Is Tp-Link Archer AX21 a true home network solution? What does Tp-Link claim about this budget next-gen Wi-Fi 6 router? Can you consider it the best router for under $100? Don’t worry! I have reviewed the Tp-Link Archer AX21 AX1800 and tested it with Verizon Internet. However, it is the best router for Verizon FiOS? Read on!
After Tp-Link Archer AX20, Tp-Link has brought you an upgrade over the AX20—Tp-Link Archer AX1800 AX21 Smart Wi-Fi router. It is an excellent option for the budget, and this AX21 can upgrade your home network entirely for $100. A lot to answer in this detailed review of Tp-Link Archer AX21.
Before we go ahead, let me point out the pros and cons of the AX21.
Pros & Cons: Tp-link AX21
What I like:
- Range & performance is up to the mark
- Well-built, durable, and awesome-looking
- Easy to manage using the App
- Value for money
What I don’t:
- Some advanced features are missing
- Internet port (WAN port) limits the speeds to 1Gbps
Verdict: Archer AX21 AX1800 Smart Wi-Fi Router
The archer AX21 is ideal for small-sized to medium-sized apartments/homes. Unfortunately, it lacks some advanced features compared with the competition. I can’t suggest the router for a large space with many obstacles. However, if you’re looking for an affordable Wi-Fi 6 router, you’re most welcome.
In short, people looking for the best Wi-Fi 6 router under $100 can consider this TP-Link archer AX21.
Design: What about the looks of Archer AX21?
The AX21 comes in black color and carries a rectangular plastic body. Compared to Archer AX20, The AX21 model looks better. The only thing that distinguishes both models is the glossy piece lying at the top of the case. The same can be found on the AX73 with slightly different top patterns, unlike the heat vents lines at the top of Archer AX21.
The Archer AX21 measures (10.2×5.3×1.5) inches and weighs around 1.10lbs. With the four external detachable adjustable antennas rising from the rear panel, its back panel houses several standard ports, such as four LAN Ports for LAN-enabled devices, a USB 2.0 port for local storage and printer, and a blue-colored WAN port (Internet port).
Next to the ports mentioned above, you have several essential buttons on the backside. The first button from the left is the WPS/Wi-Fi button. It’s a two-in-one button. If it is pressed for a few seconds, it will turn on or off the Wi-Fi. On the other hand, a quick press enables WPS. The following button is for resetting the router; press the button and hold it until the LEDs turn off.
Next to the reset button, you have an LED On/Off button. Then, You have a power On/Off button and a power connector beside the four Gigabit LAN ports.
On the front of the router, you have six LEDs. Fortunately, we can turn them off during the night. The first LED belongs to the power that remains yellowish-green when the router is in action. Next to the power LED, you have two other LEDs for Wi-Fi bands from the left. As always, the first LED shows the status of the 2.4GHz band and the other one of the 5GHz band.
The next LED is responsible for a successful connection to the WAN Port. When the modem successfully connects to the router, it will light up. The following and the only LED is for Ethernet LAN connection; it will light up according to the connection made through an ethernet cable to any of the four LAN ports. Unfortunately, the AX21 doesn’t include a separate LED for each LAN port.
The last LED from the left or the first LED from the right is responsible for the USB port. When you connect a storage USB-enabled device to it, it will light up.
Speeds: What are the maximum speeds of Archer AX21?
If you’ve noticed the router’s name carefully, you’ll find AX1800 on its specs sheet. The ‘AX’ means this model supports Wi-Fi 6, and the ‘1800″ part means the maximum speeds of its frequency bands. Since the router is dual-band, it claims 574Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1201Mbps on the 5GHz band.
Wi-Fi 6 vs. Wi-Fi 5: The highlight of the Tp-Link AX21
The Tp-Link Archer AX21 uses the latest wireless standard, Wi-Fi 6 or 802.11ax. Compared to the previously launched TP-Link ‘ac’ or ‘Wi-Fi 5’ series routers, its Wi-Fi 6 series routers have been 30% faster and better performers. I could see the major difference in connectivity in my testing, especially for Wi-Fi6-equipped multiple-device connections.
Unfamiliar with Wi-Fi 6?
Since most non-tech folks are not familiar with wireless standards or transmission protocols, they must know that the 802.11ax—also knowns as Wi-Fi 6—is the latest wireless standard of Wi-Fi. The industry that names the Wi-Fi protocol has changed its earlier 802.11 codes protocol system because of confusion among consumers.
Along with the newest generation, 802.11ax, they also renamed the previous six Wi-Fi generations, such as 802.11ac to Wi-Fi 5, 802.11n to Wi-Fi 4, 802.11g to Wi-Fi 3, 802.11a to Wi-Fi 2, 802.11b to Wi-Fi 1, and 802.11 to Wi-Fi 0.
Software: The Tether App and Voice control
Tether App is the heart of Tp-link; you can control the AX21 using this App. Moreover, it is available for everyone, both Android and iPhone users.
TP-Link tried to make this Tether app simple and easy to use; therefore, the traditional way of logging through the router’s IP address is quite slower comparatively. Besides, the App gets frequent time-to-time updates. However, you’ll have to go through the web interface to access the router’s advanced features.
So, how do you set up the Tp-Link Archer AX21 using the Tether App? The first step is always to router’s login; select the router’s network, then pick a network name and password out.
Features on the App,
Once you’re done with the essentials, you’ll be allowed to view and manage all the connected devices. The App includes all the basic features, such as a guest network, troubleshooting, night mode to turn off LEDs, and automatic overnight firmware updates. Moreover, you’ll be able to use the traffic prioritization feature to prioritize traffic to particular devices at particular times.
Features on the Web portal,
As aforementioned, you’ll need TP-Link’s web portal for advanced features, such as DHCP management, NAT forwarding, Internet protocols (IPv6), etc. Since we use such features rarely, adding them to the App might not have been a point of consideration for Tp-Link.
The Archer AX21 also allows voice control to manage the router. Using Amazon’s Alexa, you will be controlling the Wi-Fi setup to add other smart devices to your network and resume/pause the Wi-Fi.
Performance: What about AX21’s performance?
I put two other models on the table for the performance test coming from the same 1800AX category: Netgear R6700AX and Asus RT-AX55. One of the top reasons to have these two routers for comparison was the price; both models come under $100, making them a right fit for the test.
I tested the Tp-Link Archer AX21 with,
- A fiber internet connection (Max. speed 400Mbps)
- 15,00 Square Feet home
- Samsung Galaxy S20 (Wi-Fi 6)
- Oneplus 7 Pro (Wi-Fi 5)
- Dell XPS 13 (2020)
- TP-Link Archer TX50E AX3000 Wi-Fi 6 PCIe Adapter
1. Speed test: Tp-Link Archer AX21’s Upload Vs. Download
For speeds, the AX21 performed better on both bands: the 5GHz band and the 2.4Ghz band. Since I tested the AX21 in every corner of my house, I found the speed up to the mark in all corners. In a dead zone, it failed; however, it was out of the router’s range. So I didn’t take it that seriously.
Other dead zones include my washroom and storeroom. Since the washroom was closer to the router than the storeroom, I got around 131Mbps average download speeds. So comparatively, it was faster than Netgear and Asus AX models.
However, when it comes to uploads, the Netgear R6700AX performed better and scored the highest average upload speeds, up to 285Mbps. Whereas Asus RT-AX55 touched about 265Mbps, the AX21 was close to 270mbps.
2. Gaming Test: Latency Or Ping was considered for the test
For those unaware of latency, the latency or ping measures how long your router takes to receive a response from the server and send a signal to the given server. You might have understood now that the lower the latency, the better the gaming. Therefore, Lower latency should be our primary goal if looking for a router for gaming and streaming.
To begin the gaming test with Archer AX21, I recorded the ping for every speed test. Again I put the ASUS RT-AX55 and Netgear R6700 to test compared to AX21; I found RT-AX55 the best for latency that showed the best ping results; it always had been below 17ms.
The second spot was for the Tp-Link Archer AX21, which settled around 19ms in every test. The third to finish the line was the Netgear Nighthawk R6700, with an average above 21ms.
3. Wi-Fi 6 Vs. Wi-Fi 5 test
For Wi-Fi 6 (Samsung Galaxy S20), The Archer AX21 performed up to the mark, achieving an average of above 393Mbps in every test. At the same time, the Wi-Fi 5 device (Oneplus 7 Pro) notched an average of 370Mbps. When it comes to the upload speeds, the S20 (Wi-Fi 6) was at around 270Mbps. Compared to the Wi-Fi 5 device, the average upload speed was around 240Mbps.
Note: You can connect older wireless standard devices to the AX21 without any problem, as Wi-Fi 6 is backward compatible.
Comparison: Tp-Link Archer AX20 Vs. AX21
Both models are Wi-Fi 6; they look identical and share the most features. I don’t see any major difference when going through TP-Link’s official website and comparing their specs side by side. However, they are slightly different in looks.
In my testing, I found a heating issue on the AX20. Tp-Link might have kept the issue in mind while manufacturing the AX21 as the Archer AX21 has no heating issue.
FAQs: Frequently asked questions about the Tp-Link Archer AX21
No, it doesn’t. Since the AX21 is not a Wi-Fi 6E router, it abstains from the ultra-wide 6GHz spectrum.
You won’t have issues connecting your older wireless standard devices to the AX21 as the router is backward-compatible.
To access the web interface, enter IP 192.168.0.1 into the address bar of any browser. Then, put the password and the username.
Conclusion: Tp-Link Archer AX21 Review – My final Thoughts
As I mentioned in the verdict above, the Archer AX21 can handle medium-sized homes and apartments. Moreover, it can be a suitable option if you want to upgrade your Wi-Fi 5 router to Wi-Fi 6 for an affordable price. In the case of upgradation, you’ll find better performance, better speed, stronger coverage, and some next-gen wireless standard features.