TP-LINK has packed virtually every feature into the TL-WR1043ND. Not only that, the Admin Interface looks sleek and is bundled with loads of help/descriptions of what every setting does. When you first log into the router, you’ll be greeted with the status screen. As expected, you get a quick overview of the router’s current status, firmware version, LAN, WAN, and WLAN settings. QSS (WPS) supports automatic configuration (via the switch on the front of the router), or manual PIN based setup from this option on the admin panel. Automatic and manual configurations both worked perfectly for me.
The Network tab provides settings for the WAN and LAN. I’m not sure why MAC Clone isn’t under WAN, but that isn’t a big deal. Under Wireless we get the basic and some advanced settings. You can switch up the transmit power, or check out basic wireless stats. With DHCP you can configure which IP’s you want to hand out to devices on your network, see the current list of connected devices, or even setup Address Reservations (Static DHCP) for specific devices.
USB Settings are plentiful on the TL-WR1043ND. A USB device can be shared with Windows File Sharing/SAMBA share, account based FTP access, or as a UPnP media server. The TL-WR1043ND had no trouble recognizing NTFS or FAT filesystems, and also didn’t take a long time to mount the USB device. I successfully hooked up a 500GB LaCie Rikiki external HDD and many different USB thumbdrives. There will be more about the functionality of USB devices in the Testing section of this review.
Forwarding is as expected, specific port forwarding, port triggering, DMZ, and UPnP. I did experience one problem with UPnP. I often use an application called GameRanger to play old PC games with friends. GameRanger uses UPnP to forward the necessary port to host a game. However, GameRanger was unable to successfully setup UPnP with the TL-WR1043ND. Every other UPnP application or device that I tested (Skype, Raptr, Xbox 360) worked without any problems. So the problem could be chalked up as an issue with GameRanger, but GameRanger has worked with every other router I’ve used and even after flashing the TL-WR1043ND with DD-WRT, GameRanger was able to successfully setup UPnP. At the end of the day, GameRanger not being able to configure itself via UPnP isn’t a big problem, I just had to manually forward the port.
Security involves the SPI Firewall, DoS/Flood Protection, MAC Address restriction, and remote management. One thing I’d like to point out is that blocking WAN ping requests is part of the DoS/Flood Protection. By default, DoS/Flood Protection is disabled, which means pings from the WAN will get a response. While this isn’t a huge security issue, I can’t remember the last router that allowed pings from the WAN as a default setting. Therefore, I just wanted to point it out.
Parental and Access Control are titles which are slightly misleading. When I first saw Parental Control, I figured that this is where I’d put the list of MAC Addresses that I wanted to control. Although, Parental Control is a whitelist for the devices you wish to allow access to. Consequently, Access Control is where you regulate on devices you don’t want accessing certain parts of the network or internet. After this brief title confusion, you’ll notice that each feature is fully-fledged. Access Control includes schedules, specific rules, or general targets to take limit overall activity.
Advanced Routing will allow you to add static routes, or to check the current routing table. Bandwidth Control allows you to set your max upload/download bandwidth. Then you can set rules based on address and/or port range, and protocol. ARP Binding is also available. Although, if you don’t need it, you should just stick to DHCP Address Reservation. Dynamic DNS is also available. The supported services are DynDNS, Comexe, and NO-IP.
There’s a lot included under System Tools. My favorite option being Diagnostic. Usually you’ll find this in third party firmwares like DD-WRT. What Diagnostic allows you to do is ping or trace route an IP from the router itself. This helps to diagnose local connection problems that may arise. If you can successfully ping an external machine from the router interface, then the problem lies after the router. There is also a Backup & Restore feature, System Log which includes things like security changes and DHCP requests, and Statistics which provides stats based on IP address.
If for whatever reason you dislike the stock firmware, you can install DD-WRT. DD-WRT is a popular third party firmware that was originally for Linksys WRT54G model routers. Since its inception, it has gone on to become a very powerful product and is also compatible with many different router manufacturers and models. I’m not going to cover DD-WRT in depth, but I did want to mention that performance with DD-WRT is on par with the stock firmware (no better or worse), and has a lot more technical features. However, DD-WRT doesn’t natively support things like NTFS and the UPnP media server. These are possible on DD-WRT but both require advanced knowledge of networking and Linux.