In last week’s column I talked about the issues I’ve had with the True supplied Billion Sky Modem and the Humack modems they carried previously.
Basically, despite many visits by True technicians, I could never get these two to work without dropping every few hours, often needing to be power-cycled to reset, and how after as little as a month old they’d progressively get worse. I have a box of over 10 of these, all in various stages of remaining function. The point with this was, even a brand new Billion Sky from the box resulted in the more than occasional drop and often needed to be power-cycled.
Finally I went to Pantip Plaza and asked for the best modem they carried. The True technicians had already told me the Dlink was the one to get, and the shops at Pantip confirmed this. At first I was excited with the Dlink DSL-2542b. More speed, no drops, and a reasonable price of baht 1800. Even though it took two True technicians two days to get it to work in a bridged mode with my Linksys WRT-350n Wireless N router, I was still happy because it was the first modem that worked without dropping. Then after less than 24 hours it dropped and required power cycling. It seems that every 24 hours, give or take, the Dlink would drop until it was power cycled.
A reader wrote in explaining that when running torrents the modem required an unusual number of connections and they probably weren’t clearing from the buffer without a power-cycle reset. This makes sense, though I had no way to verify. Thank you!
I’d already ordered another unit, just in case, and it was on its way from the US. In the few short weeks it took for the new unit to arrive, the Dlink DSL-2542b’s performance degraded noticeably. Speed decreased, power-cycle resets were required every 4-5 hours vs every 24 hours, and it started dropping like the Billion Sky from True. I exchanged it at the Dlink service center for a new one, and in less than 7-8 days of use it was acting the same.
And then the new unit arrived.
TP-Link TD-W8960n Wireless ADSL2+ Modem Router
TP-Link is a little known Chinese company in Shenzhen China. As most of the big name routers, including the Dlink and Billion Sky are manufactured in China, the TP-Links origin didn’t bother me at all.
Unpacking the TD-W8960n I noticed it had very clean lines, was small and light, and included the power supply, two antennas, two RJ11 phone cables, one RJ45 connection cable, and a single ADSL splitter/filter in the event you use a phone on the same line.
The TD-W8960n is a single band (2.4ghz) wireless N/B/G wireless router with four physical Ethernet RJ45 ports, a standard phone line connection, and is rated to handle up to 24mbps download and 3.5mbps upload. As my connection is only 16mbps download and 1mbps upload this worked out fine.
It includes built in VPN tunnel capability, QoS protocols directly supporting most popular applications, a 300mbps Wireless N transmission rate, and just about any security protocol you can imagine. I won’t go into all of the features, but except for the 802.11a band (5ghz) I can’t think of anything it doesn’t have. I’ve had the 802.11a band on my wireless routers for the last 6-7 years and they never get used so no big loss there.
The more I read over the specifications the more impressed I became. This unit doesn’t lack for anything!
The front panel LED’s are standard, power, internet, ADSL connection, QoS enabled, and 4 WLAN Ethernet port activity/connection LED’s.
The first thing I noticed when I carried this small device (8x5x1 inches) to my office where my networking equipment is located, is that it would replace an equally large Dlink modem/router AND a much larger Linksys WRT-350n wireless N router. The extra space and cleaner look is much appreciated.
Back panel connections are standard. One standard phone line port to connect to your phone wall outlet, four Ethernet RJ45 ports, a reset button, a power connector, and an on/off button. The two antennas screw on in seconds.
For me connections were easy. I connected it to my phone line, and then a single RJ45 Ethernet patch cord into my Cisco 8 port gigaswitch already connected to my NAS devices and the 6 cables routed to different locations in my home. I connected the phone line, the one Ethernet patch cord, plugged the power transformer into my UPS device, and screwed on the antennas to their threaded mounts. I powered it on and left the office.
So far the TP-Link TD-W8960n shined, but where it really shined was in the setup. Type into your browser URL bar “192.168.1.1” and you’re immediately rewarded with the login window. The default ‘admin/admin’ user/pass combo gets you into the main menu.
I’m not going to go into the 50 pages of setup choices the user manual lists. I’ll just tell you I found their user interface totally intuitive and in less than five minutes I’d configured my PPP0E account information (username/password/VPi&VCI (True supplied)) , set my LAN default address, configured my Wireless security protocol, enabled the DCHP server, entered and tested my dynamic DNS account information (needed to run an FTP, IP cameras, etc), and forwarded 5 different ports thereby enabling my NAS devices, FTP’s, IP cameras, and my other LAN devices. I also changed my user name and password information.
Each menu heading expands as necessary into the appropriate sub-headings allowing you to easily find and configure only the areas you need.
In under five minutes I was done and pressing the “update and reboot” button was surprised to see the internet come on-line, the wireless connect to my laptops, NAS’s worked, FTP’s functioned fine, and all this on the first try and without help from the True Somchai’s! What a pleasure.
I will say this, there are MANY menu choices, and even for functions you’ll recognize there will be more choices than you’re previously been familiar with. Looking through the menu choices I saw it was configurable and supported every major VOIP service, game, and device I’ve ever heard of. This is the most complete user BIOS I’ve ever seen.
More, it gives you three login choices. You can assign an administrator with full privileges, a support user/pass set in the event you need TP-Link’s excellent customer service, and a User login if you just want to limit certain users to logging on selected VPN’s or games.
There is also a complete statistics and logging center so you can keep track of line drops, line condition, up time, and about 100+ other line controls. The Diagnostics section tests every line condition for you and the help section explains each test.
What a great User Interface!
Two minutes to install, five minutes to configure my setup (and I have a complex setup), and a ‘save/reboot’ later I was up on line and I haven't dropped or had to power cycle since!
Usually I don’t review hardware until using it for a few months, but I’ve tested/reviewed enough of these modems/routers to know when one is working perfectly and without flaw and the TP-Link TD-W8960n is without flaw. It’s possible it will fail electronically, and if it does I’ll update this review at the end. If you don’t see an update at the end of this review, it means this device is still working perfectly.
Going to Speedtest www.speedtest.net I confirmed I was actually exceeding my 16mbps download speed. A few months back my True technician told me he’d tweaked the node downstairs to give me 20mbps and now I was actually seeing 20mbps. My upload speed was pegged at the max 1mbps speed. I then went to Pingtest www.pingtest.net and immediately saw I was now pinging all A’s and B’s on my line condition where before the best I could get was a C-, usually D’s and F’s.
But the real proof is in using the net. Page to page loads are much faster, my Slingbox is slinging 30% faster than the best I’ve seen before, and my torrents are moving almost twice as fast! The proof in the pudding so to speak.
Wifi performance you ask? I’m not only seeing an approximate 40-50% greater signal strength and range, but the speed gains via the Wireless N are huge. It’s like having an entirely new Wifi service.
For the next five days I held my breath waiting for a drop that has yet to happen, or the need for a power-cycle which hasn’t happened either.
Because of the feedback and questions I received after last week’s review of the Dlink, and noticing I wasn’t the only one experiencing sub-standard internet service, and because this TP-Link TD-W8960n setup easily and performed flawlessly, I decided to write this review immediately, and if any problems arise in the future I’ll update this review at the end.
I couldn’t be more pleased, there are zero glitches, and anyone can set one of these up. Other than the color (white) I have zero complaints and only praise.
Oh, I got mine on Amazon for $72 USD’s. I don’t know if they’re available locally, but I’ll take a look next time I take a safari through Pantip and I’ll let you know.
We've recently reviewed TP-Link's newest router, the TL-WR1043ND Ultimate Wireless N Gigabyte Router. Another top quality TP-Link product! Read it here.