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Wireless Reviews

Orbi  Wi-Fi System AC3000
At a glanceWi-Fi System Performance
August 2017
ProductNETGEAR Orbi Wi-Fi System AC3000 (RBK50)   [Website]
SummaryExtender type three-radio Wi-Fi System with dual-band two-stream AC client and four-stream dedicated 5 GHz backhaul radios Four port Gigabit Ethernet switches on both base and satellite units.
Pros• Best performance of any multi-unit / mesh system.
• Base unit is a full-featured AC1200 class router
• MU-MIMO supported for both client and backhaul
Cons• Nothing significant

Typical Price: $343  Shop Amazon

Velop Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi
At a glance
ProductLinksys Velop Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi (WHW0303)   [Website]
Summary2x2 "mesh" tri-radio router with two 5 GHz and ZigBee radios.
Pros• Two 5 GHz radios for more connection options
• Decent routing feature set
• Works if internet connection goes down
Cons• ZigBee radio not enabled

Typical Price: $288  Shop Amazon

Introduction

I've been reluctant to award a SmallNetBuilder Top-Ranked award to a Wi-Fi System until I had a chance to retest NETGEAR's original "AC3000" Orbi (RBK50) and Linksys' Velop. I declared Orbi the Wi-Fi System to beat when it was tested almost a year ago now, but was disappointed by Velop when it was tested a few months later. Even with its second 5 GHz radio, Velop's poor backhaul bandwidth made it an also-ran.

But now that the original Orbi and Velop have both been retested with our new more comprehensive Revision 1 Wi-Fi System process, it's time to formally declare NETGEAR's original "AC3000" Orbi as the winner of our Top Ranked Performance award for Wi-Fi Systems. I'll let the test results speak for themselves.

All tests were done with V1.12.0.18 firmware for Orbi and 1.1.2.181801 for Velop.

Inside

I'll take a short detour to list Orbi and Velop's innards. The table also includes Orbi mini components, which were not included in the Wi-Fi System Roundup. The Orbi components are for the desktop version; I didn't open up the wall-plugged Orbi mini satellite. The mini is built from essentially the same components as Orbi original. The main changes are a QCA 9886 2x2 5 GHz radio for backhaul and the use of Quorvo QPR4518 5 GHz front ends vs. RFMD 5 GHz power amplifiers.

  NETGEAR Orbi RBK50 NETGEAR Orbi RBK40/30 Linksys Velop
CPU Qualcomm IPQ4019 quad-core Wave2 2x2 a/b/g/n/ac SoC Qualcomm IPQ4019 Qualcomm IPQ4019
Switch QCA8075 QCA8075 QCA8072
RAM 512 MB 512 MB 512 MB
Flash 4 GB 4 GB 4 GB
2.4 GHz Radio - In IPQ4019
- Skyworks SKY2623L 2.4 GHz Power Amp (x2)
- In IPQ4019
- Skyworks SKY2623L 2.4 GHz Power Amp (x2)
- In IPQ4019
- MSC5533621E (maker unknown) 2.4 GHz power amp (x2)
5 GHz radio - In IPQ4019
- RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz power amp (x2)
- In IPQ4019
- Quorvo QPF4518 5 GHz front end (x2)
- In IPQ4019
- Skyworks SKY85408-11 5 GHz Power Amp (x2)
5 GHz backhaul - QCA9984
- RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz power amp (x4)
- QCA9886 2x2 5 GHz a/n/ac SoC
- Quorvo QPF4518 5 GHz front end (x2)
- QCA9886 2x2 5 GHz a/n/ac SoC
- Skyworks SKY85408-11 5 GHz Power Amp (x2)
Bluetooth CSR8811 Bluetooth 4.1 SoC CSR8811 Bluetooth 4.1 SoC CSR (part # ?)
IoT None None - Silicon Labs EM3581 ZigBee / Thread SoC
- SiGe 2432L 2.4 GHz ZigBee front end
Table 1: Component summary and comparison

Routing Performance

NETGEAR's mini Orbis (RBK30/40) were fine on downlink, but ran about half as fast on uplink. Original Orbi was half again slower than the minis on down, but about the same running uplink. This is in the default configuration and I didn't explore the reasons for the relative slowness.

Routing throughput - iperf3 method

Routing throughput - iperf3 method

The HTTP test method is better at showing performance differences under load, downloading four different size image files with 2K concurrent connections. The plot below compares mini and original Orbi and Velop.

Routing throughput - HTTP Score comparison - WAN to LAN

Routing throughput - HTTP Score comparison - WAN to LAN
Plot key file size: [A] 2 KB, [B] 10 KB, [C] 108 KB and [D] 759 KB file

The two Orbis track pretty well. So I'm at a loss to explain the difference on the simpler iperf3 test.

Routing throughput - HTTP Score comparison - LAN to WAN

Routing throughput - HTTP Score comparison - LAN to WAN

Wi-Fi Performance

Here's what Velop looked like in the octoBox 18" test chamber...

Linksys Velop in test chamber

Linksys Velop in test chamber

... and big Orbi. I'm glad it's not taller; it just about touched the top of the chamber.

NETGEAR Orbi in test chamber

NETGEAR Orbi in test chamber

Throughput vs. Attenuation (RvR)

The Rate vs. Range or RvR benchmarks look at how throughput varies with decreasing signal. This test is done on the root node, so is a best-case view and does not include any effects from backhaul links.

Both Orbi and Velop ran a bit "hot" on 2.4 GHz downlink, exceeding the octoScope Pal reference client's -30 dBm maximum recommended input level. Instead of manually inserting additional attenuation, I shifted both plots by 9 dB. So the first point plotted was actually measured with 12 dB of attenuation set. The 2.4 GHz downlink plot shows both products tracking pretty closely, with a slight advantage for Velop.

Throughput vs. Attenuation - 2.4 GHz downlink

Throughput vs. Attenuation - 2.4 GHz downlink

2.4 GHz uplink results are also shifted 9 dB and again track pretty closely.

Throughput vs. Attenuation - 2.4 GHz uplink

Throughput vs. Attenuation - 2.4 GHz uplink

5 GHz downlink results are also pretty close...

Throughput vs. Attenuation - 5 GHz downlink

Throughput vs. Attenuation - 5 GHz downlink

... as are 5 GHz uplink.

Throughput vs. Attenuation - 5 GHz uplink

Throughput vs. Attenuation - 5 GHz uplink

The upshot of all this is both Orbi and Velop should have similar range for connected clients.

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