Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

TP-Link Archer AX90 Review: A Worthy Upgrade, Mostly (vs. Archer AX3200)

The TP-Link Archer AX90 AX6600 Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6 router is, for the most part, the souped-up version of the tri-band Archer AX3200. That said, this review is also an Archer AX90 vs. Archer AX3200 matchup.

Indeed, the two have so much in common, despite their somewhat distinctive Wi-Fi specs. So, I’d recommend that you check out my take on the latter first.

The clear advantage of the AX90 is that it can measure up to even top-tier tri-band routers, like the Netgear RAX200 or the Asus GT-AX11000, when hosting just a few clients. And currently, at some $330, it’s indeed more reasonably priced.

To cut to the chase: If you’re looking for a well-performing Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 router that won’t break your bank or give you all the bells and whistles, the TP-Link Archer AX90 is an excellent buy. Go for it!

Extra note: You’ll likely get the same experience if you go with the Archer AX3200, minus the top 5GHz performance. So the AX90 is only a better choice — worthy of its extra cost — if you need to get more out of Wi-Fi 6.

READ  TP-Link Archer AX3200 Review: An Excellent Buy for a Modest Network
The TP Link Archer AX90 Wi Fi 6 Routers Box Content
Out of the box, the TP Link Archer AX90 looks like a typical Wi-Fi 6 router. It looks almost the same as the Archer AX3200 cousin.

TP-Link Archer AX90 AX6600 Wi-Fi 6 Router

$329.99
8.4

Performance

9.0/10

Features

7.5/10

Ease of Use

8.5/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Reliable and fast Wi-Fi performance, excellent range.
  • Tri-band, 160MHz, and a 2.5Gbps Multi-Gig port.
  • Comparatively affordable.
  • Standard web interface with optional mobile app.
  • Wall-mountable.

Cons

  • Slow 5GHz-1 band.
  • Mobile app, login account, and a monthly subscription required for advanced features.
  • Relatively slow NAS performance when hosting a portable drive.

Like the Archer AX3200, the new Archer AX90 is a tri-band Wi-Fi 6 router. It also has two different 5GHz bands.

However, the router’s 5GHz-2 is a 4×4 band that caps at 4804Mbps — currently the highest of Wi-Fi 6. That plus the 2.5Gbps Multi-Gig port mean it’ll be able to deliver the same performance as an AX11000 router in many cases.

And this 5GHz-2 band, is almost the only thing that sets the AX90 and the AX3200 apart.

The hardware specifications tables below will show their similarities and differences in detail.

Full NameTP-Link Archer AX90
AX6600 Wi-Fi 6 
Tri-Band Router
TP-Link Archer AX3200
Wi-Fi 6 Tri-Band Router
ModelArcher AX90Archer AX3200
Dimensions12.2 × 8.1 × 6.8 in
(311 × 207 × 174 mm)
10.91 x 7.32 x 1.26 in 
(277.11.2 x 185.92 x 32 mm)
Weight2 lbs (920 g)1.9 lbs (860 g)
Processor1.5 GHz Quad-Core CPU1.5GHz Quad Core CPU
Wi-Fi TechnologyTri-band Wi-Fi 6 AX6600Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 AX3200
5GHz-1 Wi-Fi Specs2×2 AX: Up to 1201Mbps
Channel Width: 20/40/80MHz
2×2 AX: Up to 1201Mbps
Channel Width: 20/40/80MHz
5GHz-2 Wi-Fi Specs4×4 AX: Up to 4804 Mbps
Channel Width: 20/40/80/160MHz
2×2 AX: Up 1440 Mbps
Channel Width: 20/40/80MHz
2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs2×2 2.4 GHz: 574Mbps
Channel Width: 20/40MHz 
2×2 AX: Up to 574 Mbps
Channel Width: 20/40MHz 
Backward Compatibility802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
Wireless SecurityWPA / WPA2 / WPA3WPA / WPA2 / WPA3
Mobile AppTP-Link TetherTP-Link Tether
Web User InterfaceYesYes
Bridge ModeNoNo
AP ModeYesYes
Mesh-ReadyYes (OneMesh)Yes (OneMesh)
USB Port1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.01x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0
Gigabit Port3x LAN, 1x LAN/WAN3x LAN, 1x LAN/WAN
Multi-Gig Port1x 2.5Gbps WAN/LAN1x 2.5Gbps WAN/LAN
Link AggregationNoneNone
U.S MSRP$329.99$179
TP-Link Archer AX3200’s hardware specifications.

Archer AX90: Detail photos

The AX90 looks very similar to its older cousins.

The TP Link Archer AX90 Wi Fi 6 Routers Box
The TP Link Archer AX90 comes in a fancy looking and extra large box to accommodate all of its non-removable antennas.

The TP Link Archer AX90 Wi Fi 6 Router out of the Box
Out of the box, the route includes a standard power adapter and a network cable.

The TP Link Archer AX90 Wi Fi 6 Router from Above
You can swivels the router’s eight antennas half-a-sphere around.

The TP Link Archer AX90 Wi Fi 6 Routers Flat on Surface
And since that makes the router look pretty cool, here’s another picture from a different angle.

The TP Link Archer AX90 Wi Fi 6 Routers Antennas
OK, another one.

The TP Link Archer AX90 Wi Fi 6 Router is a relatively compact router
The TP Link Archer AX90 is relatively large (or compact) depending on how large your hand is. OK, so, it’s compact — that’s my hand!.

The TP Link Archer AX90 Wi Fi 6 Router has three LAN Ports a WAN port and a 2 5Gbps port
On the back, the TP-Link Archer AX90 has three Gigabit LAN ports a Gigabit LAN/WAN port and a 2 5Gbps WAN/LAN port. There’s also a USB 2.0 port, which is kinda useless.

The TP Link Archer AX90 Wi Fi 6 Routers USB 3 0 Port
On the right side, the TP-Link Archer AX90 has a USB 3.0 port. This is the port you want to us to host a storage device.

The TP Link Archer AX90 Wi Fi 6 Routers Front
Here’s the front of the TP-Link Archer AX90, the tip on top, like the case of the Archer AX3200, dubs as a status light.

The TP Link Archer AX90 Wi Fi 6 Routers Multi Gig Port
Here’s a close-up at the TP-Link Archer AX90’s ports. Note that the 2.5Gbps WAN/LAN port is the default WAN port.

The TP Link Archer AX90 Wi Fi 6 Routers Underside
The underside of the TP-Link Archer AX90. Note how it’s wall-mount ready.

The TP Link Archer AX90 Wi Fi 6 Router s Label
The router’s label on the underside holds its default settings for the initial setup.

The TP Link Archer AX90 Wi Fi 6 Routers Top
Overall, the TP-Link Archer AX90 looks misleadingly small and a tad busy with all the antennas.

The TP Link Archer AX90 Wi Fi 6 Router vs Netgear RAX200
For perspectives, here’s the TP-Link Archer AX90 next to the much higher-end and more expensive Netgear RAX200.

Archer AX90 vs. Archer AX3200: The same feature set, web interface, and setup process

Like its older cousin, the Archer AX90 comes with a 2.5Gbps port. By default, this port is the router’s WAN port. During the setup process, though, you’ll get a chance to keep it that way or use the Gigabit WAN port as such.

Clearly, you should only pick the Multi-Gig port as a WAN if you have a Gig+ or faster Internet connection. When not working as a WAN, either of the two ports will function as another LAN.

TP Link Archer AX90 WAN Selection
You can pick which port to work as the WAN during the initial setup process.

No matter what port you use as the WAN, the Archer AX90 shares the same setup process as all other Wi-Fi 6 TP-Link standalone routers, which is the same for any standard router with a web interface. The label on its underside contains all the necessary information.

Specially, you first connect its WAN port to the Internet source and hook a computer to it, either via a LAN port or the default Wi-Fi. Then point a browser to its default IP address, which is 192.168.0.1 or tplinkwifi.net, and the rest is self-explanatory.

TP Link Archer AX90 Wi Fi Settings
The TP-Link Archer AX90 allows you to customize the three bands to the max.

The AX90 has almost the same feaures and network settings as the AX3200 (as well as many other TP-Link routers.) To avoid repeating myself, here’s the recap:

Responsive interface with commons settings

The router comes with a standard set of network settings found in all routers. These include the support for Dynamic DNS (with the option to use TP-Link’s free server), port forwarding, IP reservation, and so on.

The AX90 can also work as a VPN server, supporting either OpenVPN or PPTP protocols.

Mesh-ready

The AX90 is another Wi-Fi 6 router that supports OneMesh. You can use a supported TP-Link extender with it to create somewhat of a patch-up mesh system.

TP Link Tether Mobile App
The TP-Link Tether mobile app is a way for TP-Link to take advantage of the users, via possible data collection or subscription.
TP-Link Tether mobile app

Apart from the local web interface, you can also use the Tether mobile app to manage the router. In this case, though, you’ll need to log in with an account with TP-Link and “bind” the router with it. Consequently, this can lead to privacy risk.

HomeShield requires mobile app

The AX90 will not give you any extra features, including QoS, Parental Control, Online Protection, via the local web interface. They are part of a suite called HomeShield, formerly known as HomeCare — TP-Link has been quite indecisive on the naming in the past couple of years.

In any case, to use HomeShield, you need to opt for the mobile app — it’s a privacy trade-off. What’s more, you can only enjoy these features fully if you upgrade to the HomeShield Pro version, which requires a $6 monthly fee.

TP Link Archer AX90 Home Shield
The only way to use the TP-Link Archer AX90’s HomeShield feature is via the mobile app.

This is by far the most uncool thing about using TP-Link’s latest routers. Those from Asus, Netgear, or Linksys tend to give you some or all of these features without an account requirement, much less additional costs.

So it would be best if you didn’t count on the Archer AX90 to deliver amazing features. That’s the bad news. The good news is you sure can count on its performance.

Indeed, the tri-band router did well in my testing. It supported well the 160MHz channel width and delivered excellent throughput speeds. It’s definitely better than the Archer AX3200 in terms of performance.

Fast Wi-Fi speeds

In the way I do my testing, the router had the sustained speed to a 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 client of faster than 1300Mbps at a close range. At 40 feet (12 meters) away, it still averaged close to 1300Mbps, which is the fastest I’ve seen.

(I used the AX90’s 2.5Gbps port as a LAN for the testing.)

TP Link Archer AX90 Wi Fi 6 Performance

It’s important to note that the numbers were those of the 4×4 5GHz-2 band. The AX90’s 2×2 5GHz-1 band registered just 713Mbps and 493Mbps in close and long ranges.

(The point is other tri-band routers, like the Netgear RAX200 or Asus GT-AX11000, deliver the same performance on both of their 5Ghz bands. So while the AX90’s numbers seem impressive on the chart, in real-world usage, it sure is behind the top-tier Wi-Fi 6 machines when hosting multiple clients.)

TP Link Archer AX90 Wi Fi 5 Performance

The Archer AX90 did well with Wi-Fi 5 clients, too. At a close range, my 4×4 Wi-Fi test machine had a sustained speed of faster than 900Mbps, and at 40 feet away, my 3×3 client registered almost 770Mbps.

TP Link Archer AX90 2 4GHz Performance

On the 2.4GHz band, the Archer A90 performed about the same as most Wi-Fi 6 routers, topping at some 195Mbps at a close range. Farther out, it was about 110Mbps.

Excellent coverage

The Archer AX90 did better than the Archer AX3200 in terms of coverage. In my trial, it could handle a home of about 2000 ft² (186 m²) with a typical amount of walls when placed in the middle.

Note that the Wi-Fi range changes greatly depending on the environment, so your mileage sure will vary, even by a great deal. The Archer AX90 also passed my 3-day stress test with no issues. It proved to be quite reliable.

OK NAS performance

The Archer AX90 didn’t fare much better than its older cousin when hosting an external drive.

TP Link Archer AX90 NAS Performance

I used the My Passport SSD with it, and even via a 2.5Gbps wired connection, the speed wasn’t earth-shattering at all, topping at just around 90MB/s at best.

That wasn’t exactly terrible. But compared to other routers with a Multi-Gig port, the AX90 was clearly below the average.

That said, if you want to do some casual data sharing and network backup — the router does support Time Machine — it might work out. For anything more, though, you should get a NAS server instead.

Conclusion

The TP-Link Archer AX90 AX6600 Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6 router is far from a perfect Wi-Fi 6 machine. But it does give you the taste of a much more expensive counterpart without digging a hole in your wallet. And that’s enough for me to recommend it.

If you’re looking for a reliable and fast router for a medium or even a large home, this one is a safe buy as long as you don’t expect a lot more than Wi-Fi coverage out of it without paying more. Here’s a quick hint: Don’t use the mobile app!

READ  Best Wi-Fi 6 Routers of 2021: Pick One for Your Home Today!

11 thoughts on “TP-Link Archer AX90 Review: A Worthy Upgrade, Mostly (vs. Archer AX3200)”

  1. Hi Dong – would it be possible to test the two 5Ghz bands simultaneously? Using both bands together is why most people buy a tri-band router: however, it’s important to know whether network performance is throttled by the router’s CPU when both are saturated.

    Reply
  2. Dear Dong,
    We went for Archer AX90 and I wanted to ask for your recommendation on which range extender (OneMesh Technology) would work best with it in the 2 story house?
    Many thanks,
    Vaida

    Reply
  3. Thank you for your review, Dong. I’m in the market for a wireless router. I temporarily picked up the Asus RT-AX58U on a recommendation from someone at the store.

    Here are a few routers I’m considering at the moment:
    – Asus AX58U AX3000
    – Asus AX82U AX5400
    – TP-Link Tri Band AX3200
    – Netgear Nighthawk AX6 AX4300

    Is there one router on this list that stands above the rest? Is there another router you would recommend? Does one have greater speed, better latency, etc. Is AX better than AC?

    Many thanks!

    Reply
  4. Hi, Dong,
    Thank you, as usual, for your informative review of the Archer AX90. I have had this router for about three weeks now and my experience mirrors yours. I’m pleased with its performance and reliability and wish it had the additional features of an Asus. I started with two Asus routers and had less than stellar results for both. Here’s my review I posted to amazon.ca:
    —-
    This review encompasses two Asus routers, the AX58U and AC5300. For a better understanding, it must include the AX58U. Our home has 5 Alexa smart speakers and a Roku connected 24/7. We have at least 22 wifi devices not including those that aren’t being used anymore. Our home is 2,000 sq. ft.

    I purchased the AX58U from another retailer and was quite excited to be finally getting an Asus router. While it was easy to set up, it didn’t meet expectations. Here are the issues I encountered:
    – the 5.0 GHz network stopped showing up on a list of availagle networks even though I hadn’t hidden it. Re-setting the router didn’t help.
    – I had to re-boot the router for 5 consecutive days to get it to work. Each re-boot took at least 3 efforts before it successfully connected to the internet.
    – the router seemed to have difficulty handling about 10 devices connected at the same time even though it’s Wifi6 and rated for 2,000 sq. ft.
    – it couldn’t handle my son’s part-time, casual, on-line gaming.
    I decided to return the router and get a router with a faster speed and could handle more devices at the same time. That’s why I bought the RT5300 from amazon.

    Again, I was looking forward to getting an Asus router. I felt somewhat bad for, maybe, overloading the “little” AX58U. The reviews for the RT5300 were/are amazing for the most part and stepping back to Wifi5 wasn’t a concern as it was supposedly just as fast and could handle more devices.

    The RT5300 is a huge router. I’ve never seen a bigger router. My son and I were quite excited to set it up and get going. My son was excited to see how it could handle his gaming. I was confident about everything else based on the reviews I read on the internet and on amazon.

    Unfortunately, we could not get the router set up. We spent almost an hour trying to connect the RT5300 to the internet but it wouldn’t connect. I sent a detailed email to Asus support and, amazingly, they responded the next day. By that time, I had done more reading on the internet and discovered there issues not only with the RT5300 but with Asus routers, in general, and Asus customer support.

    One person had his RT5300 die after 24 hours. Another person’s died after 6 months and a third person’s went belly-up shortly after the warranty expired. Moreover, Asus’s customer support appears to be awful across its product offerings. I’m amazed that Asus has received the highest customer satisfaction ratings on PC Mag for 9 consecutive years. That’s an amazing accomplishment with poor customer support.

    Anecdotally, Asus’s routers seem to have issues about 15% – 20% of the time. Unfortunately for me, I’m one of the unlucky ones in the 15% – 20%. I was quite excited to ge joining the other 80% 85% who are loving their Asus router and enjoying all the features. I was looking forward to utilizing all those features and enjoying the benefits. It’s not going to happen now and probably never will. I returned both routers and I echo the words of everybody who say, “buy at your own risk” I’ve never encountered a router that wouldn’t connect to the internet brand new, out-of-the-box. My previous router was a REFURBISHED Linksys that ran without issue for over 5 years.

    It seems to me that Asus is resting on its laurels. They do not seem to be doing anything to try to improve their customer support. Sooner or later, this is going to catch up to them. I won’t be considering any Asus products in the future as a result of this experience, not even their computers.

    As for my router story, I bought a TP-Link Archer AX90 from amazon for a great price. It’s still on sale for $300. I’ve only had it operational for 5 days. I’ll post my feedback on that router under that product in a few weeks to give the router a good run.

    To all those considering an Asus router, beware and buy at your own risk. If you run into any issues shortly after you buy it, return it ASAP. Don’t bother with customer support.

    After reading many articles on your site, Dong, I was really looking forward to having an Asus. It’s very disappointing that it didn’t work out for me. If you have any thoughts or feedback, I’d appreciate it. I wish my luck with Asus is as good as yours seems to be. You definitely had me convinced about Asus but it will take a lot now to get me to go back.

    Keep up the great work, Dong. I’m glad things have worked out for you in America. I look forward to reading more of your articles in the future. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Ron. And yes, Asus is known to be buggy. It’s definitely not for anyone who needs tech support. Just don’t mess around too much unless you really know what you’re doing. Networking — tech in general — is a complicated matter.

      Reply

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