Page 3 – Ethernet, User Interface, and Form Factor
Even with a wireless network Ethernet still plays a role. In addition to using Ethernet to connect to your Cable Modem or other internet device, many times you’ll have several Ethernet-capable devices near your various access points. You can limit the number of wireless devices competing for your mesh’s attention by simply plugging in the Ethernet ones where that’s possible and convenient.
Additionally, if you do happen to have Ethernet in your walls, that will often be a better option for the backhaul connections between your mesh devices… if your mesh supports it.
- Orbi: With four Ethernet ports on each of the devices, Orbi allows the most flexibility of any of the currently-available mesh products I’ve tested. The Router unit dedicates one port for WAN/Internet, while the Satellites each have four for any devices you might want to plug in. At the moment Orbi does not support Ethernet for bridging the mesh Satellites, which is unfortunate. They say it’s being considered for a future software update, and I currently hold out hope.
- eero: Each eero device is exactly the same, and each has two Ethernet ports. The eero that you plug into your cable modem will provision one of its Ethernet ports for WAN/Internet, and the other will be part of the local network. Many users – especially those with their routers near their TVs and other home entertainment devices that use Ethernet – will likely require a small 4- or 8-port Ethernet switch to connect all their wired devices. All satellite eeros will bridge both of their Ethernet ports to the local network. Additionally, eero allows for Ethernet backhaul between eero devices. Consistent with the rest of the eero experience, this happens automatically when eero detects it, making your wireless mesh even more efficient.
- AmpliFi: The AmpliFi’s router base station has 5 Ethernet ports, one for Internet/WAN and the other four for internal devices on your network. The mesh points, though, have no Ethernet at all and are only able to connect to one another via Wi-Fi, limiting Ethernet devices to only your main router’s location.
- Orbi: Web interface accessible from both local and, if enabled, from remote. Web interface is standard for NETGEAR with Basic and Advanced modes.
- eero: iOS and Android app only, no web interface. That said, the UI is clean and, with version 2.0, even more full-featured. All access is done through eero’s servers, which means that configuration and status are equally accessible locally and remotely.
- AmpliFi: iOS and Android app are main configuration paths and both only connect locally. AmpliFi has a limited web interface available in a pinch.
- AmpliFi: The cube-shaped AmpliFi base station looks like a very sleek and modern bedside alarm clock. True to form, it has a touch-screen LCD display that can show you the time, network status, speed, setup information and more. You can even configure a Night Mode to keep the device from illuminating your room at night.The AmpliFi mesh points are a completely different design, built to plug directly into an outlet and stay there. Their antennas are connected with a magnetic ball joint, allowing both angling flexibility as well as limiting the possibility of one breaking off if too much pressure is applied.
- eero: All the eero devices are small, Apple TV-sized white square pucks. Very subtle and understated, they can hide in plain sight or even complement your home’s design. No controls are available on the devices themselves.
- Orbi: Also elegant, the Orbi’s router and satellites are all tall, white pieces. They’re the largest of the devices we tested by a factor of three. Presumably the existence of the third radio and extra ports is partially responsible for the larger size.
Next up: USB, QoS, and VPN