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Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen
Speed falls off at range
2.4GHz performance not that great
Antennas can't be removed or replaced
No USB ports
The TP-Link Archer A6 AC1200 is an entry-level gigabit router that gets the job done at an attractive budget price.
The TP-Link Archer A6 is a dual-band gigabit router that’s designed to provide some nice upgrades and features at a budget-friendly price. It includes features like dual 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and MU-MIMO beamforming, marking it out as a great upgrade for anyone using a budget router that’s more than a few years old. It does lack some features you can get out of a slightly higher priced budget unit, but the overall balance of feature set to price is attractive.
Specifications don’t always tell the whole story, so I recently spent about five days with a TP-Link Archer A6 plugged into my own network. I tested how well it holds up under daily use with a lot of data-hungry devices connected at once, tested top speeds and range on both bands, and more.
The Archer A6 doesn’t exactly stand out of the crowd, but it’s a definite improvement over the older C7 that I keep around for testing purposes. Instead of the flat or glossy black finish seen on most routers, the A6 has a two-tone crosshatched pattern that creates an interesting visual effect. The edges are rounded instead of angular, and the top actually curves gently downward when viewed head-on.
The A6 features four antennas, two on the back, and the other two on the sides. They rotate easily for better positioning, but they aren’t removable. That’s a bit of a knock on this unit, as the ability to remove and replace antennas is pretty standard even in budget devices.
The ports and power button are all found on the back of the unit in a fairly standard array, and you’ll find the indicator LEDs on top near the front edge. The positioning is good for desktop use, and it also leaves the indicators clearly visible when wall mounted.
The Archer A6 doesn’t exactly stand out of the crowd, but it’s a definite improvement over the older C7 that I keep around for testing purposes.
This router comes fully assembled, which makes it a bit easier and faster to set up than most. I’m not a fan of the fact that you can’t remove the antennas, but it definitely saves a bit of time. Unfortunately, that saved time is mostly wiped out by the ridiculous wrap job TP-Link does on the side antennas.
The rear antennas are loosely wrapped in a sticky film that you’re probably familiar with if you’ve ever unboxed a router, but the side antennas are shrink-wrapped in a resilient material that I was unable to remove by hand. I eventually resorted to a razor blade to carefully slice the antennas free without damaging them.
This router comes fully assembled, which makes it a bit easier and faster to set up than most.
Once you finish unwrapping the antennas, setting up the Archer A6 is a breeze. I didn’t even have to reboot my modem when I swapped the A6 for the Eero router I normally use. Getting the router up and running was literally a matter of plugging in the Ethernet cables, powering it up, and logging into the web interface.
The TP-Link Archer A6 is an AC1200 dual-band router that supports MU-MIMO beamforming. The total throughput is a little on the light side if you have a lot of devices, but MU-MIMO is a nice feature to see in such an affordable unit.
On the physical side, the A6 comes with a bare minimum single WAN port and four LAN ports. There isn’t even a single USB port, so you can’t use this router to host a networked USB drive. That isn’t completely unexpected from a budget router, but it would have been nice if it included at least one USB port.
On the physical side, the A6 comes with a bare minimum single WAN port and four LAN ports. There isn’t even a single USB port, so you can’t use this router to host a networked USB drive.
I tested this router on a Mediacom Gigabit Ethernet connection, performing extensive tests on the wired Ethernet connection and both wireless bands, in addition to regular use over the course of about five days.
When connected to the TP-Link Archer A6 via a wired Ethernet connection, I saw a maximum download speed of 464Mbps and an upload speed of 63Mbps. That’s more or less in line with other routers I tested at the same time, although my Eero did notch a maximum download speed of 627Mbps during that same round of testing.
Next up, I connected to the 5GHz wireless network a few feet from the router. Using the Ookla speed test app, I measured the top download speed of 249Mbps and an upload speed of 64Mbps. That’s plenty fast for gaming, streaming 4K video, and just about everything else, but it’s much slower than I’ve seen out of higher-end routers on the same connection.
The next test was performed about 15 feet from the router with a closed-door blocking the signal. At that range, the Archer A6 actually stepped up its performance a little, possibly due to my test device seeing less interference in the hallway than in my office. I saw a maximum download speed of 365Mpbs and an upload of 64Mbps at that distance.
I performed the next test about 50 feet away, with several walls, furniture, and appliances blocking the signal. At that range, the download speed dropped to 195 Mbps. That’s still a pretty good performance, although the much more expensive ASUS ROG Rapture I tested at the same time held tight with download speeds of 395Mbps at the same distance.
For my final test, I headed down to my garage, putting about a hundred feet and a significant amount of obstructions in the way. My mobile device was only able to connect to the 2.4Ghz network at that range, and it notched a download speed of 13.4Mbps. That’s workable, but it’s also a sign that you may end up needing a Wi-Fi range extender with the Archer A6 even if your house isn’t that large.
You may end up needing a Wi-Fi range extender with the Archer A6 even if your house isn’t that large.
The Archer A6 uses the same familiar web interface TP-Link has used for years. If you’ve ever used a TP-Link router before, you’ll already be familiar with the system. If you haven’t, it’s very easy to pick up.
The interface is laid out in two tabs, basic and advanced, with an optional quick setup. Click the quick setup, and it will run you through all the basics to get the router up and running, set up both wireless networks and basic settings that work well enough for most people.
The basic tab provides you with the most important information, like the status of your internet connection and Wi-Fi networks, and how many devices are currently connected. You can easily access internet settings, wireless settings, parental controls, and fire up the guest network if you need it.
The advanced tab digs down into settings like parental controls, where you can set profiles to block access to certain content and create time limits, the firewall, and NAT forwarding.
In addition to the web interface, TP-Link also offers a phone app that lets you change basic settings. Advanced settings have to be accessed through the web portal.
With an MSRP of $50, the Archer A6 represents pretty decent value for the level of performance and the feature set it offers. You may want to step up to a more expensive unit if you have a big house or a lot of devices, and it is missing features like a USB port, but the Archer A6 is priced very well for what you get.
Don’t let the numbering scheme confuse you. The Archer A7 (see on Amazon) is actually an older device than the A6. It’s also a little more expensive, with an MSRP of $80 and a little faster, with an AC1750 rating compared to the AC1200 of the Archer A6.
The most important difference between these two routers is that the Archer A6 uses a newer chipset that allows it to offer MU-MIMO beamforming. The A6 also features four antennas compared to just three from the A7. So while the Archer A7 is rated at slightly higher speeds, the A6 actually performs better in the real world while still coming in at a lower price.
The Archer A7 is an example of a slightly more expensive router that provides the option to connect a USB drive, but the A6 still comes out on top due to the lower price point and more advanced chipset.
A great budget router that provides premium features.
The TP-Link Archer A6 is a great little budget-priced router that performs better than I expected it to. It’s important to stress that it’s an AC1200 router, and it’s only dual-band, so don’t expect it to do the job if you have dozens of data-hungry devices or an especially large house with a complicated internal setup. But if you just want an affordable router that performs well across about 1,400-1,600 square feet of space, this is a great option.