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Orbi vs Google Mesh Wi-Fi (2020): Which Mesh Wi-Fi System Is Better?

Two of the most popular mesh Wi-Fi systems today are the Netgear Orbi and Google WiFi. While Netgear was one of the first to offer mesh routers to rid homes of dead zones, Google further simplified the device so you can trust everything to work in the background. If you’re undecided between these two very highly-rated Wi-Fi mesh packages, check out our detailed comparison below.

Orbi vs Google Mesh Wi-Fi System Comparison Chart

ModelNetgear Orbi RBK50Google Wifi 3-Pack
Netgear Orbi RBK50Google Wifi Mesh Router
PriceCheck PriceCheck Price
Dimensions6.7 x 3.1 x 8.9 inches4.1 x 4.1 x 2.7 inches
Weight3.92 pounds0.75 pounds
Area Coverage5,000 sq. ft.4,500 sq. ft.
Wi-Fi TypeWiFi 5WiFi 5
Wi-Fi Speed3 Gbps1.2 Gbps
Tri-bandYesNo
Connected Devices25+N/A
Ethernet Ports4 per node2 per node
USB PortYesNo
Mobile AppYesYes
Web BrowserYesYes
Parental ControlsYesYes
Guest NetworkYesYes

Design

The Google Wifi looks sleeker and easier to showcase than the Netgear Orbi.

Netgear Orbi vs Google Mesh Wifi Router Design
While the Netgear Orbi (left) has a more of an unusual shape, the Google Wifi (right) sports a simple cylindrical form.

It’s more about personal preference of course, but the Google Wifi mesh router is perhaps the sleekest out of all top-rated choices today. It’s a white, flat cylinder with an LED band in the middle which lights up with power. You can easily find a nice spot for it on your shelves or desk as its size isn’t imposing, and the clean and uncluttered design matches any decor well.

While definitely a looker as well, the Netgear Orbi has a more distinctive design. It will stand out wherever you put it, though part of that is due to its size. The Orbi routers are some of the biggest because of their wide front, so there’s really no tucking them away. Still, you’d be proud to display these around when they’re so integral to home comforts.

Connectivity

The Netgear Orbi covers more area and has more ports than the Google Wifi.

Netgear Orbi vs Google Mesh Wifi Router Connectivity
You’ll be able to physically plug in more devices into the Netgear Orbi.

Though wireless connectivity is the focal point of mesh Wi-Fi systems, the ability to plug in devices directly is important for most homes. 4K TVs, gaming consoles, printers, etc., will all function faster and smoother with wired connections to routers. This is why the presence of 3 LAN Ethernet ports on the main Netgear Orbi router, as well as 4 ports per satellite, gives it a clear advantage over the Google Wifi mesh routers, which by the way only have a single LAN port per node.

Furthermore, the Netgear Orbi packs a more powerful antenna array that can extend coverage up to 2,500 sq. ft. around each node. With the popular 2-pack option, you can get rid of dead zones in a 5,000 sq. ft. area and experience consistent, fast Wi-Fi whether you’re in the basement or out in the backyard. In comparison, the Google Wifi mesh routers only have a range of 1,500 sq. ft. per node. Still, its 3-pack gets you as much coverage as the Orbi while costing a lot less.

Performance

The Netgear Orbi is much faster than the Google Wifi.

Netgear Orbi vs Google Mesh Wifi Router Performance
You can enjoy faster wireless speeds and better throughput with the Netgear Orbi.

If you’re subscribed to a high-speed Internet plan, such as those reaching up to 500 Mbps, you’ll get your maximum bandwidth more consistently with the Netgear Orbi. It has an AC3000 Tri-band Wi-Fi system which translates to speeds of up to 3 Gbps split between three bands. In comparison, the Google Wifi mesh router has an AC1200 Dual-band Wi-Fi, which equates to a max of 1.2 Gbps.

While both mesh router systems have the typical 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands which top out at 400 Mbps and 866 Mbps, respectively, the Netgear Orbi has an additional 5GHz band with a 1.7 Gbps throughput that’s solely dedicated to link its router and satellites with each other. This frees up the other two bands so you can enjoy max speed at all times.

You’ll also experience better speeds at longer distances with the Netgear Orbi, thanks to its stronger aerial arrays. Connecting to an Orbi router on the ground floor while you’re on the third floor of your home, for example, will result in faster downloads and uploads compared to using a Google Wifi mesh router. However, you can easily maximize coverage with the 3-pack Google Wifi since it will automatically connect you to multiple nodes so you can get the most bandwidth possible.

Software and Other Features

The Google Wifi is simpler and more user-friendly than the Netgear Orbi.

Netgear Orbi vs Google Mesh Wifi Router Software and Other Features
Google designed its mesh Wi-Fi system to be highly accessible for users without technical networking knowledge.

Setting up the Google Wifi mesh system is quick and painless. You’ll only need to download the Google Wifi companion app and follow its instructions to get you up and running. This is a major reason for the success of this mesh router, as most homes won’t be equipped with technical know-how to configure wireless networks. Maintenance is easy too, and you can access nearly every pertinent setting on the mobile app.

In comparison, the Netgear Orbi‘s app provides much the same level of access but to fully optimize its performance you’ll likely need to go into the web browser interface. Netgear hasn’t applied any modern improvements on this web UI by the way. It’s still a lot like the router admin panels of ten or so years ago, which is fine if you’re into the tech stuff but it’s a no-no for most people.

You can get many of the important features of modern mesh Wi-Fi routers on both systems. Control which devices can connect to the Wi-Fi network and even set prioritization for more important devices such as your work laptop. You can also set up guest networks to keep your main one private and secure. Most families will also want parental controls so they can decide which sites can be accessed and whether it should be time for sleep for the kids.

Verdict

The Google Wifi offers better value for most homes but the Netgear Orbi lets you maximize wireless speed.

Netgear Orbi

Netgear Orbi RBK50

Fortunately, this comparison makes it very clear that the Netgear Orbi and Google Wifi mesh router systems are best suited for different audiences. We recommend the Google Wifi for those with smaller to average-sized homes as well as those who just want a simple device that speeds up the Wi-Fi at home without too much hassle. It’s a lot more affordable to boot, especially if you need fewer nodes or aren’t subscribed to a high-speed ISP plan.

Those who want the fastest Wi-Fi they can get at every part of the home will want to look at the Netgear Orbi. With a dedicated backhaul for inter-router communication, you’ll experience top speeds for your devices at much farther distances too. You’ll have to contend with the admin panel at some point but if you care about having great Wi-Fi you won’t mind diving deeper into network settings beyond what the mobile app allows.

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Derick Bondoc
Derick Bondoc

Managing Editor at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about gadgets, gaming and snacks.