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TP-Link Archer AX3000 Review: Wi-Fi 6 Made Affordable

The TP-Link Archer AX3000 looks like a standard Wi-Fi router. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

With the Archer AX3000, which is also available the Archer AX50 variant, TP-Link manages to hit that current sweet spot of Wi-Fi 6.

The router delivers the performance level of existing available clients at a cost most of us won’t need to think twice. Indeed, at just around $150 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 or medium home, TP-Link Archer AX3000 still is a sensible Wi-Fi 6 upgrade.

READ MORE:  Wi-Fi 6 in Layman's Terms: Speed, Range, and More

TP-Link AX3000 Wi-Fi 6 Router

8.1

Performance

7.0/10

Features

9.0/10

Design and Setup

8.5/10

Value

8.0/10

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Reliable Wi-Fi, good coverage
  • Tons of network settings and customization
  • Responsive web user interface, useful mobile app
  • Light weight, wall-mountable

Cons

  • Middling Wi-Fi specs
  • Fluctuating Wi-Fi connection speeds
  • No multi-gig port, USB 2.0

TP-Link Archer AX3000: A light-weight Wi-Fi 6 router

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 AX300 is a downer for a Wi-Fi 6 router. (The router user manual might state that it has USB 3.0, that’s a mistake.)

On the inside, the Archer AX3000 sports an Intel Home Wi-Fi  WAV654 chipset that’s cable 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.

The TP-Link Archer AX3000 has the usual amount of WAN and LAN ports. All are Gigabit. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

TP-Link Archer AX50: Standard web user interface, tons of customization

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.

The TP-Link Archer AX3000 allows users to customize the Wi-Fi network quite a bit. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

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.

READ MORE:  What Is Dynamic DNS and How to Set Up Yours

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 TP-Link Archer AX3000 is a light, wall-mountable router. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

TP-Link Archer AX3000’s specifications

TP-Link Archer AX3000: Reliable performance

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 f² (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.

Conclusion

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 you almost the same benefits as those costing many times more.

READ MORE:  Best Wi-Fi 6 Routers and Mesh Systems of 2020

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. 

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About the Author: Dong Ngo

Before Dong Knows Tech, I spent some 18 years testing and reviewing gadgets at CNET.com. Technology is my passion and I do know it. | Follow me on Twitter, or Facebook!

30 Comments

  1. That is mesh right? Do you have any suggestions for a single router? The Archer C7 ALMOST covers everything I need, but ideally I could get about 10 additional feet of strong coverage, and the ability to handle more devices. We play some online games, so I’d be concerned with latency on mesh.

  2. What is the range like on this thing? I have an old Archer C7 V2 that I would like to upgrade. The main thing I’m hoping for would better 5 GHZ range. Secondly would be the ability to handle more devices.

    1. I haven’t tested the AX40, James, but it should be similar to the RAX120. That said, I’d recommend it over the TP-Link. But the difference between the two will be minimal.

  3. I purchased the AX3000 Archer AX50 which is a completely different model from the unit you reviewed. If you go to TP-Link’s website the have 2 options listed for purchase of these models, one is priced at $129 (AX3OOO USB 2.0) version and the AX50-AX3000 model with USB 3.0 version priced at $159 with improved Firmware and slightly better internals available through Amazon.

    1. Thanks for the input, Vinson. At the time of the review, the version you have wasn’t available in the U.S. and TP-Link provided me with the review unit as well as the info. I’ll look into this.

  4. Hello Dong,
    I found on Tp-link website two versions of that router. They have almost the same hardware and design but first one is model AX3000 with USB 2.0 and other is AX50 with USB 3.0. Could you make another review on AX50? AX50 have new firmware witch Improved the performance and stability.

  5. As an FYI, I have the AX1500 model of this and the ‘smart connect’ feature doesn’t work well. Most of my devices connect at 2.4GHz regardless of range. I tried with the smart connect (both radios presumably with the same ssid and password and hopefully switching to the 5 if its available) and while my roku ultra 8′ from the router will connect at 5, my essential phone and lenovo laptop will only connect at 2.4 regardless of range. I had to use two SSID’s and passwords to get 5. Lame. This should be basic functionality that works in v1 on day 1.

  6. Hey I just got the ax1500 version of this for $69, replacing an old tp-link ac1900 unit. So far so good. I have a large multifloor house and its easily giving me better signal.

    One thing I was wondering and would like advice on is security. Is this router secure “enough”, or would I benefit from a firewall type box, presumably between the cable modem and the router? What would improve the security (and maybe filter out ads or bad sites?) without breaking the bank or requiring an expensive subscription? My virus/malware protection inside the house is good, but was pondering a whole home protection box.

    1. Yes, the router is secure “enough”, Tom. Generally, you (the user) are the last defense. Just don’t do silly things and always be on the alert when being online. 🙂

  7. Hello Dong. I saw that Walmart will have the Netgear Nighthawk AX4 for $100 on Black Friday, but I would have to order online and hope it’s in stock. Do you thinkI should try for the Netgear or consider this?

  8. Hi Dong, Thanks for the review.

    Would you recommend this router, or another in particular in my situation? To cover my 3400 sq. ft house I am planning to move my current/older Tp-link archer C7 to a second location and get a new router for next to the modem. The plan is to use the C7 as an access point only connected to the new router via MOCA adapters to create a wired back haul.

    Would you suggest a Wi-fi 6 router such as the one under review? An updated Wi-fi 5 Tp-link Archer A7? Stick with tp-link or start moving to ASUS? Any specific suggested would be appreciated.

    1. You’re welcome, Robert. This router will work for your needs and the C7 can work in the AP mode, just make sure you set both to have the same Wi-Fi network. They will not create a mesh, however, meaning devices won’t automatically move from one to another as you walk around the house. Just keep that in mind. If you’re intending to do a mesh, I’d recommend getting Asus or Synology routers, instead (like two Blue Cave units), or two Synology MR2200ac units. But that means you’ll have to invest in new routers entirely. Considering you’re using MOCA as backhaul, there’s no need to invest in Wi-Fi 6.

  9. Hi Dong,
    Thanks for the great review. I purchased one of these at Walmart for $129 to give it a try. I’ve got to say it’s quite fast, covers 2000 sq. ft. easily and for the price it’s a terrific bargain. It’s no a Netgear Nighthawk AX or Asus AX but it does the job reliably at
    1/3 the cost.

  10. This same router is 129.99 at Walmart (it was originally supposed to be a Walmart exclusive I think? Walmart is listed as the only seller on TP-Link’s website.)

    Also I like the non-removable antennas to some degree, on my Archer AC1900 the antennas would somehow work their way loose at certain angles and I would have to re tighten them.

    Also I like how it’s long range 2.4ghz performance doesn’t really fall off. At close range I use 5GHz anyhow.

    1. Be advised that the antennas DO come off if you aren’t careful. I was peeling the plastic off of them when I was unboxing and one came off in my hand with a gray wire connecting it. I was able to carefully reorient it and slide it back on. Looks like some tongue and groove plastic.

  11. Dong – Thanks for the great reviews, they’re much appreciated!

    Quick question: Should I get this or the ASUS AC86U? You had a great review for the 86U, but I’m finding mixed reviews online. $150 is really the top end of what I want to spend at this point…currently running an old ASUS RT66U with a Netgear CM600. I’d love to simply get close to the 275Mbps I pay for and have a router that can handle future service upgrades. Thanks in advance!

    1. I just picked one of these up and have to agree, for home use and the price it’s really nice. I was looking for wifi 6 as my wife and I’s phones support it. This is basically half the price of the next closest router at the moment. My old router was an Asus(wireless N and was showing its age), and it was great, but $250 for their cheaper ax router is steep when you only need to cover about 1600sqft. I feel this one will serve me well for quite a while.

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