TP-Link TL-WR841N Wireless N Router review: Bare minimum home networking for cheap

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars 4 user reviews

The Good The TP-Link TL-WR841N Wireless N Router is super affordable and has good Wi-Fi performance.

The Bad The router has short range and its Web interface makes it difficult to distinguish connected computers.

The Bottom Line Considering its insanely cheap price, the TP-Link TL-WR841N is a great buy for a small home with modest Wi-Fi needs.

7.0 Overall
  • Design and ease of use 7.0
  • Service and support 7.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Features 6.0

At a street price of just $17, the TP-Link TL-WR841N Wireless N Router is one of the cheapest -- if not the cheapest -- Wi-Fi routers on the market. But that doesn't mean you should definitely buy one.

But if you can live with some caveats and limitations, there's value in this bargain basement router. Specifically, if you live in a small studio apartment with a modest broadband connection -- one that has a download speed of 30Mbps or less -- and all you want is to share the Internet with multiple Wi-Fi devices, the TL-WR841N will get the job done.

Keep in mind that the router can't compare to most, if not all, recently released dual-band routers on the market. But at a cost equivalent to just a few cups of coffee, there's little risk in spending on money on it. And in testing, for a dated single-band Wireless N router, it fares quite well, with good data rates and excellent Wi-Fi signal stability. The range is short, however.

Obviously, at this price, you can't expect top speeds or many features. If you're willing to pay more to have a Gigabit Ethernet home network with and up-to-date Wi-Fi standards, check out one of these top 802.11ac routers on the market.

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The TL-WR841N is a typical home router with four LAN ports and one WAN port. Josh Miller/CNET

Basic router, old school Wi-Fi

How big is it and does it feel cheap?

Measuring 5.1 x 1.3 x 7.6 inches and weighing just 8.1 ounces, the TL-WR841N is compact and light. It looks like a typical Wi-Fi router with a flat body and two detachable antenna on the back. On top, toward the front, there's an array of little LED lights that show the router's status.

Though affordable, the TL-WR841N feels quite solid.

Is it wall-mountable?

Yes. Even though the router is designed to stay flat on a surface, it has holes on its underside in case you want to mount it on a wall.

Does it support Gigabit for fast local wired network?

No. The TL-WR841N has four LAN ports (for wired clients, such as a server, a desktop computer or a printer) and one WAN (Internet) port to be connected to an Internet source, such as a broadband modem. All of these network ports support the Fast Ethernet standard -- despite the name, this is a slow standard -- that has a top speed of just 100Mbps.

This means wired clients on the network, such as servers and desktop computers, will connect to each other at a slow speed, even slower than wireless clients. For a fast wired connection, you'll want a router with the Gigabit Ethernet (1,000Mbps) standard, available in most recent routers.

What's its Wi-Fi standard?

For wireless clients, the TL-WR841N supports the single band 802.11n Wi-Fi standard with the dual-stream (2x2) setup. (Read more about Wi-FI standard here.) This means it works only on the 2.4GHz band (most new routers are dual-band and operate concurrently on the 5GHz band) and on paper has a top Wi-Fi speed of 300Mbps.

The 2.4GHz band is the original Wi-Fi band and is generally congested due to the large number of existing Wi-Fi devices and the fact that certain home electronics and appliances, such as cordless phones, also use this band. Crowded air space results in interference and hence reduced real-world Wi-Fi speed, ensuring that the router never reaches its theoretical 200Mbps maximum speed.

Does it have a USB port?

No, the TL-WR841N doesn't have a USB port so there's no option to physically connect a storage device or a printer. In all, this is a basic home router that has no bells or whistles at all.

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The TL-WR841N's interface can be hard to use if you're not familiar with MAC and IP addresses. Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

Easy setup, standard feature set

Does it work right out of the box?

Yes. The TL-WR841N is easy to get up and running. Like many routers, out of the box, it comes with a preset Wi-Fi network, the name and password for which are printed on the router's underside. All you have to do is plug the router's WAN port into an Internet source, turn it on and you're good to go.

Does it have a Web interface for customization?

Yes. The router comes with a Web interface for you to change its setting and default Wi-Fi network name. To access the interface, from a connected computer, point your browser to its default IP address: Then log in with the default admin account, which is "admin" for both the username and password. There's also an easy-to-follow Installation Guide included in case you need help.

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