A wireless-n router with Gigabit Ethernet that costs less than £40, the TP-Link TL-WR1043ND is tempting indeed
You might expect a low cost router to sacrifice features to hit its budget. But there's little on the TP-Link TL-WR1043ND's specifications sheet to give this cable router's low-cost origins away.
Sure, it isn't a dual-band model, but for your £34 you get a surprisingly full set of features. There's a full-fat 2.4GHz 802.11n connection with support for wireless networking at theoretical throughput speeds of up to 300Mbits/sec. There are three large, detachable aerials at the rear, to give it the best chance at receiving and sending signals at long range.
On the router's rear panel, alongside the antennae and the device's single WAN port, are four Gigabit Ethernet ports (a very surprising inclusion at this price), and a USB socket for sharing storage devices over your network.
Meanwhile, in the device's web-based administration pages, a parental controls section lets you restrict access by MAC address to trusted URLs, and a bandwidth control section lets you restrict upload and download speeds of specified IP and port ranges.
Critically, however, wireless performance wasn't good enough. At close range, speeds were on a par with most of the other single-band 2.4GHz routers we've seen recently. We measured 79Mbits/sec from the router to laptop and 64Mbits/sec the other way. (Our test laptop uses the excellent Intel Wi-Fi Link 5300 chipset to ensure the highest possible throughput.)
Move further away, however, and performance dips dramatically. In our long-range tests, the TL-WR1043ND managed a router to laptop rate of 26Mbits/sec and 37Mbits/sec in reverse. This wasn't good enough for our laptop to maintain a solid frame rate in our HD movie-streaming test at distance. It's one of the slowest 802.11n 2.4GHz routers we've come across in this respect.
Despite the low price, then, the poor range kills its appeal. If you're after a cable router on a budget, we'd advise you spend a few pounds more and buy the Buffalo WZR-HP-G300NH instead.