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TP-LINK N750 Router, Dual Band PCI Express Adapter Review

/ Aug 29th, 2012 No Comments

N750 Router

TP-LINK, global provider of networking devices, recently released the N750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router as well as a new Wireless N Dual Band PCI Express Adapter. Both products are at the upper end of their respective product lines, with support for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless channels. We got a chance to go hands-on with these two products to see how they stack up to other products in the router and wireless adapter markets.

N750 Design

The N750’s glossy, black clamshell design gives it a modern, sleek look that is likely to fit in with many users’ home décor. At 9.6 inches wide, 6.4 inches deep, and 1.3 inches tall, the N750 isn’t the smallest of routers, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to find room on a table or cabinet to place the N750. For those truly pressed for horizontal space, the N750 features wall-mountable indentations, allowing the router to be secured via wall screws (not included).

N750 Installation

Installation of the N750 was quick and painless. An included driver disc walks users through the process of installing drivers and software for the N750 router. While this process was, for the most part, a relatively simple and intuitive process (put disc in drive, click on picture of correct router, press ‘next’ a few times), the included driver disc did not seem to support 64-bit operating systems well, as the USB printer utility would not run at all. With the growing number of computer systems using 64-bit operating systems, it’s a bit of a letdown that TP-LINK wasn’t able to include strong 64-bit support for the N750 driver disc. Though it isn’t a direct knock on the N750 router itself, the lack of 64-bit software support means that some features of the router aren’t as easily accessible on a 64-bit as one might have liked.

N750 Features and Performance

A high-gloss, black exterior results in an attractive high-end look.

The N750 router can broadcast on both the 2.4GHz wireless frequency (usually used by older devices) and the 5GHz wireless frequency that newer products are starting to employ (such as wireless TVs and smartphones). Whereas the D-Link DIR 655 that I use for my home network is able to broadcast on only one frequency at a time, the N750 can broadcast on both frequencies at the same time, allowing for (theoretically) 750Mbps of total bandwidth. The N750 was able to manage a similar wireless range as the DIR 655 (connections could be sustained from up to about 80 feet away before dropping off) which should more than suffice for most home network users. Wireless signals were reliable and sustained relatively constant throughput over the course of a week of loading web pages, gaming, and streaming videos across 4 wireless devices. The QoS engine on the N750, which is purported to split bandwidth and give higher priority to gaming and streaming data packets, works as stated and does indeed allow for lag-free gaming even while web pages are being loaded on other computers. Wired Ethernet connections were equally reliable and provided nearly identical transfer rates as those found on the DIR 655.

Rear view of the N750.

One of the touted features of the N750 is the inclusion of two USB 2.0 ports on the router. While this is a useful feature for printer and external hard drive sharing, I was never able to get the USB ports to actually work. I tried a Cruzer USB drive, various WD external hard drives (both with and without external power), and my HP DeskJet printer, but none of them were recognized by the router. Though a few of the USB devices I tested elicited an “on” signal from the USB status lights, none of them ever became visible on the network I had set up on the N750. I was unable to determine whether this was due to the aforementioned 64-bit software issue, but regardless of the cause I was unable to test the USB features on the N750 router. Edit: I was later informed that the USB features of the N750 router had to be enabled from the router’s configuration page due to security concerns. I later tested the aforementioned USB devices after enabling the appropriate feature on the router and was in fact able to get them to be recognized.

Various options on the N750 can be configured through an in-browser web page. The router configuration page was well-organized, easy to navigate, and had a nearly identical feature set as the DIR 655. The N750 is thus suited for “plug-and-play” users as well as power users. Edit: I was previously unaware of the drastic differences in feature nomenclature and had written in an earlier version that the N750 lacked some configuration options that the DIR 655 had. After a clarification of what certain features did, I discovered that the N750 has a comparable feature set to the DIR 655.

Wireless N Dual Band PCI Express Adapter

Wireless N Dual Band PCI Express Adapter Components

Like the N750, TP-LINK’s Wireless N Dual Band PCI Express Adapter is able to transmit and receive on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. Range and reliability were likewise equally impressive, with the wireless adapter able to detect about 20 neighbors’ networks. One important thing to note about this wireless adapter is that it uses the PCI Express x1 form factor, so make sure that your motherboard can accommodate a card in this form factor before going through with a purchase.

Conclusion

The N750 features great signal strength and range, and its QoS engine makes it great for multi-tasking gamers who run other bandwidth-draining programs while gaming. Simple installation and setup procedures make the N750 an ideal choice for users who just want a router that does what its supposed to, while a full-fledged configuration page makes the N750 a viable options for power users as well. The N750 retails for $89.99 while the Wireless N Dual Band PCI Express Adapter retails for $42.99.

TP-LINK N750 ROUTER, DUAL BAND PCI EXPRESS ADAPTER REVIEW

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall81%

FEATURES7.5

The QoS engine works like a charm and the configuration page is both well-designed and full-featured, but weak software support for 64-bit systems limits the effectiveness of some of the router's features.

DESIGN9

Routers aren't usually known for their good looks, but the N750 makes a point of being one of the better-looking models on the market.

PERFORMANCE8

Great signal strength and range make the N750 a solid performer when it comes to typical router-related tasks.

Special thanks to TP-LINK for providing us with hardware to review!

James Ku

James Ku

Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
James Ku has never been particularly skilled at any video game (except Dance Dance Revolution, to which he attributes his preferred username as well as his somewhat respectable legs), a quirk that has nevertheless failed to quell his passion for games of every creed (yes, he loves Assassin's Creed) and race (Need for Speed Underground 2 is his personal favorite). He is currently studying Computer Science at the University of Oklahoma.
James Ku

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TP-LINK N750 ROUTER, DUAL BAND PCI EXPRESS ADAPTER REVIEW

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall81%

FEATURES7.5

The QoS engine works like a charm and the configuration page is both well-designed and full-featured, but weak software support for 64-bit systems limits the effectiveness of some of the router's features.

DESIGN9

Routers aren't usually known for their good looks, but the N750 makes a point of being one of the better-looking models on the market.

PERFORMANCE8

Great signal strength and range make the N750 a solid performer when it comes to typical router-related tasks.