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TP-Link Archer BE800 review: Great up close

TP-Link Archer BE800 review: Great up close

TP-Link Archer BE800

The TP-Link Archer BE800 is one of the first Wi-Fi 7 routers in the market. It can be middling or great, depending on the settings and the distance from the client devices. In fact, this is actually a redo of my initial review. After recording terrible results on the original review unit, TP-Link sent me a brand-new retail set. While I saw a significant improvement in download speed, there are some caveats that you should know.

These caveats, along with the lack of Wi-Fi 7 devices, mean that you're probably better off giving TP-Link more time to improve the firmware (and for its S$809 price to drop). On the bright side, I'm a fan of its eye-catching, customisable dot-matrix LED screen, though not its unusual tower-like design.

Quick specs

  • Tri-band Wi-Fi 7 (BE19000)
  • Dual 10Gbps ports, 4x 2.5Gbps Ethernet ports, USB 3.0
  • Customisable dot matrix LED screen
  • Can form mesh network with EasyMesh-compatible routers

The TP-Link Archer BE800 has an unconventional tower-like design. It's taller than the average router, though it feels like there's plenty of empty space inside. And despite weighing over 2kg, the entire unit feels surprisingly unbalanced due to the height and weight distribution, as if it will topple with an accidental bump. The front panel has a dot-matrix LED screen that can be customised using TP-Link's Tether app (but not the router's web interface). Some may find it gimmicky, but I find it adds a bit of fun and variety — you can create your own designs (animation, shape or scrolling text) using the app.

What's more important are the ports at the back of the router. And you'll find plenty. For starters, there are four 2.5Gbps Ethernet LAN ports, a 10Gbps WAN/LAN Ethernet and fibre combo port, and a 10Gbps WAN/LAN Ethernet port. Only one of these WAN/LAN ports can be used for WAN — there's no dual-WAN support. However, you can aggregate two 2.5Gbps LAN ports for a 5Gbps connection, though I'm not sure how useful that is.

TP-Link Archer BE800
Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

In terms of features, the TP-Link Archer BE800 has the basics covered. You'll find parental controls, guest networks, QoS, and even support for EasyMesh to create your own mesh network with other compatible routers. More advanced features are available with a HomeShield Pro subscription. The web interface offers more options than the Tether app, but the app should suffice for the average user.

Since I didn't have a 10Gbps broadband fibre connection, I could only test the wireless speed of the TP-Link Archer BE800 using two PCs on the home network. It was the same setup as the one used to test the Asus ROG Rapture GT-BE98: Two laptops, one connected to the BE800 via a 10Gbps Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter, while the other is a Wi-Fi 7 notebook. Using only the 6GHz channel, the download speed (1.1Gbps) at my usual test distance of 5m was far from the best. In comparison, the Asus router managed 2.2Gbps using the same setup.

Speeds improved greatly when I moved my laptop closer to the TP-Link Archer BE800. At around 1m, the speed went up to 2.9Gbps. It increased further to 3.6Gbps when the laptop was 30cm away. That's the kind of Wi-Fi 7 speed I have been hearing about from networking experts, but it seems to occur only at close range.

TP-Link Archer BE800
Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

One way to alleviate the seemingly limited range of Wi-Fi 7 is to turn on multi-link operation (MLO) on the BE800. This lets the router use multiple frequency bands, including the longer-distance 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands together with Wi-Fi 7's 6GHz band for better performance. When this feature was enabled, I recorded a download speed of 2.5Gbps from a 5m distance. That's much better than the 1.1Gbps when using 6GHz only. In short, MLO seems to be the way to go, at least until TP-Link can improve the effective range of the router's 6GHz band.

See Also
Asus ROG Phone 7

Based on my tests, the TP-Link Archer BE800 (S$809) delivers on its promise of “jaw-dropping” Wi-Fi 7 speeds only when the router is practically next to the client device. I don't think that's practical for most users — you might as well use Ethernet cable in such a scenario. However, MLO seems to work as a compromise of sorts as it offers pretty good speeds for devices in the same or next room.

To be fair, TP-Link has been tweaking the BE800 — at least based on the number of firmware updates I have seen. But Wi-Fi 7 client devices are also limited to the latest smartphones and laptops, so there's still time for TP-Link to get the BE800 running at full tilt. I recommend holding off on the BE800 till the range improves. But if you like to fiddle with new tech, have Wi-Fi 7 client devices, and understand its current limitations, it's available on Shopee and Lazada.

Note: Review unit provided by TP-Link. Updated after testing a second review unit.


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Verdict



CAN BUY...BUT

Best performance when at close range

Buy it at Shopee
Buy it at Lazada

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