Fiber and even ADSL are not always where you are, whether for vacation or a longer stay. In this case, we sometimes have to turn to more exotic solutions, such as 4G connections. An approach that is effective enough, moreover, for access providers, Bouygues Telecom in particular, to make it a commercial offer.
But, without going that far, for more specific needs or not to end up with a thread in the leg, it is possible to turn to intermediate solutions. One such solution is the Archer MR600, from TP-Link. A router, connected to the world by 4G, which then distributes the network locally over Wi-Fi, like its predecessor theArcher MR400. A promise of flexibility and Internet access, even in certain forgotten areas, country houses or accommodation not yet connected to fixed Internet. At a little less than 150 euros, what is it worth?
A small, compact and versatile router
The Archer MR600 is an old fashioned router. Its very classic design, compact, flat and discreet (22.9 x 16 x 3.7 cm), is enriched by two removable antennas (which you will need to screw on) and which can be replaced by compatible models More efficient SMAs for increased reception quality in 4G.
On its cover, there are eight LEDs which indicate the operating status of the various elements of the network and of the router.
At the rear, four Gigabit Ethernet ports are aligned, one of them allowing the Archer MR600 to be connected to a box – because it is possible to use it as a simple Wi-Fi router. Next to this connection, There are also two (too) small buttons to activate WPS, in order to connect a compatible device more easily, and a button that will cut or activate the Wi-Fi network.
Finally, of course, the opposite of the MR600’s power switch, a slot is provided to accommodate a microSIM format card. An adapter is provided in the event that your card is of the nanoSIM type.
On the wireless network side, let’s start with the carrier network, the Archer MR600 promises Category 6 LTE / 4G + compatibility, with maximum speeds of 301 Mbps in the downstream direction and 51 Mbps in the upstream direction. For Wi-Fi, there is a dual-band Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) offer, the theoretical speeds of which are distributed as follows: 300 Mbits / s in 2.4 GHz and 867 Mbit / s in 5 GHz. In other words, this is clearly not the router you will want to install at the back of a fiber box, but it is perfectly sized to distribute a 4G connection. On the same topic, compatibility with OneMesh mesh network technology doesn’t necessarily seem like a relevant marketing argument to us, but if you don’t agree, it is offered.
Advanced configuration and settings
The Archer MR600 can be configured either as a 4G modem / router or as a simple Wi-Fi router. It is especially in the first configuration that we are interested in. In this case, it is easy to get started. We slide the microSIM card into its slot, plug the router into the mains and switch it on.
Then, it is possible to configure it in two ways, either from a computer, via a web interface (with the sometimes hazardous translation, the Sunday Sun becoming Sun and not Sunday, for example), or from a smartphone and the application. dedicated Tether, from TP-Link.
Once the card is unlocked, go to the Quick Installation tab, or Quick Setup if you have not yet switched the interface to French. First step, set the time zone. Validate the SIM step without modification and go to Wi-Fi settings. This is the second important step. We recommend that you leave the Smart Connect option enabled, this will allow the router to offer only one network (2.4 and 5 GHz) and always serve the best frequency band for your device. We wished that this feature did not exist when we tested the MR400 two years ago, so we are happy to see it present now.
Anyway, we now need to create the Wi-Fi network, give it a name and a password. If the creation went well and you are connected to your new Wi-Fi network, the connection test is the next step. That’s it, for most of the setup you should now be able to share your 4G connection over Wi-Fi.
If you like to dive into advanced settings, you will find that the Archer MR600 offers a lot. It is thus possible to create a DMZ, to set UPnP for possible multimedia shares, to map ports in NAT or more simply to create a guest network.
Without seeking to be exhaustive, since the settings are numerous, there is a parental control function which is based either on a principle of a list of blocked sites, or on a principle of a list of authorized sites. The latter is much more restrictive because only the specified sites will be able to open. Obviously, these restrictions can be applied to one or more devices.
Finally to finish with the functions and the configuration, a finding and a regret. The finding is that the offer is rich, even sometimes a little too much, at least if we go to the advanced settings. Some of the options are dispensable.
For the regret, we will simply indicate that it is a pity that it is not possible to access the management of the quality of service (QoS) and the monitoring of the quantity of data consumed other than through the ‘Web interface. The mobile application is much more user-friendly on a daily basis and, in fact, we often have our smartphone on hand. Especially since to access QoS, you have to activate the advanced settings …
In short, on this point, quibbling a bit, we regret both the lightness of the offer and the fact that the settings available are also spartan and not very ergonomic. It is possible to define maximum levels of 4G consumption, but it is not easy to follow the evolution of consumption. Likewise, we cannot see who consumed what amount of data and set alerts per device.
Shared 4G connection should generally be done sparingly, so it’s unfortunate that it isn’t easier to establish priority rules for preferred uses, applications and devices. Likewise, while it is possible to define Wi-Fi operating hours according to the days, it is unfortunate that we cannot establish bandwidth reduction levels according to the data consumption by the user. a device before the outright interruption of service.
Without wanting to stigmatize certain user profiles, in a context of vacations with a limited data plan, we quickly see that young Internet users are not used to restricting themselves …
If the Archer MR600 integrated this function of monitoring and managing consumption, it would really gain in daily relevance.
Rates and coverage: as good as it gets?
Before talking about the flow measurements obtained, there are at least two preliminary precautions to keep in mind.
The first, and most general, is that the speeds (and ping) you get will depend a lot on the quality of your home’s 4G coverage. You will need to be very careful about where you place the Archer MR600. Using the reception of our smartphone, we placed it where the 4G coverage seemed optimal. We then performed Wi-Fi speed measurements. Then, by moving the router barely two meters, we made new measurements and noted that the speeds had been halved … So a piece of advice: optimize the location of the router according to 4G reception, Wi-Fi comes next.
Second precaution, we advise you to position the antennas correctly, because they logically play an essential role in good reception and therefore 4G speeds. If you need to make this your primary connection source, perhaps it is even a good idea to consider larger antennas to gain more freedom in positioning the router.
In the infographic below, we’ve compiled the readings from our testing in the two configuration modes of the Archer MR600. The first graph represents the speeds obtained when the MR600 is used as a Wi-Fi router and when it is connected via Ethernet to a fiber box. This is a good way to get an idea of the speeds it will be able to offer under the best possible connection conditions.
In this case, for an AC1200 router, the speeds offered are more than fair and can cover most of a household’s daily needs – if the 4G connection follows. The Wi-Fi offered by the Archer MR600 is therefore quite solid, without being among the best we have seen so far.
If the infographic above is not displayed, click here.
The second graph in this infographic shows the speeds obtained when connecting via Wi-Fi to the Archer MR600, which itself is connected to the Internet via a 4G connection. The speeds are indicative, as your 4G connection could just as well be better or worse, depending on the coverage of your home. In any case, this is a good example of what you can get in a home where 4G coverage is fair without being exceptional.
In any case, from these two graphs, we can remember that the connection speed decreases very quickly when we move away from the router. Blame it on our test apartment, which has huge load-bearing walls that clearly don’t make life easier for broadcasting the Wi-Fi waves.
Despite these obstacles, the network’s coverage is very fair. As can be seen on the heatmap above, the network emitted by the Archer MR600 of TP-Link crosses the obstacle of the first large load-bearing wall rather well, but it wilts quickly when one passes the second wall, limiting its really usable coverage to an area 10 to 15 m around the router.
Once again, both coverage and speeds can fluctuate greatly depending on the characteristics of your home and interference from neighboring networks. In this case, the long apartment, where this router is tested, gives a good idea of the worst you can fear.