Netgear recently launched a new budget 802.11ac wireless router called the R6100. The new R6100 joins the existing 802.11ac family, but at a much lower price point. It is available now with an MSRP of $99.
The Netgear R6100 closely resembles the angled square R6200 with a glossy black finish and blue accents. The router features simultaneous dual-band 2.4GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and 5GHz 802.11ac radios. The theoretical maximum throughput is 300 Mbps on the 2.4GHz 802.11n and 867 Mbps on the 5GHz (802.11ac) band.
In many ways, the R6100 is identical to the R6200. However, in order to get the price below $100, Netgear cut out the Gigabit Ethernet ports used in the R6200 in favor of five 10/100 ports (one WAN, four LAN).
In addition to the networking hardware, the R6100 includes guest network support, AirPrint wireless printing support (for Apple devices), EZ Mobile Connect technology which allows user to connect to the network by scanning a QR code, a USB port for connecting a hard drive, a DLNA server for streaming media to DLNA-compatible devices, and live parental controls.
Overall, the Netgear R6100 looks to be a decent router that offers up a cheap transition path to the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard while simultaneously supporting legacy devices. It should work well with wireless devices, including the new Galaxy SIV and HTC One smartphones as well as motherboards with bundled ac mini-PCIe cards. On the other hand, the loss of Gigabit Ethernet ports is a hard pill to swallow for enthusiasts. If you use wired connections on some of your machines and transfer large files, i would recommend saving up the extra $50 and instead getting the $149 R6200 (or staying with your current router if you do not plan to use devices with 802.11ac hardware, of course).