Nest Wifi vs. Netgear Orbi 6: Which mesh router is best?

A mesh router makes use of further satellite tv for pc gadgets to unfold a speedy Wi-Fi sign all through your complete home. It is a fantastic improve should you’re sick of coping with lifeless zones the place you possibly can’t get a quick sufficient connection, and with a surge of latest programs hitting the market in 2020, you’ve got acquired loads of choices to select from.

I have been testing these programs for months now, and the 2 which have impressed me essentially the most are the Nest Wifi and Netgear Orbi 6. Each provide a two-piece system that you simply arrange and management from an app, and — with almost similar CNET assessment scores — each carried out nicely in our checks, too.

That was significantly true with the Orbi 6, which completed because the quickest and most succesful mesh router I’ve ever examined. That is largely because of its devoted backhaul band for transmissions between the router and the satellite tv for pc, one thing the Nest Wifi lacks. It additionally helps Wi-Fi 6, the latest, quickest model of Wi-Fi. The Nest Wifi does not.

Then once more, the Nest Wifi prices lower than half as a lot because the Orbi 6, which sells for a whopping $700, although at time of writing was all the way down to $630 Now. (Within the UK they’re £239 and £710 respectively. The Netgear shouldn’t be extensively out there in Australia, however the Nest prices AU$399.) Does that make Nest the higher discount, or is Orbi 6 well worth the splurge for the additional horsepower?

Let’s break it down. First, a fast spec comparability:

Chris Monroe/CNET

  • Twin-band, AC2200 mesh router with AC1200 satellite tv for pc
  • 4×4 5GHz band, 2×2 2GHz band, no further backhaul band
  • Quad-core CPU, 1.4GHz
  • 1GB RAM, 4GB Flash reminiscence
  • WPA3 encryption
  • Two-piece system covers as much as three,800 sq. ft
  • Satellites are available in three colours and embrace Google Assistant sensible speaker performance
  • Satellites don’t embrace Ethernet jacks
  • System doesn’t assist Wi-Fi 6

Learn our Nest Wifi assessment.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

  • Triband, AX6000 mesh router with AX6000 satellite tv for pc
  • 4×4 5GHz band, 4×4 2GHz band, further 5GHz backhaul band
  • Quad-core CPU, 2.2GHz
  • 1GB RAM, 512MB Flash reminiscence
  • WPA3 encryption
  • Two-piece system covers as much as 5,000 sq. ft
  • Router consists of 2.5GB WAN port and 4 gigabit Ethernet jacks
  • Satellites embrace 4 gigabit Ethernet jacks
  • System helps Wi-Fi 6

Learn our Netgear Orbi 6 assessment.


Nest Wifi’s vary extending satellite tv for pc gadgets are available in your selection of three colours.

James Martin/CNET

Design variations

At about 10 inches tall, the fin-like Orbi 6 router and its matching satellite tv for pc are every extra conspicuous than the stout, marshmallowy Nest Wifi . And whereas the router is just out there in white, the Nest Wifi satellites (mother or father firm Google calls them “Factors”) are available in your selection of white, coral or blue. The futuristic-looking Orbi 6 instructions extra consideration, however the Nest Wifi is the one which’s higher designed to mix in with your private home.

The Netgear Orbi 6 contains a multigig WAN port and 4 spare Ethernet jacks on each the router and the satellite tv for pc. In the meantime, the WAN port on the Nest Wifi router solely helps incoming speeds of as much as 1Gbps and solely consists of one spare Ethernet jack. The Nest Wifi Level does not embrace any Ethernet jacks in any respect.

Chris Monroe/CNET

So far as capabilities are involved, every system options design touches that the opposite lacks. Most blatant is the truth that the range-extending Nest Wifi Factors double as sensible audio system. Unfold a speedy Wi-Fi sign all through your private home, and you will unfold the Google Assistant’s voice-activated footprint with it.

The Orbi 6 router, in the meantime, contains a WAN port able to accepting incoming speeds of as much as 2.5Gbps. Together with the assist for Wi-Fi 6, that is a welcome piece of future-proofing over the Nest Wifi, the place incoming speeds are capped at 1Gbps. 

The Orbi router and satellite tv for pc every additionally characteristic 4 gigabit Ethernet jacks — Nest solely consists of one spare jack on its router, and none on the satellite tv for pc in any respect. Meaning you possibly can’t daisy-chain the satellite tv for pc again to the router with a wired connection for quicker speeds at distance. And once more, Nest Wifi does not have a further band devoted to backhaul transmissions between the router and the satellite tv for pc — as a substitute, these transmissions will commingle along with your common community visitors. That signifies that your speeds will dip while you’re utilizing the satellite tv for pc to attach from afar.

And hey, talking of which:

The Netgear Orbi 6 router is among the many quickest of all of the mesh programs we have examined. The Nest Wifi cannot sustain with the Wi-Fi 6 programs on this check, but it surely beats out each different mesh router that helps Wi-Fi 5.

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Prime speeds

Because the pace ranking (and the worth tag) suggests, the Netgear Orbi 6 is a extra highly effective piece of than the Nest Wifi. Netgear pegs the highest pace of each the common 5GHz band and the 5GHz backhaul band at 2,400 megabits per second, with the two.4GHz band coming in at 1,200Mbps. Nest does not checklist its top-measured speeds for every band, however the total AC2200 ranking signifies that these prime speeds add as much as a mixed complete of two,200Mbps. Take that for what it is price.

In our personal prime pace checks, every system registered speeds that have been quite a bit decrease than the specs on the field, which is typical. For these checks, we wired every system’s router to a MacBook Professional that acts as an area server, then used a second laptop computer with a Wi-Fi 6 radio to hook up with the router and measure the switch speeds as we downloaded information from the server at numerous distances.

At a variety of 5 ft, the Netgear Orbi 6 router netted a prime pace of 871Mbps. The quantity solely dropped to 666Mbps at a variety of 75 ft, which is a robust end result. Each of these numbers are decrease than you’d count on from a system that advertises prime 5GHz speeds of two,400Mbps, however they’re on par with what we have seen from different high-end, triband mesh routers that assist Wi-Fi 6, such because the Arris Surfboard Max Professional and the Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien.

As for the Nest, it wasn’t in a position to rating as excessive as $700 mesh routers like that, but it surely nonetheless notched speeds of 612Mbps at 5 ft and 431Mbps at 75 ft. That signifies that Nest’s speeds dropped by about 30% at a far distance on this check, in contrast with a drop of about 25% for Netgear Orbi 6. And keep in mind, that is simply the router, with no range-extending satellite tv for pc in play.

In my smallish, 1,300 square-foot dwelling, the Netgear Orbi 6 was in a position to hit near-maximum speeds in each room. The Nest Wifi’s common obtain speeds dipped down as I moved farther from the lounge’s router.

Ry Crist/CNET

Actual-world speeds and protection

Our subsequent check provides that satellite tv for pc again into the motion to measure real-world speeds in a real-world setting — particularly, my 1,300-square-foot shotgun-style home in Louisville, Kentucky, the place I’ve acquired an AT&T fiber web plan of 300Mbps. It is admittedly a little bit of a small surroundings for a mesh check, but it surely nonetheless lets me check common speeds from room to room with the router and the extender in managed areas to get a way of how these items carry out as soon as you are taking them dwelling. 

That features a have a look at band-steering, since most mesh programs like these put out a single community that routinely palms your connection off between the two.four and 5GHz bands relying in your location. Some programs do it quite a bit higher than others.

Netgear flat-out crushed this check. After dozens of pace checks throughout a number of days, my common pace in the lounge, the place the router sits, was an ideal 300Mbps. That quantity did not drop any decrease than 277 in some other spot in the home, and my connection remained secure as I moved from room to room. With a mean pace of 288Mbps all through the whole home, that is the most effective efficiency I’ve seen from any of the mesh routers I’ve examined in my dwelling. It is not significantly shut, both. Subsequent finest on this check was the Wi-Fi 6 model of the Linksys Velop, which clocked in with a whole-home common of 243Mbps.

The Netgear Orbi 6 places out a notably stronger sign than the Nest Wifi — and word that each the router and the range-extending satellite tv for pc seem equally succesful. With Nest, the satellite tv for pc is visibly weaker than the router.

Steve Conaway/CNET

As for the Nest Wifi, the general common all through my home was 222Mbps. My connection was rock-solid as I moved from room to room (Google’s band-steering algorithm appears to be a robust level), however I wasn’t in a position to hit prime speeds at vary like I used to be with the Netgear Orbi 6. With the Nest, my common close-range, lounge pace of 283Mbps fell to 165Mbps in my again toilet, the farthest level from the router. That is lots quick to stream a podcast throughout a bathe with out buffering, however nonetheless, benefit Orbi.

That brings us to my final check, the place I set up every system on the CNET Good House to check its energy of sign. With the router and the extender once more in a set location, I exploit NetSpot software program to log that sign energy throughout dozens of areas on each the primary ground of the home, the place I sit the router and its extender, and in addition the basement degree under.

Doing so offers a set of neat-looking warmth maps that present how sturdy the sign is from room to room. At 5,800 sq. ft, the area is bigger than both system guarantees to cowl, so it’s kind of of a stress check — and each programs did nicely. Every was in a position to blanket nearly all of the home in inexperienced (good) or yellow (nice). However word that the Netgear Orbi 6 was in a position to do even higher, with orange-level sign energy within the speedy neighborhood of each the router and the extender. That is an excellent end result.

Sign energy is not the identical as pace, thoughts you, however a stronger sign means that you will have a better time hitting these quicker speeds. Once more, benefit Orbi.

It is not as absolutely featured as a gaming router, however the Nest Wifi affords a great deal of easy-to-use system controls within the Google House app, together with the power to prioritize visitors to particular gadgets for restricted durations of time.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

App extras and usefulness

Like most routers lately, each Nest and Netgear allow you to set your system up utilizing an app in your Android or iOS machine. The method is comparatively fast and painless with every system, however there are issues to notice.

First is that you’re going to setup and handle your Nest Wifi system by way of the Google House app. That is the identical app that you simply use to manage Google Assistant sensible audio system and the third-party gadgets that you simply join with them, so should you’ve already purchased into that ecosystem, then including a Nest Wifi into the combination may make a number of sense. Then once more, should you’re an Alexa consumer (or simply averse to the concept of sensible assistants to start with), then the Nest Wifi method may look like greater than you need out of your router.

That stated, the Google House app is extra polished than the Netgear Orbi app, which feels a bit of sparse by comparability. With Orbi, you can test the standing of your system, pause the Wi-Fi to any of the gadgets in your community or run a fast pace check like you possibly can with Nest, however there aren’t many different options price noting past that. 

The Netgear Orbi 6 makes use of the identical app as different Orbi gadgets. It will get the job carried out, however if you need plenty of superior extras to play with, you may want one thing else.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

In the long run, you are type of splitting hairs right here, as a result of neither of those routers will provide the identical depth of options that you’re going to get with one thing like a gaming router. For one thing nearer to that ballpark, you may think about having a look on the Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien, a Wi-Fi 6 mesh gaming router that is straightforward to make use of whereas additionally providing plenty of further options and controls over the best way your community will carry out.

One final level of consideration is safety. Each programs provide assist for WPA3, which is Wi-Fi’s newest encryption customary. That is factor — WPA2 continues to be a dependable and extensively used safety customary, but it surely has a history of hacks which have wanted to be patched through the years. That features offline dictionary-based attacks, during which hackers use software program to make limitless guesses at your community’s password. WPA3 is healthier suited to guard your community towards threats like that.

As for privateness, you must know that Google says that it does not monitor the web sites you go to, nor does it monitor the content material of your visitors. It does, nevertheless, monitor the efficiency of your community and the gadgets that hook up with it, which you’ll be able to choose out of. Google says that it solely shares that Wi-Fi community efficiency information with third-party apps and providers that you have accepted, and that it will not use that information to personalize the advertisements that you simply see on-line.

And Netgear? I wasn’t capable of finding an Orbi-specific privateness coverage on-line past the overall Netgear privacy policy on the corporate’s web site, which is a sprawling and largely unhelpful learn. As well as, the Orbi app will not allow you to view any of the high-quality print until you are already logged in and linked to an Orbi community. Credit score Google for being extra direct and clear about its information practices.

The decision

When the Nest Wifi arrived late in 2019 with out assist for Wi-Fi 6, I questioned how lengthy it will be capable of sustain. Positive sufficient, within the months that adopted, we noticed an enormous inflow of latest Wi-Fi 6 mesh programs with quicker prime speeds, together with some that do not price way more than Nest’s (if in any respect).

I am nonetheless testing these programs out (and a number of other noteworthy new ones will not be out till later this yr), however up to now, the Nest Wifi has carried out a surprisingly good job of holding its personal. It is not as quick or as highly effective as a triband system just like the Orbi 6, significantly as you get removed from the router, but it surely nonetheless affords glorious ease of use and a reliably regular connection. And, at $269 for a two-piece setup, the worth is quite a bit simpler to abdomen. (And recurrently even decrease than that.)

Nonetheless, it is laborious to not be impressed with the Orbi’s efficiency, significantly in these real-world pace checks I run out of my own residence. Nothing else I’ve examined got here near Orbi 6 in that check. And, because of that multigig WAN port, it is a extra future-proofed choice than Nest, too. I would not begrudge anybody for splurging on it, however that is the factor — it is a splurge. Except you have already got a gigabit web plan able to benefiting from Wi-Fi 6, or when you’ve got a must switch mass quantities of knowledge between completely different computer systems in your community on the quickest speeds doable, it is in all probability greater than you want. That makes the Nest Wifi a lot simpler for me to advocate.