Before prepping this article, we’d never reviewed any TP-Link gear before. The company, based in Shenzhen, China, has obvious aspirations to be the next D-Link by way of being the low-cost leader of the networking world. They approached us months ago with this hot new technology called “Lite-N.” Enough said, right? Still, we make every effort to clear our minds of high-performance prejudices and remember that most of the world just needs cheap gear that gets the job done. This is TP-Link’s target. In thumbing through the catalog that reps sent us along with the WR741ND ($44.99), we couldn’t find a single visually interesting product. It’s all built to be generic. That’s not necessarily bad, but it clearly shows where TP-Link is aiming.
The WR741ND uses a 2x2 MIMO array, but with a single external antenna. You get four 10/100 LAN ports, no USB connectivity. As with Belkin’s N150, this is an ultra-basic, entry-level, 2.4 GHz router. The QSS (Quick Secure Setup) button on the front is rebranded WPS. About the only thing that stands out here is TP-Link’s integration of very simple QoS.
On the other hand, all of that simplicity makes for a very quick setup. Just for giggles, we handed the router to a total networking newbie here at the office and asked her to set it up. She had it running in under 20 minutes. And to TP-Link’s credit, the manual is surprisingly well-produced, with none of the glaring errors and typos we’re used to seeing from lesser-known vendors. The manual even shows screen captures of successful and failed ping tests, which is exactly the sort of thing novices need to see.
We’ll let the cat out of the bag on this one. The WR741ND was the worst-performing router of this roundup, and that was even with using the company’s own TL-WN721N USB adapter. Still, you can find this router online for $35. If all you need is to connect a handful of clients and don’t care so much about the speed at which it happens, yet you at least don’t want to pack a lunch for a 100MB file backup, then this may still be sufficient.