TP-Link TL-WR710N travel router review: Featurific, but lacking in performance
By Michael Brown
TechHiveMay 5, 2014 2:30 am PDT
TP-Link’s TL-WR710N travel router is very similar to Netgear’s PR2000 Trek, but in a slightly smaller form factor. Like the Trek, it can plug straight into an electrical socket, it has a USB 2.0 Type A port for sharing storage, and it has two ethernet ports. Unlike the Trek, it supports only one 150Mbps spatial stream in 802.11n mode (on the 2.4GHz frequency band); and since it doesn’t have a micro USB port, it must be plugged into a wall socket (unless you travel with an extension cord, I suppose).
The TL-WR710N can operate in one of five modes. In wireless router mode, you connect the Pocket Router to a DSL or cable modem and clients connect to the router wirelessly or via an ethernet cable plugged into its LAN port. In wireless access-point mode, the router connects to a hardwired network that has Internet access and creates a wireless network that clients can join to reach the Internet. In this case, the second LAN port can support one hardwired client (or more if you connect an ethernet switch).
In WISP mode, the Pocket Router establishes a wireless connection to a Wi-Fi hotspot and shares that Internet access on its own wireless network (as well as through its LAN port). And in repeater mode, you can use the Pocket Router to extend the range of a wireless network by establishing a wireless connection to another wireless router or wireless access point. It will then rebroadcast that signal.
The TL-WR710N comes with preconfigured security, with its default SSID, wireless password, and admin login and password printed on the side of the device (albeit in itty-bitty print). Like TP-Link’s TL-MR3040, the Pocket Router supports up to WPA/WPA2 security with a RADIUS server. A single unlabeled LED (on the side facing out when the router is plugged into a wall socket report) glows blue when the device is working properly and blinks when the device is booting or when an ethernet cable or USB device is connecting to the router. Not terribly informative. This router doesn’t have a WPS button, either, but it does support the feature in software.
You can share files stored on a USB hard drive by plugging it into the Pocket Router, and TP-Link provides a media server for streaming music, video, and photos (but the server is not DLNA certified). You can also establish user accounts for file sharing, to restrict access and control whether users can read and write files or only read them.
The Pocket Router was slower than the Netgear Trek and the D-Link DIR-510L at transferring a 2GB collection of small files and folders from a hard drive attached to the router (operating in wireless access-point mode) to the hard drive on a network client, finishing the task in 7 minutes, 48 seconds. The Netgear accomplished the same task in a little over 5 minutes, while the D-Link required slightly more than 6 minutes.
That performance is likely due to the fact that the Pocket Router, as I mentioned earlier, supports only one 150Mbps spatial stream on the 2.4GHz frequency band when operating as an 802.11n device. The D-Link is an 802.11ac device supporting one 433Mbps spatial stream on the 5GHz band, and the Netgear is an 802.11n device that supports two 150Mbps spatial streams on the 2.4GHz band.
When I measured TCP throughput, the Pocket Router basically tied for third place with TP-Link’s diminutive TL-MR3040 travel router, but it delivered very slightly better range. When the wireless client was in the same room as the router, separated by nine feet, I saw TCP throughput of 32Mbps. When I moved the client to the kitchen, 20 feet away, the Pocket Router’s throughput dropped only slightly, to 30.3 Mbps.
In my home office, where TP-Link’s other router couldn’t reach, the Pocket Router managed to squeeze out throughput of 2.1 Mbps. That’s adequate for surfing the web—as long as you don’t try to watch videos or listen to music. And you definitely wouldn’t want to transfer a lot of files over that distance. Still, three of the other routers I tested couldn’t service the client in that room at all.
Would I buy one?
At $40 on Amazon, the TP-Link TL-MR3040 and the Netgear Trek PR2000 are street-priced about the same. The TP-Link’s user interface exposes more functions than the Netgear’s does, but the Netgear delivers much higher performance both in terms of TCP throughput and file transfers. If I didn’t have to take budget into consideration, on the other hand, I’d buy D-Link’s DIR-510L.
Update: The benchmark chart measuring each router’s performance on the 2.4GHz frequency band has been corrected.