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

Powerful hardware but not enough bonus features

One thing Phicomm did right with this router is it gave it powerful wireless hardware.

Its AC3150 rating means 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps) on 2.4GHz and 2,167Mbps on 5GHz. Its 4x4 antennas offer four spatial streams for better reliability and speed. The K3 also has single SSID mode to let the router choose the best network (sometimes called band steering), MU-MIMO for fast simultaneous connections, and beamforming to focus Wi-Fi directly on your connected devices. You will need to enable all three of these features from the menu, if you want to take advantage of them.

The K3 has your standard WPA2-PSK security and VPN support along with an option to turn on/off a firewall and set up Denial of Service (DoS) protection. I'm very surprised that Phicomm calls this a "smart home router" but doesn't have additional antimalware and security measures for all your connected devices. D-Link recently teamed up with McAfee to create a smart home router and TP-Link has free Trend Micro services on its Archer C3150 V2 router.

That seems to be a recurring theme with the K3 router -- it has most of what you want but definitely doesn't have many "extras." And some of the menu features it does have can be a little confusing with non-standard terminology. For example, there's an icon labelled "wireless extension," which is where you can set up the router as a wireless repeater/extender.

The $220 price tag leaves me wanting more from the K3. One bonus is that the router does include a two-year manufacturer's warranty.

2.4GHz has good range, 5GHz could suffer in large homes

Despite not having the best software, the K3's hardware performed well overall, especially on 2.4GHz. I saw consistent speeds all the way up to 50 feet, peaking at 165Mbps from close range.

2.4GHz Wi-Fi Performance

Legend:

7 feet
25 feet
50 feet

Note:

All speeds in megabits per second (Mbps)

The K3 was a mixed bag on 5GHz. Its close range speed was awesome, clocking in at 847Mbps, but I saw a significant drop-off at 25 and 50 feet, performing at 417Mbps and 139Mbps, respectively. As you can see from the chart below, most routers didn't drop off this much at those distances.

5GHz Wi-Fi Performance

Legend:

7 feet
25 feet
50 feet

Note:

All speeds in megabits per second (Mbps)

To test the router's wireless file transfer speeds, I used an ADATA SD700 256GB external solid state drive connected to the router's USB 3.0 port. I tested from 15 feet away and got some surprising results. I actually saw a faster top speed on 2.4GHz, measuring a download speed of 10 megabytes per second (MBps) and an upload speed of nearly 18MBps. On 5GHz, it performed at 11MBps down and 15MBps up.

Network Storage Performance

TP-Link Archer C3150 AC3150
9.73
11.10
17.57
15.28
Netgear XR500 AC2600
14.66
18.96
49.34
30.80
Phicomm K3 AC3150
10.09
17.82
10.75
15.17

Legend:

2.4GHz Download
2.4GHz Upload
5GHz Download
5GHz Upload

Note:

All speeds in megabytes per second (MBps)

Should you buy one?

The Phicomm K3 smart home Wi-Fi router is above average, but not the best for an AC3150 router. I'd still recommend the Asus RT-AC86U (AC2900) or the TP-Link Archer C3150 V2 (AC3150) for ease-of-use, range and top speed. The K3 has powerful hardware, but the menu and app need work, and the 5GHz range could be better. The deciding factor for me is the price. The K3 is just too expensive at $220. You will get top speed in the same room as the router, but the range may suffer in a larger home with lots of devices.

Editors' note: In April 2018, Phicomm released new firmware for the K3 router (V22.1.23.149), which they say will improve wireless performance. It is available at Phicomm's download center.

Phicomm K3 specs

Brand Phicomm Model K3
IEEE 802.11 Standard a/b/g/n/ac Class AC3150
Speed (Mbps) 3,167 (1,000+2,167) CPU processor Dual-core 1.4GHz
Frequency Dual-band (2.4GHz+5GHz) RAM memory 512MB
Ethernet ports 1 Gigabit WAN; 3 Gigabit LAN Flash memory 128MB
USB ports 1 USB 3.0 Guest Wi-Fi Yes
Antennas 4x4 internal Parental controls Yes
Spatial streams 4 (2.4GHz); 4 (5GHz) MU-MIMO Yes
Modulation 1024-QAM 5/6 Beamforming Yes
Security WPA2-PSK, WPA-PSK, Firewall, DoS protection Setup App or browser
Size (in.) 8.3 by 2.9 by 9.1 Weight (lbs.) 2.78

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