Eero Pro vs. Orbi RBK50: Which is the King of Mesh Systems?
After four years of using different mesh systems and one month of hardcore side-by-side testing, I found two different Eero Pro configurations (Eero Pro + 2 Eero Beacons) or (2 Eero Pros) were better than Orbi because they balance great software and performance.
Netgear Orbi RBK50 (2-Set) is better for power users who want to get more out of their internet speed or need extra ports.
I’ll explain how I reached my conclusion by comparing two mesh systems (Eero Pro vs. Orbi RBK50) while evaluating four categories: setup, software, performance, and design.
Best For You
Get Eero Pro if you want a network that works without being noticed. The initial setup takes a few minutes, the parental controls are easy to use, and the nodes are a nice size. With gigabit internet, you won’t reach Orbi’s speed potential, but the connection is more stable and consistent.
Get Orbi RBK50 if you want to get more out of your internet’s potential. The dedicated backhaul, higher theoretical download speed, seven ports, and a web-based interface will make lots of power users happy, but you’ll get ugly nodes, a less stable network, and a terrible phone app.
- SetupIt’s the easiest and quickest to install. My last install took four minutes.
- SoftwareThe Eero app is user-friendly. You can create "Family Profiles" and manage your devices, which make it a must have for parents.
- PerformanceTheoretical limit of 600Mbps. My testing: one Eero Pro with two Beacons averaged 111Mbps, while two Eero Pros averaged 112Mbps.
- DesignThe Pros are sleek and the Beacons save space, but you won't have as many ports as Orbi.
- SetupIt's not perfect, but you should have a system running in 15 minutes.
- SoftwareThe Orbi app is slow and clunky. It also lacks customization and parental controls, but it has a web-based interface.
- PerformanceTheoretical limit of 866/mbps. My testing: Two Orbi RBK50 averaged 115Mbps. Node switching isn't as seamless as Eero.
- DesignYou can't tuck them away, but you'll have seven Ethernet ports in the two-piece system.
Things To Know
- Over the last four years, I’ve had ten different mesh systems in my house. Check out my power rankings to see each of the mesh systems that I’ve tested ranked in order from best to worst. Eero Pro is currently ranked first, while Orbi RBK50 is ranked third.
- I’m not a networking expert and there are plenty of flaws in my testing methods. I suggest looking elsewhere if you want data-driven and spec analysis. I’m focused most on ease of use, smart features, and a stable connection without dropouts. Speed and specs are nice, but once you hit a certain level of speed, it’s hard to notice a difference. Your network should operate so well that you forget you have a network. Your devices just work.
- My testing process for measuring my download speed numbers:
- For each test, I unplugged the modem and routers, waited, then plugged the modem and routers back in and waited 10 minutes for the system to configure. I did this to ensure a fresh start and to avoid devices downloading in the background.
- I measured from ten locations in my house and backyard.
- I used speedtest.net, with my MacBook Pro, and always connected to the Shrewsbury, MA server.
- I recorded the download speed for ten different locations on my property.
- I repeated the process three times per router set.
- I also tested the range of ONE router (not mesh) to get a baseline of how powerful each router was.
- Things to keep in mind that might affect your speed numbers (and reasons why your results might differ from mine):
- Your home’s layout is not identical to mine. Replicating my download numbers would be difficult.
- My house is 1,200 square feet. I was trying to cover about 3,000 square feet (backyard and deck included).
- My maximum internet speed is relatively low at 117Mbps. I can’t test or see how the routers would perform on faster networks.
- Frustrations: Your devices won’t always connect to the closest node, which is frustrating. To my surprise, the device always makes the WiFi switching decisions, and there’s nothing your router can do. Some iOS devices are even worse at switching properly, but you can fix this by toggling your WiFi on and off.
- Misconceptions: There are misconceptions about where to place the routers (nodes) in a mesh network. Here are three basic rules:
- Test your WiFi with one router and find where your network starts to degrade
- Place your second node on the edge of the area where you’re getting max speeds.
- If you’re not getting a great connection in the living room, putting a node in the living room won’t help your connection. The nodes need to talk to each other and this signal needs to be as strong as it can be.
- Mesh systems work with any internet service provider.
- You can hardwire any of these systems together to create a wired backhaul.
- If your internet provider gave you a router built into your modem, you’ll need to disable the router part or buy a standard modem. As a last resort, you can put your mesh router in “bridge mode,” but you’ll lose some functionality.
- You can create a “guest network” and give it its own name and password that’s separate from your main network.
- Ideally, you want the fewest number of nodes to cover your house. The chances of your devices connecting to the wrong node (one further away) increase with each node you add. However, there are exceptions where more nodes are preferable:
- Tall and narrow houses.
- Long and narrow houses.
- Non-cookie cutter houses.
- I’ve installed Eero six times. The installation is the easiest and quickest of any router that I’ve ever tested. It’s the only mesh system that I’d trust my parents to install on their own. They couldn’t mess it up, and they struggle with technology more than anyone.
- In my latest install, I got two Eero Pro routers installed and running the latest firmware in four minutes.
- The instructions are easy to follow because it walks you through every step. They tell you where to place routers and offer tips to improve the signal if things aren’t working correctly.
- You can create a profile for each person in your household with “Family Profiles” and group all of each person’s devices. From there, you can pause all devices assigned to a person or give them scheduled access. It’s brilliantly set up for parents to limit how much internet time and when they should have access.
- There’s an Alexa Skill with some interesting features:
- “Alexa, tell Eero it’s dinner time,” pauses turns off internet access to all devices.
- “Alexa, ask Eero to find my phone,” lets you know which Eero your phone is closest to.
- “Alexa, ask Eero to pause Skeeter’s profile.” will pause the internet access on all of the devices associated with Skeeter’s profile.
- Eero is one of the first routers to get HomeKit compatibility. HomeKit support makes your network and smart devices more secure by creating a firewall for your smart home devices. If one of your smart devices becomes compromised, it won’t take down the rest of your network.
- There are three software annoyances compared to Orbi:
- Eero doesn’t have a web-based interface. That said, it’s tough to see why someone would need the web app because the phone app is so well done.
- While you can see real-time bandwidth usage per device, there’s no way to monitor your daily, weekly, or monthly total bandwidth combined. Orbi’s bandwidth feature isn’t great, but at least they have something for you. If you have a data cap and your service provider doesn’t have a way to track bandwidth, I suggest going with Google WiFi.
- Eero relies on the cloud to operate, while Orbi doesn’t require internet access to log into the network.
- Eero makes it easy to give friends access to your WiFi by sending them a token via text message. Or, they can scan a QR with the camera app to sign in.
- You can play with advanced configurations like reservations, port forwarding, and DNS settings. While you can’t tinker with as many settings as you can with Orbi, Eero is smart about the defaults that it chooses for you.
- Eero has two optional subscription services:
- Eero Secure is $3/month. You getbetter security, advanced parental controls, activity center, safe filtering, and built-in adblocker.
- Eero Secure+ is $10/month. You get the features from Eero Secure and three security app accounts: password manager from 1Password, VPN service through encrypt.me, and antivirus protection from MalwareBytes.
- Solo router performance (for baseline):
- Mesh router performance (using the routers together, as intended):
- One Eero Pro with two Beacon routers averaged 111Mbps. Eero rates this configuration to cover 5,500 square feet.
- Two Eero Pro routers averaged 112Mbps. Eero rates this configuration to cover 4,000 square feet.
- You can try Eero’s questionnaire to see which router configuration that they recommend based on your home’s layout.
- Eero Pro uses a “true multi-channel mesh network,” which means that all three bands are used in communicating from node to node, while these bands are also used for the clients (your devices). How does Eero Pro’s approach compare to Orbi’s? Orbi has three bands too, but they dedicate one band (5GHz, 1733Mbps) to the backhaul (communication between the nodes).
- None of the Eero routers have an official AC rating, but on a FAQ page, Eero says that Eero Pro has a maximum theoretical download speed of 600Mbps on the 5 GHz channel. They also say that if your device is hardwired to Eero, it’s capable of 1Gbps.
- Eero’s ability to keep the connection on your devices running smoothly while your devices jump from one node to a different one is unparalleled. Eero routers automatically work behind the scenes to manage your network. I don’t know how to measure this with data, but I don’t notice when my devices switch nodes, like I sometimes do with other mesh networks. In two years, there have been no substantial cutouts.
- You can enable a feature called “Band Steering” that tries to push devices that support 5 GHz to that channel to increase performance.
- You can enable a feature called “Optimize for Conferencing and Gaming” (previously called Smart Queue Management), which will prioritize voice, video, and gaming devices and limit the amount of bandwidth other devices use.
- Once you have one Eero Pro, configure the rest of your system based on your home’s square footage and layout. If money and table space aren’t issues, buy as many Eero Pro routers as you need. While the Beacons are only dual-band, as long as your system has one Eero Pro unit, you’ll see most of the performance benefits of the third band (in my experience).
- Performance Summary: Eero Pro, in any configuration, shines with device switching and overall stability, and it’s the second fastest mesh system that I’ve ever tested, but due to how it handles communication between the nodes, Orbi has higher theoretical speed for gigabit internet users.
- Eero Pro is small (4.75″ x 4.75″ x 1.34″) and sleek.
- Eero Beacon is small and plugs into an outlet without a cord. You don’t need countertop space or an open shelf. It stays out of the way and saves space.
- Eero Beacon turns into a nightlight you can switch off or program with a schedule.
- The downside to the design is a lack of ports:
- There are two Ethernet ports on Eero Pro. One Ethernet input is for the broadband modem, and the other is output for hardwired devices.
- Eero Beacon doesn’t have ports.
- Eero (non-Pro) is what I recommend to everyone. For $250, it gives you all the benefits of Eero’s software and stability for a better price.
- Eero (non-Pro) has two bands, which leaves you with less room for communication between the nodes. The radios aren’t as strong or fast as Eero Pro either.
- With the three-piece Eero (non-Pro) system, I got a 96Mbps average speed, compared to 111Mbps on the three-piece Eero Pro. A 16% increase in speed sounds substantial on paper, but I doubt it’s noticeable to most. After three years of hardcore router testing, the only time I notice a speed difference in real life is when my network is down.
- The setup typically takes longer than Eero, but the current setup process is straightforward with the phone app.
- Orbi’s nodes look identical, but they’re not interchangeable like most mesh systems. Orbi has a base “router” and “satellite” node.
- In my latest install, I got two Orbi RBK50 nodes running in eight minutes, and an additional five minutes for the firmware updates.
- In previous setups, I got errors when powering on the router and the satellite simultaneously during the setup. I used to recommend getting the network working first with one router, then adding the satellites, but I don’t think that it’s necessary anymore unless you run into issues.
- You can name devices, pause them, and reboot the system from the app, but there’s not much else you can do:
- The interface looks terrible, and words are often cut off on the screen.
- I’ll often open the app and see a “Router Not Set Up” message, but then when I tap “Dismiss,” my network is up and running correctly.
- They added parental controls, but you need to download a separate app called “Circle with Disney” for an extra $5/month.
- Communication between the app and Orbi is unbearably slow and sometimes delays multiple minutes.
- You can’t edit the port forwarding or DNS settings in the Orbi app, but Orbi has a web-based interface that lets you customize lots of settings.
- It has unavoidable ads for Netgear Armor and Disney Circle paid subscription services.
- “Traffic Meter” logs your bandwidth for a week or month, but it’s poorly designed and you can’t filter the data.
- “Netgear Armor” is $70/year, but the service seems wonky based on my short time experimenting. It blocked a few useful sites that I wanted to access. I also didn’t appreciate that I got automatically opted into their trial without my consent.
- QoS is still referenced in Orbi’s documentation, but it’s not located in the menu where it should be. Previously, inside of Orbi’s online interface, you could edit the QoS settings, which means that you can give higher bandwidth priority to certain devices during set times. While Eero does this automatically with their “Optimize for Conferencing and Gaming” setting, Orbi’s approach is better for those that want full control.
- You can share WiFi with a QR code or by sending a connection link.
- There’s no reliance on the cloud to run, while Eero requires internet access.
- You can ask Alexa to enable your guest network, reboot your router, or tell you your WiFi settings.
- Solo router performance (for baseline):
- Orbi RBK50 averaged 100Mbps as a standalone unit.
- Mesh router performance (using the routers together, as intended):
- Two Orbi RBK50 routers averaged 115Mbps.
- Netgear says two units will cover 5,000 square feet, but the range seems the same as two Eero Pro routers (4,000 square feet).
- Orbi is a tri-band router and made one of the bands (5GHz, 1733Mbps) a dedicated backhaul channel that is only used to communicate with other Orbi. That leaves the other two channels open for clients (your devices). This approach differs substantially from how Eero does things. Here’s how I’ve seen it play out in real life:
- When your devices are connected to the “satellite” node, the speed doesn’t differ much from when you’re connected to the “router” node. You’ll get more consistent speed and get closer to your internet connection’s potential, no matter where you are in your house.
- I haven’t experienced severe cutouts, like others, but my phone sometimes hiccups when I move from the outside deck to the living room. The process of switching nodes doesn’t seem to be as smooth as Eero.
- Orbi has an AC3000 rating and a maximum theoretical download speed of 866Mbps on the 5 GHz channel. Looking through Reddit, it looks like most gigabit users aren’t getting close to the 866Mbps max, but your potential should be higher with Orbi than Eero.
- Orbi wins in my speed tests, has a higher theoretical limit, and has a dedicated backhaul, but I have reservations:
- Orbi’s Amazon reviews aren’t as favorable as Eero’s. While partly due to Eero’s fan base, there are more complaints about Orbi’s signals cutting out or acting weird. It’s the same story on Reddit.
- Based on forums and Amazon reviews, there were questionable firmware updates that caused issues for users. However, it looks like they’ve taken care of most of these issues.
- I’ve only used Orbi in my house for three months combined, over three different periods, which is a small sample size compared to Eero.
- As noted in “Things to Know,” there are plenty of flaws in my testing methodology.
- I can’t test performance with gigabit internet for myself.
- Performance Summary: Orbi RBK50 is a beast and the fastest mesh system that I’ve ever tested. Your speeds will stay consistent no matter which node you’re connected to, but the network doesn’t seem to be as stable as Eero.
- Orbi RBK50 is massive (8.9” x 6.7” x 3.1”) and ugly. Compared to Eero Pro, it’s eight times taller and six times bigger by volume. You can’t hide these away easily.
- The Orbi “router” has the Ethernet port for the internet, then three additional Ethernet ports, and a USB port. With the two-piece setup, you’ll have seven ports to nerd-out on.
- If you want an Orbi set, the RBK50 makes the most sense, but there are other options available.
- Last year, I tested Netgear Orbi RBK33 (3-Set), which comes with one Orbi RBK40 and two outlet routers (RBW30). It’s a downgrade from Orbi’s RBK50 two-set. While it has three bands, one of those bands isn’t a dedicated backhaul channel.
- RBK40’s solo router performance matched RBK50’s.
- Orbi RBK33 three-set gave me an average of 107Mbps. It should cover the same area (5,000 square feet) that RBK50 does.
- Orbi RBS50Y works outside because it’s weather resistant. It has the same specs as Orbi RBK50.