At this point we've reviewed quite a few high-end AC routers, including tri-band routers
, flagship dual-band models
, and even the latest MU-MIMO devices
too. However, the one portion of the market we haven't covered much is the one that exists on the more affordable end of the pricing spectrum. We all know there are quantifiable differences between a $100 GPU and a $300 GPU, but is that also true for 802.11ac routers as well? After all, they're all branded as AC routers, and have similar features and specifications.
This time around, we'll be taking a look at the $75 Tenda AC15 AC1900 router
. Tenda is a lesser known brand in the US, but its AC router looks the part and is less than half the price of the other dual band AC routers we've tested so far. We noted that it had four stars on Amazon
with over 100 reviews, so it seemed like a decent piece of hardware according to current owners.
Before we take a look at the router itself, let's examine its specs:
Tenda AC15 Router
Specifications & Features
||Simultaneous Dual-Band WiFi - 2.4GHz + 5GHz
||Implicit & Explicit Beamforming for 2.4 & 5GHz bands
||Four (4) 10/100/1000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet ports: 1 WAN & 3 LAN
||One (1) USB port: 1 USB 3.0
Ultimate ac speed of up to 1900Mbps, delivering both 1300Mbps 802.11ac at 5GHz and 600Mbps 802.11n at 2.4 GHz concurrently.
Broadcom dual-core processor with DDR3 memory for multi-client with responsive performance and fast speed.
Beamforming+ technology boosts range for the 802.11ac WiFi devices.High powered amplifiers and three external antennas for whole-home coverage.
USB3.0 for personal secure cloud and printer sharing.Smart managements [sic] of WiFi schedule, LED indicator and power saving all are for your healthy E-life.
||WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK, WPA/WPA2, Wireless Security: Enable/Disable, WPS fast encryption
||Dual core 1GHz processor
||256MB DDR3 DRAM
||Dimensions: 8.9 x 7 x 3in
||AC15 RouterEthernet cableStandQuick install guidePower adapter
||$74.99 currently on Amazon
As you can see above, this is a dual band AC router, with up to 1,300Mb/s available on the 5GHz band, and up to 600Mb/s on tap at 2.4GHz. It doesn't have any special features per se, as it's pretty much just a straight up router without next-gen features like MU-MIMO. It is using a Broadcom SoC however, so it has quality hardware at its heart.
The router is a bit smaller in comparison to other routers we've reviewed recently, measuring just 8.9" by 7", and about an inch thick. It has an exterior design language that's trying to look upscale, with its glossy black plastic and bumpy, reflective texture. It's not over the top though, and in general, we think the aesthetic is fine. The router is designed to be stood up vertically, and as such, you can't access any of the rear ports if it's laying down flat.
The rear of the router features three gigabit LAN ports, one USB 3.0 port, a power button and power jack.
There are no ports or buttons on either side of the router, but at the top there are three recessed buttons for Reset, WPS and Wi-Fi, shown here.
The antennas are not removable, and only swivel in a very small arc. When we first took it out of the box we tried to swing them around vertically and one of the plastic arms snapped off its mount. Luckily it was easy to snap it back in place.
Now for the million dollar question—what exactly is this router missing (or lacking) that allows it to be so affordable? Performance aside (we'll get to that), these are the "features" it is generally lacking:
- Only three LAN ports instead of four
- Just one USB 3.0 port
- One year warranty
- Inexpensive chassis materials
- Basic software with few instructions
Though the Tenda AC15 lacks some of the features of higher-end, more expensive routers, for some people it'll likely be more than sufficient. If you're the type of person who wants to set up a router and rarely needs to log into the admin panel, this may be the router for you. It does offer a lot of fairly advanced features, and a great software interface, so don't assume we're slagging it off as cheap or chintzy, as it is surprisingly full featured. We'll cover all that of course on the pages ahead, so let's get started.