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Wireless Reviews

Features - more

I must admit that I was a bit confused by the terminology used by TP-LINK to describe the 700N's modes, particularly the difference between client and bridge modes. The Application page was very helpful in sorting this out, though. Here is a summary of the explanations found there, rephrased for clarity.

AP Mode (default)
Explanation: Used to add non-routed wireless capability to a wired network. The TL-WR700N's Ethernet port is connected to a wired network; DHCP and routing is provided by the host network router.

Client Mode
Explanation: Use this mode to connect Ethernet-only devices to a wireless network. By connecting the 700N's single Ethernet port to a switch, multiple devices can be connected. This is usually called a wireless bridge (or wireless-to-Ethernet bridge). This mode does not use WDS.

Repeater Mode
Explanation: Same as the standard definition. Used to extend wireless LAN range with devices using the same network name (SSID) and security. Ethernet port is not used.

Update 3/30/2012

Bridge Mode
Explanation: Think of this mode as acting as a wireless router with both WAN and LAN wireless connections. You might use this mode to connect to hotel or other hotspot wireless, then connect multiple wireless devices on a private, NAT-firewalled network. Ethernet port is not used.
This mode provides a WDS-based repeated connection back to a main router/AP. This mode differs from Repeater mode in that the repeated network has its own SSID and wireless encryption. However, wireless traffic is not kept separate from the main network clients.

Router Mode
Explanation: The TL-WR700N's Ethernet port is connected to a DSL or cable modem and acts as a wireless router. DHCP, routing and NAT firewall are provided by the 700N.

You can find screenshots for each of the modes in the gallery below.

In Use

I checked each of the modes to be sure they worked. I found that going through the Quick Setup gave me the most success when changing modes. The Quick Setup screens walked through the configuration changes needed before rebooting. Going to the Modes screen to change modes would simply ask for a reboot without setting any parameters, often leaving the device in an unknown state.

I found Repeater mode a bit short on range. My iPad showed a strong signal from the 700N. However, the connection to the base router just two rooms away would randomly be lost and moving the 700N closer to the router resulted in a more stable connection. Maybe this shouldn't be surprising, given the 700N's small size and cheap price. But if a product can't keep you connected, then it's not worth buying no matter how inexpensive it is!

In Bridge mode I found that the SSID was not broadcast, even though I had enabled that option. It was obvious to see which network was the bridge I had set up, however, and once I entered the SSID it connected fine.

Client mode worked fine and is probably one of the better uses for the product.

Routing Performance

Because the the TL-WR700N only has one wired ethernet port, our normal (wired) routing tests could not be performed.

Wireless Performance

Testing by Tim Higgins

The TL-WR700N is not Wi-Fi Certified and improperly defaulted to auto channel width mode on power up. Firmware v4.18.16 Build 110810 Rel.69972n was used for testing. All tests were run on a WPA2-PSK secured connection using the four-location wireless test process with the product set to our test standard Channel 1 and in its default AP (access point) mode.

The throughput ranking in Figure 4 has been filtered to show 2.4 GHz-only wireless products. Because of its many modes and the fact that it does not perform wired routing, we've included the TL-WR700N in our Wireless Charts, not our Router Charts.

The chart shows the TL-WR700N ranking about middle of the pack for the average of all locations. Keep in mind that the 700N is a single-stream N router (150 Mbps maximum link rate), while all the other devices in the chart are two stream (300 Mbps maximum link rate). Average 2.4 GHz downlink throughput was 33 Mbps, while uplink throughput was 27 Mbps.

Average 2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput ranking - 2.4 GHz only wireless
Figure 4: Average 2.4 GHz Downlink Throughput ranking - 2.4 GHz only wireless

Interestingly enough, 40 MHz wide mode made almost no difference in throughput, and actually was slower for uplink, with average downlink throughput of 35 Mbps and uplink throughput of 27 Mbps. Running simultaneous up and downlink tests did boost total throughput, yielding 50 Mbps in 20 MHz bandwidth mode and a surprisingly high 91 Mbps in 40 MHz mode.

The Performance Table in Figure 5 shows that we were not able to run tests in our lowest signal level test location F. Although the test client was able to remain connected, throughput was too low to start or run the IxChariot test. Surprisingly, we were able to run Location F tests with the product set to 40 MHz mode. But you can see that the sub-1 Mbps throughput is barely usable.

Wireless Performance Table
Figure 5: Wireless Performance Table

The IxChariot plot in Figure 6 shows some link rate shifing at the start of the location A and C tests that helped to hold down the total throughput numbers. I reran the tests a few times to see if I could eliminate this effect, but could not.

TL-WR700N 20MHz downlink IxChariot summary
Figure 6: TL-WR700N 20MHz downlink IxChariot summary

The other plots linked below show this rate-shift effect only occasionally.

Closing Thoughts

The TP-LINK TL-WR700N is certainly priced attractively at around $30 and comes packed with features that you usually get only in higher-priced products. Its small size, integrated power supply and wall-wart form-factor make it attractive as an inconspicuous way to wirelessly bridge internet access to an Ethernet-less entertainment center or add a second access point to a remote location where you have an Ethernet port.

Its main weakness, however, is its range. In repeater mode especially, I had a hard time maintaining a stable connection between the product and my base router that was located only two rooms away. Switching to "client" mode over the same distance resulted in a solid connection, however. Based on my experience, using the TL-WR700N in this way, i.e. "Client" mode, will probably result in your highest satisfaction with it.

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