One of the most common problems people have today is a lack of quality wireless connectivity in their homes, and for most it’s an issue that they’re unaware of how to fix. Some think that they can fix it by just paying for faster internet speeds, to which ISPs gladly oblige. Others rent ISP branded range extenders for an increase monthly rate, but what if I told you could fix your WiFi problems with a single one time purchase? Well that’s what I assumed I was doing when I got the TP-Link AC2600 MU-MIMO WiFi Range Extender (RE650).
The AC2600 is a Wi-Fi range extender that usually retails on amazon for £115 or $150. For some this may seem like a high price to pay, but trust me when I say, it may actually be worth the price depending on your wireless needs.
The device comes in a single unit construction with nothing more than some paperwork in the box. At the back of the unit is a male wall plug which allows it to be plugged directly on a wall socket without the need for cables or space to house the device. On the front there are four LED indicators for power, connectivity, 2.5GHz and 5GHz. Then on the sides we get reset, LED and Power buttons on the right and a single 1Gbps Ethernet port on the left. The sides also hosts cooling vents and four wireless antenna, two on each side of the unit.
According to the manufacturer, the AC2600 provides:
- 1733Mbps on 5GHz
- 800Mbps on 2.5GHz
- MU-MIMO Support
- 14,000 sq.ft*
Setting up for the device is fairly easy. Simply plug it in near your existing Wi-Fi access point, then hit the WPS button on the access point (most routers have this) and also hit the RE button (the big one with a lock icon) on the range extender. Once all the LED lights on the range extender are blue you can relocate to a location halfway between the router and the WiFi dead-zone in your house. Usually this is an upper floor, so the best location would be to have it near a staircase or a room directly above the room that the router is in. Once it’s all setup you can get the TP-Link Tether App for either android or IOS to better manage your network.
If your router doesn’t have a WPS button or wanting more options in setting up, you can connect to the device directly then use a web browser with the url:
If you do everything correctly you should find yourself with a stable, strong connection in more locations in your home. Since the TP-Link AC2600 uses 4×4 MU-MIMO technology it allows for multiple devices to transfer data across the network simultaneously. This is a feature that not all range extenders use so it gives it a nice edge on its competitors.
It also has a feature which allows you to switch off all the LED lights, which comes in handy if you’re like me and prefer to sleep in full darkness. The device is also versatile in that it can act as a wireless access point by connecting directly to you modern with an Ethernet connection, and thus serving the purpose of a router. In addition it also offers a high quality Dual Band signal with max speeds of up to 800Mbps on 2.4GHz, 1733Mbps on 5GHz. In a way this is something that I would consider to be the swiss army knife of wireless devices. It literally does a bit of everything and it does so very well.
Now all that being said, it isn’t perfect.
Despite the 14,000 sq. ft claims by TP-Link, the AC2600 is not likely to match those claims in real world applications. Claims like these ignore real world obstacles such as walls, and other bodies which interfere with wireless signals. In my experience, the AC2600 struggled to keep connected in some sections of the upper floor of a typical two story, 3 bedroom British home due to some concrete and metal sections of the walls.
The device also isn’t going to be the best option to solve coverage issues in multiple rooms.In one test, we used it in a bedroom on the upper floor off to the side of the room where the modem was with great success depending on where it was connected. From there we were able to connect multiple devices to it including a PC via it’s single LAN port, multiple phones, tablets, Smart TV, a Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. The range from the extender included the other two rooms on the upper floor along with the bathroom. This connection wasn’t perfect in all rooms, especially when under excessive load from the PC, but it was leaps over the network quality we were getting before. In some situations the connection would drop off, but it would always return soon enough to not be noticeable in *most applications.
The most notable instance of downtime was during a live-stream when it became overwhelmed on a couple occasions, and so I wouldn’t recommend using this for streaming unless you have it situated much closer to the original access point.
You should also note that even though the connection the extender makes may have the same name and password as your existing access point, it is a completely separate connection. Keeping that in mind, you may notice your devices disconnecting from one and connecting to the other from time to time, or in some cases they may stay connected to the wrong one, requiring you to manually switch them.
If you’re looking for a solution for your wireless connection in a single room of an average sized home and don’t wish to incur the expense for a mesh wireless system then the TP-Link AC2600 is one of your best options. It has an aesthetically neat design, and multiple useful configurations. Furthermore it’s easy to setup and use while being intricate enough to appease advanced users. It may have a few shortcomings, but it’s pros more than make up for those cons. At the time of writing it’s severely discounted on Amazon at about £70 for the UK or $105 for the US.