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.
Want to learn how I reached this conclusion? Read on to see the detailed breakdown of user-friendliness, design, and performance that informed my overall impression.TL;DR? Skip to the conclusion
The installation is the easiest and quickest of any router that I’ve ever tested. The instructions are easy to follow because it walks you through every step. Eero tells you where to place routers and offers tips to improve the signal if things aren’t working correctly.
I’ve installed Eero seven times. In my latest install, I got two Eero Pro routers installed and running the latest firmware in five minutes. It’s the only mesh system that I’d trust my parents to install on their own because they couldn’t mess it up even though they struggle with technology more than anyone.
The setup typically takes longer than Eero, but the current setup process is straightforward with the phone app.
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 it shouldn’t be necessary anymore unless you run into issues.
Summary: After four years on the market, the Eero app has been iterated and finely tuned for mainstream users. Eero has great parental controls and is a must-have for parents.
- 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 internet time and when children should have access.
- 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.
- There’s a Alexa Skill to do things like turn off someone’s profile or turn off internet access to all devices.
- You can track your bandwidth usage in real-time or see a cumulative number on a per week basis.
- HomeKit support lets you add your Eero system to the Apple Home app. This creates a firewall between your network and your smart devices, which makes it harder for bad actors to access your entire network when one device is compromised.
- 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.
- Eero relies on the cloud to operate.
Summary: Orbi has a web-based interface that lets you customize anything you want (like you can with a regular Netgear router), but the phone app user interface is slow to load, poorly designed, has annoying ads, and it lacks customization settings and native parental controls.
- Orbi has a web-based interface that lets you customize lots of settings.
- You can name devices, pause them, and reboot the system from the app.
- There’s no reliance on the cloud to run, while Eero requires internet access.
- “Traffic Meter” logs your bandwidth for a week or month, but it’s poorly designed and you can’t filter the data.
- You can ask Alexa to enable your guest network, reboot your router, or tell you your WiFi settings.
- 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.
- Orbi doesn’t have native parental controls.
- Communication between the app and Orbi is slow and sometimes delays multiple minutes.
- You can’t edit the port forwarding or DNS settings in the Orbi app.
- QoS is still referenced in Orbi’s documentation, but it’s not located in the web-based interface menu where it should be.
Speed & Stability: Eero Pro
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, download speeds for gigabit internet (600Mbps) won’t be as fast as Orbi (866Mbps). To find the perfect configuration for you, take Eero’s questionnaire.
Single router testing:
- Eero Pro is a tri-band router. I averaged 108Mbps with one Eero Pro.
- Eero Beacon and Eero (Non-Pro) are dual-band routers with identical specs. I averaged 93Mbps with one Eero (Non-Pro).
- Eero Pro has an AC2200 rating, which gives it a maximum theoretical download speed of 550Mbps on the 5 GHz channel (when in a mesh system). If your device is hardwired to Eero, it’s capable of 1Gbps.
Mesh router testing:
- I averaged 111Mbps with one Eero Pro with two Beacon routers. Eero rates this configuration to cover 5,500 square feet.
- I averaged 112Mbps with Two Eero Pro routers. Eero rates this configuration to cover 4,000 square feet.
- My testing methods have plenty of flaws, but you can read about them here.
- 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).
- 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.
Personal experience: 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. After testing many Eero configurations and trying to cover 3,000 square feet, two Eero Pro routers performed the best for me.
Speed & Stability: Orbi RBK50
Summary: Orbi RBK50 is a beast and the fastest mesh system that I’ve ever tested and has a higher theoretical download speed (866Mbps). Orbi’s speeds will stay consistent no matter which node you’re connected to, but the network doesn’t seem to be as stable as Eero. Another thing to keep in mind is that Orbi’s Amazon and Reddit reviews aren’t as favorable as Eero, and there were questionable firmware updates that broke a lot of routers.
Single router testing:
- Orbi RBK50 is a tri-band router. I averaged 100Mbps with one Orbi RBK50.
- 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.
Mesh router testing:
- I averaged 115Mbps with Two Orbi RBK50 routers.
- 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).
- My testing methods have plenty of flaws, but you can read about them here.
- One of Orbi RBK50’s bands (5GHz, 1733Mbps) is a dedicated backhaul channel that is only used to communicate with other Orbi, which leaves the other two channels open for clients (your devices).
- 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.
- 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, but it’s barely noticeable.
- There were two occasions where my satellite node stopped working properly, leaving me without coverage in the backyard. It happened while five friends and I were in the backyard and connected to my network. It seemed like too many people were using the satellite node at once, but I’ll have to test further.
- You can edit the QoS settings in the online interface, 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.
Personal experience: There are lots of flaws in my testing methodology, but one of the biggest is that I can’t test performance on gigabit internet to see if Orbi performs better than Eero (it should). Plus, 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.
Summary: Eero’s services might be helpful for parents that want to control the types of content that their children see, but they’re not necessary and I don’t recommend them to most people.
- Eero Secure is $3/month. You get better 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.
Summary: I don’t recommend either of Orbi’s subscription services. During a free trial of Netgear Armour, it blocked legitimate sites that I was trying to access, and if you need parental controls, you might as well get them free with Eero.
Eero Pro is small (4.75″ x 4.75″ x 1.34″) and sleek, and 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.
There are two Ethernet ports on Eero Pro, which leaves you with just one usable Ethernet port for hardwired devices because one of them is used for your modem. Eero Beacon saves space, but it doesn’t have any ports.
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.
Which is 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.Check Amazon’s Price
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.Check Amazon’s Price
Choosing the right configuration
In my tests, Orbi RBK50 was about 7% faster than RBK33 and covered about the same range. Orbi RBK33 could be a decent bet if you have a unique home layout, but it’s a downgrade from RBK50 because while it has three bands, one of those bands isn’t a dedicated backhaul channel. I don’t recommend this set because fewer nodes is more ideal and both of these sets are similarly priced.
There are many Orbi configurations to choose from, but the choice is easy. The RBK50 two-pack should be perfect for most homes and the best value Orbi configuration. It should cover at least 4,000 square feet.
Eero is more confusing. A set of two Eero Pro routers cost $400, while Eero Pro and two Beacons are $400 as well. I’ve used both of these configurations for long periods but stuck with two Eero Pro routers because that’s what worked best for my house and entire backyard, which is about 3,000 square feet. Plus, I like the two extra Ethernet ports.
If money isn’t an issue, 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.
Eero Pro is great, but not everyone wants to drop $400 and that’s why I recommend Eero (non-Pro) to most people. For $250, the three piece system gives you all the benefits of Eero’s software and stability for a better price. I found Eero Pro to be about 16% faster than the non-Pro Eero, which may sound substantial on paper, but I doubt it’s noticeable to most.