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

With the official ratification of the Wi-Fi 6 standard last year, more and more routers are hitting the shelves offering the new and faster wireless tech. However, nearly all of the new Wi-Fi 6 routers released so far have been on the higher end of the price spectrum. Netgear’s latest addition to its lineup goes against that trend, giving homes a less costly option to get faster Wi-Fi. Here’s how the new Netgear Nighthawk Mesh WiFi 6 System (MK62) compares against its popular Netgear Orbi (RBK50).

Orbi vs Nighthawk Mesh Wi-Fi System Comparison Chart

ModelNetgear Orbi RBK50Netgear Nighthawk MK62
 Netgear Orbi RBK50Netgear Nighthawk MK62
PriceCheck Price

at Walmart

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at Walmart

Dimensions6.7 x 3.1 x 8.9 inches4.8 x 4.8 x 2.5 inches
Weight3.92 pounds0.63 pounds
Area Coverage5,000 sq. ft.3,000 sq. ft.
Wi-Fi TypeWiFi 5WiFi 6
Wi-Fi Speed3 Gbps1.8 Gbps
Tri-bandYesNo
Connected Devices25+25+
Ethernet Ports4 per node2
USB PortYesNo
Mobile AppYesYes
Web BrowserYesYes
Parental ControlsYesYes
Guest NetworkYesYes

Design

The Netgear Orbi looks better but takes up more space than the Netgear Nighthawk Mesh.

Orbi vs Nighthawk WiFi Mesh Router Design
Two very different form factors here: the Netgear Orbi (left) sports cool white curves while the Netgeark Nighthawk (right) keeps its stark dark stance.

If you’re aware of the Netgear Nighthawk series of routers, you’ll know that the new Nighthawk Mesh WiFi 6 System fits right in. Its crisp box sports a black matte finish with just a tiny blue LED indicator to show whether it’s on or not. Ventilation has been cleverly integrated into the top surface, which gives it a nice, distinctive touch.

As you can see, it couldn’t look more different than the Netgear Orbi, which looks like a tall flattened vase. It’s quite minimalist and will arguably blend better with any decor and furnishings it might find itself surrounded with. The challenge is its size, as it’s almost 9 inches tall and its width means you want to set aside space for it. Moreover, it’s heavier too, so you really want to settle on the best spot for it when you set it up.

The smaller build of the Netgear Nighthawk MK62 does have a direct connection with its capabilities. It only has 2×2 antenna arrays for both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks while the Orbi has 4×4 arrays. This plays a much larger role in overall connectivity and performance as you’ll see below.

Connectivity

The Netgear Orbi has more ports and larger coverage than the Netgear Nighthawk Mesh.

Orbi vs Nighthawk WiFi Mesh Router Connectivity
If you have a larger home, the Netgear Orbi will likely provide you better Wi-Fi coverage.

There’s no doubt that the Netgear Orbi is better suited for homes with expansive layouts and/or multiple floors. Its two-pack set provides mesh coverage for up to 5,000 sq. ft. and each additional satellite can extend that further by 2,500 sq. ft. In comparison, the Netgear Nighthawk Mesh WiFi 6 System is adequate only for areas up to 3,000 sq. ft. Moreover, Netgear hasn’t made add-on satellites available yet for its new mesh system.

Those with a lot of devices that need to be plugged directly to their router, such as printers, TVs and gaming consoles, can find more LAN ports on the Netgear Orbi. There are 1WAN and 3 LAN Ethernet ports on the main router while each satellite has 4 LAN ports. In addition, there’s a USB port as well, which is absent on the Nighthawk. You’re also limited to plugging in a single device per Nighthawk node, which is very limiting indeed for most tech-loving homes.

Performance

The Netgear Orbi is faster and more consistent than the Netgear Nighthawk Mesh.

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

Netgear recommends its Orbi RBK50 mesh routers for homes with Internet plans up to 500 Mbps while the Nighthawk MK62 is best for plans with speeds of 300 to 400 Mbps. Maximum throughput for the Orbi is also higher at up to 3 Gbps, which is considerably higher than that of the Nighthawk’s 1.8 Gbps. In terms of raw speed and muscle, the Netgear Orbi is clearly the winner.

What makes the Orbi even better is its tri-band mesh system. It uses a proprietary Fastlane 3 technology to handle devices without lag thanks to its dedicated backhaul, which frees up two bands solely for devices. The backhaul lets the router and satellites to communicate each other, ensuring that connected devices get the maximum speed.

Meanwhile, the Nighthawk only has a dual-band system though it also uses beamforming and MU-MIMO to home in on device connections. Its biggest selling factor is its Wi-Fi 6 EasyMesh standard, which improves overall speed in high-traffic networks with numerous devices. Families who frequently and heavily use the Internet simultaneously will experience better performance from the Nighthawk Mesh.

However, there seems to be an issue with the Nighthawk MK62’s signal consistency, as devices can suddenly not connect and the Wi-Fi speed can fluctuate noticeably. While there are several factors that affect wireless speeds at home, experiencing random dropouts and slowdowns that aren’t ISP-caused can be frustrating.

Software and Other Features

The Netgear Nighthawk Mesh has better app support than the Netgear Orbi.

Orbi vs Nighthawk WiFi Mesh Router Software and Other Features
Access important Wi-Fi network settings on the Netgear Nighthawk Mesh with the Nighthawk Wi-Fi app.

Both of these Netgear mesh Wi-Fi routers can be accessed via mobile app as well as the traditional web browser interface. Most advanced settings can only be found on the web UI though, so if you like tweaking your own network you have the same level of customization as on older routers. That said, most families today won’t enjoy having to go through an admin panel that hasn’t really improved from more than a decade ago.

As such, most users will rely on the mobile app to control their Wi-Fi mesh network. The Nighthawk app has a bit of an edge over the Orbi one since you can accomplish more on it. You can control which devices can connect to the network and set up a separate Wi-Fi channel for guests so your main network remains secure.

Verdict

The Netgear Orbi is better for larger homes and the Netgear Nighthawk Mesh for smaller homes.

With a much wider coverage and greater bandwidth limit, the Netgear Orbi RBK50 is recommended for larger homes, especially if you have several floors or want to extend your Wi-Fi coverage to the backyard. Performance-wise, it’s more impressive too, as you can rely on speedy wireless connections with the tri-band system. The Netgear Orbi is a bit pricier though, but it’s well worth it if you’re able to maximize its connectivity as well.

Perhaps the most attractive aspect of the Netgear Nighthawk MK62 is its relatively low cost for a next-gen network. The EasyMesh standard for Wi-Fi 6 is the future, and all router manufacturers will adopt it soon. If you don’t need to cover too big of an area with Wi-Fi, the Nighthawk Mesh system is a cost-effective choice that’s set to receive further improvements via firmware updates.

FAQs

📌 Do the Netgear Orbi RBK50 and Nighthawk MK62 have Wi-Fi 6?

Only the Netgear Nighthawk MK62 has Wi-Fi 6. The Orbi RBK50 only supports Wi-Fi 5.

📌 Is there a monthly fee for the Netgear Orbi RBK50 and Nighthawk MK62?

No, you don’t have to pay a monthly fee for the Netgear Orbi RBK50 and Nighthawk MK62.

📌 Can I use the Netgear Orbi RBK50 without a modem?

No, you can’t use the Netgear Orbi RBK50 without a modem. However, other models such as the Orbi CBK40 can replace your modem and router.

📌 Which is better, the Netgear Orbi RBK50 or Nighthawk MK62?

The Netgear Orbi RBK50 can provide faster and more stable connections, thanks to its tri-band mesh system and Fastlane 3 feature. The Nighthawk MK62 does support Wi-Fi 6 EasyMesh, allowing it to handle a high number of device connections. However, users have reported that its speed and signal aren’t consistent.

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Derick Bondoc
Derick Bondoc

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