Archer MR600 4G+Cat6 AC1200 WiFi 4G SIM Router Hardware Review

Mobile Broadband in an Office Router – Is the Archer MR600 the Perfect Answer?

The way we use and deploy the internet (and our networks) has changed so much in the last few years. We have moved from dial-up, to broadband, to fiber broadband and more. Meanwhile, mobile phones have evolved from WAP, to 3G, 4G and 5G. Both kinds of internet connection have their own advantages, with the former being largely a static and immobile deployment, whereas the latter being heavily designed on mobility. But more and more we have seen these two services overlap and moving away from the primitive utilization of your phone as a ‘mobile hotspot’, we are now moving into a time when using mobile internet (using a SIM card from a phone service provider like AT&T, O2, EE, Vodafone) in a largely static environment is not only possible but quite desirable. With mobile plans that can be simply 30-day rolling contracts and ‘all you can eat’ unlimited data plans, there is a whole lot of advantages over a static, wired, 12-18 month broadband contract via a domestic ISP. Into this arena, we have seen numerous 4G Routers (often available at airports for rented periods) that promise portable wifi hotspots for portable users. This gave way to more impressive 4G SIM alternatives, such as the Netgear M1 4G SIM router, that really changed the game. But with its exceptionally high pricetag (£240+) and single LAN port – it lost alot of its appeal. Now we are looking at the new Archer M600. This new ‘true’ alternative to a static broadband ISP solution arrives with pretty much EVERYTHING that a standard router does (multiple gigabit LAN, WAN support, Dual-band, Mesh Support, software GUI and app, etc) but also arrives with a support of a 4G Mobile SIM card. So, with the Archer MR600 4G+Cat6 AC1200 arriving at around half the price of the Netgear M1, is the best thing to happen to Wi-Fi in 2020? Big words, let’s see.

Archer MR600 4G+Cat6 AC1200 Quick Conclusion

I purchased the TP-Link Archer MR600 SIM 4G Router because I wanted an internet solution that was as close as possible to a cabled service offered by a traditional ISP and their broadband packages. I can comfortably say that the MR600 is currently as close as you can possibly get to that service! From its the support of both 3G and 4G, an impressive array of software and security options available via the app/browser, multiple gigabit RJ45 LAN, a WAN Failover option and just generally it’s low impact on yoru hardware environment – THIS is exactly what mobile broadband should look like in 2020!

PROs of the TP-Link Archer MR600 CONs of the TP-Link Archer MR600
  • VERY fast setup
  • Discreet and a low hardware impact
  • Great software options
  • 4 Gigabit LAN RJ45 Ports
  • Failover WAN Connection Support
  • Incredibly User-Friendly
  • 2.4 and 5Ghz Dual Band
  • Growing 4G SIM Provider Support
  • Many might find ti expensive
  • No 5G Option
  • No WPA3 Option

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Archer MR600 4G+Cat6 AC1200 Retail Box

I have reviewed a few TP-Link network solutions before (powerline adapters and Mesh routers previously) and the design of the packaging of the Archer MR600 is pretty standard for the brand. The box is surprisingly light for its size and it’s pretty narrow.

The details surrounding what the Archer M600 can do, how it achieves AC1200 (so, total potential coverage in megabits per second), the software details, the hardware specs and more are pretty clear. A network solution like this has to tread a little careful when it comes to designing the packaging. Unlike the NAS drives I discuss on previous articles, the TP-Link MR600 is much more likely to be purchased at a physical retail outlet (WallMart, PC World, etc), so information on the packaging is more crucial. A brand can go the ‘google wifi’ router and keep details incredibly minimalistic to make it look simple, or the ‘Netgear Nighthawk’ route and lean heavily into the specifications to target the techies. The MR600 is a nice balance and not too intimidating in what it tells you.

“The number of items inside the box cannot be that much” I thought to myself as I start to open it up, the box weighs practically nothing. I know routers aren’t the most chunky of devices, but this IS still a mains powered device, with antenna and cables – it SHOULD weigh more than it does.

Sliding the contents out, you are presented with a nicely separated selection of accessories and components. It is pretty straight forward and everything is very clear. I can immediately see why I thought it seemed too light, the router weighs practically nothing compared with even the most standard router, Wi-Fi extender or switch.

If we take a look at the total contents, we can see that we have pretty much everything we need to set this up in a home, office, shop or really anywhere that can supply mains power. The full contents consist of:

  • 4G+ Cat6 AC1200 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router Archer MR600
  • Power Adapter
  • RJ45 Ethernet Cable
  • Nano to Micro SIM adapter
  • Quick Installation Guide

So, a few points to touch on there before we go further. First off, the positives. The kit is very well protected in transit, with each component anti-static wrapped and I like the inclusion of a Nano to Micro SIM adapter, as the majority of modern mobile phones in 2019-2020 all require a sim card in nano form (ie when you get a sim, you can push the middle part out to make it smaller), however, the MR600 TP-Link 4G SIM router requires a Micro SIM (the middle size) and they have handily included an adapter to ensure you can use any previously owned SIM card.

The only gripe I have is with the RJ45 LAN cable included. For a 4 Port Router (3 LAN and 1 optional WAN/LAN), I would have hoped for at least 2 cables. Most network devices these days are arriving WITHOUT RJ45 LAN cables, pushing the ease of WiFi and although I see their point, this is a device that promotes LAN use. Additionally, the cable is pretty short at just a meter. Nither of these points are particularly critical and will only need you to go out and spend another £5-6 for cables, but still.

Archer MR600 4G+Cat6 AC1200 Hardware Design

If you have been looking around for a decent review on the TP-Link Archer MR600 router, then first off, cheers for reading this, but also – EVERYONE seems to rely heavily on the official stock product images from TP-Link. I cannot stress enough how they DO NOT DO IT JUSTICE! For a start, the device is very discreet in profile and the plastic casing is very glossy. It is so glossy in fact, that in my hardware review on YouTube, it interfered with my lighting, as it reflected like a chrome hood against my cameras – it is a very nice looking device!

Looking at it head-on at a desk, you can see several things. First off the ventilation is very, very well spread across the base and there is a transparent plastic header in the middle that balances the device, whilst still allowing it to appear curved (another extra point for the design). The header in the middle also plays it’s part when wall-mounting the router (will go over this later on).

Looking straight down at the MR600, you can see that glossy chassis in alot more detail, The device is not powered up in this shot, as it is the initial unboxing, but the LEDs are built into the center strip of the device, with the rest being purely cosmetic. It measures  9.0×6.3×1.5 inches ( 22.9×16×3.7cm), not including the two connected antennas. The LED panel in the center blends in remarkably well with the glassy chassis and with individual character LED’s denoting power, access, 4G or 3G connectivity, signal strength and connectivity of users, it provides alot of useful information in a very small and discreet way. This is true of most routers, but instead of just ‘green, amber, red’ LEDs, the MR600 favours characters and symbol LED displays.

Each individual antenna is connected manually the first time you set it up and are easy to detach if you use this device for deployment at multiple locations, necessitating compact transit. Each antenna can be rotated as needed at practically any angle you would expect, as well as the companion application and access via a desktop PC (so yes, both, which earns another point from me) giving you information on signal strength. In terms of ability, the two detachable 4G LTE Antennas, support 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency. This allows up to 300 Mbps at 2.4 GHz, 867 Mbps at 5 GHz. Newer devices released in 2019-2020 will almost always support 5Ghz (with an automatic option to switch down to 2.4Ghz if you are further from the wireless source), whereas older devices (or more budget devices) will only support 2.4Ghz. Having support for both in a dual-band wireless network ensures that new and old devices can still communicate with ease, even via a mobile sim internet supplied network. Mobile hotspots will often FORCE you to choose between 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz (as they are not designed to be used in a dual-band architecture. In the software review, I hope to connect 2.4Ghz IP Cameras, RJ45 LAN NAS and a 5Ghz Laptop/Mobile.

Another net thing I noticed that is not really mentioned anywhere else, is the fact this device can be wall-mounted VERY easily. Not only are the antenna designed to be angled flat with a surface, but also the base (which features ALOT of ventilation on both the back and sides) features screw holes. Now, why is this so important? Well, we are still walking about a router that is using a 3G/4G mobile SIM card for it’s main internet connection and like any mobile phone or tablet with a sim card, signal strength is KEY. It’s no good if all your home/office devices have a great signal to the router if the router has poor signal to the mobile data service. Putting it closer to a window, in an area that is free of multiple floors above it or newer built area (older buildings generally equal thicker walls) is one thing to do, but another one is to deploy the device as close to the ceiling as possible – this can make all the difference and add a few extra 10’s of MBs!

If you have been considering this device over the majority of other 4G SIM routers, then chances are that it was because of the WAN/LAN ports. But there are a few other things I want to highlight first on the rear of the Archer MR600 mobile broadband router. The sim card slot, as mentioned, is a Micro sim slot. It is not hard to insert the SIM card, at it gives a satisfying click when installed. The whole MR600 device does not actually demand a SIM card to function, and can be used with wired internet, or simply as a means to manage a gigabit network, but of course, you will use this with a SIM card!

Alongside the use of a 4G SIM card, another key area of interest is how users can connect to it. The wireless connection can be activated/deactivated as needed, allowing you to use the device as a 4G modem, connecting a switch or more powerful router to an available LAN port – therefore the need to deactivate WiFi to avoid conflicts, or to concentrate internet connectivity to RJ45 LAN connected users is always of use.

The WPS button allows users to connect network devices that do not have easy to access user interfaces. You simply click the WPS button on the Archer MR600 and then the WPS button/key on the device you want to make network accessible. A handy feature and one that relies on local physical access. Additionally, you can deactivate the wifi functionality (relying on the CAT6/LAN connectivity) by clicking the Wi-Fi off button, or using the software to Enable/Disable Wireless Radio, create a Wireless Schedule or view Wireless Statistics on connected devices.

Which leads us to a main selling point. One function that is available that is almost unseen on the majority of Mobile Sim routers is the inclusion of both multiple RJ45 Gigabit LAN ports AND a WAN port for connecting an available internet connection, as well as using the router as an internet failover solution. In that case, you would use a wired internet connection to your home or office and connect it to the WAN port on the Archer MR600 router, whilst still having a 4G Sim card installed – the result is that if your wired broadband connection fails, your network will be automatically switched (if you choose to set the native software to do so) to the 4G mobile broadband, thereby ensuring continued connectivity and no-ones IPs/Network addresses are changed.

The multiple LAN ports speak for themselves. All Gigabit architecture, they allow much faster direct internet connectivity of upto 3-4 devices (depending on WAN/LAN use) at the same time. You can even connect a larger network switch and then extend the connectivity even further to those devices. The only real downside of this device in the physical sense is the lack of an internal battery. This is not wholly necessary, but its inclusion would have made this a truly unbeatable mobile broadband router in the market in 2020.

Archer MR600 4G+Cat6 AC1200 Software

How many of us can actually say that we have used the software provided with their router? Given that the majority of people do not move beyond the router/modem supplied by their internet service provider, most people are reliant on the default software architecture itself. In the case of the Archer MR600 4G mobile router, things are a little different. Mobile broadband data plans are subject to many hidden coverage concerns, such :

  • Monthly Data Consumption Limits
  • Smaller bandwidth to share with multiple devices
  • Little more than an On/Off attitude to the connectivity of the contract owner

I am pleased to confirm that the software and configurations of the MR600 AC1200 mobile SIM router are remarkably good and rival the likes of typically wired modem/routers from the likes of Netgear and Fritz. Available on Android and iOS, it has already reviewed quite well for a networking app (notoriously rarely reviewed, and typically only by the angry!).

The app itself suggests you create a TP-Link ID account, so you can control and configure your devices remotely, as well as increase your network diagnostics reports – but this is by no means essential.

Arriving with a mobile app for configuration, the device still works immediately out of the box. You can configure the box via a standard web browser (Chrome, Safari, etc), but if you dig into the app, you have a number of key configuration and network security applications to consider. For a start, at any time you want you can commit a speed test of your upload and download speed, as well as analysis the performance of individual devices on your network.

Additionally, you have rather simple parental controls that can be applied to entire website lists, or to individually connected devices that, once labelled, can then have their degree of network access (in terms of speed, priority and sites allowed) configured very quickly.

You can dig a little deeper and make sub wifi networks as Guest Networks, that will ensure temporary users have stricter access speeds and network access, as to ensure permanent network users are not affected.

Finally, the TP-Link MR600 4G Router can be used in conjunction with an existing mesh router network, which is a bonus to existing router networks that want a failover, as well as to those that want to swap over from a cabled internet connection to a 4G one, but wants to use existing mesh hardware. Alongside this, you can combine the utility of the TP-Link Archer AC1200 SIM router with smart home software and appliances like Alexa and IFTTT, for smart voice-activated commands and AI-assisted push protocol.

Finally, and area of concern for those that want to know about the compatibility and support of certain phone/cell plan providers being supported on the Archer MR600 4G SIM router, at launch there were several phone service providers that were not compatible with the channel/range of the TP-Link router. You can update the list of supported internet service providers that the Archer MR600 4G SIM router can support, but heading over to the official site and downloading and installing the latest released firmware for ISPs here. At launch, many users complained of incompatibility with the THREE networks (and it’s popular ‘all you can eat data’ unlimited data SIM cards). I can now confirm that my THREE SIM card works, both in London and on the coast of the UK.

So, full software specifications of the MR600 SIM 4G Router are:

SOFTWARE FEATURES
Quality of Service Bandwidth Control
Security DoS, IPv4 SPI Firewall, IPv6 Firewal, IP and MAC Address Binding, Access Control
WAN Type Dynamic IP/Static IP/PPPoE/PPTP(Dual Access)/L2TP(Dual Access)
Management TP-Link Cloud, Local Management, Remote Management
DHCP Server, DHCP Client List, Address Reservation
Port Forwarding ALG, Virtual Server, Port Triggering, UPnP, DMZ
Dynamic DNS TP-Link, DynDns, NO-IP
VPN PPTP VPN, IPSec VPN , OpenVPN
Access Control Parental Control, Local Management Control
Firewall Security DoS, SPI Firewall, IP Address Filter/Domain Filter,
IP and MAC Address Binding
Protocols IPv4, IPv6
Guest Network 2.4 GHz Guest Network x 1, 5 GHz Guest Network x 1
Wireless Security 64/128-bit WEP, WPA/WPA2, WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK encryptions

While testing the Archer, I was able to get above 170 Mbps which is my internet speed right now. On 4G however, I was not able to explore the full advertised 4G speeds, which again depends on the carrier. The line speed is advertised as 866.7 Mbps., but this is a theoretical maximum and not something I thought I would achieve in my setup. As I am moving to a new working location that lacks the facility of a backup internet connection (always factor in a failover solution people), I needed to move to an option that was easy to deploy, would be accessible when needed and did not rely on wired internet connection. Previously when travelling for work, I have used the Netgear Mobile M1, but after hearing issues surrounding users suffering battery issues, I decided to move away from this for a failover internet connection. Many Mobile phone plan providers offer unlimited data packages (monthly or long term contract) and so I thought this sounded like a good option. I chose the MR600 because:

  1. It features LAN/WAN ports to integrate my existing internet connection and use either as a failover
  2. It has it’s own 2 Band WiFi (2.4Ghz and 5Ghz) that can be switched On/Off as needed
  3. It features a 4G Micro SIM slot but does not need it inserted to run at all times, and arrives unlocked

It was easy to set-up through the mobile app, but it is worth highlighting that it is not heavy on the features and the instructions are limited to a quick guide. The download speed over 4G has averaged 45 Mb/s with an upload of around 25Mb/s. This is quite a bit better than I was expecting and a good 10-12MB/s higher than the Netgear M1.

Archer MR600 4G+Cat6 AC1200 Review – Conclusion

I purchased the TP-Link Archer MR600 SIM 4G Router because I wanted an internet solution that was as close as possible to a cabled service offered by a traditional ISP and their broadband packages. I can comfortably say that the MR600 is currently as close as you can possibly get to that service! From its the support of both 3G and 4G, an impressive array of software and security options available via the app/browser, multiple gigabit RJ45 LAN, a WAN Failover option and just generally it’s low impact on yoru hardware environment – THIS is exactly what mobile broadband should look like in 2020!

It is still not quite perfect, with a lack of battery (for true mobility) or 5G support, but with a price point that is higher than the chaff, but lower than the OTT solutions, I DO think the Archer MR600 is a solid purchase for quick and easy switching to 4G mobile internet in a static environment. Plus, if (like me) you are travelling all around the world and need a powerful means to access the internet from a hotel room, bar or coffee shop – this is probably the most powerful you are going to get!

Me again!

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Archer MR600 4G+Cat6 AC1200 WiFi 4G SIM Router Hardware Review
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