Netgear R6100 WiFi Router review: Great router stunted by lack of Gigabit Ethernet

The R6100 can be controlled with the same Netgear Genie mobile app used with the R6300. In addition to managing the router's settings, you can use this app to stream digital content to a mobile device, such as an iPad. Netgear Genie also has a feature called Network Map, which shows an illustration of connected clients and their information, and one called Traffic Meter, which allows you to control the router's Internet connection. While I like the app, I find it rather limited; for example it only works on devices connected to the router directly within the router's local network. It would be much better if the app could work via the Internet when you're out and about. Also, using the app you can manage both regular networks, but it can only be used to manage the guest network on the 2.4GHz band.

The R6100 also offers other common router features such as port forwarding, IPv6, VPN pass-through, and support for Dynamic DNS.

Good performance stunted by the lack of Gigabit support
For an 802.11ac router, or even a high-end 802.11n router, support for Gigabit Ethernet is a must. This is because with these routers, the actual real-world Wi-Fi speeds, though much lower than the ceiling speed, are generally higher than 100Mbps. With support for Gigabit Ethernet, you know that wireless clients will get the best possible speed to the Internet as well as to a home server, which generally connects to the router using a network cable. (This is also how we set up the testing for any router: the server hosting data is connected to the router using a cable.)

CNET Labs 802.11ac performance (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range  
Throughput  
Asus RT-AC66U
178.5 
339.2 
Netgear R6300
208 
331.32 
D-Link DIR-868L
221 
271 
Trendnet TEW-812DRU
192.4 
263 
Cisco Linksys EA6500
113 
244.5 
AirStation WZR-D1800H
144 
233.6 
Amp Wireless RTA15
165.5 
205.5 
D-Link DIR-865L
135.2 
199.2 
Belkin AC 1200 DB
57 
162.6 
D-Link DGL-5500
113.8 
157.8 
Netgear R6100
80 
89.1 

For this reason, in the case of R6100, despite 802.11ac, the speed of the test is limited by that of the router's LAN port, which is 100Mbps. And as expected, the R6100's Wi-Fi speeds on the 5GHz band for both 802.11ac and 802.11n were about the same, hovering around 89Mbps over a short distance (15 feet). When I increased the range to 100 feet, this dropped to about 80Mbps.

On the 2.4GHz band, the router registered 60Mbps and 22Mbps for short and long range, respectively.

CNET Labs 5GHz Wireless-N performance (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range  
Throughput  
D-Link DIR-857
172.4 
214.6 
Asus RT-AC66U
166.6 
208.2 
Trendnet TEW-812DRU
160 
195.3 
WD My Net N900 HD
74 
195 
Linksys EA4500
176.8 
186.8 
Asus RT-N66U
155.3 
181.8 
Netgear R6300
144.8 
178.8 
D-Link DIR-868L
161.5 
178 
AirStation WZR-D1800H
120 
172 
D-Link DGL-5500
97.6 
156 
D-Link DIR-865L
121.6 
147.6 
Amp Wireless RTA15
64.8 
141 
Cisco Linksys EA6500
105.7 
124.6 
Netgear R6100
80.8 
88.8 

In all, despite the support for 802.11ac, the R6100's Wi-Fi speeds were about as good as those of a good 802.11n dual-stream (N600) router, such as the Asus RT-N56U, which costs about the same. I would pick the Asus, however, since it has Gigabit Ethernet and better range.

The R6100's range wasn't exactly short, but was much shorter than that of the R6300. In my trials, its effective range was about 130 feet for 2.4GHz and about 110 feet for the 5GHz band. For most homes, this is good enough if you put the router somewhere central. The good news is the router offered a very stable Wi-Fi signal on both of its bands, passing my 48 hour stress test without any hiccups.

CNET Labs 2.4GHz Wireless-N performance (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range  
Throughput  
Amp Wireless RTA15
35.2 
74.6 
D-Link DIR-868L
55.6 
63.3 
Netgear R6100
22 
59.9 
D-Link DGL-5500
41 
58.6 
WD My Net N900 HD
16 
58.1 
Asus RT-N66U
45.5 
55 
Trendnet TEW-812DRU
37 
52.8 
Netgear R6300
41.6 
51.2 
Cisco Linksys EA6500
33.6 
48.8 
D-Link DIR-857
29.6 
47.8 
Netgear WNDR4500
31.1 
45.3 
Asus RT-AC66U
15.2 
36.8 
Belkin AC 1200 DB
9.6 
33.5 

A bit of a disclaimer: I tested the router at CNET's offices, where there are walls and many Wi-Fi devices that are out of my control. Generally, walls shorten the reach of a Wi-Fi signal, and other Wi-Fi devices create interference. As with all Wi-Fi routers, your results may vary depending on where you live.

The R6100's network storage performance when coupled with a portable drive wasn't impressive either, and this is not because of the lack of Gigabit Ethernet support. In my testing, via a wired network connection, it averaged about 6MBps for writing and 4MB for reading, well below the speed of regular Ethernet. At this speed, you can use the router for light data sharing, and not much else.

Conclusion
The R6100 is Netgear's first effort to bring 802.11ac to the masses, and for the most part this works thanks to the low pricing. The router offers stable Wi-Fi performance and is much more compact than its predecessor.

However, the lack of Gigabit Ethernet means it's not suitable for those with a superfast broadband connection or wanting to have a robust wired network at home. In many cases, such as media streaming or data sharing from a wired NAS server, this also means you will not see the benefit of 802.11ac at all.

The device is not at all a bad router, it's just that what it has to offer is an odd mix. If your network consists only of Wi-Fi devices, this router will work out well; otherwise, look for an alternative that supports Gigabit Ethernet.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Weight 11.4 oz
  • Data Transfer Rate 1200 Mbps
  • Connectivity Technology wireless