TP-Link Archer AX90 AX6600 Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 router and RE505 AX15000 range extender (review)
The TP-Link Archer AX90 AX6600 Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 router is its second-fastest tri-band router – only eclipsed by the Archer AX11000 V1 NextGen Gaming Router. Yet, this is perfect for the average home.
We are also reviewing the RE505X V1 range extender that uses TP-Link One Mesh to provide seamless whole of home roaming using the same SSID and password. There is also a RE500X V1 (also AX1500) and the RE605X V1 (AX1800), which should perform similarly.
Router versus Mesh?
There has been quite an argument over what is better. A powerful router with more streams, strong antenna signal strength, comprehensive OS options and range extenders, e.g., this review.
Or do you spread the task over a bunch of lower-powered Mesh routers, e.g., the more Lilliputian approach (Gulliver’s Travels – Lilliputians are 1/12th the height of human ‘giants’ and defeat Gulliver) via Mesh, e.g., Seamless whole-of-home Wi-Fi now easy with Wi-Fi 6 (guide)
As it happens, I have both the TP-Link AX90 AX6600 router and the Deco X90 AX6600 router (TP-Link Deco X90 AX6600 Mesh router is fast, very fast (review) on the testbed, so I will let you know if size matters.
TP-Link Archer AX90 AX6600 Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 router and RE505 AX15000 range extender
|Website||TP-Link Archer AX90 AX6600 Product Page|
TP-link Archer RE505X VI Product Page
|Price||TP-Link Archer AX90 AX6600 $548 |
RE505X AX1500 $149
RE605X AX1800 $169.95
TP-Link also sells via computer stores
|Company||TP-Link (Est 1996) is a privately owned Chinese company. Products include high-speed cable modems, wireless and mobile routers, range extenders, switches, IP cameras, powerline adapters, switches, print servers, media converters, wireless adapters, power banks, USB Hub and SMART home technology devices|
|More||CyberShack TP-Link news and reviews|
The TP-Link Archer AX90 AX6600 router is a modern basic black design with eight very prominent antennas (8-stream), and a soft glowing front LED to tell you if all is as it should be. Unlike the stylish vase-like Deco X90 Mesh, it is not really for public display so find a place to put it – probably on top of a bookshelf, or it can be wall-mounted.
Having said that, most of the issues with single routers and, by inference, extenders are putting them in a poor location. Please read Fix Wi-Fi blackspots fast and often at no cost to find the best spot to reduce blackspots that need a range extender.
It has a Gigabit and a 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet WAN connection and three gigabit LAN ports (can be four if not using the Gigabit WAN).
The two USB-A ports can be for flash drives or the 3.0 for external SSD storage to 2TB (it may support higher). Supported formats are NTFS, exFAT, HFS+, and FAT32. You can access them via Samba, Local FTP, or Internet FTP (needs static IP address). Apple users can enable Time Machine backup.
The RE505X range extender is a plug-in to the power socket device with two rabbits ear antennas. It takes up the space of two power sockets – there is no power passthrough.
Simple versus rocket science?
While the TP-Link Deco X90 Mesh is straightforward to set up, it lacks 99% of the usual router tools that nerds love. Let’s just say that the AX90 and RE505X have a truckload of settings should you need them. You can read the 95-page router manual (a PDF) and the 45-page Range Extender manual but rest assured it has everything you expect from pro-series from D-Link and NETGEAR.
Setup – can be simple
The easiest and almost fool-proof way is downloading the TP-Link Tether App for Android or iOS. Register with TP-Link (only email and password required).
The Tether App will walk you through the install, set up SSID and passwords and find and install the extender.
Or you can log into the router using its default SSID and password and then use a web browser to go to 192.168.0.1. I suggest that the first thing you do is change the network from 192.168.0.1 as that is usually the gateway address – make it 192.168.2.1 to be safe.
Both options allow you to have a single sign-on aggregating the 2.4 and 5Ghz bands.
Range extender setup – simple
Plug the range extender into a power socket near the router. You can use WPS to connect to the router. The Tether App can fine-tune most settings (default settings are OK). Or you can use the webserver method.
Then move the extender about 5-10metres away to where you want to extend the network. The indicator lights will show if the signal is strong enough.
Currently, it supports Alexa and IFTTT, but frankly, the commands are minimal.
- Turn on/off LED
- Enable/disable night mode
- Enable WPS button press
- Enable/disable guest network
- Various QoS (quality of service) mainly for gaming, streaming, chatting modes
Tech stuff TP-Link Archer AX90
- 2.4GHz 574Mbps HE40
- 5GHz 1201Mbps HE80 (maximum connect 1200Mbps)
- 5Ghz 4804Mbps HE160 (maximum connect 2400Mbps)
- WPA/WPA2/WP3 (supports older devices)
- Gigabit or 2.5Gb WAN port and three additional gigabit LAN ports (total 4)
- OFDMA and Beamforming
- USB-A 3.0 5V/2A and USB-A 2.0 5V/1A
- 310.9 × 206.9 × 173.7 mm
- Broadcom BCM43684 4×4 AX 4800 and BCM6755 2×2 1.5Ghz ARM SoC
Tech Stuff RE505X
- Broadcom BCM6750 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 1.5GHz Arm SoC
- 2.4GHz 300Mbps
- 5GHz 1200Mbps HE80 (maximum connect 1200Mbps)
- WPA/WPA2/WP3 (supports older devices)
- Gigabit LAN port
- Cannot use Ethernet backhaul in extender mode – only Access Point with a different SSID
This is a dual-band range extender with a maximum of 1200 Mbps full-duplex data transfer between the router and the extender. What that means is that heavy loads will slow down the transfer rate.
Tests – achieved near-maximum throughput
We set up the router in the ideal spot – in the centre of the home. The Range Extender is 10m away through two walls and three built-in cupboards – a location that defeats most Mesh routers. The test uses a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Wi-Fi 6 AX HE160 smartphone. Strength is in -dBm (lower is better) and using an Aussie Broadband 100/20Mbps DL/UL internet connection. Tests are the best of six iterations.
|<2m from Router||-11dBm, 1134Mbps||12ms 108/18.5Mbps|
|5m from Router||-37dBm, 816Mbps||13ms, 108/18.2Mbps|
|10m from Router||-44dBm, 816Mbps||14ms, 108/18.1Mbps|
|<2m from Satellite||-39dBm, 960Mbps||13ms, 109/18.5Mbps|
|5m from Satellite||-45dBm, 960Mbps||14ms, 109/18.5Mbps|
|10m from Satellite||-49dBm, 960Mbps||15ms, 109/18.5Mbps|
We also tested with Wi-Fi 5 AC clients and got 433/866Mbps which is the maximum these can achieve. 2.4Ghz and IoT devices linked at from 110 to 195Mbps.
What does this mean?
These speeds are close to the maximum for the router and range extender. They give full Internet speed (100/20Mbps) around the home and cover approx. 600m2.
The primary difference is that the TP-Link Deco X90 Mesh Router and Satellite have superior data transfer rates because they are both AX6600 versus AX6600 (AX90 router) and AX1500 (RE505X range extender).
While you can daisy chain extenders, don’t do it as they would have to share the same bandwidth. However, you can have multiple extenders in a star topology to the same router.
Because the router is way more powerful, the client device tends to hold onto that signal instead of swapping in a few seconds to the extender. I found that I had to turn off the client device’s Wi-Fi on some occasions, and it would then connect to the extender. It is not a significant issue as static placed devices will use the strongest signal.
Smart Connect or Three bands connect
Smart Connect is a setting to transmit the same SSID for all three bands. The router and extender decide which band to allocate the client. For most, this is fine, but older IoT devices can have trouble connecting.
You can transmit a different SSID for each band (still on the same network, so don’t worry), and it makes sense as the 5GHz 1 has 1200Mbps and 5GHz 2 has 4800Mbps HE160. I found it made sense to put all Wi-Fi 5 AC devices on 5GHz 1 and Wi-Fi 6 AX devices on 5GHz 2 for faster throughput.
The router should be capable of supporting 40-50 devices – a mix of IoT and some high bandwidth.
The extender will support a 4K stream or approx. 10 IoT devices.
Like many brands, TP-Link has a 30-day trial of an optional HomeShield subscription protection package. The price is A$8.99 per month or $89.99 per year. The subscription includes (included in free and paid version *)
|Network security scan *||Public Wi-Fi scan *||Real-time IoT protection||Malicious content filtering||DDoS Protection|
|Port Intrusion prevention||Block Websites *||Pro Content Filter *||Pause the Internet *||Flexible bedtime|
(Free has one bedtime)
|Time Limits||Time Rewards||Traffic Stats||Usage reports*||New access devices *|
|Insight *||Device Type||Safety stats||Family Online time ranking||Visited URLs|
What should you buy – Router or Mesh?
I can’t help feel the Lilliputians are slowly winning. The TP-Link Deco X90 Mesh at $899 (2-pack) is terrific for ease of setup and higher overall data transfer rates.
For many small to medium homes (300-400m2), the $548 AX90 router may be all you need. And if you need more, the Range extender is $149, so you save $200.
It is a conundrum, but the simple answer is that if you need advanced features like on-router VPN and a traditional router and extender, it is the way to go.
CyberShack view – Buy one or both
The TP-Link Archer AX90 AX6600 Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 router and RE505 AX15000 range extender are a Pidgeon pair in-so-far-as the router does most of the work, and the extender retransmits the 5Ghz -signal out for another 10 metres enabling 4K streaming at a distance.
The router is well-specified, fully-featured, and capable of handling multiple devices over Wi-Fi and Ethernet. The extender is a lower-powered device. Put it in the bedroom and connect the TV, smartphone and a smart speaker.
It is for those that can’t afford an AX11000 router, and frankly, it is fine for all but the uber-power user.
As a standalone router, the AX90 ticks all boxes. It competes well with other brands, and the 5G 2 4800Mbps HE160 band delivers blazing Wi-Fi 6 speed. It is close to perfect and gets an unreserved buy recommendation for a single router.
One Mesh is convenient, but the RE505X extender is dual-band AX1500 and supports a small number of devices. If you were planning to add this, I strongly suggest you first look at the TP-Link Deco X90 2 pack. It is fit for purpose but scores closer to 7/10.
TP-Link Archer AX90 AX6600 Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 router and RE505 AX15000 range extender$548 plus RE505X extender $149
- RE505X - easy extension of the AX network
- RE505X - Suitable for light loads
- RE505X - may work with other brands supporting IEEE 802.11.11k/v/r Mesh devices
- AX90 - Gigabit and 2.5Gigabit WAN/LAN ports
- AX90 – great stable speeds and lots of OS controls
- RE505X Ethernet backhaul changes it to an access point with a different SSID
- HomeShield Pro is an extra cost