I’ve been in the market for a new router myself recently, and I have to say it’s an increasingly tricky decision to get right in this modern world of dual-band, gigabit and all sorts of other mind-boggling jargon. Anyway, once you’ve figured it out, you might realise that this router from TP-Link, despite being labelled ‘ultimate’, falls short of the competition as it is just a single-band. That means it’ll only operate on the 2.4GHz frequency, neglecting the 5GHz frequency that other rival routers use to gain a clearer path to half of your devices amongst other things.
Interestingly, though, unlike many of the competing entries to the market, the TL-WR1043ND features a trio of antennae fixed along the back of the router, similar to the dual antennae found in the Netgear DGN2000, which are useful for really maximising the range and strength of that single signal. It’s noticeable, too, with the range far outstripping that of my recently procured Belkin PlayMax router.
In terms of design, the router isn’t the best to look at with those three sticks protruding so blatantly from the back, but it’s a frequent trade off between function and beauty that never seems to be perfectly combined. The majority of the unit is white, thought the antennae and the frame is a contrasting black, as well as the display along the front which features a series of green indicator LEDs for power status and activity. Lastly, the TP-Link logo is emblazoned in bold metal letters along the top of the unit.
In terms of connectivity – what, at the end of the day a router is all about – round the back we have the customary WAN port which connects to your modem, a port for the power adapter that comes in the box and a reset button which is only accessed by a fine point such as a pin or a pen. Alongside that there’s a USB port and four yellow gigabit ethernet ports.
Software and Setup
This is where the unit went down in my estimations quite a lot, and it was pretty much the first experience I had with it. The setup is more complex than the majority of other routers I’ve tested, and the web interface you use to configure the router is over-populated with advanced tools that I’d rather were hidden by default behind a typical ‘advanced’ button. The basic options are lost amongst the furore and it makes it a lengthy process to get it setup perfectly, whereas my rival Belkin was a two-minute job.
Having said that, all the options are there and you can configure your router quite dramatically to your own specification should you want to, including changing the channel number for a clearer signal.
In terms of performance, as I’ve already touched upon, the range and strength of the signal does beat the rival devices I’ve tested out in my home. All things being equal, the range dropped out a good 5 or 6 yards further on down the road to my other router, which is testament to both routers that I had to go outside, but to this one for forcing me a little further away from the comfort of my own couch.
In terms of the speeds, they are very much on a par with the Belkin whilst on the same strength signal, maxing out my download speeds over the WAN, and LAN speeds allowed for a single 2GB file to be transferred a smidgeon under 10 minutes, compared to the Belkin which managed just over 9 minutes. So in truth there’s about 30 seconds difference, which is negligible when you take into consideration the variables of interference and range.
Overall, this is a decent router. No special frills that make it stand out from the crowd, but usually in router-terms that means bloatware being dumped onto your system to allow for ‘streaming’ etc, that could be achieved perfectly without it in capable hands, or with a guide at hand. So the minimalist, basic router is great for beginners who just want something to allow them to connect to the Internet, and suitable for more advanced users who want a range of settings for greater flexibility.
The greatest selling point of the router, though, is the low, low price point sub-£50. Coming in at under £43 from Amazon at the time of writing. That makes it one of the cheapest routers in the class, and once it’s set up you’ll realise that doesn’t mean you’ve compromised on quality.
You can follow Rob on Twitter as @R0bNichols.