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AC1200 USB Wi-Fi Adapter Round-Up

The Archer T4U is TP-Link's current-gen USB-attached AC1200 Wi-Fi adapter with an omnidirectional antenna and a USB extension cable to help optimize signal strength.

Figure 13 - Product shot of the TP-Link Archer T4U. Note that the cap is on the USB connector, and the WPS button is on the top of the device. The right side of the adapter is clear, and illuminates via a green LED.

TP-Link is a frequent favorite with our forum members because its products tend to cost less than the competition. In this line-up, the Archer T4U is indeed the least-expensive contender.

Specs

  • AC1200, up to 300 Mb/s on 2.4GHz and 867 Mb/s on 5GHz band
  • USB 3.0, backward compatible with USB 2.0
  • Omnidirectional internal antenna
  • Supports 802.11ac, 802.11n, 802.11g and 802.11a

Figure 14 - The box of the TP-Link Archer T4U Wi-Fi USB adapter.

TP-Link includes the following in the box:

  • T4U Wi-Fi USB adapter
  • Software CD
  • Quick-start guide
  • USB extension cable

Figure 15 - The contents of the TP-Link Archer T4U Wi-Fi adapter. Note the mini CD for the software, and the USB extension cable.

This is the only adapter that comes with an 80mm mini CD, which is great for saving space. But it also makes the install a little slower since the outer edges of the media can't be read as fast as a 120mm disc. TP-Link's manual is available as a PDF file on the CD.

Features

TP-Link's Archer T4U includes all of the features you'd expect, including a WPS button on the adapter and a status LED, which lights up green. The antenna is fully internal, facilitating a smaller profile than some of the other contenders. Overall, the Archer T4U's chassis is kind of square and chunky, and the plastic feels less durable than its competition. It's particularly glossy and shiny, which makes it prone to scratches, too.

Standouts

Figure 16 - While a challenge to photograph clearly in low light, the strip on the length of the TP-Link adapter gets illuminated by the single green LED.

The aforementioned LED  transmits light down a strip of clear plastic. This is a clever trick that makes the output look like more than a single LED. In fact, no other USB adapter in our round-up is as bright. If you're gaming on a tricked-out PC or notebook, the Archer T4U will look right at home.

General Observations

In use, the Archer T4U struggled to maintain a consistent connection on both the 2.4 and 5GHz bands. It occasionally lagged and encountered delays opening Web pages, both issues not seen from the other products we're reviewing. This translated to inconsistent performance in our benchmarks.

Figure 17 - Anatomy of the TP-Link Archer T4U

1: USB 3.0 connector
2: WPS button
3: Dual internal antenna (both are indicated)
4: LED

Note the lack of an RF shield over the circuitry. We asked TP-Link about this and confirmed that no parts were missing. Apparently, this design was chosen for certification reasons. Still, given the Archer T4U's instability during our tests, we have to question the lack of a component used by competing adapters.

Management

Figure 18 - The screenshot of the TP-Link software shows the SSID of the network connected to, the wireless mode, the estimated throughput, the signal strength and the channel used.

TP-Link's software can manage your Wi-Fi settings if you want it to. While the utility does not provide a Windows Network Settings map, other essential information is there, including the SSID, type of network, type of encryption, wireless mode and a transfer rate estimate.

There are also two advanced features for power users: SoftAP mode and power-save mode. Both are toggled off by default. The driver we used for testing was V1_141219.

Availability/Warranty/Pricing

The Archer T4U has a list price of $50 and a street price on Amazon of $30. Both of those prices make this the least-expensive adapter in our review. TP-Link includes a two-year warranty.