When we first heard that Netgear was going to release a sub-$100 AC router we were very excited. With the number of wireless devices being used in the home rising greatly, there is greater need for users to embrace the latest wireless standard, 802.11ac.
Because Wireless-AC is designed to handle more traffic at a much higher data rate, this is the standard we recommend users pursuing when looking at new home or small office routers. In the past, however, these routers came at a cost premium that not very many could work with. Things have changed over the past year or so. Not only have prices come down on flagship router models, but manufacturers are now starting to introduce “economy-class” AC devices such as the Netgear R6100.
Wildly available for less than $100, the Netgear R6100 has the pedigree but unfortunately doesn’t seem to have the right tools to challenge higher price point routers. The lack of Gigabyte Ethernet is really this router’s most glaring shortfall. As a result, you cannot take advantage of the speed gains that 802.11ac delivers.
For $20 more than the cost of the Netgear 6100, you can pick up the very economical Netgear R6200 802.11ac router, which can be found for less than $115. This router does everything its younger brother (R6100) does, but in addition, it will allow the user to take advantage of all the speed that WiFi-AC has with the 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports, gives you USB 3.0 ports and Beamforming+.
Of course, if you want the ultimate speed for your wireless network, our choice is still the Netgear R6300 v2 where wireless-AC speeds will take you up to 1300 Mbps. The R6300 hovers around $170 and steps up the number of features including Gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.0 for file and printer sharing.
With a 1 year limited parts and labor warranty, Netgear is branding the Netgear R6100 router as AC1200 where 2.4GHz channel has a maximum speed of 300Mbps, and the 5GHz channel has a maximum theoretical maximum of 867 Mbps which is much higher than the 5- 10/100 (Mbps) Ethernet LAN/WAN ports. We are just struggling to see who exactly this router is designed for.
Legit Bottom Line:
While the Netgear R6100 is the first 802.11ac wireless router that we have seen costing under $100 shipped, but the router lacks Gigabit Ethernet ports to actually take advantage of the speedy wireless. We would strongly suggest that users considering low-cost AC routers first take a look at something else.