TP-Link Archer AX90 AX6600 Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6 Router Review
The TP-Link Archer AX90 ($299.99) is a wireless router with many features you’d expect at this lofty price, including tri-band Wi-Fi 6 technology and a nice selection of I/O ports—there’s even a 2.5Gbps WAN/LAN connector. It comes with parental controls and network security tools, too. Combine all of that with easy installation and strong 5GHz performance in our testing, and you get an excellent cutting-edge router. If you can climb just a bit higher on the price scale, however, you’ll get better overall performance and more connectivity options with our Editors’ Choice pick, the TP-Link Archer AX11000 Gaming Router.
That’s a Lot of Antennas
At 6.8 by 12.2 by 8.1 inches (HWD) Archer AX90 is a sizable router, but it’s not quite as big as the Archer AX11000 (7.2 by 11.3 by 11.3 inches). The black enclosure sports sleek grillwork on the top and is equipped with eight non-removable antennas. On the front of the router, along the bottom edge are WPS, LED (on/off), and Wi-Fi (on/off) buttons. Above them is an LED indicator that turns solid blue when the router is connected and working properly, and solid red when the connection is lost.
Around back, you’ll find a nice selection of I/O ports, including the aforementioned 2.5Gbps port, a gigabit WAN/LAN port, three additional gigabit LAN-only ports, and a USB 2.0 port. There’s also a reset button, a power jack, and a power switch. Meanwhile, you’ll find a second USB port on the right side of the router; it supports 3.0 speeds.
Powered by a 1.5GHz quad-core processor, the AX90 is an eight-stream AX6600 tri-band router that can reach maximum data rates of 574Mbps on the 2.4GHz band, 1,201Mbps on one of the 5GHz bands, and 4,804Mbps on the secondary 5GHz band. It’s a Wi-Fi 6 device that supports the latest 802.11ax technologies, including 160MHz channel bandwidth, WPA3 encryption, Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA), Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM), Target Wake Time, 4×4 MU-MIMO data streaming, beamforming, and Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS).
As with other TP-Link routers such as the Archer AX11000 and Archer AX73, the Archer AX90 comes with a free HomeShield Basic plan for strong parental controls and basic network security scans. You can use HomeShield to set age-based website filters; monitor how long a user has been online and what sites they’ve been visiting; and block access to specific sites.
For more robust parental controls, you’ll have to upgrade to the $5.99-per-month/$54.99-per-year HomeShield Pro plan. The upgrade lets you set time limits and give your kids extra online time as a reward for doing things like completing homework or finishing household chores. The Pro plan also gets you extra network security features including malicious content filters, Denial of Service protection, and network security reports.
The TP-Link Tether app, showing (left to right) router status, the network scanning feature, and connected device info
You can install and manage the AX90 using a web console, or you can use the TP-Link Tether app for iOS and Android mobile devices. You’ll need the web console to access advanced IPv6, NAT, and DHCP settings, but the mobile app is more user-friendly and is required to configure and enable HomeShield features.
Once installed, the router appears in its own panel on the app’s My Devices screen. The panel displays the name of the router and its MAC address. When you tap the router panel, you’ll be taken to a Home screen that contains a network map and a list of connected devices that are on the main and guest networks. At the bottom of the screen are buttons for Home, Clients, HomeShield, and Tools. Use the Home button to return to the Home screen from wherever you are in the app and the Clients button to view a list of connected wired and wireless devices. Tapping a client entry opens a screen where you can view the client IP and MAC addresses, block internet access for the client, and enable Quality of Service (QoS) and parental controls.
Tapping the HomeShield button launches a screen where you can edit parental control settings, scan for network security issues, and assign bandwidth priority to specific devices. The Tools button is used to configure wireless and internet connection settings. Here, you can create a OneMesh network using other compatible TP-Link routers, enable device notifications, configure the device as a router or an access point, and update the router’s firmware. This is also where you can enable or disable the guest network.
Strong 5GHz Test Results
Installing the AX90 is easy regardless of whether you use the web console (like I did) or the mobile app. First, I powered off my modem, connected the router to it using the included LAN cable, and powered up both devices. I then connected a desktop PC to the router, opened a browser, and typed http://tplinkwifi.net in the URL bar. I created a password in the login window and followed the instructions to select a time zone and choose a WAN port (2.5Gbps or 1Gbps). I selected Dynamic IP as my connection type, opted to separate the bands, and created a new Wi-Fi password. After a quick internet connection test, I updated the firmware, waited a minute or two for the router to reboot, and the installation was complete.
See How We Test Routers
The AX90 delivered strong throughput on our 5GHz tests, but its 2.4GHz performance wasn’t quite as impressive. Its score of 841Mbps on the 5GHz close proximity (same room) test was second in this test group only to the Netgear XR1000 (865Mbps). The TP-Link Archer AX11000 and Linksys MR9600 scored 831Mbps and 840Mbps, respectively. The AX90’s score of 277Mbps on the 30-foot test was faster than the Netgear XR1000 (230Mbps) and the Linksys MR9600 (228Mbps) but it couldn’t match the speed of the Archer AX11000 (328Mbps).
The AX90’s 2.4GHz throughput performance was good but not great. Its score of 109Mbps on the close proximity test was a bit slower than the Linksys MR9600 (111Mbps) while the Archer AX11000 led with a score of 133Mbps. The Netgear XR1000 came in second with a score of 122Mbps. On the 30-foot test, the AX90’s score of 39Mbps was a hair faster than the Linksys MR9600 and the Netgear XR1000 (both scored 38Mbps), but it couldn’t touch the Archer AX11000 (67Mbps).
To measure wireless signal strength, we use an Ekahau Sidekick diagnostic device paired with Ekahau’s Survey software. (Note: Ekahau is owned by Ziff Davis, the publisher of PCMag.com.) This generates a heat map that shows Wi-Fi signal strength throughout our test home.
Wi-Fi signal strength map for 2.4GHz (left) and 5GHz (right)
The circle on the heat map represents the location of the router and the colors represent signal strength. Dark green indicates the strongest signal, lighter yellow indicates a weaker signal, and gray indicates no measurable Wi-Fi signal. As shown on the 2.4GHz map, the AX90 had trouble delivering a strong signal to the far corners of the house, especially in the garage area. However, 5GHz signal strength was relatively strong throughout the entire house.
We test file transfer performance by moving a 1.5GB folder containing a mix of music, video, photo, and document files between a USB drive and a wired desktop PC (both are directly connected to the router) and time its read and write speeds. The AX90 turned in middling scores on both tests. Its write speed of 54MBps trailed the Linksys MR9600 (73MBps), the Archer AX11000 (68MBps), and the Netgear XR1000 (73MBps).
Similarly, its read score of 58MBps trailed the pack: the Linksys MR9600 scored 70MBps, the Netgear XR1000 scored 76MBps, and the Archer AX11000 led with a score of 85MBps.
Well-Equipped for the Price
With the TP-Link Archer AX90, you get a well-equipped tri-band router that uses Wi-Fi 6 technology to deliver a strong 5GHz signal with solid throughput. It comes with user-friendly parental controls and offers basic network scans, but you’ll have to pay extra to access the advanced network security features that come with the HomeShield Pro package.
You get a nice selection of I/O ports with this router, but if you require more LAN connectivity, the $399.99 TP-Link Archer AX11000 is your best bet and our Editors’ Choice winner. It has eight LAN ports, delivers better all-around performance, and comes with lifetime network security tools and lots of gamer-friendly features.
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