wireless

Review of TP-Link TD-W8968 ADSL2+ Wireless Router

If you don’t have a problem with a crowded 2.4GHz spectrum in your area, then a very low cost ADSL2+ wireless router may be your answer. The TP-Link TD-W8968 is almost too cheap – at around the £30 mark from the likes of Argos, this device is clearly aimed at the lower cost bracket and the consumer market.

So in a house full of Internet addicts, how does this device perform? Well, much better than expected. For comparison here, it’s replacing the BT Home Hub 3.0 a very common device out there and for such a low price a much more viable option that the replacement cost of a BT Home Hub.

TP-Link W8968

A quick look at the specification and both devices are very similar, both run only on the 2.4GHz spectrum with 300Mbit wireless n support, both have four ethernet ports, USB and ADSL2+ modems built in. Ascetically, the TP-Link TD-W8968 does look cleaner and more professional, but the Home Hubs are so common I would suspect that no one notices them any more. The TP-Link TD-W8968 could also be wall mounted and has directional aerials, so there is a touch more flexibility.

At look at power consumption puts them level pegging and on packaging both have minimised the non-recyclable elements and clearly don’t waste packaging materials. Here though you can clearly see BT’s commitment – no fancy colour printed boxes, everything marked with the material type and everything is colour co-ordinated. So wot? well this stops waste, shows people what each item is for and where it’s connected. I wonder how many generic grey cables have been binned before they true need has been recognised.

TD-W8968 Status Screen

So how does the ADSL connection compare between the two devices? Our BT Home Hub 3.0 connected to the Internet with a reasonable error rate at 1124Kbps downstream and 448Kbps upstream. Given our distance from the exchange, this is nothing but a miracle. How does the TP-Link TD-W8968 compare? With almost no error rate, the TP-Link is getting 2528Kbps downstream and 448Kbps upstream. I’ve left the TP-Link TD-W8968 two weeks to settle on this speed and the performance improvement is very noticeable – double the speed previously achieved and with few errors.

I’m guessing that the BT Home Hub 3.0 is configured with some very conservative settings, on the other hand, the latest firmware for the TP-Link is almost a year newer, so this may be down to highly tuned software settings and hardware capabilities.

But what use is the Internet if you cannot get to it? Just about everything these days requires wireless. Wired is dead. So performance is all. There are going to be no records set with only 300Mbit Wireless N available, but range, especially through walls and bleed into outside spaces becomes more important (last thing I need is daughters complaining at the lack of Internet whilst sunning themselves in the garden). The BT Home Hub 3.0 always seems to lack some get up and go. Wall penetration is limited and it does seem very directional – point the hub in the right way and you get a good signal in one direction.

The TP-Link TD-W8968 is not like this at all. Penetrating through my 1m thick stone walls, the signal bleeds into external areas well and provides good coverage. Nothing is lightning quick here, but good enough for basic browsing, email and limited youtube action.

TP-W8968 Guest Configuration

So far, the TP-Link TD-W8968, has owned the BT Home Hub 3.0 for ADSL and Wireless performance. It’s a draw on environmental issues and ascetics. But whilst the BT Home Hub 3.0 is very simple to set up and get working, it’s biggest let down is the lack of useful features and any real configuration.  The TP-Link TD-W8968 scores highly here with features like:

  • Guest WiFi
  • Customisable settings (such as DNS, QoS, Parental Controls, SPI Firewall etc)
  • Support for USB 3G modems

In conclusion, it’s clear that TP-Link have done a great job with the TD-W8968.  The Home Hub 3.0 wins only on ease of configuration, in every other respect, the TP-Link TD-W8968 is head and shoulders above the BT offering.  My recommendation:  if you need a replacement or new ADSL2+ Wireless Router, then look no further than the TP-Link offering.

Review of TP-Link TL-WA730RE Wireless N Range Extender

If, like me, you have poor reception in certain areas of your home, you could look to the so called Range Extender’s to boost your existing network coverage. But my problem is not always boosting my own signal, but boosting local BTWiFi networks. I often work away from home and I am always disappointed with the range and reception of the BT Wireless offering that is often bundled free with BT broadband and other packages. I end up squeezing my laptop or iPad onto window sills that give me the best reception. What a nightmare.

Step in the range extender’s. They are simple wireless hubs that exclude some of the features required by your main hub – dhcp, firewall, etc. Some are so simple to set up and use, they need no manual, just a bit of common sense and a power socket. The TP-Link TL-WA730RE is one of the easiest wireless hubs that I have ever touched. Maplin are selling these hubs for about £30 quid, but they are cheaper on amazon and other on-line retailers if you can wait for delivery. So they are cheap, easy to get hold of and easy to use, but just how easy?

Set up of the TP-Link device for unsecured wireless networks (such as BTWiFi or BTWiFi-with-FON) is as follows:

  1. Plug in power
  2. Wait for lights to show the device is ready
  3. Push the ‘Range Extender’ button on the back
  4. Job done

Ok, you do need to put it in a place where it can receive signals from the network your interested in, but as it’s repeating the wireless network you don’t need to be too fussy with this (window sills are a good place from my experience). There is a wired port Ethernet in the back too if you want to use a cable, but I’m going for convenience.

It does get a little more complex if you have lots of unencrypted networks in your area, but all you do is put a disk into a Windows machine plug in the Ethernet cable and run a simple set up program. A few next, next, next steps and you can choose the network you would like to connect to. You will also need to use this set up program if you want to connect to a secured / encrypted wireless network where you will need to select the network name and put in the network password.

Light and low power the TP-Link TL-WA730RE has a three year warranty in the UK with 24×7 support available too. The spec is not top end, but with Wireless N 150Mbps and such a simple range extender function (something essential for extending BT free WiFi service BTWiFi), it is amazing value that I would be happy to recommend to anyone.