Exterior and Interior Design
The different flavors of the TL-WR542G differ not only in their internals, but also in their exterior design. The router depicted on the photo at the manufacturer’s website looks completely different from the one I’ve got although both have identical names. Anyway, I’ll be only talking about my variety of the router.
It is light and small. The box seems to be heavier than the device itself. The case of the TL-WR542G is designed alike to some models of Linksys routers. It is small and tall and has bulging side panels that transition into supports the router stands on. The front panel is painted and shaped differently as if indicating that it is a thing of its own. As opposed to Linksys’ equipment, the TL-WR542G provokes an impression of a high-tech toy rather than of a serious device. Well, this is just a subjective impression after all.
You can see some manufacturing flaws on closer inspection. There is a rugged seam on the side and there are quite large gaps between the front panel and the rest of the case. Such flaws are pardonable in a low-end model, yet they are somewhat annoying anyway.
There are grooves in the case for the router to be hung on a wall with its antenna upwards or downwards.
The PCB is cooled passively by means of vent holes in the top and bottom panels of the case. This is more than enough for cooling. The top panel is always cold while the bottom is just barely warm at work.
The router’s indication is not designed quite well. There are no problems during the day: the active indicators and the labels on the front panel are contrasting and readable. But when the ambient lighting is dim, you can only guess the meaning of an indicator by its position – you have to learn them by heart. The manufacturer might have made some indicators (e.g. Power or WLAN) different in color from the others so that they served as points of reference. The good news is that there are actually few indicators on the front panel. Here they are (from left to right):
- System (if shining, the router is being initialized; if blinking, the router is operating normally; if not shining, there has occurred a fatal failure in the router’s operation)
- WAN (a constant light means that a device is connected to the port but is not transferring data; blinking denotes data transfers)
- LAN 1-4 (the same as the WAN indicator)
- WLAN (if blinking, the WLAN module is turned on; if off, the WLAN module is turned off)
The router’s rear panel offers all its connectors together with a Reset button. These are (from left to right):
- Power connector
- Four LAN ports (RJ-45)
- WAN port (RJ-45)
- Reset button
- External antenna connector
Having examined the exterior of the TL-WR542G I wanted then to take it apart and see what was inside it, as usual. It was not easy, though. The front panel is designed like an individual detail and fastened to the top and bottom of the case by means of fixing locks. The locks are deep in the case, so it’s very hard to put a screwdriver into the gap in the case and unlock them without damaging something. I had to apply some force and remove the top panel instead, hoping that the fasteners would remain undamaged. They did, although had a worn-out look after a couple of assembly/dismantling cycles.