. For years, this band has been fluctuating quite wildly in my tests.

The AX50 proved to be reliable, passing my three-day stress test with no issue. It has about the same range as the AX3000 and can handle some 1800 ft² (170 m²) of typical residential settings with good Wi-Fi signals. The way Wi-Fi works, your mileage will vary.

The TP-Link Archer AX50 ran a bit warm during my testing, which lasted more than a week. I wouldn’t worry about that, however. As long as you leave in the open, which you should do anyway with any Wi-Fi router, it’s unlikely the router will have heat-related issues.

Similarly Slow NAS performance

Despite the fact it has an USB 3.0 (5Gbps) port, the Archer AX50’s network attached storage performance when hosting a portable drive was still quite disappointing.

I tested it with the Crucial X8, one of the fastest portable SSD on the market, and it averaged just about 20 MB/s and 34 MB/s for writing and reading, respectively, or about 1 MB/s faster than the USB 2.0 Archer AX3000.

Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

At these speeds, the router is can only handle casual data sharing. But it does include the ability to work as a Time Capsule alternative.



Conclusion

Despite sharing almost the exact same hardware specs as its twin siblings, the TP-Link Archer AX50 is clearly a more capable router. It’s consistently faster and comes with more useful features.

If you live in a medium household with a modest amount of devices, this Wi-Fi 6 router is definitely one of the best bangs for your buck.

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14 Comments

  1. Yes it’s important, I wanna buy 2 of it and link them up via LAN cable and set one of them as AP, you can easily get k/v/r support info by using a Windows app called “WinFi”

    1. Got it. I didn’t check that out since I tested it as a single router. I’d say that it does support at least one of those, though, since most modern Wi-Fi chipsets do.

  2. What is the best orientation and positioning to obtain the best cooling for the AX50 version? Vertical or horizontal? Would 3/4″ standoffs on each corner help at all?

  3. Great reviews! Very easy to read and understand. Thank you!

    If you were buying for yourself, and had to choose between this TPLink AX50 and the ASUS AX3000, which would you choose? I see you reviewed both and rated them both really well. These are the two that are in the price point I’m looking for, and I’m planning to buy two of whichever model I land on, to run with a wired backhaul in a Mesh/AP mode to insure complete coverage in my 2600 Sq Ft house.

  4. On the user guide for this router it shows that it does have link aggregation. Was this added via firmware after you did this review?

    “Toggle on Link Aggregation to enable it and reboot the router to apply the settings. The LAN2 and LAN3 ports will be used for Link Aggregation.”

  5. I have an ax50, from amazon, are there any heat issue with it? I put a fan under my ax50 after I read about random reboots. I have never had the problem but was wondering if u tested for a heat problem. Is there any third party firmware for the intel chipset used by the ax50.

    1. I’ve used it for more than a week now with no issues, Len. I’ll keep at it a few more days and will update big anything changes. And no, I’m not aware of any third-party firmware for this one.

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