Pros

Mind-blowing performance; enhanced functionality via HomeCare update proves TP-Link stands behind its products

Cons

Awkward shape makes placement difficult; dual 2166MHz 802.11ac radios don't auto-negotiate connections for the user

Star Rating

Real-World Performance

We've tested a lot of routers over the years, but our Linksys EA9500 has played the role of the standard-bearer for quite some time. We've never found anything faster, until now...

25ft

Whoa! The C5400 is way ahead of the Linksys overall. As you can see, however, its two radios do not behave similarly, despite both being rated at quad-stream 2166Mbps. This, by the way, is the same rating as the Linksys, and we wouldn't be surprised if they share a lot of the same internal circuitry, given how similar their specs are. While the Linksys auto-negotiates the clearest radio for each device, the user must manually connect (and stay connected) to one of the two radios in the TP-Link. They might as well be two separate routers from the point of view of the client device. It's possible that TP-Link decided on this approach because it performs better, but it may lead to a little confusion among users not knowing how to appropriately utilize the two radios.

Note that in real-world Internet use (as opposed to intranet use), you'll never see speeds like this, because no servers operate this fast. While our Gigabit fiber can put up some insane theoretical numbers, in our informal testing of downloads via Steam, we got about 31MB/s on the TP-Link and 28MB/s on the Linksys, suggesting that the server is really becoming the bottleneck at a certain point. 

Now let's see if the the C5400 can keep ahead of the compeition at a 75-foot distance:

75ft

The C5400 didn't just keep its lead, it extended it. Now both radios are way, way ahead of the EA9500, and in fact Radio 2 is almost three times faster in terms of downloads, and about 50% faster in terms of uploads. We actually started to think that our EA9500 may have degraded over time with 24/7 use (a phenomenon we've seen in other long-term samples), but after double-checking some data we collected several years ago using the EA9500, we're pretty sure it's actually still performing as it did fresh out of the box. The C5400 is simply superior.

We have one last test to throw at the C5400, and it's a challenge that has tripped up many a previous competitor....

Storage

What you see here is our "storage server" benchmark, which tests read and write speed from an external solid-state drive directly attached to the routers via USB 3.0. We thought our Linksys model was pretty impressive, but wow, the TP-Link C5400 just cruises to victory here. It's a true all-in-one network storage solution. And the best part is that the storage was exceptionally easy to access; unlike what we've found with lower-end TP-Link models, you don't have to jump through hoops to access external drives. Just plug them in, and they'll be available in the Windows Explorer. 

Conclusion

When we accepted TP-Link's invitation to review the C5400 with HomeCare, we figured we'd have to make excuses for its performance, but that they'd be justified by the enhanced functionality. After having run the router through our benchmarks, we've got just one question on our mind: why didn't we test this thing sooner?!? We've always known that TP-Link undercuts the "big names" when it comes to specs per dollar, but we've never found TP-Link routers to actually beat the best-of-the-best. Well, that's what the C5400 just did, and it did so despite a price that matches the competition's mid-range offerings, and with features that top them all.

The TP-Link Archer C5400 Router is available for $217 as of our publication date, and it picks up a huge recommendation as the ideal high-end router for a busy household. As always, to see our top picks in every category of home networking gear, check out our Networking Buyer's Guide, updated quarterly!

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