The TP-Link Archer VR900 is a combined ADSL & VDSL Modem Router for both ADSL & VDSL which could be very attractive to FTTC users in the UK looking to replace the BT Openreach modem & ISP supplied router.
It is based on the same design and looks similar to the TP-Link Archer C9 AC1900 which is router only but has an excellent reputation for its wi-fi capability. The VR900 also contains a VDSL modem which makes it a one box solution for BT Infinity and other FTTC/VDSL broadband connections.
The TP-Link Archer VR900 was first released for sale in the UK during August 2015 and retails at about £140.
The quick setup makes things very easy. It should be just a case of selecting your ISP from the drop down list and then entering your username and password details and setting any wi-fi preferences. If in doubt use my set-up guide.
Some of the settings especially for 'System' are hard to find as the CSS could be better and does not make it obvious that there may be more settings available.
Setting preferences for wi-fi, firewall, security & parental controls. The Archer VR900 will also act as an FTP, Media and Print Server.
Unfortunately I found the DSL stats information very basic in particular the diagnostic tools.
This is one area where I am personally disappointed with the Archer VR900. With a price tag of £150 it is competing among the small business grade routers such as the likes of D-Link & Zyxel which do have line health diagnostics.
I have found several small bugs in the firmware which will be reported to TP-Link, who are normally very efficient in fixing them and will no doubt soon release new firmware.
The wi-fi is range is exceedingly good.
Simultaneous dual band means you get the best of both worlds. 5GHz frequencies are less congested and offer higher throughput speeds at close range, whilst 2.5GHz gives increased wireless range and better penetration through walls.
Beamforming technology improves reliability of the wireless signal by transmitting the signal in the direction of the networked device rather than the more traditional method of radiating in all directions.
The VR900 is one of the very few routers that will perform well at the bottom of my garden and has good reception throughout the home - bar one historic & notorious black spot where the signal is weak but still useable for smart TV streaming without any buffering problems.
~ xDSL Performance
In today's market some manufacturers seem to focus on the value of wi-fi performance and forget that DSL stability is just as important. Too many review sites also seem to concentrate purely on wireless performance, but what use is decent wifi if the DSL modem which supplies your broadband connection to your home isnt the best and not giving you stable broadband and making the most of your line? It's therefore nice to test a modem/router where the manufacturer has installed a decent DSL modem, network switch and wireless capability.
The Archer VR900 has been up for over 2 weeks without any noticeable change in line conditions and is very stable.
The above stats are fresh syncs taken within minutes of each other to show the best possible comparison of performance against an Openreach supplied HG612 modem. Here at kitz.co.uk we consider the HG612 as one of the best DSL modems for stability and why I always use it as baseline comparison. You can see that the Archer VR900 is on par and performs similar. It has also been tested on 3 other lines.
Due to the lack of access to the BCM CLI I haven't been able to monitor 24/7. One thing I have noticed is that over a course of a couple of weeks the Archer's max Rate will slowly decrease with any decrease in SNRm, but doesn't go back up again over 80,000. This line is too short to determine whether it is a reporting bug or something to do with bit-swap, further not helped by lack of any more lines stats. This does not appear to affect performance though.
~ Under the hood (for the techies)
The TP-Link Archer VR900 contains some impressive hardware:-
A powerful Broadcom 1GHz dual core processor for high speed data I/O.
2 wireless chips. Fully supporting the dual band 11ac wi-fi standard to maximise wireless performance.
Broadcom BCM63168 series SoC which have a very good reputation for getting the best speeds from your xDSL broadband connection. VR900 v1 BCM63168. VR900 v2 BCM63137.
USB3 & USB2 ports which will accept 3G/4G dongles for connectivity.
4 port Gigabit network switch for those who prefer the speed and stability of ethernet.
This means it does run quite hot and the router is warm to the touch.
Access to the CLI is available by Telnet but any information is very limited. The CLI is a custom TP-Link build and there is no access to the Broadcom CLI and access to the Busybox shell has been disabled.
Line stat information is very limited and doesn't even have a count of CRCs/FECs
This is very disappointing because the BCM63168 SoC chipsets have a lot of useful data from the CLI that TP-Link has disabled. I feel TP-Link have missed a trick here by not including this information and not what I would expect from a router in this price range.
A nice looking modem/router with a very good hardware spec that gives good xDSL broadband stability and excellent wi-fi range. It's strong selling point is the ability to combine quality for both xDSL and wireless performance.
Some line stats are available but none of the VDSL diagnostic information data is viewable despite the information being available from the chipset.