Potential difficulty setting up via browser (based on your ISP and IP type)
Bulky, must stand over a foot high
Antennae seem somewhat fragile
Routers, right? If there's a single piece of home networking equipment that has caused us more toil, more frustration, more moments of getting ready to give up and move into a cave in the middle of the desert than anything else, it's the humble router. How do you know if you're getting a good one? How do you go about setting one up once you get it? Where do you put it so you can have the maximum Wi-Fi? Even experienced users like us have those nightmare moments. We're going to show you a router that promises to fix at least some of those problems, the Tenda AC15 AC1900 Smart Dual-band Gigabit WiFi Router.
On the Surface
The AC15 is a dual-band router, capable of speeds up to 600Mbps on its 2.4GHz band, and up to 1300Mbps on its 5Ghz band. It's got a USB 3.0, three 3dBi antennae, and three ethernet ports at the back. The router is considered a "smart router," capable of Beamforming, which means that it actively detects your devices and sends signals directly to them, rather than covering your entire space with a blanket Wi-Fi signal.
Sounds great, right? Visually, though, it's not a particularly attractive router, and it is not discrete in the slightest. Unlike other routers we've had, the AC15 doesn't have it's Ethernet ports on the "edge" or "back" like we're used to, and instead boasts them on what most people would consider them the bottom. Because of this, the router stands up on its edge, with it's three large antennae jutting out every which way. This means that the Tenda router stands about twelve inches tall and takes up a considerable amount of desk real estate, which is worth noting before you rush out and buy one.
Setting up the Tenda router was kind of a nightmare, honestly. Our first attempt, which we did via the standard Browser-wizard setup, was met with almost tear-educing rage as we tried fruitlessly to make the router understand that we had a dynamic IP, not a static one. It insisted that we call our ISP to get the correct settings to set it up properly. A call to Time Warner Cable and they informed us of what we already knew: We have a dynamic IP, and if the router couldn't understand that, maybe we shouldn't use it. We spent almost three hours trying desperately to fiddle with all of the settings to see if there was any magical combination that could make it work. Eventually we gave up for a few days and went back to our outdated (but easy to use) Netgear router. We could have easily called this review "How a Tenda Router Almost Made Us Lose Our Sanity," but little did we know that there was an easier option, and it was tucked neatly in the App Store.
We tried again a few days later, again starting with the browser method. No such luck again. We didn't quite know what to do, so we picked up the box in a desperate attempt to make sense of what was happening. In tiny print on the side of the box, it said that it was possible to set up the router by using an iOS app. Seeing as we had nothing to lose at that point, we went ahead and downloaded the app. In under five minutes, our Tenda AC15 was working with all the correct settings. Seriously, the app is basically a five step process. Download the app, connect your router to your modem, connect your phone to the new Wi-Fi connection, open the app, and then set up your Wi-Fi connection in a few short questions. If we would have known how easy it would have been, we would have started with the app, but nonetheless, at least we can provide insight for anyone else who might have similar problems in the future. The app can also be used to monitor your routers upload and download statistics, as well as check the general security of your connection.
Living With The AC15
We've lived with the Tenda router for almost two weeks at this point, and we have to say that so far, we're impressed. Is it far and away faster than our old Netgear router? Not according to any the tests we've run, no, not really. But while it doesn't have the breakneck speeds that we were told we could expect (but lets face it, that's our ISP,) it does have the consistency and stability we felt like we were missing.
Standard TWC speeds
Since it was tested in a household of many, many devices, we found that it had no problem supporting multiple phones, iPads, a Roku, an Android tablet, an Xbox, and all the Wi-Fi enabled gadgetry we've come to accumulate over the last few years. We're not sure if it's because of the Beamforming, or because we have our devices split fairly evenly between the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, but not losing speed or dropping connection in the middle of whatever we're doing is something we could get used to.
The Tenda AC15 is a good router, save for an unattractive and bulky design. If you've got a household or work space like ours that has upwards of a dozen constantly connected devices, we think that you might get some real use out of it. And if you're lucky enough to live in a place where you've got a better ISP, it might prove to give you higher speeds than your current equipment. If you're looking to snag it, you can get the Tenda AC15 AC1900 Smart Dual-band Gigabit WiFi Router from TigerDirect at just under $80.
Who should grab the Tenda AC15: If you're in the market for a new router, we think that this is as good a solution as anything else, though we highly suggest you set it up via app if you know you have a dynamic IP, rather than a static one.
Who can pass on the Tenda AC15: If you've already got a solution that is working well for you, we're not sure if we could justify switching from your current router to a new one.