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.
TP-Link Archer A6 (AC1200) Review
Pros: Super easy to use, fantastic value
Cons: Doesn’t have extremely impressive range, so-so set of features
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TP-Link Archer A6 (AC1200)
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|Pros||Super easy to use, fantastic value||Extremely easy to use, packed with features||Relatively inexpensive, exceptional range||Very easy to use, more affordable, solid set of features||Super easy to use, decent set of features|
|Cons||Doesn’t have extremely impressive range, so-so set of features||Average range, throughput||Sparse on features, average throughput||Unimpressive throughput and range||Below 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 bet||Taking home the top score, the Asus is the best of the best when it comes to routers||The NETGEAR would be a good option for those shopping for an upgrade pick on a budget and have a larger home||The Nighthawk AC1750 is our top recommendation for those budget-conscious shoppers that are willing to spend a little bit more for better performance||While this router did alright, it seemed a little expensive relative to its results|
|Rating Categories||TP-Link Archer A6...||ASUS RT-AC88U...||NETGEAR AC1750...||Nighthawk AC1750...||ASUS RT-AC68U...|
|Ease Of Use (20%)|
|2 4 Ghz Throughput (20%)|
|5 Ghz Throughput (20%)|
|Specs||TP-Link Archer A6...||ASUS RT-AC88U...||NETGEAR AC1750...||Nighthawk AC1750...||ASUS RT-AC68U...|
|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|
|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.
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.
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 also lacks any USB ports and doesn't allow you to turn the LED power and network traffic indicators.
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.
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.
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.
The A6 is a fantastic value, pairing a solid performance with a budget price.
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