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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Bridge

One thing I forgot to do in the Mesh Mashup reviews was to check wireless bridge performance. Orbi, Luma and eero all provide at least one Ethernet port on their nodes and support Ethernet device connection. Ubiquiti Networks' Amplifi has no Ethernet port on its "mesh nodes" / extenders, so can't be used for wireless bridging.

For the test, I set up each product with the root node in my office on the lower level of one end of my home and another node, or in Orbi's case the Satellite, in the hallway and living room locations, one floor up. (See the first Mesh Mashup review for location details.) As with the previous tests, I just turned products on and let them link up. I used the same Lenovo x220i laptop for testing, but connected it via Ethernet to one of each product's Ethernet ports.

The downlink chart below shows performance by location. It's clear the Living Room location has a better connection to the root node, just as it's clear that Orbi's backhaul is far and away better than eero and Luma's, with a best case run of 528 Mbps. Keep in mind no wireless devices were pulling bandwidth during the test; you're seeing only backhaul performance.

Wireless bridge performance - downlink

Wireless bridge performance - downlink

Uplink performance ran about 100 Mbps lower for Orbi. Still, 414 Mbps of TCP/IP throughput is better than I've gotten with any wireless extender and even better than obtained using AV2 MIMO powerline (check the Location C results in the powerline charts for comparison).

Wireless bridge performance - uplink

Wireless bridge performance - uplink

One test note worthy of sharing is the difficulty I had getting wireless bridging to work with eero. Each time I connected the test laptop, eero's light would turn red and I was unable to ping the root node. I finally ended up in a chat with eero support, who confirmed the problem. I eventually was able to complete the tests by power cycling eero numerous times. eero got back to me a few days later and offered this explanation:

When you connected your laptop, the eero misinterpreted the ethernet cable and was expecting it to be connected to your modem. The eero then began its process for taking over the "primary" eero role, which caused the disconnections. The eero then realized what was actually happening and recovered.

I did not have this problem with Luma, which has separate "In" and "Out" ports (I used the "Out"), or Orbi.

Closing Thoughts

I've seen some grousing in the SNBForums Orbi threads about Orbi's $400 price tag and I suppose, rightfully so. You can buy most any AC5300 / AC5400 BHR for less, including NETGEAR's Nighthawk X8 and ASUS' RT-AC5300. Only NETGEAR's just-announced AD7200 class Nighthawk X10 costs more at $500.

But while it may look like a pumped-up air freshener, Orbi is simply the best solution available right now for your best shot at getting high-bandwidth Wi-Fi that will cover most homes and apartments. It simply takes the best-available, proven Wi-Fi technology and combines it with minimal smoke and mirrors (with no cloud service required) into an attractive package that is simpler than its no-brainer "mesh wireless" competition to set up. Any unlike eero, Luma et al., Orbi supports enough routing features to keep most advanced users happy, even supporting OpenVPN and OpenDNS based parental controls.

If you're tired of wimpy Wi-Fi, it's time you tried Orbi.

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