Mar 13, 2013

TP-Link TL-WA901ND Snap Review

A new batch of TP-Link TL-WA901ND access points (AP) arrived at my office several days ago and I was able to take a unit home for sampling. My current home set up consists of 2 units of D-Link DWL2100AP APs, with a unit acting as a bridge communication access point and the other as a bridge linking to 2 PCs located at my living room. Time has come for me to upgrade to the newer Ns.

A year ago, I was never fond of products from TP-Link. I have had bad experiences with them, the common fault being that their devices need regular rebooting as they occasionally stall or hang and refused to operate. Well, things appeared different now. I have a unit of the new TL-WA901ND already running for more than 24 hours in my office and so far it was glitch-less.

After I opened the wrapped box, what I saw kind of delighted me. The package came with an AP, a DC12V transformer-less adapter, a factory terminated UTPCAT5E patch cord, 3 short antennas and surprisingly a power-over-Ethernet (PoE) adapter. For a mere RM160.00, this is a steal. If you are a network engineer you probably figured why I was so impressed. Yes, the POE adapter.

Not only it came with a PoE adapter, the AP is also designed to be power-fed directly through its RJ45 socket, a feature you would only see in higher end makes of outdoor-class APs, used by professionals. All these for just RM160.00. Oh my, the mainland Chinese really knows how to corner the hardware market by adding in all these goodies almost for nothing.

The TP-Link TL-WA901ND AP spots a traditional “TP-Link” look. There’s a Quick Secure Setup (QSS) button conveniently located at the right side of its front panel, allowing you to do a quick secure configuration on its wireless settings. Honestly I prefer the designs of their wireless N routers, with better gloss appearance, more curved corners and coloured sockets at the back panel.

The rear panel is straightforward, with 3 gold plated sockets for attaching the external antennas, a DC power socket, a pin hole reset button and a single RJ45 socket for your LAN cable. There’s no on/off button and this means the TP-Link TL-WA901ND is designed to be permanently switched on.

There are very good reasons why I prefer to use wireless APs rather than wireless routers. These boxes are like tiny computers, with its tiny processors and RAMs built onto its printed circuit board internally. Therefore if you compare having a 4 in 1 box against 4 boxes of separate router, switch, wireless AP and ADSL modem, it is like comparing the performance of 1 PC against 4.

Here's the TP-Link TL-WA901ND Unboxing Demo Via YouTube.

Heavy broadband users, especially those who frequent torrent downloads or are into online gaming, will often find that the 4 in 1 devices are unreliable. This is because the heavy loading on its internal processor, doing all 4 tasks concurrently, means the delicate processors overheat and becomes damaged easily under extreme usage conditions. Hence, I choose 4 boxes instead of a 4 in 1 box, because they are more stable and data packets move back and forth more consistently.

Towards the next few days, I shall be publishing a short post on how to set up a wireless LAN at home and by then I will post details on the set up procedures of the TP-Link TL-WA901ND and the outcome of my experience with it.


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