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Wireless Reviews

Performance

The same new test procedure used to test the NETGEAR EX6200 and EX6100 was used on the Linksys RE6500, loaded with latest v1.0.00.091 firmware. Since this is an AC class repeater, the same NETGEAR A6200 AC1200 class USB adapter used to test the NETGEAR products was connected to the test client laptop with its internal Intel Centrino 6300 adapter disabled.

The 2.4 GHz radio was configured for 20 MHz Mode. For 5 GHz, the channel was configured for auto 20/24/80 MHz. There isn't a channel selection option in the EA6500 UI - probably since it uses the same channels as the "base" router does.

The wireless results in the Benchmark Summary represent "extended" wireless throughput, i.e. from base router, through the RE6500 and to the test client laptop. The wired results are what we measured with the test laptop's wireless disabled and connected to one of the RE6500's four Gigabit Ethernet ports.

Linksys RE6500 Benchmark Summary

Linksys RE6500 Benchmark Summary

Normally, with the crossband backhaul disabled, you would expect a 50% throughput reduction. Comparing the 2.4 GHz wired and wireless throughput for downlink, you can see that they scored identically. We've seen this before on other products and seems to be related to low throughput on the "backhaul" (extender to router) link. On the wired/wireless 2.4 GHz uplink, however, there was somewhat more than a 50% reduction with the wired connection at 12.9 Mbps and the "extended" throughput at 5.4 Mbps.

For the 5 GHz tests, the results were quite different. As noted in the chart above, the 5 GHz wired throughput, the maximum you can expect at the extender, was 43.7 Mbps (downlink) and 38.6 Mbps (uplink). While the extended wireless uplink measured 40% of the wired uplink, the wireless extended 5 GHz downlink measured only 13.5% of the 5 GHz wired downlink.

During each test, we noted the link rates that are summarized in Table 2. On the 2.4 GHz band, both the link from the client to the extender and the extender to the base router were the same - 144 Mbps. On 5 GHz, the link rate between the client and the extender was significantly higher, 526.5 Mbps than the link between the extender and the base router. Still, that link rate should be sufficient to act as a backhaul for the 2.4GHz band in the Crossband mode.

Link 2.4 GHz 5 GHz
Client - Extender 144 526.5
Extender - Router 144 351
Table 2: Test Link Rate Summary (Mbps)

The Benchmark Summary above only tells part of the story. The ixChariot plots provide a better look at throughput stability. To save some space and facilitate comparison, I'll be combining plots.

The first composite shows 2.4 GHz throughput measured at the RE6500 Ethernet port (_extender_eth) and extended throughput at the wireless test client. This shows how well the extender retransmits the received signal. The plots show a good job on downlink, but not so much on uplink.

As noted earlier, the lack of 50% penalty between throughput received at the extender and passed on to the extender client indicates a low throughput link between extender and router. For comparison, best case throughput for AC1200 routers in 2.4 GHz with 20 MHz bandwidth mode is usually in the 80-90 Mbps range. So the RE6500 getting only 13 Mbps to extend is quite poor.

Linksys RE6500 2.4 GHz performance

Linksys RE6500 2.4 GHz performance

The 5 GHz plots tell a different story. On the downlink tests we're seeing the more typical 50% throughput difference between throughput received by the extender and extended to the client. Uplink again, however, showed a long period of throughput loss in the middle of the test. This behavior was observed on multiple test runs.

Linksys RE6500 5 GHz performance
Linksys RE6500 5 GHz performance)

Of course, you aren't going to buy a dual band wireless range extender and use it only on one band. As noted above, the RE6500 has the ability to simultaneously use different bands to connect to the base router and client. To test this, links were established on both bands between the RE6500 and base router. Then the client was connected to each band and throughput tests run.

The plots on the left show throughput for the client connected to the RE6500 on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz on the right. The 40 Mbps range 2.4 GHz throughput essentially mirrors the 5 GHz throughput available at the RE6500 as indicated in the _extender_eth lines in the plots above. Since the 2.4 GHz connection to the extender is able to take full advantage of the throughput available at the extender, this indicates a solid link between extender and client.

Linksys RE6500 uplink and downlink tests using auto backhaul. (2.4 GHz, left; 5 GHz right)

Linksys RE6500 uplink and downlink tests using auto backhaul. (2.4 GHz, left; 5 GHz right)

Similarly, the 5 GHz client connected results on the right mirror the 2.4 GHz throughput available at the RE6500. The 5 GHz AC client connection obviously has plenty of throughput available and isn't what's responsible for this rather feeble extended throughput.

Closing Thoughts

If you had your heart set on an AC1200 class wireless extender, don't let the RE6500's poor results put you off. Fortunately, there's NETGEAR's EX6200. Like the RE6500, the EX6200 is a desktop-style extender, but with 5 dBi antennas vs. the RE6500's 2.1 dBi, plus 2.4 and 5 GHz power amplifiers that combine to produce significantly better performance. (It's ironic that Linksys has an RE6500HG with 5 dBi antennas that it doesn't plan to offer in the U.S.)

The composite chart below compares the benchmark summaries of the two. Note that in every performance category, the EX6200 significantly outperforms the RE6500.

Benchmark Summary comparison between the Linksys RE6500 (left) and the NETGEAR EX6200 (right)

Benchmark Summary comparison between the Linksys RE6500 (left) and the NETGEAR EX6200 (right)

On the plus side, although some of the individual test showed problems with primarily uplink performance, the RE6500's "auto backhaul" results showed more than adequate performance to support multiple internet "HD" video streams using clients attached to the RE6500 on either band. Setup of the RE6500 was also very simple and the ability to stream music through the RE6500 from DLNA sources could be compelling for some buyers.

But since the EX6200 currently sells for $21 more than the RE6500, I'd spend the few extra bucks on the NETGEAR EX6200.

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