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Netgear AC750 WiFi Range Extender EX6100 review: Extended range at reduced speeds

Extended range at reduced speeds

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Dong Ngo
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Dong Ngo

SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

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If it supported powerline networking and had better overall performance, the Netgear AC750 WiFi Range Extender EX6100 would be a great networking device. As a pure Wi-Fi extender though, it's both awkwardly designed and underpowered.

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Netgear AC750 WiFi Range Extender EX6100

The Good

The Netgear AC750 WiFi Range Extender EX6100 extends an existing Wi-Fi network for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz clients simultaneously. You can use it as both a bridge and as a dual-band access point.

The Bad

The Netgear X6100's range on the 5GHz band is short, it increases the latency for connected clients, and its Wi-Fi speeds are slow. It's also bulky and runs hot.

The Bottom Line

The Netgear X6100's awkward design and frustrating performance make it suitable only for casual networking tasks.

That makes for a disappointing combination. While it does extend an existing Wi-Fi network, its Wi-Fi data speed is fast enough only for simple Web browsing and not suitable for online gaming or media streaming. I can't recommend it at its $90 price, especially considering that it ran hot in my testing, not to mention taking a long time to boot up.

In the end, it's better in its secondary role as a dual-band Wi-Fi access point. But even then, there are other, better options out there. For those living in a home with a single electrical wiring network, I'd recommend the Actiontec PWR51WK01 , which is cheaper and delivers better performance.

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Designed to plug into a standard wall socket, the EX6100 looks like a giant power adapter. Dong Ngo/CNET

Awkward design meets low-end Wi-Fi tech

On the outside, the EX6100's awkward design resembles nothing so much as a huge plug-in AC power adapter with two protruding antennas. The idea is that you can just plug it into a wall socket and it's ready to go. However, when you do, chances are you won't be able to access the adjacent plugs, which are blocked by the extender's bulky body. This type of power adapter-like design is popular with powerline adapters, which must be plugged directly into the wall to work. The EX6100 doesn't support powerline networking, though, and it would fare just as well with a power cord.

I don't like the guts of the EX6100, either. The device supports just a single-stream setup with the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard. This means its top theoretical speed on the 5Ghz band is 433Mbps, rather than the 1,300Mbps an 802.11ac device should be capable of. Single-stream is generally used when you need to save power, such as a mobile solution where battery life needs to be extended. EX6100 is not battery-operated, so I don't know why Netgear doesn't configure it for a faster 802.11ac spec. On the 2.4GHz band, it supports the dual-stream setup with the 802.11n standard to have the top speed of 300Mbps. (Read more about Wi-Fi standards.)

It's generally tricky to find the right spot to place a Wi-Fi extender, but the EX6100 makes this process easier. If you place it too far from the original router (or access point), you'll get no improvement in range since the signal of the existing Wi-Fi network is too weak to be meaningfully extended. The EX6100 does come with a handy indicator light that glows if the device is too far from the original router. Unfortunately, since you need to plug it into a power outlet for this light to work, and the extender takes a long time to boot up, it can be frustrating to test it in different spots around the house. And depending on your luck, you might be able to find a wall socket in the sweet spot that's not too far but not too close to the original router. Otherwise, you'll need an extension cord.

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The EX6100 comes with a Gigabit Ethernet port and can also work as an standalone access point. Dong Ngo/CNET

Easy setup, but just one Wi-Fi network at a time

If your existing router supports Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), you can connect the EX6100 to it within a few seconds. Just press the WPS button on the router and then the one on the extender, then wait for a few seconds, and you're done. The EX6100 is now connected to your existing Wi-Fi network and will extend the Wi-Fi via its own Wi-Fi networks. Note that the EX6100 doesn't repeat the existing network name, instead it creates two Wi-Fi networks of its own, named after the existing network with "5GEXT" and "2GEXT" suffixes, both of which use the same password as the original.

I tried the EX6100 with a few true dual-band routers and noticed one odd thing: with WPS, the extender always automatically defaulted to the 2.4GHz band network to connect to rather than the faster 5GHz band network. For this reason, it's better to use the Web interface or the Netgear Genie mobile app for the setup process. This is also the only way to set up the EX6100 if your existing router doesn't support WPS.

It takes a little longer time to set up using the Web interface, but the EX6100 comes with a very clear instruction booklet so the process is easy enough.

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With two external antennas and a fairly bulky design, the EX6100 is not exactly wall socket-friendly. Dong Ngo/CNET

Multiple roles

The EX6100 comes with one Gigabit network port. When working as an extender, the EX6100 can use this port to connect a wired device such as a game console to the Wi-Fi network, effectively making it also a Wi-Fi bridge.

And it can do even more. You can convert the EX6100 into a dual-band access point by using the switch on its side. This will come in handy if you happen to use a non-wireless router to host your home network. In this case, just plug the EX6100 to the router using a network cable to add a dual-band Wi-Fi network to your home.

Performance

In accordance with the Wi-Fi standards it supports, regardless of how fast your existing Wi-Fi network is, the extension networks created by the EX6100 will be as fast as 433Mbps on the 5GHz band and 300Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. These are the best-case speeds, but in my testing, the extender showed much slower data rates than that.

As an extender on the 5GHz band, at 15 feet away it registered just 43Mbps. On the 2.4GHz frequency, it did much worse, at just about 28Mbps. Compared to other Wi-Fi devices I've reviewed that use the same standards, these speeds were really slow.

When I increased the range to 100 feet, both bands now registered in the neighborhood of 3Mbps to 7Mbps -- and at times even slower. Again, extremely slow compared to the competition.

I also noticed a great increase in latency (also known as lag). The EX6100's extension networks' lag times measured as much as 10 times greater than those of the original Wi-Fi network. That said, with the EX6100, your Wi-Fi clients might see a full-bar connection, but things may still take a long time to get through.

CNET Labs Wi-Fi range extender performance (2.4GHz)

Actiontec PWR51WK01 39.6 7.8Asus RT-66U N900 router 37 29.4Netgear EX6100 (Access point) 35.6 8.8Netgear EX6100 (Extender) 27.7 2.5
  • Short-range
  • Long-range
Note: Measured in megabits per second

The EX6100 did better as an access point but was still very slow compared to other devices using the same Wi-Fi standards. At close range, it scored some 107Mbps and 36Mbps for 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands, respectively. With the range increased to 100 feet, it now averaged 17Mbps and 9Mbps, respectively.

CNET Labs Wi-Fi range extender performance (5GHz)

Asus RT-66U N900 router 181.8 155.3Netgear EX6100 (Access point) 107 16.8Netgear EX6100 (Extender) 43.3 7.1
  • Short-range
  • Long-range
Note: Measured in megabits per second

The EX6100 doesn't have great range by itself either -- especially on the 5GHz band, which only reached about 150 feet, just half of what some other 802.11ac devices I've seen are capable of. The 2.4GHz band is better, at about 200 feet. I found both bands' effective range to be 120 feet, so that's how much extra range you can expect from the EX6100. Keep in mind that you can only achieve that extra range if you place it in the right spot in the house, as I mentioned earlier.

In my stress test, in which the EX6100 was set up to transfer a large amount of data back and forth between multiple Wi-Fi clients continuously for 24 hours, the extender passed successfully on the 5GHz band without disconnecting once. On the 2.4GHz band, however, it disconnected several times.

Note that 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, while other Wi-Fi devices can create interference. As with all Wi-Fi routers, your results may vary depending on where you live.

One other point: the EX6100 ran hot in my testing. It wasn't hot enough to cook an egg, but it was still hotter than most networking devices I've seen. During some hot days, make sure it's used in an air-conditioned environment.

Conclusion

Strictly as a range extender, the Netgear EX6100 actually delivers: it does in fact extend the range of your existing Wi-Fi network and gives your Wi-Fi clients full-bar connections significantly farther from the original router. However, you need more than just range to have a robust Wi-Fi network, and this device fails to provide the speed necessary for serious network functions, such as data sharing, online gaming, or media streaming. If you're happy with a connection that's fast enough only for emailing, checking Facebook, or surfing the Web, the EX6100 will get the job done. If you want anything more, it's not really worth the investment.

On the other hand, the EX6100 is a much better device when used as an access point, but in this case it's only suitable for homes that currently already have a non-Wi-Fi router, which is not so common a situation these days.

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Netgear AC750 WiFi Range Extender EX6100

Score Breakdown

Setup 6Features 7Performance 5Support 6