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Lifewire / Erika Rawes
Smart connect and airtime fairness
Useful companion app
Up-to-date security features
Lacking slightly in speed
Falls short on capacity
The TP-Link Archer A9 provides a lot of bang for your buck, but those with heavy networking demands may want something a little beefier.
The TP-Link Archer A9 is one of the brand’s more popular routers because of the features it offers at a low price point. With technologies like Alexa compatibility and MU-MIMO, the Archer A9 should be convenient and project a Wi-Fi signal over a long range. These days, with more and more households containing home offices, multiple streaming devices, and several smart home products, how does the Archer A9 hold up? I tested the TP-Link Archer A9 for a week to see if its design, connectivity, network performance, range, and software make the device a worthwhile investment.
There’s nothing striking about the design of the Archer A9. It’s gloss black, with indicator lights on the front and the ports, power switch, WPS button, and antennas located in the back. The gloss finish fingerprints and smudges easily, so I would have rather seen a matte finish, but the A9 has an intelligent design otherwise. The branding is small—not tacky or obtrusive—and the A9’s venting is cleverly designed. Instead of just having vent holes conspicuously covering the device, it has recesses that segment the router into three portions and hide the venting. The venting recesses look purposeful, and they enhance A9’s aesthetic instead of taking away from the design.
The Archer A9 is on the smaller side—it’s petite enough to tuck away in a corner and sit unnoticed. It measures 9.6 inches long, 6.4 inches wide, and 1.3 inches in thickness, but it’s slender profile and large antennas make its body look even smaller. The three adjustable antennas protrude from the back, and you can manually swivel them about 180 degrees from side-to-side and roughly 90 degrees from front-to-back. There’s an additional internal antenna, but that antenna isn’t visible from the exterior.
You can place the Archer A9 flat on a table or desk, or you can use the two mounting holes on the back of the router to hang the A9 on a wall. I have a smart box in a closet in my home, so I hung the router near that smart box and hid it in the closet.
The Archer A9 is a dual-band AC1900 router, so speeds max out at 1300 Mbps over the 5Ghz band and 600 Mbps over the 2.4 Ghz band. Setting up the networks was fast and easy, and I had my 5 Ghz and my 2.4 Ghz networks set up within five minutes using the companion app.
The A9 has MU-MIMO technology (3x3), which means it can simultaneously handle three streams at a time. Some of the best wireless routers on the market can handle eight or more streams, like the Netgear RAX120 and the Netgear RAX200, but some of these routers cost as much as five times the price of the Archer A9.
For the A9’s price point, the performance isn’t bad, and I was able to use my phone, a PS4, a PC, and a handful of smart home devices simultaneously without experiencing noticeable lag. However, when I pumped up the volume and connected two gaming PCs, another PS4, and three FireTVs, the network noticeably slowed down, particularly on the FireTVs and consoles. Once I prioritized gaming, the gaming PCs and consoles got faster signals, but the shows continued experiencing buffering issues.
I was able to use my phone, a PS4, a PC, and a handful of smart home devices simultaneously without experiencing noticeable lag.
The A9 also boasts smart connect and airtime fairness. This means the router can automatically switch connected devices between the bands to promote the most efficient pathway, and it can also prevent older and slower devices from hogging the network and slowing down traffic to other devices. I’m personally not a fan of smart connect, as I’d rather assign the devices to bands manually. However, it can be a useful feature for those who want their router to automatically manage their network traffic.
For wired devices, the A9 has gigabit Ethernet ports (4 LAN and 1 WAN). There’s a USB 2.0 port that supports the NTFS, exFAT, HFS+, and FAT32 formats, so you can connect a shared external hard drive to your network. The router supports FTP server and media server functions too.
I live in a suburb about 20 miles outside of Raleigh, NC, and I have Spectrum (a Charter company) as my internet service provider. Internet speeds in my home max out at 400 Mbps.
In the same room as the router, speeds were excellent (naturally), getting up to 352 Mbps on the 5 Ghz band and 76 Mbps on the 2.4 Ghz band. I traveled upstairs, and speeds clocked in at a respectable 124 Mbps on the 5Ghz band and 36 Mbps over 2.4 Ghz. The signal remained strong almost everywhere in my two-level home, even in areas like closets, and many other places that could conceivably be Wi-Fi dead zones. However, I experienced a few slow zones in my garage, and in a guest room located on the opposite side of the home. I also experienced a spotty connection in the yard. The signal degraded significantly around the home’s exterior, so if you like to use your devices outside, you’ll want to invest in a Wi-Fi extender, or go with a different router entirely.
I didn’t see an exact range for the Archer A9 in the spec sheet, but I was able to get coverage in just about every area of my 3,000 square foot home. This is not to say the range is 3,000 square feet, as several factors like the type and number of devices you have, wall thickness, obstructions, your ISP, and other factors can all impact the signal quality and range. Generally speaking, it’s safe to say the A9 could probably cover at least a 2,000 square foot house.
The TP-Link Tether app is one of my favorite router companion apps. It’s super easy to set up your networks, as well as create a guest network, which is nice for when guests visit, so you have a Wi-Fi network ready to go without compromising your network security.
You can see exactly which devices are on each of your network bands at any given time, you can turn on an alert to let you know when a new device connects to your network, and more. With firmware updates, you can get WPA3 (the latest security enhancement). You can set up parental controls, and create a custom profile for individual family members.
If you want to control more advanced features, like VPN creation, NAT forwarding, and IPv6, you’ll need to use the web management tool. However, you can perform most of the router’s maintenance in the Tether app. The A9 is compatible with Alexa and IFTTT, so you can use voice commands to have your smart home assistant control your router. You can say things like, “Alexa, ask TP-Link to enable guest network” or “Alexa, ask TP-Link to prioritize gaming.”
You can say things like, “Alexa, ask TP-Link to enable guest network” or “Alexa, ask TP-Link to prioritize gaming.”
The Archer A9 sells on Amazon for under $100. For a router with its feature set, this is an exceptional value.
The Netgear AC2300 router is a simultaneous dual-band router with advertised speeds of 1625/600 Mbps. The AC2300 has two USB ports (one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0) instead of just one USB port like the Archer A9, and it has a 1Ghz dual-core processor. The two routers have some differences, but they also boast a lot of similar features—MU-MIMO, smart connect, Alexa compatibility, and a companion app. The Netgear AC2300 (view on Amazon) is more expensive, with a price tag of $200. Once you get up into the $200 plus range, you may want to go ahead and get a tri-band or even a Wi-Fi 6 router. The TP-Link Archer A9 provides a better balance in terms of affordability and features.
A capable long-range router for those with average to moderate networking demands.
The TP-Link Archer A9 is an ideal router for a household with an average number of devices, but homes full of gamers or home office workers may want something a little more robust.