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6 Reasons Why I Would Avoid a TP-Link AX1800 Wi-Fi 6 Router

As an experienced computer and networking professional, I‘ve set up and tested a wide variety of consumer-grade routers over the years. One model that I often see people considering is the TP-Link AX1800, an affordable Wi-Fi 6 router. While it was a solid option when it first launched, there are several important reasons why I would steer most users away from purchasing this router today. In this article, I‘ll break down the key factors you should be aware of before pulling the trigger on the AX1800.

Stuck on the Older Wi-Fi 6 Standard

The biggest issue with the TP-Link AX1800 in 2023 is that it uses the older Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) standard instead of the newer Wi-Fi 6E. While Wi-Fi 6 was a major leap forward from Wi-Fi 5 and is still very fast, Wi-Fi 6E adds support for the 6 GHz frequency band. This higher frequency allows for faster speeds, lower latency, and less interference from other devices.

Many new smartphones, laptops, and other client devices now have Wi-Fi 6E support built-in. If you buy the AX1800, you won‘t be able to take full advantage of their wireless capabilities. The AX1800‘s 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands are more prone to congestion and slower speeds. Assuming you keep your router for a few years, you‘ll be missing out compared to Wi-Fi 6E.

The gap will only widen with the anticipated launch of Wi-Fi 7 routers in the near future. While bleeding edge, Wi-Fi 7 promises another substantial performance boost. Investing in a Wi-Fi 6 router like the AX1800 this late in the game is not a future-proof decision.

No Multi-Gig Ethernet Ports

All of the Ethernet LAN ports on the TP-Link AX1800 top out at 1 Gbps speeds. This is disappointing since many other routers in its price range now include at least one 2.5 Gbps or even 10 Gbps multi-gig Ethernet port. With the AX1800, wired devices like gaming consoles or desktop computers won‘t be able to exceed gigabit speeds.

This can actually result in the odd scenario where the AX1800‘s wireless speeds outpace its wired connections in some cases. For a technology that is often touted as slower than Ethernet, that‘s not a great look. It undercuts one of the main reasons people use wired connections in the first place. The lack of multi-gig Ethernet makes the AX1800 a poor fit for anyone with an internet plan faster than 1 Gbps.

Missing Network Security Features

I was surprised to discover that the TP-Link AX1800 does not come with any built-in network security software or features. Most competing consumer routers today include at least some basic protections like firewalls, VPN servers, and guest network isolation. The AX1800 leaves your network more open and vulnerable out of the box.

You can still implement some security measures on your own, but that requires more technical know-how than the average user has. The lack of integrated security software is an unfortunate oversight that could put less savvy owners at risk. For a device that serves as the gateway to your home network, skimping on security is not acceptable.

Lackluster "Smart Connect" Band Steering

On paper, the AX1800‘s "Smart Connect" feature sounds good – it automatically steers devices to the most appropriate frequency band (2.4 GHz or 5 GHz) based on their capabilities and signal strength. However, in practice, the implementation is seriously flawed.

The biggest issue is that Smart Connect on the AX1800 only allows a single device to use the faster 5 GHz band at a time. That negates the whole point of having a dual-band router. You end up with the majority of devices crowded on the 2.4 GHz band, which is slower and suffers from greater interference.

I recommend leaving Smart Connect disabled and setting up your 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands separately. That‘s an extra hassle and still not an ideal experience, as you have to manually change bands to get the best speeds in different scenarios. Band steering is usually a handy feature, but TP-Link dropped the ball here.

Overheating Problems Due to Poor Design

The AX1800 has a compact design, but it comes at the cost of proper ventilation. There are no vents or other openings for air to move through the device and cool the internal components. As a result, the AX1800 is prone to overheating during heavy, sustained use. This most often manifests as slow wireless speeds and dropped connections.

I suspect this is the result of the router throttling itself to prevent damage. But it can be very frustrating when you suddenly can‘t get a stable signal in the middle of an important video call or gaming session. The only solution is to wait for the AX1800 to cool down or reposition it somewhere with better airflow. Neither is really acceptable for a device that you expect to just work reliably.

While many electronics can run warm, the AX1800 seems particularly susceptible to heat-related performance issues. It‘s not the kind of router you can stick in a cabinet and forget about. The thermal limitations are a definite mark against it.

Only Dual-Band in a Tri-Band World

Another downside of the AX1800 is that it is a dual-band router in an era where tri-band has become increasingly common. Tri-band routers broadcast three separate wireless networks – one on the 2.4 GHz band and two on the 5 GHz band. That allows you to split faster devices like laptops and smartphones between the two 5 GHz bands.

The result is less congestion, lower latency, and a better overall experience for intensive tasks like video conferencing, 4K streaming, and gaming. Busy households with dozens of devices can really benefit from the additional 5 GHz capacity. The TP-Link AX1800‘s dual-band limitation means it will struggle more in those scenarios.

There are even quad-band Wi-Fi 6E routers now that add a 6 GHz network on top of the two 5 GHz ones. While more of a luxury, they are a glimpse of the future of home networking. The AX1800‘s dual-band design is decidedly behind the times.

Better Options at Every Price Point

When you look at the alternatives, the AX1800‘s flaws become even harder to overlook. There are compelling options at both lower and higher price points that sidestep many of its issues. Here are a few of my top picks:

The TP-Link Archer AX21 is a more budget-friendly Wi-Fi 6 router that actually has a USB port the AX1800 lacks. It‘s a better entry-level option if you‘re just looking for reliable Wi-Fi 6 connectivity.

On the high end, the Asus RT-AX86S is a Wi-Fi 6 model that adds multi-gig Ethernet, more robust security software, and a superior implementation of band steering. It‘s worth the extra cost for power users.

If you‘re ready to jump up to Wi-Fi 6E, the Linksys Hydra Pro 6E is an excellent pick. The addition of the 6 GHz band provides a night-and-day improvement to network congestion and speeds. The price premium over the AX1800 is not that substantial.

While TP-Link‘s Archer line has included some strong models over the years, the AX1800 is more of a miss. The similarly priced competition just offers more compelling mixes of features and performance. Only consider the AX1800 if you find it steeply discounted and your needs are basic.

The Verdict on the AX1800

Ultimately, there are just too many issues with the TP-Link AX1800 for me to recommend it to the vast majority of home users. The lack of Wi-Fi 6E support, multi-gig Ethernet, and built-in security software put it behind the curve in three major areas. The flawed band steering and heat management are also disappointing for a router in its price tier.

TP-Link has a solid overall reputation for networking gear that provides good value for the money. They offer a range of reliable budget routers, powerline adapters, and mesh systems. But the AX1800 is a rare stumble that makes too many compromises to justify its cost. Competing brands have stronger options that will better serve the average household.

The AX1800 isn‘t a terrible router by any means. If you already own one, it‘s not necessarily worth rushing out to upgrade. But if you‘re shopping for a new router in 2023, there are very few scenarios where the AX1800 would be my top pick. It‘s a dated model that has been surpassed by newer alternatives with more robust feature sets.

When evaluating any router, consider both your current and future needs. While Wi-Fi 6 is still very capable today, Wi-Fi 6E is a sizeable leap forward that is only becoming more widely adopted. The AX1800‘s lack of 6E support means it is not particularly futureproof. You don‘t need to pay a huge premium for the latest specs, but a little investment goes a long way toward a network that will keep up in the years to come.

As always, your mileage may vary. If you have a specific use case where the AX1800‘s strengths align, it may serve you well. But for most people, I suggest exploring the other options on the market more closely. With new Wi-Fi standards and multi-gig Ethernet proliferating, it‘s an exciting time to upgrade your home networking setup. Don‘t settle for a router with fundamental drawbacks when better choices are readily available.