Page 3 - Configuration and User Interface
Nowadays, many general consumers do not buy routers, but rather get them directly from their internet service provider, as those ones are carefree routers with little hassle to set up. However, this leads to a lot of options being locked down. On the other hand, those who buy routers separately often look for ones with open-source firmware support, especially for those that can be flashed with the Linux-based DD-WRT firmware. There are some who even avoid a router altogether if DD-WRT cannot be installed on it. The TP-Link Archer GX90 is one of those devices, but what does TP-Link have to offer for their own firmware?
To start off, connect your device to the TP-Link Archer GX90. While it is not necessary to have internet access, you will need it to ensure you have the latest firmware updated. You can then navigate to the device's web configuration interface on your computer through your browser of choice. Upon first login, you will go through a quick setup, which allows you to set initial settings. Alternatively, you could download the TP-Link Tether app from Apple App Store or Google Play. The Tether app generally provides the same basic configuration settings, but we will be stepping through the web browser option in this review.
After you finish your initial setup, you will be greeted with the main screen where you can access the essential settings. The Archer GX90 has a custom gaming-themed user interface compared to the Archer AX6000. The first page is called Network Map, which shows you all the connected devices. Details can be expanded by clicking on the devices on the map. The rest of the pages can be seen at the top. I will take a deeper dive into Game Center in just a moment, so let us skip over that for now. The Internet page shows the connection type and whether you want to clone your current computer's MAC address. You can also switch between using the 2.5Gbps and 1Gbps port for WAN. There is little reason to do that unless you have something like a 2.5Gbps NAS that you want Wi-Fi users to have faster access to. The third tab is the Wireless section, allowing users to change the SSID and password for the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks in addition to enabling or disabling them altogether. You can also toggle advanced features like OFDMA, Target Wait Time, and automatic band selection. All in all, these are a lot of options under basic settings, and I personally like the fact users can quickly access them without digging through too many menus.
The Game Center tab consolidates all the gaming-related features under one section. You will find many of these features under the Advanced section as well, but I find it nice to see them organized here if they are more frequently accessed. The screenshot above is the main dashboard, which shows the current network traffic, router performance statistics, all connected USB devices, and device priority configuration. On the left, we can navigate to a few more screens. Turning on Game Accelerator claims to reduce game latency and boost game speed. Game Protector is the built-in antivirus and parental controls, which we will take a look at in just a moment. VPN Server and Port Forwarding should be self-explanatory. Lastly, Game Diagnostics allow you to troubleshoot network connectivity problems by ping or trace route.
For those with the knowledge, skill, or who just want to tinker a bit more, the Advanced settings section is there for you. This being said, some truly advanced users may find these settings to be a bit lacking in depth and these pages may be labeled more as intermediate, but you can take it as you will.
The Details page under the Network header reveals more network detail than the basic version's main page. Other pages allow you to play around with Internet, LAN, IPTV, DHCP server, dynamic DNS, and static routing settings. TP-Link ID allows you to access your home network resources via a TP-Link cloud service and app.
Under the Wireless section, you can make similar changes like the one in the basic section, but you can also change the security settings, wireless modes, channel and its width, as well as the transmit power. These can be changed individually for the 2.4 GHz and the two 5 GHz networks if you disable Smart Connect. You can also make WPS settings changes and set up a time schedule for wireless enable and disabling.
The Guest Network page also has similar settings as compared to the basic one, but once again there are more detailed settings like updating the security type for the guest network. You can also restrict guests from accessing each other and/or accessing your local network. It would have been nice to see some more options like time or bandwidth limits though.
The USB Sharing page allows for basic configuration of any USB storage device attached. It lets you set up a media server for file and folder sharing. However, it does lack things like iTunes Media Server. It also lets you set up a Time Machine for Apple devices.
One thing I was interested in is the NAT Forwarding page. NAT is short for network address translation, which is mostly port forwarding in this context. In this section, you can set up port triggering, DMZ, and UPnP. DMZ actually does refer to a demilitarized zone on the router, although this setting is not a true DMZ. This DMZ host is one on the internal network with all the UDP and TCP ports open and exposed besides the forwarded ports. This allows users to forward all ports to another firewall or NAT device.
The HomeCare tab allows for configuration of Parental Controls, where the administrator can modify whitelist and blacklist content restrictions and change the devices these lists will affect. Quality of service and antivirus options can also be set here. The QoS section allows you to limit the priority, upload, and download speeds for specific devices or applications. While it is pretty interesting to see this kind of configuration, it is pretty basic, and more advanced users may be left wanting more. The Antivirus section in our screenshot above is based off Trend Micro's service for malicious content filter, intrusion prevention system, and infected device quarantine.
From the Security tab, you can change the firewall settings. Other things you can do include changing access control for devices and modifying IP and MAC bindings. You can also change the Application Layer Gateway configuration, which allow for enabling and disabling of different pass-through settings.
Next, the VPN Server section is pretty straightforward, allowing users to set up OpenVPN and PPTP VPN servers. The IPv6 tab area is also pretty self-explanatory, as it provides users with the ability to enable IPv6 Internet and LAN settings. Smart Life Assistant allows your network devices to be controlled by Alexa.
Finally, the last page is the Systems section, which is quite comprehensive. This area allows you to set up system settings like time settings and administrator passwords. It also provides diagnostic tools through ping, trace routes, and system logs. The LEDs on this router can be turned on or off by a schedule. You can also backup, restore, and reset all of your settings in this area. One of the most important screens will be the Firmware Upgrade page, which is important to keep your router's security and features up to date. Thankfully, our unit already arrived with the latest available firmware. The last screen, Operation Mode, is where you can toggle between router and access point mode.
Overall, the firmware is very good in the options and configuration choices available to users, although I will say it is still lacking when put up against options like DD-WRT for hardcore enthusiasts. Those who are looking for more customization and features may be left waiting for DD-WRT support for the TP-Link Archer GX90. This being said, it definitely still offers a lot more options compared to the basic user's router provided by the ISP, giving control to the hands of the user. The user interface is also very well-designed, visually appealing, and easy to navigate, with the sections being logically laid out for quick access, making it easier to navigate for the beginner to enthusiast user.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Configuration and User Interface
4. Performance Tests