Linksys Velop vs. Netgear Orbi: Finding the Perfect Configuration

Cam Secore
Updated 04/15/2019

After a month of testing, I determined Netgear Orbi RBK33 (3-Set) is the best mesh system because you’ll get faster speeds and brilliant range. However, I recommend Linksys Velop (2-Set) for people who value better phone software over pure performance.

I’ll compare and contrast two mesh routers (Linksys Velop vs. Netgear Orbi) by evaluating four categories: setup, software, performance, and design.

orbi

Netgear Orbi

8
  • Setup: The setup instructions are easy, but setting up the satellites can be challenging.
  • Software: The phone app has no smart features and doesn’t always sync.
  • Performance: All Orbi routers have the best performance of any mesh router I’ve ever tested due to the dedicated backhaul.
  • Design: You have one router with two satellites that plug into the outlet and stay out of the way.
  • House Type: Orbi RBK33 three-piece system should cover most houses and at least 4,000 feet for $260.

Best for you if...

You want the best performance and don't need the app after the setup. Orbi's dedicated backhaul makes it the fastest system on the market. The tradeoff for performance is the phone app doesn't always work well, but it's fine if you're cool with Netgear's old-school web-based portal.

velop

Linksys Velop

7
  • Setup: The app instructions are thorough, but loading can take longer than needed.
  • Software: Great phone app with prioritization and scheduling. No web-based.
  • Performance: A solo router outperforms Google WiFi, but the two-piece setup is the slowest mesh system I tested.
  • Design: It’s not visually appealing. It’s tall (7”) with ugly holes for ventilation three total Ethernet ports in a two-pack.
  • House Type: Velop AC2200 two-piece system should cover most houses and at least 3,500 feet for $330.

Best for you if...

You want a solid phone app experience with the benefits of a mesh system. The problem with Velop is that three nodes together won't outdo Orbi RBK33 and cost double the price. Velop has great parental controls, but families are better off with Google WiFi or Eero (read more).

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Netgear Orbi

9

Setup (B):

  • Installation is straightforward through the phone app, but syncing the routers isn’t always as simple. Installation would go more smoothly if they asked you to get the network running with the router first, then add the satellites after. But Orbi tries to it all at once.
  • Unlike other mesh systems, Orbi has a specific base router and the others are called “satellites.”

Software (D):

  • You can access any advanced feature you’d ever need through the Netgear admin panel on the web interface. If you want to geek-out on the admin panel, Orbi is for you.
  • In my opinion, the primary purpose of a mesh system is to make WiFi simpler and more customizable for the average user. If you’re looking for a pleasant experience with an easy-to-use phone app, Orbi is not the answer. The phone app is lacking smart and native parental features. Netgear takes an old-school approach to the software while providing multiple routers.
  • You can see a list of all your devices, rename them, and pause them.
  • In the phone app, you’ll have standardized port forwarding settings and true QoS settings.
  • Orbi doesn’t rely on the cloud to operate.
  • There’s support for MU-MIMO.
  • It’ll work with a VPN pass-through.
  • You can create and name guest networks.
  • There’s an Alexa skill for enabling your guest network or rebooting your WiFi.
  • There’s a way to measure bandwidth for daily, weekly, and monthly usage. It’s not a great interface, but at least Orbi has something.
  • Areas where the Orbi app needs work:
    • The connection between the nodes and the app is unreliable and wonky. It can take a couple of minutes to connect on occasion and everything you do seems delayed.
    • The app looks terrible with pieces of text running off the screen.
    • Half the time that I open the app, I get a “Router Not Set Up” message, even though the network is running perfectly. If you dismiss the message, it’ll even show your network in the app running fine. It’s a bug that’s been around forever.
    • There aren’t parental controls for grouping devices and scheduling pauses. While “Circle with Disney” provides these features, it costs an additional $5/month. Parental controls should be baked into the Orbi app.
    • You can reboot the system from the app but it takes close to 15 minutes to get up and running again.

Performance (A+):

  • Solo router performance (for baseline):
    • One Orbi (RBK40) gave me an average of 100/mbps, in my house and backyard.
  • Mesh router performance (using the routers together, as intended):
    • Orbi RBK33 three-set gave me an average of 107/mbps, in my house and backyard. Netgear says this configuration will cover 5,000 square feet, but it seems closer to 4,000 square feet in my testing.
  • I only tested Orbi for a couple of weeks, but I didn’t experience any cutouts or disconnections between the two routers. Users who have trouble typically have their router positioned incorrectly.
  • Orbi routers have three bands and are the only mesh systems to use a dedicated backhaul channel that’s reserved for Orbi routers talk to each other. This results in Orbi offering the fastest performance of any mesh system I’ve ever tested.
  • Orbi RBK50 two-set has the same rated range and may perform better with cookie cutter houses. There are only two nodes, giving you an increased chance that your devices will connect to the closest node and deliver the highest speed. I reviewed Orbi RBK50 here.

Design (A):

  • The original Orbi (RBK50) is ugly and stands almost 9″ tall. There’s no way you can tuck it away out of sight. And you need two of them.
  • Orbi RBW30 three pack is different.
    • You get one base router (RBK40), which is smaller than the original. It’s 6.7’ tall with the same shape. It has three additional Ethernet ports.
    • You get two satellites that plug into outlets. While these aren’t as nice-looking as Eero Beacons, they’re excellent because they don’t take up countertop space.
    • The satellites don’t have any ports. A three-piece system will have three additional Ethernet ports for accessories.

Linksys Velop

7

Setup (B-):

  • Velop’s phone setup is reliable, and the instructions are thorough, but sometimes you’ll experience slow loading times. A wheel spins for minutes without providing an update or confirmation that your settings were saved.
  • You get the network running with the main node, then add more. It’s a better system than Orbi’s all-in-one.
  • When adding a second node, I’ve been asked to reset the node to start over the process. Everything worked fine the second time.
  • You only need to set up two nodes rather than three, so this should theoretically save time.

Software (B-):

  • The phone app interface looks great and has decent features, but it can be slow. When opening the app, you can expect it to take a moment to load. It’s hit or miss though and sometimes the app connection is perfect.
  • You can pause, schedule a pause, or block specific sites for any device on 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.
  • You can prioritize devices up to three devices at once. 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 for a set period.
  • You can rename devices if they’re named incorrectly and see which device is connected to which node.
  • There is a unique “channel finder” feature that you can run if you’re having issues. It will optimize each device for the best channel.
  • You get port forwarding, UPnP and DNS, IPv6 support, WAN, and DHCP IP reservations.
  • It’ll work with a VPN pass-through.
  • There’s support for MU-MIMO.
  • You can get notifications when a node goes offline.
  • You can ask Alexa for your WiFi credentials or enable your guest network.
  • Linksys Shield is $50/year add-on service to block inappropriate content from kids.
  • There’s no web-based interface.
  • There are a few features missing that you’ll see with Eero and Google WiFi:
    • While parents can schedule pauses on specific devices, Google WiFi and Eero let you group devices and connect them with one profile. This enables you to pause the Internet access on a set of devices.
    • There’s no real-time bandwidth data. If my network’s slow, I like to look and see what devices are hogging the internet because it could be a device downloading a software update in the background that isn’t urgent.
    • There isn’t a way to calculate total bandwidth usage among all your devices on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Performance (B+):

  • Solo router performance (for baseline):
    • One Velop gave me an average of 95/mbps, in my house and backyard. The performance with one Velop is better than Google WiFi.
  • Mesh router performance (using the routers together, as intended):
    • Velop’s two-set gave me an average of 104/mbps, in my house and backyard. Velop says this configuration will cover 4,000 square feet, but it seems closer to 3,500 square feet in my testing.
    • Velop has three bands, but the third band isn’t a dedicated backhaul band, like Orbi, it can be used by clients too.
  • I didn’t experience dropouts between the nodes, but a small percentage of users have. Everything depends on the structure of your house and the placement of the nodes.
  • Velop is a great system, but its price-to-performance ratio is terrible. It doesn’t give the performance of Eero but costs the same, and it doesn’t provide the value of Google WiFi.

Design (D+):

  • It doesn’t look appealing. It’s tall with holes for ventilation, but the holes can also collect dust inside.
  • There are Ethernet two ports on each of these, meaning for a two-piece set, you’ll have three ports to work with.
  • Velop just released a model with a wall plug-in. While I haven’t tried it yet, I can see a few issues:
    • They are only dual-band.
    • They can’t be bought in a pack with the Velop AC2200 router. It would cost $400 to get a system with the AC2200 base router and two plug-in routers.
    • You’d only have one total Ethernet port for accessories.
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3 Comments

  • Joseph says:

    I bought and tried 5 different high-end systems, including the Orbi and Velop. 5 Velop units covers my entire property and house (1/3 acre and 3200sf). The intermittent dropouts with the Orbi were infuriating. The Velop also has a dedicated back-haul. Various repeaters and units like the X10 performed badly as well.

  • Nicolle says:

    I cannot find any information about what the recommended distance between nodes for the Linksys Velop within a house. I understand the amount of sq ft they are supposed to cover, but I would like some advice on the best placement for each of my other two nodes. The main node will be downstairs, so should I assume the other two should just be evenly spaced upstairs? Is there a recommended square footage distance between nodes? Any advice from your testing of the product would be amazing!

    • Cam Secore says:

      It’s going to depend on your home’s layout and may take some tinkering. But a simple guideline: If a node gets 1,500 sqft, you want to find the sweet spot in the 1,000-1,500 sqft range from the first node where you’re still getting full speed internet, then place a second node there.

      You can’t place a node in spots with a weak internet connection because the node won’t get enough juice. You want to be right on the edge of your first node’s connection, but still at full strength.

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