We first played with the TP-Link Archer C7 last month when we flagged it up as a router which seemed to work just peachy with BT’s new internet delivered (IPTV) sports channels.
Since then we’ve been using the device on a rotating basis alongside BT’s HomeHub 3 and the Apple Airport Express, assessing and comparing its performance.
We’re pleased to report that the C7 has delivered solid performance over both WiFi and cabled connections, routinely clocking up speedtest.net speeds of 65Mbps+ over WiFi on a BT Infinity connection.
This compares to around 72Mbps on the Apple Airport Express and a paltry 30-40Mbps on the HomeHub 3.
Despite its slightly slower WiFi result, the TP-Link Archer C7 offers a distinct advantage over Apple’s entry-level router – compatibility with those IPTV channels.
Since we first played with the C7, BT has brought 18 extra channels to its Infinity-powered YouView service which, like the sports channels, require a router which supports the IGMP Multicast protocol.
If your router doesn’t support this all-important protocol it can’t pass the data to the set top box and all you’ll get is a blank screen.
(Note, this only applies if you’re viewing the channels via a YouView or BT Vision+ box, not BT’s app or any other set top box such as Sky+)
As you’d expect, BT’s HomeHub supports this but the Apple Airport Express doesn’t which has left a lot of BT broadband users frustrated at having to junk a decent router and revert to BT’s no-frills and poor performing in-house job.
The good news is that the C7 supports IGMP out of the box and in our tests has worked just fine with the extra channels.
The reason so many BT users like to ditch the Home Hub is its lack of options – beyond turning WiFi on and off, the limited ability to deny specific devices access web access at set times of the day, and changing your network name there’s not a lot the Hub really allows users to do.
And if you have the older HomeHub 3, which most probably do as its successor has only been available for a couple of months, you’re also limited to creating and running a 2.4Ghz network rather than the faster, less congested 5Ghz supported by other routers.
In contrast the TP-Link Archer C7 supports both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz networks, the ability to create a guest networks, MAC ID filtering, SSID hiding and a wealth of advanced port forwarding options.
(A full, non-BT related review of the TP-Link Archer C7 will follow soon and we’ll look at these features in greater depth in that.)
As we noted before, it’s always possible that BT could tweak the requirements for the channels to ensure viewers only use their supplied router, but for now there’s an alternative to the HomeHub.