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TP-Link Archer A6 (AC1200) Review

If you are looking for a bare-bones router on a budget, then the Archer A6 is your best bet
Best Buy Award
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Price:   $50 List | $45 at Amazon
Pros:  Super easy to use, fantastic value
Cons:  Doesn’t have extremely impressive range, so-so set of features
Manufacturer:   TP-Link
By Austin Palmer, David Wise, and Jenna Ammerman  ⋅  Aug 14, 2019
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53
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 12
  • Features - 25% 5
  • Ease of Use - 20% 8
  • 2 4 ghz throughput - 20% 4
  • 5 ghz throughput - 20% 5
  • Range - 15% 4

Our Verdict

Scoring exceptionally well considering its budget price, the TP-Link Archer A6 is a great option for anyone looking for a great router without spending a ton of cash — even earning it the Best Buy Award. This router is exceptionally intuitive and easy to use, though it doesn't have the most comprehensive set of features. It gave a so-so set of results in our throughput and range tests, so it's not your best option if you have heavy-duty streaming needs. However, it's hard to go wrong with this router if you want a decent product without blowing your budget.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award  
Price $50 List
$44.99 at Amazon
$270 List
$216.59 at Amazon
$130 List
$128.99 at Amazon
$130 List
$83.35 at Amazon
$200 List
$134.39 at Amazon
Star Rating
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Pros Super easy to use, fantastic valueExtremely easy to use, packed with featuresRelatively inexpensive, exceptional rangeVery easy to use, more affordable, solid set of featuresSuper easy to use, decent set of features
Cons Doesn’t have extremely impressive range, so-so set of featuresAverage range, throughputSparse on features, average throughputUnimpressive throughput and rangeBelow average throughput, somewhat expensive
Bottom Line If you are looking for a bare-bones router on a budget, then the Archer A6 is your best betTaking home the top score, the Asus is the best of the best when it comes to routersThe NETGEAR would be a good option for those shopping for an upgrade pick on a budget and have a larger homeThe Nighthawk AC1750 is our top recommendation for those budget-conscious shoppers that are willing to spend a little bit more for better performanceWhile this router did alright, it seemed a little expensive relative to its results
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Rating Categories TP-Link Archer A6... ASUS RT-AC88U... NETGEAR AC1750... Nighthawk AC1750... ASUS RT-AC68U...
Features (25%)
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
5
10
0
6
10
0
6
Ease Of Use (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
9
2 4 Ghz Throughput (20%)
10
0
4
10
0
5
10
0
5
10
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5
10
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4
5 Ghz Throughput (20%)
10
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5
10
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6
10
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5
10
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5
10
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4
Range (15%)
10
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4
10
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5
10
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7
10
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5
10
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5
Specs TP-Link Archer A6... ASUS RT-AC88U... NETGEAR AC1750... Nighthawk AC1750... ASUS RT-AC68U...
MU-MIMO Yes Yes No Yes No
Wireless Specification 2.4 GHz: 802.11n
5 GHz: 802.11ac
802.11ac 802.11ac 802.11ac 2.4 GHz: 802.11n
5 GHz: 802.11ac
LAN Ports Available 4 8 4 4 4
Security 64/128-bit WEP, WPA / WPA2, WPA-PSK/ WPA2-PSK encryption WPA2 Personal, WPA Auto Personal, WPA2 Enterprise, WPA Auto Enterprise WPA2-PSK [AES], WPA-PSK [TKIP] + WPA2-PSK [AES], WPA/WPA2 Enterprise WPA2-PSK [AES], WPA-PSK [TKIP] + WPA2-PSK [AES], WPA/WPA2 Enterprise WPA2 Personal, WPA Auto Personal, WPA2 Enterprise, WPA Auto Enterprise
Wall mountable Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Beamforming No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Frequency 2.4GHz and 5GHz 2.4GHz and 5GHz 2.4GHz and 5GHz 2.4GHz and 5GHz 2.4GHz and 5GHz
USB Ports None 2: 3.0 and 2.0 2: 3.0 and 2.0 1: 3.0 2: 3.0 and 2.0
Dimensions 9.1" x 5.7" x 1.4" 11.8" x 7.4" x 2.38" 7.2" x 11.22" x 2.4" 7.26" x 11.22" x 1.97" 6.3" x 3.3" x 8.6"
Antenna 4 external and 1 internal 4 external 3 external 3 external 3 external
Processor 775 MHz single-core 1.4 GHz dual-core 880 MHz dual-core 1 GHz dual-core 1 GHz dual-core processor
Memory N/A 128 MB Flash
512 MB DDR3 RAM
128 MB Flash
256 MB RAM
128 MB Flash
256 MB RAM
128 MB Flash
256 MB RAM
2.4 GHz. Short Distance Throughput - Line of Sight 38 Mbits/s 51 Mbits/s 47 Mbits/s 48 Mbits/s 45 Mbits/s
2.4 GHz. Short Distance Throughput - Obstructed 30 Mbits/s 39 Mbits/s 37 Mbits/s 47 Mbits/s 44 Mbits/s
2.4 GHz. Medium Distance Throughput - Line of Sight 28 Mbits/s 39 Mbits/s 39 Mbits/s 43 Mbits/s 29 Mbits/s
2.4 GHz. Medium Distance Throughput - Obstructed 25 Mbits/s 38 Mbits/s 40 Mbits/s 37 Mbits/s 23 Mbits/s
2.4 GHz. Long Distance Throughput 9 Mbits/s 27 Mbits/s 22 Mbits/s 25 Mbits/s 13 Mbits/s
5 GHz. Short Distance Throughput - Line of Sight 227 Mbits/s 212 Mbits/s 220 Mbits/s 211 Mbits/s 186 Mbits/s
5 GHz. Short Distance Throughput - Obstructed 199 Mbits/s 211 Mbits/s 184 Mbits/s 201 Mbits/s 161 Mbits/s
5 GHz. Medium Distance Throughput - Line of Sight 178 Mbits/s 204 Mbits/s 196 Mbits/s 211 Mbits/s 153 Mbits/s
5 GHz. Medium Distance Throughput - Obstructed 169 Mbits/s 186 Mbits/s 181 Mbits/s 194 Mbits/s 167 Mbits/s
5 GHz. Long Distance Throughput 26 Mbits/s 37 Mbits/s 17 Mbits/s 11 Mbits/s 35 Mbits/s
Video Playback Range Test 135 ft. 158 ft. 204 ft. 155 ft. 144 ft.

Our Analysis and Test Results

As mentioned above, this router didn't really match the premium models when it comes to data throughput or range, so this isn't the best option if you have a large house or a ton of different devices but it can usually handle a handful of devices or streaming services without too many issues.

The A6 is a great budget-friendly router.
The A6 is a great budget-friendly router.

Performance Comparison


In our quest to find one router that topped them all, we compared over 100 different products, then picked out the best to buy and test for ourselves. We conducted tons of different tests on each router, grouping them into four weighted metrics, with the A6's performance in each test discussed in the following sections.

The A6 doesn't have a ton of features but it has almost all the most commonly used ones.
The A6 doesn't have a ton of features but it has almost all the most commonly used ones.

Features


Responsible for 25% of the total score for the TP-Link Archer A6, our features metric is the most significant of our wireless router testing process. In this metric, we awarded points based on if each router has MU-MIMO or beamforming abilities, if you can turn off the LED status lights or toggle the power remotely, and on the number of ports each product has — both LAN and USB. The Archer A6 delivered a so-so set of results, earning it a score right in the middle of the group.


Unfortunately, this router lacks beamforming capability but does have MU-MIMO functionality. It also lets you remotely reset the power and has four LAN ports, which seems to be the standard for these products.

The A6 doesn't have any integrated USB ports.
The A6 doesn't have any integrated USB ports.

The A6 also lacks any USB ports and doesn't allow you to turn the LED power and network traffic indicators.

The A6 is very user-friendly and easy to use.
The A6 is very user-friendly and easy to use.

Ease of Use


Next, we rated and scored how user-friendly and easy to use the TP-Link Archer A6 is, which accounts for 20% of the final score for this wireless router. To determine scores, we focused initially on how much work it took to get the Archer A6 ready right out of the box. Next, we moved on to rating and scoring the interface of each router, looking for something that is intuitive and easy to follow. Finally, we compared the parental control and Quality of Service (QoS) capabilities of each product. The A6 is quite easy to use, earning it a good score compared to the rest of the group.


Setting up and configuring the router is a fairly easy process, regardless if you are using a smartphone or a computer. The process is a bit more guided when you use your smartphone, walking you through each step once you either download the app from one of the app stores or scan the QR code on the router. It then prompts you to change the admin password and then set your SSID and network password.

To complete this on a computer, you type in the IP address listed in the manual in a browser to get to the TP-Link admin interface. You then are prompted to set the admin password but you have to go find the options for the SSID and network password on your own, rather than by simply following a set of prompts. However, we did have to update the firmware right out of the box.

The interface is great overall, with a sleek modern layout that is very user-friendly with large clearly labeled buttons. The parental controls are quite good on this router, allowing you to filter out undesirable content by keyword or limit internet access by time. You can also set these rules to only apply to certain devices, rather than restricting them for every device on the network.

The Archer A6 does have QoS but it only offers relatively limited controls. You can input your bandwidth settings and select which devices receive priority over others but you can't specify one type of content to prioritize over another.

The A6 can handle the internet traffic for most households but you may want to upgrade if you do a ton of bandwidth-heavy activities.
The A6 can handle the internet traffic for most households but you may want to upgrade if you do a ton of bandwidth-heavy activities.

2.4 GHz. Throughput


The scores for the next two metrics are based on the Archer A6's throughput performance on both its 2.4 GHz. and 5 GHz. network, each accounting for 20% of its final score. We used the iPerf3 software test running on a laptop to measure the throughput, conducting a short, medium, and long-distance test, with a distance of 10', 35', and 70' separating the computer from the router. Additionally, we ran both the short and medium tests in an unobstructed line-of-sight configuration and an obstructed configuration with plenty of walls and furniture separating the computer and router. This brings us to a grand total of five unique tests for each network and we ran the software three times for each test and averaged the results for final scores. The Archer A6 gave a lackluster set of results, performing slightly below average.


In the 10' test, the A6 averaged about 38 Mbits/s when there was nothing between the router and computer and 30 Mbit/s when there were obstructions. This is slightly below average compared to the rest.


The A6 did a little worse in the medium distance assessment, averaging 28 Mbits/s in the line-of-sight and 25 Mbits/s in the obstructed test.


It finished out the 2.4 GHz. tests with an overall unimpressive performance in the long-distance test, only recording an average throughput of 9.3 Mbits/s


5 GHz. Throughput


The testing procedure for the 5 GHz. network is identical to the 2.4 GHz. except for using the 5 GHz. network instead of the 2.4 GHz. one. The Archer A6 performance improved a bit in this metric compared to the previous one, bumping its score up from below average to average.


The A6 did exceptionally well in the short distance unobstructed test compared to the rest of the group, averaging a throughput of 227 Mbits/s. Unfortunately, the performance for this router dropped a bit when the router and the laptop were out of line-of-sight, only averaging a throughput of 199 Mbits/s.


Performance plummeted in the medium distances, dropping to 178 Mbits/s and 169 Mbits/s in the unobstructed and obstructed tests, respectively. The A6's results rebounded a little bit in the long-distance test, averaging 26 Mbits/s, which puts it right on par for the average of the group.


Range


Our fifth and final metric dealt with the effective range of the TP-Link Archer A6, determined by how far away we could stream video on a test laptop without it lagging or buffering to the point that it was unwatchable. This accounts for the residual 15% of the final score, with the A6 performing just a touch below average.


In this test, we were able to separate the router and the computer by a distance of 135' before the video started buffering, which is only about 15' shy of the average distance for these products.

Value


The A6 is a fantastic value, pairing a solid performance with a budget price.

Conclusion


If you want a decent router that can handle light to moderate streaming loads without blowing your budget, then the Archer A6 is our top recommendation. It doesn't have the most features and can't match the top-tier routers when it comes to range and throughput but it's easy to use and should be able to handle the streaming needs of most homes without issues.


Austin Palmer, David Wise, and Jenna Ammerman