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Lifewire / Erika Rawes
Long, sturdy atennas
Features MU-MIMO technology
Useful companion app with parental controls
No smart assistant control
Few advanced features
No USB port
The TP-Link Archer C80 is an affordable router that provides fast speeds, but it would be much better if it had a USB port.
The TP-Link Archer C80 is an affordable long range router that should be ideal for medium-sized homes. With 3x3 MU-MIMO, parental controls, and remote control using TP-Link’s Tether app, the Archer C80 has a few admirable features for a router under $100, but it also lacks some of the things we’ve come to expect in a router in this price range (like smart assistant compatibility and no USB port). I tested the TP-Link Archer C80 for a week to see if its design, connectivity, network performance, range, and software make the device a worthwhile investment when compared to other budget routers on the market.
The Archer C80 is an exceptionally small router, with a body that measures only 4.6 inches tall, 8.5 inches wide, and 1.26 inches in depth. Since its body is smaller than a paperback book, the router can sit inconspicuously on a table or desk. It also has two keyhole mounts on the back for mounting on a wall.
The matte black color scheme allows it to blend in with other devices, so you’ll barely notice it on a desk or workstation. The surface is textured, with recesses to hide the venting. The texturing is both a blessing and a curse because it causes the C80 to collect a little extra dust, but it also hides fingerprints and smudges.
Overall, the C80 feels pretty sturdy. There are four antennas, and they don’t feel flimsy or easily breakable. The antennas are exceptionally long—disproportionately so when compared to the router’s body—but the length of the antennas is advantageous for performance. You can move the antennas 90 degrees up and down and roughly 180 degrees side to side, which lets you appropriately adjust them for placement on a wall or table. The Gigabit Ethernet ports (one WAN, four LAN) and power adapter port are located on the back of the device, which is ideal for placement on a flat surface, but not as great for mounting on a wall because the cables come out of the top of the router, and they’re difficult to hide or organize.
The antennas are exceptionally long—disproportionately so when compared to the router’s body—but the length of the antennas is advantageous for performance.
With the Archer C80, you’re giving up a few features in exchange for speed. This is a dual-band AC1900 router, meaning it can reach up to 1300 Mbps on the 5 GHz band and up to 600 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band for a total of 1900 Mbps, so it’s not as theoretically fast as a Wi-Fi 6 router. However, this is still one of the faster routers I’ve tested in this price range.
The C80 doesn’t have a USB port, which was quite a disappointment. USB ports are becoming more commonplace in Wi-Fi routers, as people like to have a USB port for easy sharing of hard drives and printers across the network. The C80 also lacks Alexa compatibility, a third band, or an ultra-high performance processor.
On the bright side, the C80 has beamforming, which promotes a more concentrated signal and a longer range. It has 3 x 3 MU-MIMO technology, which means it can transmit and receive three data streams simultaneously. This helps the router provide a faster signal when you’re watching shows, gaming, or using a 3 x 3 capable computer. It has smart connect, which makes it possible for your router to switch devices between bands, and airtime fairness, which helps reduce lag caused by older or slower devices by distributing airtime more equally. This way, a slow device is less likely to bog down the network.
Although this is a low to mid-tier level device, I was quite impressed with its speed and performance. I live in a suburb about 20 minutes away from Raleigh, NC, and I have Spectrum as my internet service provider. The Wi-Fi speeds in my home max out at 400 Mbps. I have a smart box that sits in a utility closet where the router connects. I mounted the router on the wall in that closet, which has a solid door that acts as an immediate signal obstruction. In spite of the presence of this solid door, I was still able to get between 340 and 350 Mbps all throughout the entire downstairs (on the 5GHz band). On the 2.4GHz band, I could get up to 90Mbps all throughout the first floor and in my garage.
When I loaded up the network with several of the devices in my home—more than 30 smart home products, gaming PCs, laptops, consoles, streaming devices, smart TVs, and phones—I started to experience a noticeable slowdown. This is not the best router for gaming or for those who use multiple connected devices simultaneously. The C80 would be ideal for homes with light to moderate networking demands.
TP-Link advertises the C80 as a router for three-bedroom homes. However, that estimate understates the router’s range capabilities. My home is a two-story, 3,000 square-foot residence with five-bedrooms, and I was able to maintain a stable Wi-Fi connection in every corner. Every closet, bathroom, and bedroom got a steady signal, and I experienced no dead zones whatsoever. Even in the garage, front yard, and backyard, the signal remained strong. It was only when I attempted to use multiple gaming and streaming devices at one time that I experienced any sort of lag.
Every closet, bathroom, and bedroom maintained a signal, and I experienced no dead zones whatsoever.
The C80 is a cinch to set up in less than five minutes, with guest networks created and all. The TP-Link Tether app is one of my favorite router companion apps. The interface is super clean, and you can see exactly what devices are on each of your network bands. You can even have the app alert you when a new device signs into your network.
You can set up parental controls, where you create a profile for individual family members, block content, and set time limits indicating how long certain devices are allowed on the Wi-Fi network. This allows me to control my kid’s PlayStation time right in the Tether app, as well as control screen time on other devices in the home.
If you want to control more advanced features, like NAT forwarding, DHCP servers, and IPv6, you’ll need to use the web management tool. The web management tool also provides more extensive parental control features, letting you filter out content by keywords (instead of just blocking websites). The web tool has a user-friendly interface, but it’s not as convenient as using the Tether app.
The TP-Link Archer C80 sells for $100, which is a reasonable price for the unit considering it offers fast speeds, dual-band connectivity, and technologies like MU-MIMO to enhance performance.
The Archer A9 is another affordable offering from TP-Link, with a price tag of under $100. However, the A9 has a USB port and is compatible with Alexa and IFTTT—features the C80 lacks. I recently tested the A9 as well. The A9 offers more in the way of features, but I was able to get faster speeds and better coverage out of the C80. If you want a router that offers a more comprehensive experience, go with the A9. If you just want an affordable, speedy router that will maintain a signal at long range, you’ll probably be happy with the C80.
Fast speeds and an exceptionally long range.
Even though it lacks a USB port, the Archer C80 puts out impressive speeds over a long range in homes with light to medium networking capacity. For homes that have several people streaming, gaming, and working on cloud applications, they’ll want something more high octane.
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