THE TP-LINK TD-W8980 is a sleek black router made from glossy plastic. It has mounting points to wall-mount it, and the 5GHz antennas are replaceable; inside are two internal antennas for the 2.4GHz band.
The router can operate simultaneously on 802.11n 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, with a theoretical throughput of 300Mbit/s for each. The web interface is well laid out and there’s an easy-to-follow Quick Setup program if you’re using the ADSL2+ modem for your internet connection. Otherwise, one of the four Gigabit Ethernet connections can double as a WAN port if you want to connect the router to a cable or fibre modem.
Both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks have an easy-to-identify default SSID, and it’s easy to change the settings for each individually. Both networks are password-protected out of the box, and on the bottom of the router you’ll find the default network password and login for the web interface. We were disappointed to see that there’s no guest network support. On the back is a physical Wi-Fi on and off switch and a WPS connection button to make connecting devices easier. Features such as port forwarding are easily accessible in the router’s web interface. You can also set up network file and printer sharing using the router’s two USB ports; check if your printer is compatible on the list at http://tinyurl.com/tplinkprinters.
The web interface provides helpful instructions on how to map attached storage devices using FTP or SMB protocols. You can also set up a DLNA-based media server. There’s no physical eject button on the router so you’ll need to access the web interface to eject storage drives before pulling them out.
When using our laptop’s Intel Dual Band Wireless N-7260 adaptor, performance on the 2.4GHz network was underwhelming. At 10m we saw transfer speeds of 14.2Mbit/s, and at 25m throughput dropped to a poor 7.9Mbit/s. Things improved when we tested the 5GHz band. Throughput of 116.5Mbit/s at 10m is reasonable for such an inexpensive router, but 93.2Mbit/s is very impressive, even before you take into account the router’s price. A TP-Link TL-WDN3200 dual-band USB adaptor (£16 from www.dabs.com) didn’t improve performance much. It managed 119.4Mbit/s at 10m and 94Mbit/s at 25m, only a fraction faster than our laptop’s built-in card. The included driver installation CD had no drivers for Windows 8.1 and with Windows’ own plug-and-play drivers the USB adaptor couldn’t see the 5GHz network. We had to download new drivers from TP-Link’s website.
The TP-Link TD-W8980 is a reasonably priced ADSL2+ router, and its web interface is well thought out. Its wireless speeds over 5GHz are excellent for an inexpensive router, but it fails to be much of an upgrade if you have a Home Hub 5 or Super Hub. Performance on the 2.4GHz band is dire.