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Wireless Reviews

Setup

The TL-WA890EA sets up nice and easy like the Edimax and NETGEAR WNCE3001. You can either use a WPS pushbutton session, or aim a browser at http://tplinkadapter.net, login and follow the instructions on the starting screen seen below. Everything you need to know is printed on a label on its bottom panel, in the usual tiny type.

Setup Wizard start

Setup Wizard start

There is one notable wart on an otherwise blemish-free setup process. After you click the Finish button on the last screen, you get sent to the Status screen shown below. I've highlighted the Channel and Signal readings that are incorrect.

Setup Wizard finish

Setup Wizard finish

There are screenshots of the other setup and admin screens in the gallery below, along with another internal board shot.

Features

The TL-WA890EA functions only as a wireless bridge, not an AP and not a repeater. So the feature set is pretty simple:

  • Static and dynamic IP for bridge IP
  • WEP, WPA / WPA2 Personal wireless security
  • Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) pushbutton and PIN
  • Wireless Network Site survey
  • Built-in DHCP server

The built-in DHCP server could come in handy in case you have trouble with your router serving DHCP through the bridge. Note that admin access is HTTP only, no HTTPS.

The TL-WA890EA shows only signal level in its Status screen. I couldn't find any screen that displayed connection link rate. There is a system log that mostly shows DHCP activity. But there are no wired or wireless traffic statistics available.

Performance

I used our new test process, which is also used for testing wireless adapters, to test the TL-WA890EA. The bridge had the latest 3.15.1 Build 131008 Rel.36938n firmware loaded. The bridge was placed so that its left side (viewed from front) faced the test chamber antennas, which were about 10" away.

I had to position the adapter farther away than the usual 8" because the initial run showed very low 2.4 GHz throughput at the strongest signal levels, then rising to the expected ~ 100 Mbps as signal levels dropped. This would indicate either a ranging problem, overload or both. I didn't see this problem on the 5 GHz band. But the same adapter position was used for both bands.

The ASUS RT-AC66U reference router was set to Channel 153 and Auto 20/40/80 MHz bandwidth mode for 5 GHz tests and Channel 6 and 20 MHz bandwidth mode for the 2.4 GHz band run. The connection was secured with WPA2/AES.

I included both the Edimax CV-7438nDM and NETGEAR WNCE3001 N600 bridges in the throughput vs. attenuation profile plots. The 2.4 GHz downlink plot shows the Edimax on top of the NETGEAR and TP-LINK throughout almost the entire test range, which indicates superior range.

2.4 GHz downlink throughput vs. attenuation

2.4 GHz downlink throughput vs. attenuation

Unfortunately, the Edimax uplink weakness is shown in the 2.4 GHz uplink run. It's hard to call a winner here, since each bridge has its strengths and weaknesses at different points in the test range. But of the three, I'd say the NETGEAR turns in the overall worst performance.

2.4 uplink throughput vs. attenuation

2.4 GHz uplink throughput vs. attenuation

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