The Linksys "Velop" and Netgear "Orbi" are two mesh wifi systems that promise a consistent and reliable, easy to setup wireless network over a large area.
Out of the two, Netgear were first on the scene, with Linksys getting in on the action more recently.
But how do they stack up against each other? And for those of you who don't know, what exactly is a mesh network anyway?
Please read on to find out how the two compare in our Velop vs Orbi comparison guide!
Wireless Mesh Networks Explained
A wireless mesh network is an easy way to get reliable wireless access over an area larger than that of a single standard wifi router.
Before mesh networks came along, most people would simply have one router in their home that all their devices would connect to. This would often be the same router for the living room downstairs at the front of the house and the bedroom upstairs at the back of the house.
Obviously, this isn’t ideal. Devices that are further away from the router may have a weaker signal which in turn can result in a less consistent and therefore slower connection. Some rooms or points in a house may not be able to get a signal at all.
Now, there are other ways that you can extend your wireless signal. Access points allow you to plug a device into an Ethernet cable in a different location and form a new point to access the network. However, unless you already have an extended Ethernet network, you will have to lay wires throughout your house.
This problem is dealt with by wireless repeaters. These devices receive the wireless signal from your router and then repeat it into a new area. However, set up can be a pain and they can slow the wireless speed down significantly.
Or, you could use a wireless bridge, but these can also be tricky to set up, and there can be roaming issues between the bridge and the main router. We know...they sound like wireless extenders/repeaters, but there is a difference.
Another way is to set up an access point using the existing wires in your house. Technologies like Powerline cables or MoCA allow you to send you network over your home’s electrical or cable wiring. However, the network will depend on the condition of your wiring and transfer speeds may not be as fast as over Ethernet or Wireless AC.
Mesh wireless systems effectively deal with all these problems. Set up is incredibly easy. Each set is designed to work with other devices meaning set up is minimal. This makes it easy to provide extended wireless coverage throughout your home.
As well as this, other than one wire connecting to your modem, mesh networks don’t require any wiring between nodes. This means that you won’t have to worry about rewiring your home or relying on old already installed wire networks.
Linksys Velop AC2200 Wifi Features
The Linksys Velop is a recently released mesh network from Linksys. Like other mesh networks, it promises to give you a solid, fast connection throughout your home.
How Does It Look?
Linksys Velop devices are all white although they stand out from the competition by being square towers. Two sides of each device have air holes to assist cooling.
Perhaps the best part of the design is that all the cable ports and switches are hidden underneath the device. This means that it has a very clean look that isn’t spoiled, at all, by ports or cables.
As for the ports available, each device comes with two Ethernet ports. One of these ports on one of the devices will have to be used to connect a modem. While only having one available Ethernet port may not be enough for some, nowadays most people simply connect all their devices using wifi anyway.
Unlike the Netgear Orbi, there is no USB port either which means you won’t be able to add extra USB storage and you better hope all your printers can be connected wirelessly!
Two Devices, Tri Band
The Velop is Tri Band with two bands on the 5GHz frequency and one on the 2.4GHz frequency. All three of these frequencies can be used by both your devices and also by Velop devices to communicate with each other.
Velop does this by intelligently switching between the 5GHz bands for the backhaul connection (backhaul being the traffic between Velop units only - not between connecting devices).
Note that you can use Ethernet for the backhaul if you desire. By default, it's not necessary.
The device uses the Wireless AC standard which will give you a faster connection than older standards and allow multiple devices to stream HD content simultaneously. In fact, it is theoretically capable of speeds of combined speeds of 2.2Gbps.
The Velop uses MU-MIMO technology, which stands for Multiuser, Multiple Input, Multiple Output. This allows your router to talk to multiple devices at once which can improve your cumulative connections.
Network Management With The Linksys App
The Linksys app allows you to easily set up your devices. As well as this, you can monitor your network, prioritize certain devices or set up parental controls. Everything is really easy to do which is important on a mesh network where ease of use is key.
As well as the above features, the Linksys Velop offers Beamforming and QoS as well as 4GB of internal flash storage.
The Velop is available in packs of 1, 2, or 3. The three pack covers up to 6000 square feet which is 1000 square feet more than that provided by the Netgear Orbi. Having said that, the Velop 3-pack is also more expensive.
Netgear Orbi AC3000 Wifi Features
The Orbi is the mesh network system from consumer wifi heavyweight Netgear.
Design and Hardware
The Netgear Orbi is a small, white device that is differentiated from similar products due to its blue light. Like the Velop, the Orbi stands vertically although its shape is a little different. All in all, it should be pleasing to most eyes.
All the devices ports are hidden at the back of the device, they are well placed at the bottom to help keep them out of eyesight. Impressively though, Netgear have managed to pack in 4 LAN ports allowing you to connect up to 3 devices (as well as your modem) via Ethernet cable.
Netgear have also found space for a USB 2.0 port which gives you extra connectivity options. At time of writing, the USB port only supports USB printers, not hard drives. Hopefully Netgear release a firmware update to allow drives to be added, although with a USB 2.0 bottleneck, you might be better adding a dedicated drive over one of the Ethernet ports.
Tri Band Functionality
The Netgear Orbi is tri-band, with two bands that use the 5GHz frequency and one that uses the 2.4GHz frequency. One of the 5GHz bands is dedicated for communication between the Orbi devices on your network meaning you are left with two bands for your devices.
This should help ensure that both your devices and the Orbi themselves, have a consistent congestion free connection.
Superfast Wireless AC
As with other mesh networks, the Orbi uses the Wireless AC standard and can deliver theoretical cumulative speeds of 3Gbps (inc 2.4GHz). This ensures faster speeds than other standards and will allow multiple users to stream videos and download content faster than with earlier standards.
MU-MIMO is a feature that is especially important on mesh networks due to the (expected) high number of connected devices. This is because it helps your router facilitate multiple conversations with more than one device at the same time. This can help your internet feel faster as each device on your network should have a better, more efficient, connection.
A Full House Of Wireless Features
As well as these features, the Netgear Orbi comes with QoS to allow you to prioritize bandwidth for certain types of network use (eg. streaming), Beamforming, to ensure a stronger connection to devices throughout your network at further distances, and an inbound VPN to allow you to securely access your network from anywhere.
Wifi Throughout Your Home
The basic Netgear Orbi pack only comes with two devices. However, these devices are really powerful and according to Netgear should allow you to cover around 5000 square feet. As well as this, you can buy extra satellites that will allow you to cover up to 2,000 or 2,500 feet more.
Netgear Orbi vs Linksys Velop: Wrapped Up
Both products are good mesh networks with similar features. They both look cool, are tri-band, and have MU-MIMO technology.
The Linksys is easy to use and set-up, and offers excellent wifi coverage although it is missing things such as a USB port.
The Netgear Orbi meanwhile offers some extra features like a USB port and VPN options. While the two pack doesn’t cover as big an area as the Linksys offering, you can go for the 3-pack option, but obviously costs increase quite a bit.
In the end, the best product for you will probably depend on exactly how large an area you need to cover, the features you need, and how much you are willing to pay.
Hopefully this article helps you decide the best wifi system option for you out of the two. Let us know if you have any questions, below.