Like

  • Offers a steady, dependable connection to each current- and previous-gen Wi-Fi gadgets
  • Stronger common add speeds than comparable Wi-Fi 6 routers
  • Straightforward, app-based setup takes lower than 10 minutes
  • Help for next-gen Wi-Fi 6 options and WPA3 safety

Do not Like

  • Barely larger latency than comparable AX1800 routers
  • App has annoying adverts for safety and tech help providers
  • No USB jack

Simply as 5G ushered in next-gen mobile connections, 802.11ax — aka Wi-Fi 6 — is the most recent era of Wi-Fi, with improved transmissions which can be about 30% faster than before. Should you’ve picked up a brand new laptop computer or cellphone lately, there is a good probability it helps the usual, however you may want a Wi-Fi 6 router operating your private home community so as to take full benefit of these sooner speeds at dwelling.

You are in luck. Although it initially hit the market as a premium improve a yr or two in the past, Wi-Fi 6 is pretty nicely entrenched at this level, and you will find loads of Wi-Fi 6 routers up on the market that do not price an arm and a leg. That features the Netgear R6700AX, which retails for $120 and infrequently goes on sale for even much less. As a matter of reality, as of penning this, it is all the way down to $90 on Amazon.

The Netgear R6700AX Wi-Fi 6 router sitting atop a green backgrop.

Ry Crist/CNET

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A dual-band AX1800 router, the R6700AX helps high speeds of as much as 1,200 megabits per second (1.2 gigabits per second) on its 5GHz band, with a slower 2.4GHz band that is higher for connecting at lengthy vary. I examined it towards just a few of the opposite high AX1800 choices in that value vary — the TP-Link Archer AX21 and the Asus RT-AX55 — and it held its personal simply wonderful, delivering quick speeds and low latency all through the vast majority of my dwelling. The Archer AX21 inched out forward of the pack with sooner common obtain speeds, however the R6700AX delivered sooner common uploads, making the 2 kind of neck and neck in my eyes.

I might put the Archer AX21 forward of it for these barely sooner downloads, and for having the superior app — however the R6700AX is true behind it, and infrequently obtainable for much less. You may want one thing a bit extra highly effective for those who’re residing with a gigabit web connection at dwelling, however the R6700AX remains to be nicely value contemplating for those who can catch it on sale, particularly for those who’ve bought a shiny new Wi-Fi 6 cellphone or laptop computer at dwelling and also you need it to have the quickest, most superior connection potential with out breaking the financial institution.

The Netgear R6700AX Wi-Fi 6 router sitting atop a busy black and white striped carpet.

Ry Crist/CNET

A clear design that appears the half

Your router will work finest for those who discover a good, open spot for it, and resist the urge to stash it away in a closet or behind your TV. That is a neater capsule to swallow if the factor is not ugly as sin, and happily, the R6700AX suits the invoice. It is a easy, clear design that appears the a part of a modest price range mannequin, however the delicate, angular touches give it sufficient of a way of fashion that I do not hate the sight of it. It is not fancy — and it is a far cry from Netgear’s ostentatious Nighthawk routers, which seem like they belong within the Batcave — however nonetheless, it is appropriately fashionable and does not look low-cost.

The Netgear R6700AX options 4 spare Ethernet jacks along with the WAN port that you’re going to use to attach it along with your modem — but it surely lacks a USB port.


Netgear

So far as dimensions are involved, the R6700AX is comparatively compact — slightly over 9 inches extensive, slightly over 7 inches deep, and slightly over 2 inches tall, save for the three antennas. It runs on a quad-core, 1.5GHz processor and features a built-in VPN, in addition to help for WPA3, the most recent customary for holding your private home’s Wi-Fi connections safe.

Flip the factor round, and you will find 4 spare gigabit Ethernet jacks within the again, along with the WAN port that you’re going to use to attach it along with your modem. Alas, it lacks a USB port, so you will not be capable to plug in an exterior storage system or another peripherals of the sort — however loads of us by no means use these USB jacks, anyway, so maybe that is a good omission in a price range mannequin like this.

Netgear’s Nighthawk app will stroll you thru setup in lower than 10 minutes.


Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

In regards to the app

The R6700AX is not one in all Netgear’s Nighthawk-branded routers, however you’ll be able to nonetheless use the Nighthawk app to set it up and handle your community settings. That is a neater strategy than setting it up the quaint approach, by logging into the router’s IP address in your web browser, and Netgear’s app checks the entire packing containers you’d need, making it simple to get your community up and operating inside about 10 minutes.

An example of a popup ad for subscription security services within the Netgear Nighthawk iOS app for managing home networks.

The Nighthawk app will repeatedly nag you to subscribe to Netgear’s premium safety and technical help providers, which will get a bit annoying.


Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

When you’re on-line, you can use the app to watch the gadgets in your community, run a fast pace take a look at or entry issues just like the visitor community, the parental controls and the VPN. Most outstanding amongst these options is Netgear Armor, a collection of automated security features that prices $100 per yr. You get 30 days to attempt it out, throughout which the app will repeatedly bombard you with pop-up flash screens encouraging you to enroll in the lengthy haul. Similar goes for Netgear’s premium tech help package deal.

That will get slightly tiresome, and it is the primary purpose I desire different apps, like TP-Hyperlink’s Tether app, over the Nighthawk expertise. Nonetheless, it is a fairly minor quibble, particularly since most individuals will not use the app a lot in any respect after setup.

As for Armor itself, the marquee characteristic is common, computerized risk scans for the entire gadgets in your community, which is sweet to have for those who’re frightened about vulnerabilities among the many rising variety of cloud-connected devices below your roof. Armor additionally guarantees to detect anomalies in your community, defend towards brute power hacking makes an attempt, and forestall your private home’s gadgets from getting swept up right into a botnet and utilized in a DDoS assault. None of it’s must-have, but it surely could be value contemplating if community safety is high of thoughts in your house.

The Netgear R6700AX (pink) wasn’t fairly as quick at vary because the TP-Hyperlink Archer AX21 (blue), but it surely managed to outperform the Asus RT-AX55 (yellow).


Ry Crist/CNET

Let’s speak efficiency

In the course of the pandemic, I examined routers in my 1,300-square-foot dwelling in Louisville, Kentucky, the place on the time of testing, I had incoming fiber web speeds of 300Mbps. Like most routers I take a look at, the R6700AX is able to speeds which can be lots sooner than that, however these exams nonetheless gave me an excellent have a look at the way it stacks up towards comparable routers in a real-world setting.

On this case, I examined the R6700AX towards the TP-Hyperlink Archer AX21 and the Asus RT-AX55, two different budget-minded AX1800 routers with related specs to what Netgear’s providing. The majority of my exams consisted of monitoring the router’s speeds all through 5 completely different spots in my home, beginning in the identical room because the router and dealing again to the other finish of the home, the place lots of routers wrestle to keep up a powerful sign.

The R6700AX did nicely right here, with total common obtain speeds of about 264Mbps all through my whole dwelling. That stated, speeds fell all the best way to 45Mbps in my again rest room, the farthest spot from the router. The connection was nonetheless steady and usable, with no drops or stalls, so Netgear will get a passing grade right here, however word that the TP-Hyperlink Archer AX21 carried out higher, with a again rest room common proper round 100Mbps and a near-perfect total common of 299Mbps. Each are higher fitted to small-to-medium sized houses like mine than for bigger residing areas, however for those who’re selecting between the 2 based mostly on efficiency alone, I might lean in direction of the AX21 for barely higher vary.

This graph charts the latency outcomes of every router I examined throughout all of my pace exams. The Netgear R6700AX (pink) completed with common ping round 20ms and no spikes larger than 26ms, however each the TP-Hyperlink Archer AX21 (blue) and the Asus RT-AX55 (yellow) did higher.


Ry Crist/CNET

One thing else value noting: Like Asus and TP-Hyperlink, the Netgear R6700AX presents a band-steering characteristic known as Good Join that mixes the two.four and 5GHz bands right into a single community and routinely “steers” your system between them as wanted. In every case, the characteristic is turned on by default, so that is what I used to compile my averages, however in a small dwelling like mine the place vary is not a lot of a problem, you could very nicely see higher efficiency by turning it off and sticking to the 5GHz band. 

That was the case right here — the R6700AX’s 5GHz band completed with whole-home common obtain speeds of 298Mbps, which was about 35Mbps higher than what I noticed with band-steering turned on. That features a triple-digit again rest room common of 103Mbps, so the band-steering characteristic was seemingly kicking me over to 2.4GHz in that room unnecessarily. Nonetheless, it is lots higher than the band-steering on different routers I’ve examined, together with the Linksys MR7350, which frequently bought tripped up and left me on 2.4GHz for whole rounds of exams as I moved by way of my home.

Downloads apart, it was Netgear that notched the quickest uploads of the three, with a whole-home common of about 196Mbps, barely forward of TP-Hyperlink’s 188Mbps and a mean of 170Mbps from Asus. Even so, it was TP-Hyperlink that completed ever-so-slightly forward in that again rest room, with a mean add pace of about 17Mbps, which is greater than twice as excessive because the Netgear or Asus common. The three are very shut when it comes to efficiency, and arguably throughout the margin of error of each other, however the slight efficiency enhance at vary is what offers TP-Hyperlink the sting.


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I’d also nudge Netgear aside if you’re a gamer or anyone else especially concerned with latency, or the amount of time it takes the router to transmit data to a given server and receive a response. Though it did fine, with a very steady average ping of 20.42ms across all tests, and no spikes any higher than 26ms, both the Archer AX21 and the RT-AX55 did better, with average ping rates of 18.23 and 17.40ms, respectively. It’s a small difference, but a noticeable one if you’re regularly making competitive, split-second decisions while gaming online.

One final note: I also made sure to run two completely separate sets of tests with all three routers: one to a Wi-Fi 6 device, and one to an older Wi-Fi 5 device. In each case, speeds to the Wi-Fi 6 device were slightly faster, which is what you’d expect. Still, I saw the biggest boost with the Archer AX21, with whole-home average download speeds that jumped from 268Mbps with the Wi-Fi 5 device to 299Mbps with the Wi-Fi 6 device. With Netgear, the difference was much smaller, jumping from 258Mbps with the Wi-Fi 5 device to 264Mbps with the Wi-Fi 6 device. 

On a gigabit network, the Netgear R6700AX delivered fast, consistent speeds, but it wasn’t able to hit speeds as fast as fancier routers like the Asus RT-AX86U.


Ry Crist/CNET

Gigabit speeds? Not quite

In 2022, we relocated our router-testing setup to our dedicated test lab, in Louisville. With a 1,350-square-foot multiroom test environment with max download speeds of 940Mbps and max upload speeds of 880Mbps, my methodology is essentially unchanged from my at-home tests, save for the faster speeds. 

I’m still in the process of retesting our top-recommended routers on this new network (and testing plenty of new routers, too), but I made sure to add the R6700AX into the test queue to get an updated look at how it performs on a faster network than the one I originally tested it on.

The scatter plot above shows you how it did, with each dot representing my download speed during a single speed test in each of our setup’s five rooms. Across all of them, the R6700AX finished with an overall average download speed of 591Mbps, with short-range download speeds in the “living room,” where the router sits, ranging from about 600 to 800Mbps. Uploads, meanwhile, came in at 525Mbps when averaged across all tests in all rooms.

Overall, the results here were good — in fact, Netgear’s averages came in higher than the Archer AX21, which finished with average download speeds of 435Mbps and average upload speeds of 400Mbps. That might give the R6700AX the edge between the two of them on home networks that are faster than the national average, which currently sits at around 200Mbps, but I think most networks like that will want to spend up a bit for a model like the Asus RT-AX86U, which finished the same spate of tests with average downloads across the entire space of 822Mbps, and average uploads of 681Mbps.

The Netgear R6700AX Wi-Fi 6 router sitting atop a hardwood floor.

The floor works well for photos, but please put your router up a little higher for better performance.


Ry Crist/CNET

The verdict

Wi-Fi 6 isn’t a mind-blowing upgrade in most homes — at best, you should expect speed increases to Wi-Fi 6 devices of about 25 to 30%, and that’s only if you have a gigabit connection. With a connection capped at a few hundred Mbps, you might only see average speed increases of 5 to 10%.

Even so, I think it’s an upgrade worth making at this point. More and more of the devices we keep filling our homes with are equipped to take advantage of Wi-Fi 6, and the standard’s ability to manage congestion better than before suits it well for our overwhelmingly digitized lives. Support for the latest security protocol, WPA3, is also something well worth buying into.

Most importantly, it’s an upgrade that doesn’t need to bust your budget — and that’s thanks to worthy entry-level models like the Netgear R6700AX. It’s a great buy if you can catch it for less than $100, but be sure to keep an eye on the TP-Link Archer AX21 and the Asus RT-AX55, as well. All three are terrific budget picks for those looking to take Wi-Fi 6 for a test drive in a small to medium-size home.



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