Amped Wireless RTA1300M Review : Underwhelming Performance

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THE GOOD
  • Inexpensive
  • Eight internal signal amplifiers
  • Extensive customization options
  • Helpful Android app for monitoring network
THE BAD
  • Lackluster performance
  • Short range
  • One-year warranty
VERDICT

Although Amped Wireless’ RTA1300M Artemis comes chock-full of the latest wireless technology and allows you to customize it to your heart’s content, the router delivers lackluster performance.

An enviable price tag, lots of flexibility and eight individual signal amplifiers don’t help the Amped Wireless RTA1300M Artemis router make the grade. While the $130 router offers a multitude of setup options through an Android mobile app, it can only muster about half the throughput of other routers in its class, and its range falls far short of the mark.

Design

At 8.6 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches, the RTA1300M looks tiny compared to monster routers such as Netgear’s Nighthawk X8. Subscribing to the all-black school of router design, Amped’s device lacks any adornments but easily fits on a windowsill or bookshelf. Although it lacks wall-mounting holes, the router includes a snap-on stand to allow it to sit vertically.

The RTA1300M comes with a pair of large 7.6-inch antennas that have a 5dBi rating — better than the typical 3dBi stub antennas that come with most routers these days. You can rotate and angle the RTA1300M’s antennas to get the strongest signal, or unscrew them for replacement.

The front of the router features a row of eight understated blue LEDs that show if the RTA1300M is turned on and whether it has an internet connection or active Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS). Lights also indicate activity on the 2.4- and 5-GHz bands, the four wired gigabit LAN ports and the USB 3.0 port. You can turn the LEDs off at any time.

Connectors & Ports

The back of the router has buttons for turning it on or off, resetting it to its factory specs and connecting to a device via WPS. Although there isn’t a switch to turn off Wi-Fi transmissions to turn it more or less into a wired router, you can do that using the router’s firmware.

Performance

Powered by Qualcomm’s MU/EFX hardware, the RTA1300M Artemis router has MU-MIMO and beamforming technology that manages multiple data streams matched to the recipient’s needs. Inside, the router has four signal amps for boosting the 2.4- and 5-GHz data signals. Theoretically capable of pushing 399 Mbps over its 2.4-GHz channel as well as 866 Mbps on its 5-GHz channel, the RTA1300M tops out at a total of 1.265 Gbps of throughput potential.

In our real-world testing using Ixia’s IxChariot software in a crowded Wi-Fi environment, the RTA1300M started off strong. Its 2.4-GHz performance of 54.1 Mbps of throughput at 5 feet was ahead of the Linksys WRT1900ACS (35.7 Mbps). At 140 feet, though, its throughput dropped to 34.5 Mbps. However, at that distance, the WRT1200AC was out of range, and the Netgear R6220managed only 27 Mbps.

The RTA1300M comes with a pair of big antennas that have a 5dBi rating — better than the typical 3dBi stub antennas that come with most routers these days.

The Amped Wireless Difference

In 5-GHz mode, the router lagged behind the competition, managing to move only 94.1 Mbps at 5 feet, which dropped to 87.6 Mbps at 140 feet. By contrast, the WRT1900ACS went from 342 Mbps to 205 Mbps at those distances, and the Netgear R6220 went from 319.0 Mbps to 282.8 Mbps.

This added up to a peak throughput of only 178.3 Mbps at 15 feet for the RTA1300M; at 5 feet, the router delivered 148.2 Mbps. That’s a far cry from the 377.7 Mbps throughput the R6220 recorded at 5 feet.

When I used a Microsoft Surface 3 tablet to connect to the RTA1300M, the router’s signal died out at 90 feet. That’s better than Netgear’s R8000 managed but worse than most of the routers we’ve tested. The RTA1300M was able to pass our informal saturation test by reliably delivering data to a MacBook Air connecting to an internet radio station, an iPad Pro playing movies and a Samsung TabPro S displaying YouTube videos, all while a Surface 3 was moving data onto and off of a networked server.

Setup, Warranty and Support

The RTA1300M’s setup is quick and easy, though the router comes with generic network names and security keys that make it an easy target for hackers. I’d suggest changing these as soon as possible.

Amped’s Setup Wizard has places to update the network names, passcodes, encryption techniques, and the router’s name and password. After a restart, the router was ready and connected on the first try, requiring just 15 minutes of setup time. In case you run into trouble, Amped has a wide variety of online materials to help you install and use its networking products, and its tech-support desk is staffed for 12 hours on most weekdays and 9 to 11 hours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Like many of its peers, Amped Wireless stands by its hardware for only a year. But other companies offer longer warranties; TRENDnet, for example, includes a three-year warranty on its routers.

Customization

Overall, the RTA1300M’s interface is bright and open. You can keep tabs on your network with Amped’s Wi-Fi Analytics Tools. With the software, you can look at fever graphs of signal strength and interfering channels, but you can’t make changes. The Amped application is available for Android devices and PCs, but not Macs or iOS devices.

The main window of the RTA1300M’s Dashboard application displays a prominent green check mark when you’re online. On this page, you can change things such as the network names, encryption levels and passcodes. At the bottom, a status list shows the IP address and firmware version.

There’s a list of detailed sections on the left for Wi-Fi and network settings, USB ports and the firewall settings. For instance, you can click or tap on either 2.4- or 5-GHz Wi-Fi Settings and then on Wireless Coverage to adjust the device’s transmission level to 15, 35, 70 or 100 percent if you want to keep your transmissions on your property and away from hackers and bandwidth thieves.

As is the case with many other Amped products, you can customize the wireless settings to exactly what you want or leave them alone. You can change things such as the Beacon Interval (how often the router sends signals to connected devices) and the RTS Threshold (how quickly the data channel gets cleared), and — unlike on many rival products — turn off the router’s beamforming for shaping transmissions to suit a receiving device. You may want to do this if beamforming is performing erratically in a smaller setting.

When I used a Surface 3 tablet to connect to the RTA1300M, the router’s signal died out at just 90 feet.

In addition to making changes to the firewall and configuring up to four guest networks for each band, you can set up a USB-connected storage device (for example, a hard drive or thumb drive) that network participants can share. Inside the Quality of Service tab, you can tell the router which devices get data priority. Just select them from a list of connected clients, or do it based on their MAC or IP addresses.

The Management section of Amped’s software has detailed data-flow specs that can help tweak a router. One downside is that, unlike the TRENDnet TEW-827DRU’s data, which is displayed in bar charts, all of the RTA1300M’s data is tabular, making it harder to figure out visually.

Security and Parental Controls

The RTA1300M can connect with anything from Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) to the latest Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA 2) encryption. With both Network Address Translation and Stateful Packet Inspection firewalls, the RTA1300M can separate you from the wild world of the web. Still, gamers can set up port forwarding and DMZ instructions to avoid conflicts.

The RTA1300M’s parental controls let you block objectionable sites, but you need to create your own blacklist. It can also establish an internet usage schedule, blocking access to the network at selected times for devices you designate.

Bottom Line

The Amped Wireless RTA1300M Artemis router is affordable, supports the latest wireless technology and offers a slew of customization options. However, its performance trails that of competing routers, and other routers deliver better range and throughput for the same price.

(tomsguide.com, http://goo.gl/lSfWqI)

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