THE TP-LINK TL-WR841N is a cheap router with a simple design to match its low price. Its specifications reflect its budget nature. The four LAN ports only run at 10/100 speed, as does the WAN port for connecting to your modem, which could limit download speeds if you have high-speed internet. Aside from ports, the router has a power button and a WPS button that also serves as a reset switch. This requires a long press to reset the router, so you shouldn’t accidentally reboot when you’re setting up a WPS device. Finally, there’s a button to enable and disable wireless.
The TL-WR841N doesn’t have any USB ports for connecting external drives or printer sharing, which isn’t hugely surprising. The top of the router has a row of lights showing the status of the internet connection, any devices connected to the LAN ports and the status of any WPS pairing you’re doing. This 802.11n router operates on the 2.4GHz band, and has a theoretical throughput of 300Mbit/s. The 5GHz band is often less congested, so if you’re setting up a network in an area where you’ll be competing with other wireless devices, such as cordless telephones, this is worth keeping in mind. You can’t set up separate guest networks, either. These are useful if you want to allow internet access to visitors without also giving them access to your entire local network.
A wireless password is turned on by default, and you can find the password on the base of the router. This password also serves as the default WPS pin if you’re not using the WPS pairing button on the router. The default web interface address and username and password are also conveniently labelled. The configuration interface is simple, and a Quick Setup wizard can auto-detect your internet connection type via the WAN port. Access to common controls such as Port Forwarding and Dynamic DNS are all clearly labelled, and there’s enough guidance to explain some of the more complex menus such as setting up Internet Access Control and Parental Control. The latter lets you set up rules such as limiting a PC with a specific MAC address to certain websites only on specific days, which is useful if you want to restrict access to just the weekends for your kids, for example.
Using our laptop’s built-in Intel Dual Band Wireless N-7260 adaptor, we saw transfer speeds of 19.9Mbit/s at 10m, which isn’t the worst we’ve seen, especially for a cheap router. However, at 25m speeds dropped to just 3.2Mbit/s, which will cripple most internet connections. We also tested using TP-Link’s TL-WN823N 802.11n USB adaptor (£11 from www.dabs.com). At both 10m and 25m we saw some improvement, with throughput of 33.1Mbit/s and 5.3Mbit/s respectively.
The TL-WR841N is an inexpensive router but its performance and specifications leave a lot to be desired. Ease of use is one of its strong points, but if you’re looking for an inexpensive router, the Trendnet TEW-810DR is only £18 more and is far faster.