802.11ac router shootout: Apple vs. Belkin vs. Netgear vs. Linksys

“Competing in our benchmark are four products: Apple’s 2013 802.11ac AirPort Extreme, the Netgear R6300 (a.k.a. AC1750), the Linksys EA6500, and the Belkin AC1200,” TekRevue reports. “Note that while Belkin has since released the AC1800, when the routers were sent to us, the AC1200 was the roughly $200 product from the company. We sought to compare all products with retail prices at approximately $200 which is comparable to Apple’s $199 price tag for the AirPort Extreme.”

“We’re interested in two key areas with these tests: 5GHz 802.11ac performance and 2.4GHz 802.11n performance. 802.11ac may be significantly faster than its predecessor, but it’s stuck in the higher 5GHz frequency, which does not have the range of the more crowded 2.4GHz frequency,” TekRevue reports. “Therefore, for situations in which a router must ‘go the distance’ in terms of signal strength, we’re looking for better range, even at the expense of speed compared to 802.11ac.”

Advertisement: Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station with 802.11ac Wi-Fi only $194. Eligible for free 2-Day shipping.

TekRevue reports, “Apple’s router achieved the fastest overall throughput at 547Mb/s while in the same room as the MacBook Air. Belkin and Linksys took a narrow second and third place, while the Netgear fell significantly behind. We were surprised by this result, and we ensured that the router was configured for maximum performance, but the slower speeds persisted throughout the 10 iterations… Overall, the AirPort Extreme is the best 802.11ac performer from nearly all locations, with the Linksys in a close second place.”

Apple's redesigned AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule base stations feature 802.11ac Wi-Fi for up to three times faster performance
Apple’s redesigned AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule base stations feature 802.11ac Wi-Fi for up to three times faster performance

Much more in the full article here.

Related articles:
PC Mag reviews Apple’s new 802.11ac AirPort Extreme Base Station: As gorgeous as a router can get; ‘just works’ out of the box – June 28, 2013
Pure Speed: Apple’s new 802.11ac AirPort Extreme benchmarks – June 28, 2013
802.11ac wireless networking: What it is and why you want it – June 17, 2013
Teardown: Apple’s new AirPort Extreme is extremely easy to disassemble – June 12, 2013


    1. webmaster,

      Yeah, that image of all the routers is a bit off because of the wide angle lens I needed to fit them all into the picture while lined up. It’s tall, but it looks more “stout” in the image than in real life.

      Here’s a better comparison:

  1. It is just too bad that I will likely never need to buy a wireless router anymore. For the past five years, I’ve been using Verizon’s FiOS (fiber optic) service for internet, which comes with Verizon’s own branded WiFi router. It is probably nowhere near as fast as the AirPort, but it is provided to me for free (i.e. there is no way to decline the router and lower the monthly price), so I may as well use it. I’m sure many people are in the same boat.

    1. There’s a reason not to use it and plug it into an Apple router for an extra $200: far better performance. All other routers slow down your connection, take longer to deliver the goods. You pay for not having an Apple router every single time you open up a web page on your iPhone or MacBook.

      1. Absolutely true. I have a free wireless router and tested it compared to the Airport and hands down the Airport connection was faster. Every device is now connected to the Airport.

    2. Predrag – our daughter has a free router from Verizon too. She wanted the advantages an Apple Airport Extreme so she just hardwired it via Ethernet to the Verizon router and now has the exact setup she wanted. Easy and successful.

    3. how does airplay work?

      i have an old linksys router. streaming to apple TV is OK, but airplay stutters. in theory its fast enough to process the data, but i bet that the CPU is too slow to do it on a sustained basis.

      i bet the FIOS router is the same way

    4. In my case, my bottleneck is NOT the Verizon router; it is still the internet connection. I frequently run tests on Speedtest.net from all of my devices (iMac, iPad, iPhone). I consistently get 15Mbps down / 5Mbps up (exactly what I’m paying for), so whatever is the speed limit of my Verizon router will not matter, as it clearly is above those 15Mbps I’m supposed to get from Verizon.

      I have yet to try Airplay (no Apple TV, so no practical use for AirPlay).

    5. AT&T does the same thing with their Uverse product. You just hardware another wireless access point such as Airport Extreme and configure your computing devices to that wireless router and not your provider’s access point. Yes, you could use Verizon or AT&Ts wireless but why would you, when it is slower.

      1. Why should I spend $200 for an access point when I already have one provided by the ISP for free? How much slower is this router than Airport? I don’t know. I am still getting the maximum bandwidth provided by my ISP, so clearly, Verizon’s router is NOT the bottleneck.

    6. I had a “combo” (since replaced) cablemodem /router /wifi trancevier. I went in and disabled the wifi and the NAT (network address translator, essentially the “firewall in a router) so it would simply pass through the single allocated ip. and plugged an airport into it. Only took 10 minutes total.

      This was for security, the “supplied” routers and wifi transceivers typically aren’t very secure due to two primary problems, one they aren’t well updated (patches even for known exploits are often delayed or even ignored) second because large ISP’s distribute these flawed routers by the millions the exploits are well known.

      Because OSX is relatively safe, even connected to the internet without any fire-walls at all, you are relatively safe if you have no windows machines (and don’t ever run windows in a VM) and don’t have any netbios/SMB volumes served.
      If that isn’t so you should defiantly disable the “supplied” router (it’s cheap insurance)

    7. Turn off the wireless on your FiOS (or U-Verse) router, put it into bridge mode (turn off NAT and DHCP), and hook up a new Airport Extreme ac to it. If you’ve got any decent sized house, the FiOS wireless isn’t going to cover it anyway, and you might as well use the faster wireless unit that can easily be extended to cover your entire home (unlike the stand-alone wireless from FiOS or U-Verse).

    8. If you are happy with the router provided by your ISP then I wouldn’t bother changing it either. However, most often this is not the case. I’ve had hundreds of clients upgrade their ISP provided router to an Apple router and they were extremely happy they did so.

      To me the router is THE most important component. It the heart of everything. My Cisco router always provided the bandwidth I paid for, but it wasn’t nearly as stable as my Aiport Extreme. I’m very happy I upgraded.

  2. I wish all of these had more ethernet ports. Even with wifi I plug in my amp, dvd, sky, powerline, iMac and NAS directly and whilst switches are cheap they are an extra power socket and thing to find space for. On the new airport particularly it’s not as if they don’t have the space and the cost has got to be minor.

    1. I totally agree. I have a large house with 5 Wifi routers used as access points. Each one has 4 ports, but one must be used to connect back to the main router. That leaves me with 3 free ports, so each one gets a 8-port switch to go with it. It’s amazing that nobody makes a decent router with lots of ports.

      1. Yet most of the companies selling routers sell switches which are pretty cheap. It’s not as if they’re making fortunes selling switches, I don’t think anyone would think twice if routers went up by a few dollars buy had loads of extra ports.

  3. I’d like to see how it performs over Ethernet. I would also like to see how it works with a Drobo FS. My Time Capsule could only transfer files around 9mbps to/from my Drobo FS (which was connected via cat6 Ethernet to the TC). I switched to a netgear router and my transfer speeds shot up to 20-24mbps. Needless to say, I no longer have the TC.

  4. The results on the Linksys EA6500 are definitely off. I have one, let’s see what results I get. Here I go….

    Wait, let me reboot it…

    Wait, let me reboot it again…

    Damn, let me do a full reset…

    Hold on, that didn’t work… I’m waiting for tech support…

    Just a little while longer, and I should have an RMA#…

    Oh man, I was just transferred, now I have to explain the situation all over again…

    I hear India is really nice this time of year…

    Ok, got the RMA#, now 2-3 weeks, and I can try again!

    Seriously, I’m my 3rd unit died under warranty, and I’m switching to an Airport.

    1. I’m sorry to hear that, kevicosuave. Did you try updating the firmware? There are indeed many negative reviews about the EA6500 but we encountered no such issues during testing. There was a firmware update waiting for us out of the box, however. And we made sure all routers were running with the latest firmware.

      Still, that sucks 🙁

      1. Yes, I did upgrade the firmware. I’m kind of an upgrade fanatic, always checking and upgrading as soon as it’s available .

        My first EA6500 was dead on arrival. My second died within weeks. My 3rd would intermittently fail and require rebooting and sometimes require full resets. This was very frustrating as I was trying to configure and deal with other issues around the house.

        It was also frustrating when I would travel and it would go down… everything in our house depends upon our connectivity, so I bought what I thought was the best of the best.

        It started failing monthy, then weekly, then daily, then hourly.

        Looking the the user-reviews, this seems very common. And I’m a huge Cisco/Linksys fan. I’ve bought or approved hundreds of their products for personal and work related use, but this model seems to be heavily flawed.

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