- Touchscreen is a unique addition
- Easy setup thanks to touchscreen
- Loads of features on board
- Price for performance not amazing
- Sketchy reliability
- Slightly bulky
Touchscreens inhabit most digital devices, but what happens when they come to routers? TP-LINK’s Touch P5 gives us a first taste.
TP-Link has been one of the cornerstones of networking products on the global market since their first entry into the international market in 2005. Although they were formed in 1996, they have gone from strength to strength since then and continue to provide consumers and businesses alike with many different products, catering for many different needs.
Breaking into the networking market is extremely difficult, especially with the well-known industry players out there.
However TP-Link has developed their latest flagship design, the Touch P5 Router, to continue to make waves in this area. What’s so special about this one you may ask? Well not only is this behemoth of a device extremely powerful, it also features a 4.3-inch touchscreen. It is clearly designed to capture the attention of any home or small office environment.
The 4.3 inch touchscreen hosts a comfortable resolution of 480×272 pixels and was somewhat responsive to our prods, strokes and swipes.
The screen itself
Its interface has definitely hints of early iOS with the same grid of icons acting as a home screen, and an almost identical typography and menu style. It’s this familiar structure that makes the touchscreen interface easy to use.
The onscreen setup wizard isn’t really any different from the browser-based setup wizards of rival routers. Nonetheless, it is very straightforward, so I had the P5 up and running within minutes of taking it out of the box. Almost all of the router’s settings, with the exception of IP6, NAT forwarding and USB options, can be adjusted using the touchscreen.
I’m not sure why you’d want to, though, as due to the physical design of the P5, it’s generally easier to do so from your computer or mobile device. For better or worse, most routers tend to live in hard to reach nooks and crannies, such as on top of bookcases, in entertainment centres or on hallway stands. This, combined with the screen’s flat, horizontal orientation and the fact that the router is impossible to stand upright, make hovering over it and prodding the touchscreen rather fussy and uncomfortable.
It also makes the touchscreen’s one really useful and long-term feature, namely its constant display of your guest network SSID and password, less convenient for your guests than a simple post-it note with the same details scrawled on it.
There is, of course, more to the P5 than its somewhat gimmicky touchscreen. It stands out with its glossy black tessellated appearance, although the rest of the team was firmly divided between those who found it attractive and those who found it a bit garish.
Looking top down and going from left to right you can see where the omnidirectional antennas connect because they are omnidirectional, you don’t have to worry about placing them in a specific manner because the router will distribute the signal equally.
You have the power port, on-off switch, a USB2 port, the “WAN” port (covered in photo above), 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports and finally the reset button. There is also a USB 3 port included but this resides under the bottom right-hand corner of the device. You could use one port as a print server, and another to plug a flash drive into and share it amongst the network.
As soon as you open the packaging, you’ll realize where the true innovation of the P5 lies. Emblasoned right across the top of the device, users will find the P5’s quintessential defining feature: a full-colour 4.3″ capacitive touchscreen that you can use to do everything from configuring the initial set up to changing your WiFi password on the fly.
This is convenient for when you don’t want to open up a browser window on a separate computer just to tweak a setting or two, but it can also be frustrating to use if you’re trying to accomplish more complex tasks like configuring the firewall or opening specific ports. For that, you’ll need to see the traditional route of opening a browser and entering the router’s IP address.
And while the touchscreen is about as simple as it comes for setup, the backend interface accessed through a computer is just as user-friendly. Again, all the standard features are here: Quick VPN, internal firewall, parental controls, QoS configurations, and much more. Anything you’d hope for out of a home router is here in spades, and done to a level of simplicity that makes it easy for even the most technologically-challenged users to get all their personal settings loaded in an instant.
But, that’s about where it ends, unfortunately.
It has the same tabbed web administration interface as other TP-Link routers, so it’s straightforward to set up, configure and administer the old-fashioned way. It has the same extra features as other TP-Link routers, such as basic parental controls, the ability to share a USB printer or disk with all the computers on your network and threadbare Dynamic DNS support.
802.11n performance on the 5GHz band sprang to life, speeding ahead with 68.65Mbit/s download and 6.12Mbit/s upload compared to 18.45Mbits/s download on the 2.4GHz band and 6Mbits/s.
Although the P5 isn’t the fastest 802.11ac router we’ve seen, it still did very well.
A touch screen on a router might sound a bit weird when you hear it for the first time, but after testing the TP-Link Touch P5 we’re convinced it does have an added value. First of all it provides an extremely simple installation process. We can’t think of a router that has a process this simple. Once the router has been installed the screen retains it’s usefulness, even if it’s only a helping hand when troubleshooting.
You can also turn on/off your guest network easily, apply parental controls and lastly get an overview of all connected devices. All of this without the need of a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop.
The big question is of course whether you’re going to position the router in a way where you can access the touch screen without any difficulties. As far as we know, most people like to hide away their router a little. If you like at it from the bright side, the Touch P5 is a good reason to take out your router from your meter cupboard, where it actually does not belong.
Performance-wise the Touch P5 generally does well, without standing out much. The only test that concerned us a little were the real-world test through the ceiling, especially the one at 2.4 GHz. As we are used to seeing from TP-Link we get enough settings: all conventional settings are present, without all of the overly excessive ones we tend to see from some competitors.