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.
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.
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.
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.
Phicomm's PhiWiFi app is very similar to the browser menu except they narrowed it down to 17 icons. They removed most of the more complex settings like DMZ, port forwarding and VPN, but also some basic ones, like USB storage and security. I'm not sure why they limited the app so much, because the screens on the app look almost exactly as they do in a browser.
In my opinion, Phicomm should have invested more into developing its app and router interface and less time on the physical design of the router.