Wireless Networking: Nine 802.11n Routers Rounded Up

TP-Link WR741ND

Before prepping this article, we’d never reviewed any TP-Link gear before. The company, based in Shenzhen, China, has obvious aspirations to be the next D-Link by way of being the low-cost leader of the networking world. They approached us months ago with this hot new technology called “Lite-N.” Enough said, right? Still, we make every effort to clear our minds of high-performance prejudices and remember that most of the world just needs cheap gear that gets the job done. This is TP-Link’s target. In thumbing through the catalog that reps sent us along with the WR741ND ($44.99), we couldn’t find a single visually interesting product. It’s all built to be generic. That’s not necessarily bad, but it clearly shows where TP-Link is aiming.

The WR741ND uses a 2x2 MIMO array, but with a single external antenna. You get four 10/100 LAN ports, no USB connectivity. As with Belkin’s N150, this is an ultra-basic, entry-level, 2.4 GHz router. The QSS (Quick Secure Setup) button on the front is rebranded WPS. About the only thing that stands out here is TP-Link’s integration of very simple QoS.

On the other hand, all of that simplicity makes for a very quick setup. Just for giggles, we handed the router to a total networking newbie here at the office and asked her to set it up. She had it running in under 20 minutes. And to TP-Link’s credit, the manual is surprisingly well-produced, with none of the glaring errors and typos we’re used to seeing from lesser-known vendors. The manual even shows screen captures of successful and failed ping tests, which is exactly the sort of thing novices need to see.

We’ll let the cat out of the bag on this one. The WR741ND was the worst-performing router of this roundup, and that was even with using the company’s own TL-WN721N USB adapter. Still, you can find this router online for $35. If all you need is to connect a handful of clients and don’t care so much about the speed at which it happens, yet you at least don’t want to pack a lunch for a 100MB file backup, then this may still be sufficient.

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  • Dandalf
    I'd buy the Linksys if it didn't have a bloody spoiler on it. Chavviest router I ever saw.
  • madskillz12_1
    £20 cashback on the Linksys until 30/4/10 as well. You'd be mad not to.
  • daglesj
    Belkin routers are a joke. I bought a low end one as a spare. It couldnt get a speed of higher than 2Mbps. Any other router would get 6Mbps+. After several attempts of getting a sane response from Belkin India, one of their techs finally admitted that model has an issue with the Firewall. Switch it off and speed goes back up. He said a firmware update would sort it. Nearly a year later...yup no firmware. A couple of my customers have the new Belkin N spec routers. Really bad.
  • chronicbint
    Surprising, I am on my second Belkin N router and they have all worked perfectly well.
  • hairystuff
    I've realised with Belkin routers they sometimes have multiple revisions of the same product code/model number, some of the revision work really well and others are pure trash, I've noticed this with D-Link aswell but generally the differences are marginally acceptable.
  • gagaga
    I'm not normally a fan of Apple gear, but I can get 14MB/s (equal to 112Mb/s) from my airport extreme (the older 2 aerial one) on big files.

    Guessing the laptop (Vaio TZ) has a big influence - that has three separate aerials and the top-end Intel card, and the fact mine is the only 5GHz network in the area...
  • Accurim
    What did you use with the WRT610N? I'd be interested in getting it based on the benchmarks but I'd have to get the same client adaptor also.

    I believe you did your testing with a laptop also, if I were to get a desktop adaptor would this be fine: