Review : Tenda AC9 AC1200 Smart Dual-Band Router

Router offers solid performance, though setup is still a hassle

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Product Manufacturer: Tenda

Price: $100

The Good

  • Stable connection
  • Offers dual-bands for faster speeds
  • Above average wireless network range

The Bad

  • Setup is still difficult
  • Requires a smartphone and app to set up, may alienate some users
Last October, we had been given a chance to review the Tenda AC15 AC1900 Smart Dual-Band Router, a device that we've been using ever since. It's a good router, and we still stand behind our review. Recently, Tenda reached out to us and offered to let us try out their new AC9 AC1200 Smart Dual-Band Router, and we thought we'd share our experience with you.

The stat sheet

While it certainly looks a little less flamboyant than the AC15 AC1900 Smart Dual-Band Router that we tested last year, the AC9 is not a small router by any means. The router is a large black box with two external dual-band antenna that jut out and is going to be fairly noticeable no matter where you stick it, though fortunately for us, we're not too concerned about the aesthetics of a router. The antenna, by the by, are designed to give you more Wi-Fi coverage than your stock routers, your mid-range D-Links and Netgears, and we think that rings true. We're able to get a fairly impressive Wi-Fi range, covering most of the entire floor of the apartment building that the router is set up in, and even reaching easily into the floors above and below it.

Much like the router we tested before, the Tenda AC9 also features "beamforming" technology, which means that it actively looks for any wireless device that's been connected to it before and adjusts accordingly to give that device the best connection possible. We find that both of our Tenda routers are capable of locating our iPhones and iPads from about 70 feet away and establish a solid connection with them, something our former champion -- a rather old, yet reliable Netgear router -- was never capable of doing.

The AC9 comes with 802.11ac wireless networking standard, which is about three times faster than Wireless N. To put it into hard numbers, the speed you'll get out of the AC9 depends on what channel you're going to use your devices on. You've got the standard 2.4GHz band, which is most common, and allows you to get speeds up to 300Mbps. If you open up the optional 5GHz band, which is a less common, and therefore less cluttered band, you could get up to 867Mbps, which is ideal for devices that are going to be doing a lot of streaming, like gaming consoles and personal computers. Of course, this all depends on what you're going to be able to get out of your ISP as well, and we'll be honest: Our ISP doesn't give us the option to go anywhere even close to those speeds.

The setup

Again, we had similar issues with setting up our Tenda AC9 as we did with our AC15 -- it's hard to set up. We're not sure if it's a problem on our ISP's side, or if it's a problem with the Tenda setup itself, but we cannot get it to set up via a browser. The AC9 was positive that we had a static IP, while Time Warner Cable repeatedly makes it known that our IP is dynamic. This time around, though, we knew that we could easily bypass the frustration and go straight to the App Store to solve all our problems.

The Tenda app is absolutely wonderful. Go to the App Store, download it, follow the installation wizard, and bam, your Tenda router is set up in under two minutes -- less if you already have the app on your phone. We highly suggest that anyone and everyone, and not just those with dynamic IP addresses, go the way of the Tenda app.

For those of you who haven't seen our review of the AC15, we'll take a few seconds to discuss the Tenda app. Not only does it allow you to set up your router, it also allows you to set up guest Wi-Fi connections, monitor and correct your security settings, instate restrictions on the internet, and generally keep everything up and running the way it should be.

Living with the AC9

We've been using the AC9 for about a month now, and we're happy to report that it's a solid router. Is it as fast as our AC15? No, but it's not terribly far behind, especially since our ISP isn't exactly delivering breakneck downloads and uploads to begin with. The coverage also doesn't seem to reach quite as far, but in a small studio apartment, it's far more than sufficient. The AC9 is a very stable router, with minimal hiccups. We do find that, like most routers, a reset every few days keeps it running like new, but we've gone two weeks without a reset and still are provided with above-average performance.

The verdict

How do we like the AC9? Well, we're still partial to our AC15, but the AC9 is undoubtedly a fantastic router. If it's been a while since you've upgraded your router, we highly suggest that you take a look at the Tenda line of products as they've been nothing but a pleasure to work with. If you're interested in checking out the AC9 AC1200 Smart Dual-Band Router, you head over to Amazon, where you can pick one up for just about $100.

Who may want to upgrade to the Tenda AC9 AC1200 Smart Dual-Band Router:
If you're in the market for an upgrade and want something that provides a large, stable network for gaming, streaming, and general internet activities, we think this might be the perfect one for you. Just be warned, the setup isn't easy.

Who can hold off on getting the Tenda AC9 AC1200 Smart Dual-Band Router:
If you're looking for a little more speed and stability, you might want to check out the Tenda AC15 AC1900 Router, which is our router of choice right now.

-Amber Neely (@SurferAmber)

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