Consumer Routers: Linksys vs Netgear

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There are several well-known consumer network brands that have been main stays in the market for many years. Linksys and Netgear are two of those you can find pretty much everywhere, and who continue to pump out new products regularly.

When looking at brand quality as a whole, it can be difficult to rank one name over another, although there are certainly brands that have a proven history of being rubbish. In the case of Linksys and Netgear we have two brands that are reasonably well respected in the market, and both have a history of decent quality gear.

As with many well-established brands, though, you’re going to see hits and misses with particular products. Take Ford with the Mustang vs the Pinto, for example. I’ve used products from both brands, and many others, over the years, which would lead me to rank Linksys as the better of the two in terms of firmware stability and ease of use.

However, it’s true to say that other IT pros would hold the opposite view. It depends on which products you’ve had experience with, and what criteria you value more. As such, with an understanding that the brands themselves are comparable, it’s better to look at like-for-like product comparisons with a view to the features that matter to you.

Let’s take a look at some overarching factors and then dive into a comparison of their best offerings in each of three categories: Mesh, Performance, and Budget. I’ve also included a brief overview of each of the companies at the end in case you want to know more about who you’re buying from.

Linksys vs Netgear Customer Experience

General User Ratings

It’s a bit tricky getting overall brand ratings from customers, the usual consumer ratings sites don’t cover these products well and tend to only attract complaints. So, we’ll look at Amazon reviews to get a good cross section of customer feedback. In the case of these two brands the statistical relevance is good given they attract large numbers (thousands) of review ratings for each product.

Looking across all Netgear routers on Amazon, router customer reviews average a solid 4.5 stars consistently across all models.

Linksys also fairs quite well in Amazon reviews. Looking across their router range, they net an average of 4 stars, with many models rating 4.5.

Both Linksys and Netgear offer a mobile app for management of some models, but this is inconsistent. Such an app can be a convenience for some and offer a simpler method of doing setup and basic management tasks for the less tech savvy.

Customer Support

I’ve seen customer complaints generally revolve around poor technical support experiences. This is unfortunately typical of consumer electronics brands in general, and it’s hard to find an exception to this rule where commoditized volume sales is the profit driver. Linksys and Netgear fall into that category, and this holds true for both, but your mileage may vary.

The bigger difference between the two is their approach to support in general. Netgear only provides free support for 90 days, with ongoing support requiring you to sign up to one of their tiered service plans. Linksys, on the other hand, provides a more conventional 24/7 support for free for the warranty period of the router. This runs from 1 year on their cheaper models up to a generous 3 years on their higher end products.

Firmware Quality

In my experience with both brands, their firmware design and UI falls short of higher end brands like Ubiquiti, MicroTik, or Eero, which is not surprising. Features are not the issue, but rather quality control and general usability of the interface. Both brands have had a history of poor firmware updates causing issues from time-to-time, but it’s worth keeping in mind the overall customer ratings which indicate these issues are edge cases more than major failures.

Thankfully both brands are committed to pushing out updates when required, unlike some cheaper brands. This is a critical consideration for security and represents one of the biggest risks to any internet-connected product. Many low-cost consumer products languish without updates even when major security flaws are discovered. Both Linksys and Netgear have historically responded well to security researchers and addressed these issues, at least on their higher end products.

Understanding Wi-Fi Jargon

Before getting into specific product comparisons, you may need to get up to speed on some of the technical jargon the device makers like to throw around. Check out our Enthusiasts guide to Wi-Fi if you need a refresher.

Note that the AC/AX speed ratings to follow can be misleading. They refer to the theoretical maximum bandwidth available across BOTH frequency bands combined. This doesn’t mean you’ll get that speed to each device, and it certainly doesn’t reflect internet performance, which is ultimately capped by your ISP connection. Indeed, most of these models can only deliver 1Gbps at most, as that’s the maximum speed of the WAN port used to connect to your modem.

It’s also worth noting that I’ll be covering the Wi-Fi 6 models rather than the newer 6E models. While the 6E models are capable of higher maximum throughput and individual connection speeds for those devices that support it, their availability is limited to the USA for now, and those supported devices are still in short supply.

Linksys vs Netgear: Mesh Routers

Let’s start with the mesh offerings. Mesh networks allow for a more flexible Wi-Fi setup by allowing you to place mesh nodes where you need them to ensure full home coverage.

These systems are great for larger homes, and smart homes where you have a lot of Wi-Fi devices potentially scattered throughout the property. Mesh systems also tend to offer higher theoretical speeds as more nodes are added. This is true in that the load is spread between nodes, but ultimately doesn’t get around the upper limit of your internet connection.

Linksys-velop .jpg

Linksys Atlas Pro

✔ Dual-band AX5400 (Wi-Fi 6)
✔ 3 Ethernet ports
✔ WPA3 security
✔ App-based setup over Bluetooth
✔ Parental Controls

✘ Parental control requires subscription account
✘ Control only through app, no web interface

The Atlas Intelligent Mesh system is Linksys’ latest mid-range entry in the mesh network market. This model is available in 1, 2, or 3 packs up front, and Linksys offers a configurator to help you choose which is best for your home. You’ll get good performance, but not up there with the premium gaming models, although your internet connection is going to cap that anyway. For more performance, you can look to their Atlas Max range with offers Wi-Fi 6E, up to AX8400, but that’s only available in the US.

Linksys offers a 3-year warranty on these, which is a nice change, and you can mix and match their Velop, Atlas and Hydra routers as you need. This means you can always upgrade or extend your mesh system later.

A guest network is on offer with support for up to 50 guest devices, which seems like an arbitrary limitation. I like to use the guest network not only for visitors, but also for IoT devices that only need internet access, so this may become an issue.

Setup and operation requires use of the Linksys app. That makes for a smoother user experience for the less technical, but it’s also been reported to be a bit limited, and not very fast at showing the real-time status of things since it all goes through Linksys servers. It’s also unfortunate that the parental features require a Linksys account and a paid subscription to be accessible.

There have also been numerous reports of issues with channel selection, needing manual refresh, and node hopping, say when moving around the house with your phone. These kinds of things can be down to other environmental factors, and the overall ratings are good, so it’s just something to keep in mind.


Netgear Orbi

✔ Tri-band AX6000 (Wi-Fi 6)
✔ 10Gbps WAN port
✔ 4 Ethernet ports
✔ WPA2 security
✔ App-based setup over Bluetooth
✔ Enhanced security option

✘ Security option requires subscription
✘ Basic parental controls with subscription

The Netgear Orbi 860 offers a mesh-like solution for large homes, I say ‘like’ because unlike other mesh solutions Netgear has opted for a centralized hub and spoke model. You have a specific router unit, and dedicated satellite nodes. They look the same, but the router has an additional port for the WAN connection to your ISP.

This isn’t really a problem, though, as with other true mesh solutions you still have only one node connected to the internet (via a modem) anyway, it just doesn’t matter which one. A key benefit of Netgear’s approach is that they use one of the 5GHz bands (of the tri-band) as a dedicated backhaul between the nodes. This results in the Orbi winning accolades as the fastest mesh network solution on the market right now.

This particular model also includes a 10Gbps WAN port, which is a big upgrade over most of the competition and allows for internet connections faster than 1Gbps. This means even higher speeds to individual clients than before and supports more connections, which is beneficial as we add more and more connected devices to our homes.

As with the Linksys Velop, configuration and setup is done using Netgear’s smartphone app. This is becoming a trend with high end models, especially in the mesh space. Unlike the Velop the Orbi still offers a web interface. You need to use this to access more advanced features, but it’s still limiting in what you can do, and suffers from the reported firmware quality issues that have plagued both brands over the years.

Speed and coverage is king here, but limited configuration options and a lack of network monitoring features means advanced users may still run up against roadblocks in managing their networks.

Linksys vs Netgear: Performance Routers

Linksys Hydra Pro 6

✔ Dual-band AX5400 (Wi-Fi 6)
✔ 4 Ethernet ports + WAN
✔ WPA3 security
✔ USB 3.0 port
✔ Parental controls

✘ No smartphone app
✘ No smart home features

The MR5500 Hydra Pro 6 is the newest performance router from Linksys and presents as a fairly standard dual-antenna router common that has been common with these types for a number of years.

Linksys have now brought their router range onto the app-experience bandwagon since their previous product versions didn’t offer it yet, but you can still access a web interface if you don’t want to deal with an account sign-up and be a bit more hands-on with your settings. This isn’t particularly obvious, but there is a small icon on the landing page that gets you in and avoids the prominent push to download the app instead.

It’s not the fastest Wi-Fi router out there these days, even in the Linksys stable, but AX5400 offers up to 4800Mbps on the 5Ghz band (the Atlas mesh router offers AX8400), which is still pretty good unless you have a crazy amount of simultaneous 4K streaming going on. You can, of course, add any of Linksys’ mesh nodes to extend your range from this router as well.

While there’s no smart home features on offer, you do get parental controls and guest access control, which I’d consider a minimum requirement these days.

Being a new product, the jury is still out on customer feedback, but what there is is looking pretty good on performance and stability with a 4.5 average rating so far. There are naturally some firmware glitches, but I’ve seen nothing to onerous being reported yet and I would expect Linksys to get updates out for these before too long.


Netgear Nighthawk RAX200

✔ Dual-band AX11000 (Wi-Fi 6)
✔ 4 Gb Ethernet ports + WAN
✔ 2.5Gbps Multi-gig port
✔ WPA3 security
✔ 2 USB 3.0 ports
✔ Bitdefender security option

✘ Basic parental controls
✘ Security option requires subscription
✘ Poor support without subscription

The Netgear RAX200 is part of their Nighthawk range of high-performance routers targeted at gamers and other power users, sporting a much more aggressive, and much larger form factor than the Linksys models. As such it packs some interesting features not usually found on other consumer routers (yet) aside from its blazing fast AX11000 speed rating.

Aside from the 4 LAN and 1 WAN Gbps Ethernet ports, there is also a 2.5 Gbps multi-gig configurable port which allows internet connections up to 2Gbps to be used. On the LAN side, there is support for link aggregation on two of the Ethernet ports as well. You’ll also get not one, but two USB 3.0 ports for connecting storage devices, and 8 internal antennas.

Like their Orbi range, the RAX200 retains the Alexa and Google voice command support, so you can activate guest access or control certain device features through voice commands. Otherwise you can use the Nighthawk smartphone app to do basic management and troubleshooting tasks, and the web interface is still there for more advanced tasks, although still with limits.

A nice feature here is the ability to set up the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands on different networks, so you can eliminate the common issues we see with smart devices not connecting properly because they don’t support 5Ghz, just connect them to the correct one from the outset.

As with other Netgear routers they’re pushing the Netgear Armour subscription. This offers Bitdefender security which provides entry point protection from viruses and other attacks, how effectively is up for debate. It’s notable that this subscription is also required for the fairly basic parental controls on offer, which remains a gap on Netgear’s products for families.

Performance and coverage are great by all accounts, but the usual firmware complaints are still there with this model as well, even though it’s not new to market. Updates are forthcoming, but there are still issues being raised by some customers. Again, ratings for the product overall are good with average of 4.1, so this doesn’t seem to be affecting the majority of users.

Linksys vs Netgear: Budget Routers

Linksys MR7350

✔ Dual-band AX1800 (Wi-Fi 6)
✔ 4 Ethernet ports + WAN
✔ WPA3 security
✔ Parental controls

✘ No smart home features

The Linksys Max-Stream MR7350 is the newest revision of their Max-Stream budget range routers for Wi-Fi 6. It’s a fairly basic AX1800 model with 4 LAN ports, guest access and parental controls. The latter already puts it on top of Netgear’s offerings for families, and you get a full 3-year warranty as well.

Setup is via the Linksys App now, but there’s no smart home integration features. Given the impressive bandwidth numbers from the other models, it’s easy to look past AX1800 models now, but realistically a decent implementation will deliver just as well for homes with an internet connection less than about 300mbps, or only needing a few Wi-Fi devices.

The biggest issue you’ll find with the MR7350 is range. With 2 foldable antennas it’s not going to compete with something like a higher end NetGear Nighthawk model or pretty much any mesh system, but for smaller homes on a budget this is a solid option at a bargain price point. That said, it is cross-compatible with Linksys’ range of mesh nodes, so you can still extend your reach if you find the need later on.

Netgear R6700AX

✔ Dual-band AX1800 (Wi-Fi 6)
✔ 4 Ethernet ports + WAN
✔ WPA3 security
✔ Nighthawk App control

✘ Basic parental controls
✘ No smart home features
✘ Poor support

The Netgear R6700AX is a Wi-Fi 6 upgrade of their earlier low-end Nighhawk models. It offers a reasonable AX1800 bandwidth rating, 4 LAN ports and basic firmware features. You’ll trade Linksys’ included parental controls for a USB port that can be used to connect a shared storage device.

Netgear has a plethora of budget models, but I’ve selected this one as the best value for money thanks to decent Wi-Fi 6 performance, use of the Nighthawk app for easy management, and a bargain price.

Setup is done through the Nighthawk app which also allows you to manage basic features as with the higher end models. It’s still fairly limited, so you won’t be doing power user stuff here, but for general family use it should be ok. Parental controls are limited to very basic options unless you fork out for their subscription, as with the other models above.

While the R6700AX seems to still rate fairly well on user reviews, there are a disproportionately high number of complaints about poor performance, both wired and wireless, and of the unit dying within a year. This coupled with Netgear’s heavy handed pushing of paid support plans is not a good fit given the low price of the router. You’d instantly end up paying more for support than it cost to buy in the first place.

Given that issue, Linksys is a clear winner in this category.

An Overview of the Companies

Linksys Overview

Founded in 1988 in Irvine, California by a pair of Taiwanese immigrants. They gradually increased their range of networking products up to 1995 when they received a major boost thanks to native support in Windows 95.

They started to establish retail channels with major outlets at that time, and pioneered some new niche products over the next few years. They produced the first PCMCIA Fast Ethernet card for laptops in 1999, and the first 8 port switch with QoS and SNMP features in 2000.

Acquired by Cisco in 2003 they expanded into VOIP and business products before being sold along with Cisco’s home networking division to Belkin in 2013. Belkin was subsequently acquired by Chinese electronics manufacturer Foxconn in 2018 and as such is the overall owner of the Linksys brand.

Netgear Overview

Netgear was founded in 1996 in San Jose, California by an electronic engineer formerly working at Hewlett Packard. With seed funding from Bay Networks, Netgear grew steadily to provide a wide variety of consumer, business and gaming focused networking products, becoming publicly listed in 2003.

In 2007 Netgear acquired storage firm ReadyNAS and entered the storage market, adding backup products in 2009. They also started the well known home security brand Arlo which they spun off into a separate company in 2018.

Netgear remains an independent company with offices in 25 countries that outsources manufacturing to various partners in China, Vietnam, and Taiwan. These partners are overseen by a separate quality division based in Hong Kong.

The Verdict

Both of these brands are what I’d class as ‘mid-range’ consumer network hardware manufacturers. While they offer some good features and higher performance models, they also both suffer from occasional quality control issues, particularly with their firmware.

After analyzing hundreds of consumer ratings comparing Linksys vs Netgear across many models, it’s apparent that Netgear is having more issues with firmware quality of late, and is lagging in terms of user interface and features. Attempts to rectify this with smartphone apps have only gone so far for both brands, with the apps being limited in capability themselves, and requiring cloud accounts to access them adding more risk to the end user.

Both brands also have plenty of complaints about customer service quality, but as I’ve noted above this is not uncommon in the consumer electronics space. A combination of complicated technical support and low margins means companies tend to skimp on the quality of their support staff. The bigger issue for me is Netgear’s push towards paid support plans. Their provided warranty is a fairly short 90 days, after which you need to pay a hefty fee for a service plan.

Contrast this with the more conventional Linksys 1 year warranty with free 24/7 support, and up to 3 years on higher end products like the Velop mesh routers. Coupled with better firmware and lower security vulnerability counts over time, and you can see why I still rank Linksys as the better of the two.