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Phicomm Smart Home Wi-Fi router (K3) review: Phicomm's fancy design masks a slightly above-average router

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The Good It's fast and consistent on 2.4GHz, and it looks relatively “normal” compared to other futuristic-looking routers.

The Bad The web interface and app need work. For the price, the long-range speed on 5GHz was disappointing, and it lacks detailed QoS to manage bandwidth. It also doesn't have extra anti-malware features to protect your smart devices.

The Bottom Line The K3 has above-average overall speed, but its disorganized menu and limited range on 5GHz make it only worth the price if you really like the design.

7.0 Overall
  • Setup 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 8

The Phicomm K3 smart home router has fast speed and good range on 2.4GHz but the user interface is lacking. For $230, you get high-end hardware inside a "normal"-looking device (as opposed to the extraterrestrial designs favored by other router makers). This will allow you to place it out in the open and get the best signal possible. The menu wasn't as visually appealing as the router, but the settings are all there if you can find the ones you need. Anyone who wants to pay a little extra for the design, will get solid coverage for a medium-size home with Phicomm's new AC3150 router.

Unique look that's not so futuristic

The Phicomm K3 smart home router was designed by high-end Scandinavian firm Jacob Jensen Design. Phicomm spends a lot of time talking about its elegance and style, but I think it's about as simple as can be, looking a lot like a PS3 or a large modem.

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The Phicomm K3 router looks relatively "normal" and can be placed out in the open for a better Wi-Fi signal without offending anyone's sense of style.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The K3 is a stand-up metallic gray-and-black box with slightly rounded sides, and it's much heavier than other routers I've tested, weighing in at nearly three pounds. It doesn't have external antennas, but the top features a 3.5-inch LCD touchscreen. This display shows when you're connected to the internet, the status of your Ethernet ports, network names and passwords (this needs to be enabled), general router information and which devices are connected. In general, I find this display to be pointless unless you can change settings using it. The K3 is display-only.

The back features one gigabit WAN port and only three gigabit LAN ports for wired devices (four is standard), as well as a power on/off button and a DC port for a power adapter. It also has a USB 3.0 port, but in my wireless testing of network storage, the speeds were just average. You also need to enable the 3.0 feature from the menu because Phicomm notes that it could cause Wi-Fi interference.

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The back features only three gigabit LAN ports for wired connections, as opposed to the standard four.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Overall, the Phicomm K3 isn't as crazy-looking as most routers, so it will draw less attention and fit in nicely pretty much anywhere in your home.

The user interface needs some work

Setting up the Phicomm K3 was easy.

You will need to set up your passwords and connection, but surprisingly, it didn't ask if I wanted to update the firmware. I had to log into the router menu and go to the Advanced tab, then click the Online Update icon. Don't confuse this with the Update icon, which requires you to download a file from Phicomm's download center and then select that file from the router menu. The router also reboots after you install the update, so you may have to reconnect to the network after it's finished.

This whole firmware update process was inconvenient and should have been part of the setup process. Not to mention that you can run into security issues down the road if you don't know you need to install a new update.

The menu as a whole was disappointing. The user interface looks a bit thrown together and isn't organized very well.

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The menu looks intimidating with four tabs and 22 icons. It can be confusing if you are a novice router user.

Dan Dziedzic/CNET

Pretty much all the settings are listed as icons (22 of them, to be exact) under the Advanced tab. Each icon has a description to help you find what you are looking for, but you probably will end up clicking through a few when looking for a specific, advanced setting. The K3 has limited parental controls and quality of service (QoS), the latter of which only allows you to set bandwidth limits on each device. One saving grace is a helpful question-mark icon at the top right of the screen, which is clickable after you open an icon to tell you what each of the settings mean.

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