Nest Wifi vs. Netgear Orbi 6: which mesh router is best? – CNET

<pre><pre>Nest Wifi vs. Netgear Orbi 6: which mesh router is best? - CNET

ON Mesh Router uses additional satellite devices to spread a fast Wi-Fi signal throughout the home. It's a great upgrade if you're tired of dealing with dead zones where you can't connect quickly enough, and if a host of new systems come out in 2020, you've done it many options to choose from,

I've been testing these systems for months and the two that have impressed me the most are the ones Nest wifi and Netgear Orbi 6, Both offer a two-part system that you can set up and control via an app, and both – with almost identical CNET verification results – also achieved good results in our tests.

This is especially true for the Orbi 6, which is considered the fastest and most powerful mesh router I've ever tested. This is mainly thanks to the special backhaul band for the transmission between router and satellite, which the Nest Wifi lacks. It also supports Wi-Fi 6, the latest and fastest version of Wi-Fi. The Nest wifi doesn't,

On the other hand, the Nest Wifi costs less than half the Orbi 6, which sells for a whopping $ 700, although it had dropped to $ 630 at the time of writing on Amazon. (It's £ 239 and £ 710 in the UK, respectively. The Netgear isn't very common in Australia, but the Nest costs AU $ 399.) Does Nest make it a better bargain, or is Orbi 6 worth the extra effort? ?

Let us summarize. First a brief comparison of the technical data:

Chris Monroe / CNET

  • Dual-band AC2200 mesh router with AC1200 satellite
  • 4×4 5GHz band, 2×2 2GHz band, no additional backhaul band
  • Quad-core CPU, 1.4 GHz
  • 1 GB RAM, 4 GB flash memory
  • WPA3 encryption
  • The two-part system covers up to 3,800 square feet
  • Satellites are available in three colors and have the Google Assistant smart speaker features
  • Satellites do not contain Ethernet sockets
  • The system does not support Wi-Fi 6

Read our Nest Wifi review.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

  • Triband, AX6000 mesh router with AX6000 satellite
  • 4×4 5GHz band, 4×4 2GHz band, additional 5GHz backhaul band
  • Quad-core CPU, 2.2 GHz
  • 1 GB RAM, 512 MB flash memory
  • WPA3 encryption
  • The two-part system covers up to 5,000 square feet
  • The router has a 2.5 GB WAN connection and four Gigabit Ethernet sockets
  • The satellites include four Gigabit Ethernet sockets
  • The system supports Wi-Fi 6

Read our Netgear Orbi 6 review.


Nest Wifi advanced satellite devices are available in three colors.

James Martin / CNET

Design differences

With a size of about 10 inches, the fin-like Orbi 6 router and the associated satellite are each more striking than the robust, marshmallow Nest Wifi hardware. While the router is only available in white, the Nest Wifi satellites (the parent company Google calls them "dots") are available in white, coral or blue. The futuristic-looking Orbi 6 attracts more attention, but the Nest Wifi is more suitable to fit into your home.

The Netgear Orbi 6 has a multigig WAN port and four replacement Ethernet sockets on both the router and the satellite. The WAN port on the Nest Wifi router only supports incoming speeds of up to 1 Gbit / s and contains only one replacement Ethernet socket. The Nest Wifi Point does not contain any Ethernet sockets at all.

Chris Monroe / CNET

In terms of functions, each system has design details that the other lacks. The most obvious is the fact that the Nest Wifi Points with extended range also act as intelligent speakers. Distribute a fast Wi-Fi signal throughout your home, spreading the voice-activated footprint of the Google Assistant.

The Orbi 6 router has a WAN port that can accept incoming speeds of up to 2.5 Gbit / s. Together with the support of Wi-Fi 6, this is a welcome future security for the Nest Wifi, where the incoming speed is limited to 1 Gbit / s.

The Orbi router and the satellite each have four Gigabit Ethernet sockets. Nest contains only one replacement socket on the router and none at all on the satellite. This means that you cannot chain the satellite back to the router with a wired connection for faster speeds from a distance. Again, Nest Wifi does not have an additional band for backhaul transmissions between the router and the satellite. Instead, these transmissions are mixed with your regular network traffic. This means that your speed will decrease when you use the satellite to connect remotely.

And hey, what are you talking about:

The Netgear Orbi 6 router is one of the fastest of all the mesh systems we tested. The Nest Wifi can't keep up with the Wi-Fi 6 systems in this test, but beats any other mesh router that supports Wi-Fi 5.

Ry Crist / CNET

speed limits

As can be seen from the speed rating (and the price tag), the Netgear Orbi 6 is more powerful hardware than the Nest Wifi. Netgear sets the maximum speed of both the regular 5 GHz band and the 5 GHz backhaul band at 2,400 megabits per second, with the 2.4 GHz band at 1,200 Mbit / s. Nest does not list the best measured speeds for each band, but the overall rating of AC2200 indicates that these top speeds add up to a total of 2,200 Mbps. Take that for what it's worth,

In our own top speed tests, each system recorded speeds that were much lower than the specifications on the box, which is typical. For these tests, we connected each system's router to a MacBook Pro, which acts as a local server, and then used a second laptop with a Wi-Fi 6 radio to connect to the router and measure transfer speeds while we were Files downloaded from the server at have different distances.

The Netgear Orbi 6 router reached a maximum speed of 871 Mbit / s within a range of five feet. The number only dropped to 666 Mbps within a range of 75 feet, which is a strong result. Both numbers are lower than you'd expect from a system that heralds 5GHz top speeds of 2,400Mbps, but they're the same as those we've seen from other high-end triband mesh routers that use Wi-Fi 6 support, like that Arris surfboard Max Pro and the Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien,

As for the nest, it was unable to achieve such 700 mesh routers, but it still reached speeds of 612 Mbps at five feet and 431 Mbps at 75 feet. That means Nest's speed has dropped about 30% in this test at a great distance, compared to a drop of about 25% for Netgear Orbi 6. And remember that this is only the router with no satellite is in play with extended range.

In my small, 1,300 square meter house, the Netgear Orbi 6 was able to reach almost maximum speeds in every room. The average download speed of the Nest Wifi dropped as I moved further away from the living room router.

Ry Crist / CNET

Real speeds and range

Our next test inserts this satellite back into action to measure real speeds in a real environment – especially my 1,300-square-foot shotgun-style house in Louisville, Kentucky, where I have an AT&T fiber optic internet plan 300 Mbit / s. While it's a small mesh test environment, I can still test the average room-to-room speed with the router and extender in controlled locations to get a feel for how these things work when you take them home ,

This includes a look at band control, as most mesh systems like this set up a single network that automatically releases your connection between the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands depending on your location. Some systems do it much better than others.

Netgear has viciously destroyed this test. After dozens of speed tests over several days, my average speed in the living room where the router is located was a perfect 300 Mbps. This number did not drop below 277 anywhere else in the house, and my connection remained stable as I went from room to room. With an average speed of 288 Mbps throughout the house, this is the best performance I've seen from any of the mesh routers I've tested in my house. It is also not particularly tight. The next best in this test was the Wi-Fi 6 version of the Linksys Velopclocked in with a total home average of 243 Mbit / s.

The Netgear Orbi 6 emits a much stronger signal than the Nest Wifi – and note that both the router and the satellite appear equally powerful with extended range. With Nest, the satellite is visibly weaker than the router.

Steve Conaway / CNET

As for the Nest Wifi, the overall average in my whole house was 222 Mbit / s. My connection was absolutely solid as I moved from room to room (Google's band steering algorithm seems to be a strong point), but I couldn't reach top speeds in range like I was with the Netgear Orbi 6 Nest, my average speed in the living room close to 283 Mbit / s, fell to 165 Mbit / s in my back bathroom, the farthest point from the router. This is fast enough to stream a podcast during a shower without buffering, but still an advantage of Orbi.

This brings us to my last test, where I install every system in the CNET Smart Home to test its signal strength. When the router and extender are back in a fixed location, I use the NetSpot software to log this signal strength in dozens of locations both on the ground floor of the house where I have the router and its extender and in the basement below ,

This way you get a number of good looking heat cards that show how strong the signal is from room to room. At 5,800 square feet, the space is larger than any system promises, so it's a bit of a stress test – and both systems did well. Everyone could cover most of the house in green (good) or yellow (great). Note, however, that the Netgear Orbi 6 with orange signal strength in the immediate vicinity of the router and extender was able to achieve even better results. It is an excellent result.

The signal strength is not the same as the speed, but a stronger signal means that you can reach these faster speeds more easily. Another advantage of Orbi.

It's not as comprehensive as a gaming router, but the Nest Wifi offers a variety of easy-to-use system controls in the Google Home app, including the ability to prioritize traffic for certain devices for limited periods of time.

Screenshots from Ry Crist / CNET

App extras and usability

As with most routers today, Nest and Netgear allow you to set up your system using an app on your Android or iOS device. The process is relatively quick and painless with any system, but there are a few things to consider.

First, you need to set up and manage your Nest Wifi system using the Google Home app. This is the same app that you use to control the Google Assistant smart speakers and the third-party devices you connect to. So if you've already bought into this ecosystem, it may make a lot of sense to add a Nest WiFi to the mix. If you're an Alexa user (or just rejecting the idea of ​​smart assistants at first), the Nest Wifi approach seems to be more than you'd expect from your router.

However, the Google Home app is more sophisticated than the Netgear Orbi app, which feels a little sparse in comparison. With Orbi, you can check the status of your system, stop Wi-Fi on any of the devices on your network, or do a quick speed test like you can with Nest, but there aren't many other features worth noting beyond that.

The Netgear Orbi 6 uses the same app as other Orbi devices. It does the job, but if you want a lot of advanced extras to play with, you might want something different.

Screenshots from Ry Crist / CNET

In the end, split your hair here because none of these routers offer the same depth of functionality that you get with something like a gaming router. For something closer to this stadium, you should check this out Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien, a Wi-Fi 6-mesh gaming router that is easy to use and yet offers many additional functions and controls for the performance of your network.

A final consideration is security. Both systems provide support for WPA3This is the latest encryption standard from Wi-Fi. That's a good thing – WPA2 is still a reliable and widely used security standard, but there is a history of hacks that have had to be patched over the years. These include offline dictionary-based attacks in which hackers use software to make endless guesses about your network's password. WPA3 is more suitable to protect your network from such threats.

With regard to data protection, you should know that Google neither tracks the websites you visit nor monitors the content of your traffic. However, it tracks the performance of your network and the devices that connect that you can disable. Google states that it only shares the Wi-Fi network performance data you have approved with third-party apps and services and does not use this data to personalize the ads displayed online.

And Netgear? I couldn't find an Orbi-specific privacy policy online that goes beyond the general Netgear privacy policy on the company's website. This is extensive and largely unhelpful reading. In addition, you cannot use the Orbi app to display the small print unless you are already signed in and connected to an Orbi network. We thank Google for the more direct and transparent presentation of its data practices.

The judgment

When the Nest Wifi arrived in late 2019 without Wi-Fi 6 support, I wondered how long it could keep up. Sure enough, in the months that followed, there was an enormous influx of new Wi-Fi 6-mesh systems at higher top speeds, including some that didn't cost much more than Nest's (if any).

I'm still testing these systems (and some notable new ones won't come out until later this year), but so far the Nest Wifi has held up surprisingly well. It's not as fast or powerful as a tri-band system like the Orbi 6, especially if you are far from the router, but still offers excellent usability and a reliably stable connection. And at $ 269 for a two-part setup, the price is much easier to bear. (And regularly even lower.)

Still, it's hard not to be impressed by the Orbi's performance, especially in the real speed tests that I'm not at home with. Nothing else I've tested came close to Orbi 6 in this test. Thanks to this multigig WAN port, it is also more future-proof than Nest. I wouldn't treat anyone to have dealt with it, but that's the thing – it's a waste. Unless you already have a Gigabit Internet plan that can use Wi-Fi 6, or if you need to transfer large amounts of data at the fastest possible speed between different computers on your network, this is probably more than necessary. That makes Nest Wifi much easier for me to recommend.