We’ve never had much luck with the internet at home. If it isn’t poor service from the ISP (Internet Service Provider), it’s a really crappy WiFi signal that keeps dropping off, thanks to a mediocre router we’ve been given by the ISP in the first place.
We currently use Virgin Media’s 60MB Fibre Optic broadband, and while it performs reasonably well over a wired connection, the SuperHub 2 router they provide isn’t the best when it comes to WiFi connectivity. And let’s be honest, how many people actually use a wired connection nowadays anyway? You can just about catch the WiFi signal in the loft (where my room is), and all-too-often certain devices will just lose connectivity, or the entire router will stop working altogether. It’s very frustrating.
After learning about my networking frustrations at home, TP-Link wanted to try and solve my problem by sending me an Archer C7 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router featuring 802.11ac WiFi connectivity — the “next generation of WiFi”, as they call it.
802.11ac: What’s The Big Deal?
If you’re using a relatively modern router, chances are it’ll have 802.11n (or Wireless N) WiFi connectivity which is capable of some pretty decent speeds. However the latest 802.11ac WiFi technology is up to 3x faster, more reliable and offers a wider range of coverage than its predecessor.
802.11n vs 802.11ac. Image courtesy of TP-Link.
Just as the image above illustrates, think of 802.11ac WiFi like driving on an open motorway versus a congested city road. Making it from point A to B — or in this case, transferring data — is going to be a lot faster if you have 4 open motorway lanes to drive down, as opposed to 2 congested lanes on a tight city road. 802.11ac essentially takes the motorway route and travels at a faster speed, with less chances of bumping into congestion along the way.
Because of this, 802.11ac is perfectly suited to today’s intensive media demands like HD streaming and online gaming.
Real World Results: My Experience With TP-Link’s Archer C7 & 802.11ac
Leaving aside specs and new technology, what matters is how this router affected our WiFi connectivity at home — and after a few weeks of using the TP-Link Archer C7 router, I can honestly say it’s made a big difference.
We have even more devices connected than before with the addition of my shiny new iPhone 6 and an Acer Iconia Tab 8, and the Archer C7 router has been able to serve up consistent, fast WiFi without as many drop offs like we used to have with Virgin’s SuperHub 2. From laptops, tablets and smartphones to devices like Rokus and Chromecasts, I’ve seen a vast improvement in connectivity and I can attribute it to the 802.11ac WiFi.
And remember my room in the loft? All of my devices are now getting all 4 bars of WiFi signal — a large improvement over the 2-3 they’d previously get. I still get a random drop off in connectivity now and then, but overall it has behaved well.
Should You Invest in 802.11ac?
Ask me whether you should invest in 802.11ac and I’ll tell you this: if you’re fed up with poor WiFi connectivity, an 802.11ac router is bound to help — especially if like me, you have a house filled with WiFi-hungry devices.
In my case, TP-Link’s Archer C7 has been a great little help and for it’s £85 price tag (on Amazon at the time of writing), it really is a good entry-level option.