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Wireless Reviews

Smart WiFi Router
At a glance
ProductNETGEAR Smart WiFi Router (R6100)   [Website]
SummaryQualcomm Atheros based draft 802.11ac AC1200 router with storage sharing USB 2.0 port, performance limited by 10/100 Ethernet ports
Pros• Has WDS and AP modes
• Inexpensive for an 802.11ac router
Cons• 10/100 ports limit wireless throughput
• No client bridge mode

Typical Price: $74  Buy From Amazon

Overview

Updated 11/6/2013: Wi-Fi Certified Sept. 2013

We've seen what NETGEAR has to offer in AC1750 and AC1600 class routers in the reviews of the R6300 and R6250. This time, our attention is turned to the only NETGEAR AC router so far to be demoted to its "High Performance" router category vs. the "Ultimate Performance" category where its cousins reside.

As befits its lesser performance, the R6100 is physically smaller than the R6250, measuring 7" wide and 6.75" tall to the R6250's 7.5" wide and just shy of 8" tall. Aside from its size, you would think that you had an R6250 in your hands, with its upright stance and similar design features. It has same backlit icons shown in the diagram taken from the R6250's user manual below—the R6100's is not yet available.

R6100 indicators and buttons

NETGEAR R6100 indicators and buttons

Like the R6300 and R6250, the R6100 has only power, Internet, Wireless and USB status indicators on the front panel and no link or activity indicators for wired network traffic on either the front panel or Ethernet rear panel WAN or LAN ports. The rear panel diagram below shows a sole USB 2.0 port and subtly identifies the single WAN and four switched LAN Ethernet ports as "Fast" aka 10/100 Mbps. As we'll see when we get to performance, this design choice may severely limit this product's appeal.

R6100 indicators and buttons

NETGEAR R6100 indicators and buttons

Inside

It seems that everyone is now having the FCC delay the release of internal photos. So I got out my trusty Torx set and opened up the R6100 for photos. Taking off the front cover reveals a view similar to the R6250's. Unlike the TRENDnet TEW-811DRU, the R6100 has four single-band antennas; two for each radio. The shielding tape partially covers the flash memory.

NETGEAR R6100 inside

R6100 inside

NETGEAR again mounted its "Patent pending" circuit board antennas on a removable frame. This view has the board and antennas removed from the case. Not much to see here with those pesky shields blocking the view.

R6100 board with shields

R6100 board with shields

The shields came off with a little effort, rewarding us with our first view of a draft 802.11ac router based on Qualcomm Atheros chipsets.

R6100 board naked

R6100 board naked

The large device is an Atheros 9344 802.11n 2x2 dual-band router SoC. This handles the 2.4 GHz radio, main CPU, Ethernet and USB 2.0 functions. It's the main reason why the router has 10/100 ports and has an aggressive $100 price. It has a thermal pad on it that couples it to the RF shield cover. There are two small devices in the shielded area to the left, but the numbers on them didn't reveal what they were.

The smaller device to the left of the photo is the 5 GHz radio in the form of a QCA9882 2x2 802.11ac/a/b/g/n radio with two Skyworks SE5003L 5 GHz power amplifiers. It also is thermally coupled to its RF shield via a thermal pad. 128 MB of RAM and flash finish up the design. Table 1 includes the R6250's key components for comparison.

  R6100 R6250
CPU Atheros AR9344 Broadcom BCM4708X
Switch In Atheros AR9344 In BCM4708X
RAM 128 MB Nanya
NT5TU32M16DG-AC (x2)
256 MB Samsung K4B2G1646E
Flash 128 MB Micron 29F1G08ABADA 128 MB Samsung K9F1G08U0D
2 MB Macronix MX25L1606
2.4 GHz Radio - In Atheros AR9344
- Possible power amps (x2)
Broadcom BCM43217 2x2 802.11b/g/n transceiver (guess)
5 GHz radio - QCA9882 2x2 802.11ac/a/b/g/n radio
- Skyworks SE5003L 5 GHz power amp (x2)
- Broadcom BCM4360
- Unidentified power amplifier (x3) (guess)
Table 1: NETGEAR R6100 key components

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