Wi-Fi Mesh Systems Compared: eero, Orbi, AmpliFi


| Deep Dive

Page 3 – Ethernet, User Interface, and Form Factor

NETGEAR's Orbi has more ports than any other mesh Wi-Fi system we tested

NETGEAR’s Orbi has more ports than any other mesh Wi-Fi system we tested

Ethernet

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.

User Interface

  • 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.

Form Factor

  • 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

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danb4me

Bought the eero system based on article review, with special focus on eero offering Qos. My question is how Qos management relates to buffer bloat? I expected my buffer bloat grade to be fairly good using dslreports speed test. Actually it is a gigantic F. I had been using an evenroute router that manages upload buffer bloat and gives me A scores at this site, though drops both upload and download speeds a bit to do so. I am on DSL with 25 down and <2 up and lots of connected devices/game systems, etc.

DDM60
Member
DDM60

Mac users beware. I’ve owned 3 EEROs since August 2016. Despite promises the next update will fix the problem, the EEROs do not work with Mac products. In order to maintain a WiFi signal, I must cycle WiFi on my Macbook pro, iPad, and iPhone off then back on again. And I need to do this every 5 minutes or so. EERO knows of this problem, but they don’t have a fix. Here is a quote from EERO customer support “The Mac issues you are having are issues we are aware of but continue to persist. With each update we… Read more »

gus
Member
gus

Orbi Smart Devices and Hubs Problems Problems with smart hubs and devices that require the 2gh only. Hi I tried past stand alone wifi routers (Asus,Linsky) priced over $300 and now the Orbi. My home is over 4200 Sq Ft. on the Orbi speed test show great speed up and down no matter where I maybe be in or out of the house (Down Load 238 MHPS Upload 35.33 are the avg) The house has over 40 wifi devices smart devices lights,, tv, Ring door bell, harmony hubs and others. The 2 gh devices work intermittently other’s 2gh smart devices… Read more »

NotTellingYou
Member
NotTellingYou

In addition to the other issues relied with Eero did you bother to read their terms and conditions? Did you read they DEMAND you tell them who you are and where you are? Did you read they will cancel your service if they find out you lied? Did you read you can’t use your name etc., to set up a parent’s system? Did you read they can and will update without your knowledge or consent while not telling you what’s been changed? That they will collect data of the wireless networks around you and that you have no control over… Read more »

dominickgarton@mac.com
Member

Like 30% of the US I don’t get any broadband internet at home. The only way to get any internet at all is a Verizon jet pack cellular hotspot which works fine as long as you don’t get any crazy ideas like streaming movies in 4k or even regular 480p. The jet pack has a USB output which one can theoretically tether to other devices. It covers a radius of about 15 feet ok so a bit weak for a whole home.

Any ideas if the Eero would play nice with this for the 30% without nice broadband?

mrbofus
Member
mrbofus

“Orbi: 2-pack US$399. Add-on Satellite US$249.99. 3-Pack pricing unavailable at press time.”

The Orbi 3-pack is $499 at Costco; it’s been available since at least the beginning of November, but I think I saw it at my local Costco in October too.

webjprgm
Member
webjprgm

If I have my internet router upstairs on the second floor in one corner of the house and my TV in the basement in the other corner of the house, will I need 3 access points to bridge that? My Airport Extreme from upstairs covers floors 1 and 2 quite well, then I have a flaky power line adapter system running from upstairs to the basement and occasionally breaks down when trying to watch anything via wifi with AirPlay to the TV. Since an Airport Extreme cannot reach the basement, I’m assuming the Eero/Orbi/AmpliFi access points won’t reach the basement… Read more »

mbaskin@gmail.com
Member

Base on this article I purchased 6 eeros ( have 3 floor house). The app has what it calls “Family Profiles”. A very easy way to limit WiFi usage for anyone at anytime. The default name for any new profile is call “Bedtime”

Very easy to use, tells you when you’ve placed a eero too far away from the others, each unit reboots automatically if they detect a problem. One of the best interfaces I’ve ever seen and support QoS so a Netflix’ing/YouTub’ing teenage doesn’t slow down everyone else down.

Member
John Skinner

I have seen other consumer solutions to manage family member usage (only let Sally’s devices on the internet until 8:00 PM). Do any of these mesh systems have usage controls like this?

curby
Member
curby

I just got off chat with the Amplifi support folks, and the rep said you can buy multiple Amplifi routers, connect them via Ethernet, and use the satellites as Ethernet mesh points as you can with Eeros. At $150/router for the HD version, a “3-pack” costs more than the $350 Amplifi HD kit but arguably gives more flexibility and expansion (each can also double as a 4-port switch for wired devices). Can anyone corroborate this info? As noted in the article it would be nice to make use of existing ethernet runs through the walls of a house when possible… Read more »

Ayrstone
Member
Ayrstone

Great article! Another WiFi meshing product – an outdoor system for farms and rural households – was covered briefly on the Mac Geek Gab back in 2013 (MGG 436) – Ayrstone, which is still around. Not for use in the house like these products, Ayrstone makes WiFi available outside in the countryside – in the garden, on the lake, or across the farm.

Member
Wes Shull

I went w/AmpliFi LR and it was on sale on Amazon…and I couldn’t be more pleased after the first four days of use. Speeds great, no dead spots, easy to use and most important…the fastest tech support I’ve ever seen w/national product. You start a chat and you’re with someone in a few seconds. I also think the plug-in mesh antenna’s are a smart design choice. No wires to plug in and the magnetic heads really help when you walk by and accidentally dislodge them…no way to break these unless you deliberately try. All the units are solidly built. I… Read more »

parallax
Member
parallax

Really great article! All things being equal, I love the way the Orbi sounds. However, the price just seems a good $100 too high. Since my internet connection comes in at the center of the house, to extend the network to all rooms (and particularly to my hammock outside!) I need at least 3 units. So a 3 pack of Orbi would run $650. For $50 less than 2 Orbi, I can get a 3 pack of AmpliFi. I don’t have anything that NEEDs ethernet instead of 802.11 n or AC, so I think I should be fine without ethernet… Read more »

rh1
Member
rh1

How do any of these mesh systems coexist or replace the current router I might have! I have Uverse TV and Internet. I could plug one if these units unto a switch connected to my router. As you may know, the Uverse gateway has wireless transmitters to connect to the receivers if the different TVs I have, so I don’t want to interfere with that part of the network. If I can then use the mesh units to extend my existing network, that would be great.
Thanks for the article. Very helpful.

venus535
Member
venus535

It should be noted that Orbi and AmpliFi (this is exclusive to Amazon for now) are also available as stand alone routers. Also of interest, a second AmpliFi stand alone router can be configured as a mesh point. I’ve had the stand alone AmpliFi router up and running since 11/23 and I’m very impressed with its consistency both with testing and real world streaming. The Orbi might be a better performer and might have been my choice if I needed a mesh system but IMO the esthetics of the AmpliFi is much better and I couldn’t be happier its performance.… Read more »

Mark Withers
Member
Mark Withers

Great article! I have been considering mesh networking for our home and you really gave me great options and points to consider for each.

Tek
Member
Tek

I wanted to point out one of the biggest problems for me with these systems and that is that they need to have connection with the central server in order to work AT ALL. I had Eero that I tested and in the middle of test we lost power due to high winds. I got everything going on my generator but Eero network would not work at all without connection to the Eero central servers. This means that whole internal network in my house was down. This also means that if for whatever reason, Eero servers down, Eero goes out… Read more »

Member
briandigital

Thanks for the article, I look forward to seeing this field grow. I definitely got more from this article than other similar articles. If I were picking one up over the holidays, it sounds like all their wireless performance are similar? I should decide based just on features? How’s the usability of the configuration interfaces? I was interested in eero but the price was high and I’m not sure I want cloud-access into my home’s network, especially considering the insecurity of the IoT. (The network I manage at work does have a cloud based backend to its network hardware and… Read more »

murtuzza
Member
murtuzza

Dave – there is a also Edimax which has also recently released the new AC1200 kit for Wifi Home mesh – you should also include that in your review and tell us how it goes