TP-Link’s Archer VR900 universal modem router 

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If there is such a thing as a universal modem router, the Archer VR900 from TP-Link is it. It has 2.4/5GHz wireless connectivity and is compatible with ADSL and VDSL standards as well fibre, cable and 3G/4G USB dongles.

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The VR900 is roughly 25cm wide and light grey in colour. The unit itself is 19cm tall with the three antennas adding a further 14.5cm to its height. It sits firmly on the desk supported by the built-in metal stand which is designed so that the cables exit smoothly from the rear.

With the exception of a USB 2.0 port on the right hand side and the LED, WPS and Wi-Fi switches on the left, all connections etc. are on the rear of the unit. The LEDs are in a row near the top of the front of the unit. The VR900 supports a whole range of ADSL and VDSL standards via the standard RJ11 connector. In addition, one of the bank of four Gigabit ports is an EWAN port which, as well as normal LAN, can be used to connected to a cable or fibre modem rather than directly to the outside world. Also on the rear of the unit are the power input and switch, the (recessed) reset button and the USB 3.0 port.

The Quick Installation Guide is a single sheet of paper, slightly larger than A3, shows how to connect the VR900 to the RJ11 phone socket and then to the PC -- wired or wireless -- and then configuring it. The Quick Setup procedure takes one through selecting the ISP, setting up the Internet and then the wireless -- both 2.4 and 5GHz.

The claimed wireless aggregate speed is 1,900Mbps made up of 600Mbps at 2.4GHz and 1,300Mbps at 5GHz which should be adequate normal users on the network plus any guests that have been allowed while the three antennas use beam-forming technology aimed at providing better and more than reliable coverage.

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Having carried out the basic set up one can then go to either the Basic or Advanced setup screens to further configure the device such as adding Guest access to the network. This was all fairly straightforward while using the VR900 as a modem router.

In order to use the unit just as a router when connected, for example, to an OpenReach modem such as often provided by ISPs as part of their FTTC package one needs to connect the EWAN port on the router to the OpenReach modem. This leaves just three LAN ports available for local networking.

As I had not, at that time, read as far as p. 104 in the downloadable User Guide where the necessary information was located, I phoned the TP-Link 24/7 help line and was told to go to Advanced / Operation Mode / Wireless Router Mode. That having been done it was, yet again, easy to set up. I would, however, recommend downloading the User Guide and spending a few minutes browsing through it.

There is a wide range of additional features such as bandwidth control, which can be used to prevent one user hogging the router, guest access (via LAN and/or wireless) and local storage usage. These, and many others features, are generally accessed via the Advanced set-up menus. Context sensitive help that can be accessed at all stages in both the Basic and Advanced setups is quite useful but could be improved because, in some instances, it is more of a glossary of terms that providing additional help.

Overall I found that the VR900 is a practical modem router that did not occupy an enormous amount of desk space and was convenient and straightforward to set up and use both for LAN and wireless. Priced at £139.99 but available on Amazon for £99.99 this could well be used by virtually any broadband user -- irrespective of whether they have ADSL, VDSL, fibre or cable who wants to get better performance over and above that delivered by a basic modem router.

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