Best Mesh Router System: Eero vs. Orbi vs. Google WiFi vs. Velop

Cam Secore
Updated 05/17/2018

best mesh router

After months of testing, I found Eero Gen 2 to be the best mesh router overall because of its ease of use and powerful performance. If you are looking for something more affordable, I recommend Google WiFi.

I’ll explain how I reached my conclusion by comparing four mesh systems (Eero vs. Orbi vs. Google WiFi vs. Velop) while evaluating six categories: setup, software, performance, design, company, and nerdy features.

eero vs google wifi

Eero Gen 2

10
  • Setup: It’s the easiest to install (even for the technologically challenged).
  • Software: Features include family usage, device prioritization, and automatic updates.
  • Performance: You can add as many as needed without affecting performance.
  • Design: They're small, beautiful and unobtrusive with a plug-in option.
  • Company: They're disrupting the industry in a good way and have great customer support.
  • Nerds: There’s no web interface and only two ports on the base (none on Beacon).

Best for you if...

You want the perfect combination of powerful performance, easy setup, superb design, customization, and reliable customer support. Eero is an excellent choice if you struggle with technology and aren’t concerned about money. Most houses need three (Eero with two Beacons) for $400.

linksys velop vs google wifi

Linksys Velop

9
  • Setup: The app instructions are thorough; ease of installation is second only to Eero.
  • Software: Great phone app with prioritization and scheduling.
  • Performance: Great range (one covers 2,000 square feet, while two covers 4,000).
  • Design: It’s not appealing. It’s tall (7”) with ugly holes for ventilation.
  • Company: They outsource support and didn’t innovate for 30 years.
  • Nerds: There’s no web interface and only two ports.

Best for you if...

You want everything Eero promises without the fancy marketing and high price tag. The app gets the job done, and the performance is stellar. But it's taller than I'd like and doesn't have advanced configurations. Most houses need two for $300.

google wifi vs orb

Google WiFi

8
  • Setup: It could be better (the app instructions skip over a couple of steps).
  • Software: You can control smart home devices, and prioritize, group and pause them.
  • Performance: It’s slow with a short range, but that’s not something most people will notice.
  • Design: Not as nice looking as Eero, but small and unobtrusive.
  • Company: They’ll probably use your data and there are no plans for a second generation.
  • Nerds: It's a dual-band (others are tri) and only has two ports.

Best for you if...

You want simplicity and affordability. It’s the best option for most people and ideal for parents who want to easily monitor their kids’ Internet usage. But it’s the slowest of those I reviewed and the nerds hate it. Most houses need three for $260.

orbi vs google wifi

Netgear Orbi

8
  • Setup: It's not perfect, but doable in the phone app.
  • Software: The app blows and doesn’t have smart features.
  • Performance: It’s the fastest and provides the most range per router.
  • Design: Ten times bigger than Eero and not something you can tuck away.
  • Company: They’ve been around for 20 years with outsourced support.
  • Nerds: Traditional Netgear web interface with ports for days and dedicated backhaul.

Best for you if...

You want the best performance and need extra Ethernet ports. It’s not for you if you’re bothered by giant pieces of equipment, want smart app features, and are not a techie. Most houses need two for $300.

 

Why listen to me?

  1. I’ve been obsessed with gadgets since I was eight years old.
  2. I bought each device with MY money.
  3. I’ll update this post frequently because my opinions change.
  4. I don’t have insider access. I’m just like you, the everyman.
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My Experience

eero vs orbi

We’ve all been there: You’re streaming a show or movie and it’s taking forever to buffer, completely interrupting the flow.

To fix it, you unplug the router, wait 30 seconds, plug it back in and pray it works. Getting WiFi to work correctly in your house has never been easy. We’ve been plagued with setup and software issues for years. Plus, most traditional routers are an eyesore.

In January 2016, my Twitter feed blew up with people praising the Eero Home WiFi System. Users claimed their WiFi speeds increased by three times with Eero.

Eero promised their mesh network was the solution to common router issues.

I bought the first generation Eero (set of three). I could tell they were onto something, especially for big houses or people in apartment complexes with several interfering signals.

Old school router companies saw Eero’s potential too and made copycat versions.

I tried the copycats.

For six months, I used a pair of Google WiFi routers. After Google WiFi, I tried Netgear Orbi for two weeks. Linksys Velop was my next router for seven months.

Then, I tried Luma’s system for a week. It’s terrible and isn’t included in this comparison post because it doesn’t deserve to be. (I did a quick Luma write up here).

Now, I’m rocking the second generation Eero (1 Eero + 2 Eero Beacons) in my house. I’m sticking with Eero, and it feels great! Eero originally went after WiFi issues, while the traditional router companies stayed stagnant. I get the same great feeling using Eero as I do with my Apple products.

A mesh network uses multiple routers to eliminate dead spots and produce maximum speed from any place in your house. In this review, simplicity, convenience, smarts, and design are also defining characteristics.

Perfect customer: My parents wanted the internet to work consistently throughout their 4,000 square foot house with an app that’s easy to use. I set up a Google WiFi three pack, and my parents love it! Their place went from 11 Mbps in dead areas to 117 Mbps in the same areas.

It’s tough to get excited about routers, but these mesh systems are amazing because they resolve a lot of frustration. It’s rare that I do a product comparison and end up recommending all of them, but Eero, Orbi, Velop, and Google WiFi are all great options. There’s a mesh system for nerds, for people on a budget, for people with kids, and for seniors.

Eero Gen 2

10

Setup (A+):

  • Installation is the easiest and quickest of all the routers. This is the only one I’d trust my parents to install on their own. They couldn’t mess it up, and they struggle with technology more than anyone.
  • 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.
  • I’ve installed Eero routers multiple times. It’s always the quickest to get running and has the least amount of errors. On my latest go, I got all three Eeros installed and running the latest firmware in 10 minutes. (Things go faster with practice).

Software (A+):

  • 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. There’s no need to give them a WPA2 password.
  • Eero automatically detects issues and resets itself in the background. Also, you can use the app to reset the router without getting off the couch.
  • You can create groups with “Family Profiles” and pause all devices assigned to a person or give them scheduled access.
  • Family settings allow you to control when certain devices have internet access.
  • You can prioritize your WiFi devices for a set period, which allocates the majority of internet power to the device you’re actively using. For instance, let’s say I’m uploading a time-sensitive video and it needs to go live right away. Typically, bandwidth is shared between all the devices on the network, but I can change the settings to quickly upload the video.
  • The app is updated a couple of times per month, while the router firmware updates automatically in the background.

Performance (A-):

  • You shouldn’t use Eero as a solo router (although you can). The other devices are much stronger on their own compared to this.
  • Eero’s range isn’t great. This doesn’t mean you can’t achieve your desired range, but you’ll need more Eero routers to accomplish it than you would if using another router. It gets pricey, but you don’t have to buy them all at once. You can incrementally add more.
  • To get the range of one Orbi or one Velop, I needed an Eero base with a Beacon. This configuration should cover 2,500 square feet (that’s my estimation based on testing because Eero doesn’t list square footage).
  • With most mesh systems, you get worse performance when you add more routers to the system. Eero works the opposite of that. Three Eero routers gave me better performance in my small house than two did.
  • Eero performs better than Orbi in houses with more than two stories, houses that are extra long or have a strange configuration.

Design (A+):

  • Eero Pro (box base) is small (4.75″ x 4.75″ x 1.34″) and beautiful.
  • 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. (It has the same specs as the first generation Eero).
  • Eero Beacon turns into a nightlight at night too. (This can be turned off or be set on a schedule).

Company (A+):

  • Eero is a startup company trying to disrupt the status quo. They’re the mesh router pioneers. I love their mission to simplify complex internet components.
  • Companies like Google, Netgear, and Linksys all have other focuses. Eero makes two different routers and routers are their sole priority. That’s evident with the number of firmware and app updates.
  • Their customer service is the best in the business.
  • Eero has an optional subscription service called Eero Plus for $10/month that gives you better security, advanced parental controls, built-in ad blocker, free password manager from 1Password, and a free VPN service through encrypt.me. Last year, I mocked Eero’s CEO when he compared Eero Plus’ utility to Amazon Prime. I was wrong. Eero Plus is a great value.

Nerds (C):

  • Eero has Thread support. When smart devices support Thread, you can use Eero as your smart hub, rather than needing an external hub.
  • There are only two Ethernet ports on Eero Pro. One Ethernet input is for the broadband modem, and the other is output for hardwired devices (like a Philips Hue hub). However, the lack of ports doesn’t affect me and won’t affect 95% of users.
  • Eero Beacon doesn’t have any ports.
  • There’s no web-based interface.

Linksys Velop

9

Setup (B+):

  • Velop’s phone setup is seamless. The instructions are thorough.

Software (B):

  • The phone app is great.
  • You can pause any device using your network. For example, let’s say you don’t want your kids to use the internet at night. You can use the app to turn it off on any device. This is a valuable tool for parents with young kids. Though it isn’t new technology, the user-friendly interface makes it much easier to implement. If you know how to turn on a smartphone, you can change the settings.
  • The Velop firmware updates automatically; you don’t have to do anything.
  • You can prioritize devices. If you want your work laptop to get more of your resources, or you’re uploading a video, you can prioritize that machine over the others.

Performance (B+):

  • The performance with ONE Velop is better than a single Eero or Google WiFi.
  • One covers 2,000 square feet, while two covers 4,000 square feet.
  • I didn’t experience dropouts between the nodes, but a small percentage of users have. Everything depends on the structure of your house and placement of the nodes.

Design (D+):

  • It’s not as ugly as the Orbi, but it doesn’t look appealing.
  • It’s tall with holes for ventilation, but that lets dust inside.

Company (F):

  • Linksys has been around for 30 years under a few different owners. Cisco bought it in 2003, then Belkin acquired it in 2013. Belkin was acquired by Foxconn this year. The frequent ownership changes are concerning.
  • Most of their support is outsourced.
  • They were in the router business for 30 years before they addressed the common issues people experienced. They didn’t build something new until Eero forced their hand.
  • Linksys bribes its users with incentives to post positive reviews on Amazon. They’re not the only company who does this, but I don’t like it.

Nerds (D):

  • There are only two ports in each of these, while the base uses one of them as for the modem.
  • There’s no web-based interface.
  • You can’t set any IP ranges for the DHCP IP.

Google WiFi

8

Setup (B-):

  • Overall, setup is great. I’ve installed three of these systems. With two of them, installation was easy. During the third installation, the app couldn’t recognize the routers no matter what I tried.
  • I can see where beginners may struggle with the setup. It jumps into things without telling you how or when to plug them in. Also, it doesn’t instruct you to unplug your modem until there’s an issue, and in most cases, there will be. Eero asks to unplug your modem from the get-go.

Software (A):

  • The app is basic, but it’s easy to use and has the essentials.
  • Instead of giving your Google account information to everyone who wants access to the network settings, you can add household members’ Google accounts and make them managers.
  • There is basic integration with smart hubs. If you have Philips Hue lights, you can control the lights from Google’s app rather than the Hue app. Having everything in one place is nice.
  • You can see the stats for each device on the network and rename those that aren’t labeled correctly. With the stats, you can see how much each device is downloading (per 5 seconds, hour, day and month). This is a great way to see who’s consuming resources if you live with multiple people. Also, you might catch a device downloading things in the background that are slowing down your network.
  • You can prioritize, group and pause devices.
  • Firmware updates are automatic.

Performance (C+):

  • I was concerned with the hardware since Google didn’t start making physical devices until 2015 (router, phone, speaker). Google WiFi has the same internal specs as the first generation Eero and does fine.
  • I tested the speed from all corners of my house, and it matched the performance of the first Eero, but that makes it the slowest of all the routers (by a small margin).
  • Ideally, you shouldn’t put a router next to a wall if you can avoid it. During some experiments, I put Google WiFi on the window sill, and it was barely able to function while all the others did just fine. Interesting, but not a big deal.
  • A set of three will cover 4,500 square feet.

Design (B):

  • They’re not as nice looking as Eero, but they’re small and unobtrusive.

Company (D):

  • Do you want to give Google even more of your data than they already have? It doesn’t bother me because I assume Google already knows everything about me.
  • Google is a massive company with tons of other interests and a history of sunsetting products quickly. Google WiFi is 18 months old with no rumored updates for a second generation.
  • The app isn’t updated regularly and isn’t optimized for iPhone X six months after its release. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad system, or the app is bad; but it shows where Google’s interests are.

Nerds (F):

  • There are only two Ethernet ports on each router.
  • Google WiFi is the only mesh router in this comparison that isn’t tri-band. Google WiFi is only a dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz).
  • There are limited configurations.
  • There’s no web-based interface.

Netgear Orbi (RBK50)

8

Setup (C):

  • Although the setup isn’t perfect, it’s straightforward with the phone app.
  • With the other mesh systems, each router is interchangeable. The Orbi mesh system, on the other hand, has a base “router”, as well as “satellites.” The router and satellites look identical (minus the ports), but function differently.

Software (D):

  • The app was atrocious when I tried Orbi last year. There wasn’t a way to customize anything. While the app still isn’t iPhone X optimized, you can now name devices, pause them, and reboot the system. The app has been updated six times in the last 12 months.
  • There are still no smart features, like auto reset or device prioritization and the parental controls are weak.
  • The phone app is still the worst, but it’s better than it was.
  • Based on forums and Amazon reviews, there were questionable firmware updates that caused users issues. It looks like most of these issues have been taken care of.

Performance (A+):

  • Orbi is a beast. In my tests, it was the fastest everywhere throughout my house. I don’t recommend buying Orbi as a solo router because of the terrible phone app. But if you do, it’ll give you the most coverage and speed by a solid margin.
  • Two will cover 5,000 square feet.

Design (F):

  • Orbi routers are HUGE and ugly. It’s about ten times bigger than Eero and not something you can tuck away out of sight.

Company (F):

  • Netgear’s been around 20 years. They’re not going anywhere, but they have a well-documented reputation for mediocre customer support. From all accounts, their support is typically outsourced. Netgear’s reputation shouldn’t be a deciding factor, but if you have issues with your router, you’re going to struggle.

Nerds (A+):

  • The Orbi “router” has the Ethernet port for the internet, then three additional Ethernet ports and a USB port.
  • The Orbi “satellite” has four Ethernet ports and a USB port. (The extra ports aren’t for me, but I know some people need it).
  • Orbi is a tri-band router, but it leaves one of the 5GHz bands as a dedicated backhaul channel. What’s that mean in English? Orbi uses the backhaul channel solely to communicate with other Orbi devices. That leaves the other two channels open for clients, which is why Orbi gets the best performance of all the mesh systems.
  • There’s a web-based interface with more customizable options. It’s the familiar Netgear interface that you’ve used if you’ve owned other Netgear routers. It’s the only mesh system that can be set up without a phone.
  • There’s no reliance on the cloud to run.
  • There’s an outdoor satellite version (RBS50Y) that’s weather resistant. This makes your decision easy if you want access to internet outdoors.
 

24 Comments

  • Christian says:

    Have you tried Amplifi HD by Ubiquiti Labs? I heard they’re great as mesh routers

    • Cam Secore says:

      I haven’t, but Amplifi HD is definitely on the list to try. It appears to be more for nerds, rather than your everyday consumer, but I’ll find out!

      • Allyn jacobs says:

        Following on the Amplifi- that’s their consumer friendly mesh system. As Ubiquiti is the only Enterprise company that doesn’t charge annual fees to use any management tools or get customer service, suffice it to say, a few nerds rock Ubiquiti WiFi enterprise grade access points at home…

        The Amplifi can also be paired with a hardware based portable VPN tunnel back to your home network… it’s very interesting idea. Especially if you are interested in the new Star Trek discovery and have friends outside the US. Plug in that VPN Tunnel, and borrow a Netflix login and you can watch discovery without a separate subscription to CBS all access… lol

        I stumbled on your post, I am an IT Pro, that’s trying to debate with what I am going to do at home.. are any of these things currently supporting AC wave 2?? — MU-MIMO cause that’s going to be a significant factor to me.

        • Cam Secore says:

          Well, maybe I should take a look at the Amplifi.

          To answer your question about MU-MIMO: I believe the only router on this post that doesn’t support MU-MIMO is Google WiFi, but don’t quote me on that!

  • Cameron says:

    Great article. I’m looking into purchasing a 2nd gen Eero with 2 beacons. My 10 year old linksys router is on it’s last legs. In your article you mentioned that you shouldn’t use it as a solo router. Does this mean that I would need to get another router and hook that up to the Eero?

    • Cam Secore says:

      No, I meant that you don’t want just one Eero. You need at least one Eero and a Beacon or two Eeros.

  • Matt says:

    Does Eero or Google allow you to assign static IP addresses to devices?

  • Melissa says:

    Do these systems work with Spectrum and Frontier, etc to strengthen it or instead of it? We have Frontier with an Netgear extender and we still have trouble getting good wifi service outside, especially strong enough to stream live tv

    • Cam Secore says:

      It sounds like you have a router and modem combo that’s provided by your internet company. You can request just their modem and then you plug the modem into the new mesh system.

  • John Pappas says:

    I live in a 1600 sq. foot one story apartment. Thinking of replacing an aging Apple Extreme routerconnected to Verizon Fios router which is needed for tv services. The Extreme is placed in bridge mode due to this. We make our iOS devices use only the 5GHz band for the faster download speeds. This works very well except in one or two spots where the signal penetration is weaker. Ironically one of the areas is in our master bathroom. Thinking a mesh system could alleviate this. The units I’m most strongly considering are Eero, Orbi, and Velop. Would your recommendation still be the Eero system for this environment?

  • Brian Alster says:

    I’ve read that the EERO beacons do not have the dedicated back haul channel (dual-band, not tri-band). Have you tested using three “base” units (no beacons) to see if there is a performance gain, and if there is, is it worth the price???

    • Cam Secore says:

      Good question, but I don’t have a good answer because I haven’t tested three (2nd Gen) Eeros together. I’ve tested three first generation Eero routers together, but those only had two bands. But if I were to guess based on my testing, it won’t be worth your time.

  • Jason Purl says:

    It would be great to add the Gryphon to this comparison. It looks like a great competitor based on features and price.

    • Cam Secore says:

      Gryphon could be great, but these comparison posts get out of hand and too complex with more than four products. According to Fakespot it looks like Gryphon’s reviews on Amazon are mostly fake. BUT if you try it out and review it on your blog, I WILL link to you.

  • Bob Phipps says:

    Was wondering if having a Fios/Verizon router which is also used for my tv service is an issue with either performance or setup? Eero faq’s address setting up as a bridge; not sure I understand what that means. Was going w/the base units because I do need some additional ethernet hook ups at this point.

    • Cam Secore says:

      I’m not sure. Your best bet is to contact Verizon and ask them. You should be able to turn that router/modem combo into modem only mode.

      • John Pappas says:

        I have that set up with Fios. I’ve turned the WiFi radios off on the Fios router. Their router is necessary for certain tv functions. I use my own Apple router for WiFi connected by an Ethernet cable to the Fios one. It is set to bridge mode just as the Eero guidelines state. A few things with the Apple router aren’t available with this configuration but performance is great and I would expect it would be similar with Eero but again certain functions won’t be available. You wouldn’t be able to use that Plus service of theirs but I don’t see that as a negative.

        • Cam Secore says:

          Those were my thoughts too, I just hadn’t tried for myself. Thanks for the input!

  • sidney says:

    Cam, was told the Ruckus system is the best mesh system (expensive) for an apartment. however, looks like the Eero may be the way to go. have a Verizon FiOS Quantum Gateway G1100 router + 2 WCB 6200Q web extenders
    and several Sonos Players that continually drops Spotify, etc in NYC apartment due to “interference”. our Wi-Fi via 5G; however, Sonos only over 2.4G.
    told the Ruckus plugs into router (making router just bringing in verizon’s signal), then place several around apartment. remove our 2 web extenders, no longer needed. any opinion/advice & does the Eero also simply plug in & operate over 2 bands (2.4/5G)?? thanks

    • Cam Secore says:

      Did a Ruckus employee tell you that? Eero second generation routers have three bands and they’re efficient at managing them automatically. Eero is what you want.

      • sidney says:

        hi, no, someone who sells Ruckus system. does the Eero Gen 2 simply plug into VZ FiOS router, & then i would plug the 2 Eero Beacons into power outlets around apartment? leaving the VZ FiOS router as the router, but now the Eero becomes the modem, and then i would connect to internet for iPhones & MacBooks + Sonos Players via Eero? tired of havong ability to stream music, but constantly being dropped.

        • Cam Secore says:

          You need to put your Verizon device in modem-only mode. Then you’ll plug Eero into it and plug the Beacons into an outlet. You’ll have three Eero routers pumping out WiFi, and they’ll automatically manage your devices and put them on the proper channel.

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