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Asus GT-AXE16000 vs Netgear RBKE960: A Solid Pair of Quad-band Wi-Fi 6E Rivals

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Since I posted the review on the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE16000, I’ve gotten questions about comparing it to the Orbi RBRE960, which is the router unit of the Netgear Orbi RBKE 960 series.

Well, an Asus GT-AXE16000 vs Netgear RBKE960 matchup is a bit like apples vs oranges.

For one, at launch, the former is available as a single router and the latter as part of a mesh system. But even with that aside, there is more to these routers than just the Quad-band notion. In many ways, this is the AiMesh vs Orbi mesh matchup.

Let’s dive in.

Asus GT-AXE16000 vs Netgear Orbi RBKE960: The Asus router is much bulkier than the Netgear counterpart.
Asus GT-AXE16000 vs Netgear Orbi RBKE960: The Asus router is much bulkier than the Netgear counterpart.

Asus GT-AXE16000 vs Netgear RBKE960: Similarities and differences

The Quad-band notion is the only thing these two routers have in common. They are traditional Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 routers with an additional 6GHz band to qualify as Wi-Fi 6E devices.

Generally, with two 5GHz bands, a router can host more devices on this frequency. It can use two portions of the 5GHz spectrum simultaneously.

Dual-band vs Tri-band vs Quad-band: What’s the deal?

And the 6GHz band means the broadcaster can support 6GHz clients.

How Quad-band pans out in the case of the Asus GT-AXE16000 and Netgear Orbi RBRE960 are two different stories entirely. But first, let’s check out their specs.

Asus GT-AXE16000 vs Orbi RBRE960: Hardware specifications

Again, the RBRK960 is the router unit of the Orbi RBKE960 series mesh.

ModelGT-AXE16000Orbi RBRE960
Wi-Fi TechnologyQuad-band AXE16000Quad-Band AXE11000
1st Band
(2.4GHz)
4x4AX 
Up to 1148Mbps
(20/40MHz)
4×4 AX
Up to 1148Mbps
(20/40MHz)
2nd Band
(5GHz-1)
4×4 AX
Up to 4804Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
4Γ—4 AX
Up to 2,402Mbps
(20/40/80MHz)
3rd Band
(5GHz-2)
4×4 AX
Up to 4804Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
4Γ—4 AX
Up to 2,402Mbps
(20/40/80MHz)
permanent backhaul
4th Band
(6GHz)
4×4 AXE
Up to 4804Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
4×4 AXE
Up to 4804Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
Backward Compatibility802.11a/b/g/n/ac802.11a/b/g/n/ac
AP ModeYesYes
Mesh-readyYes 
(AiMesh)
Yes 
(Orbi family)
Dedicated Backhaul5GHz-25GHz-2
Wired Backhaul YesYes
5GHz-2 still unavailable to clients
Mesh RoleRouter or satelliteRouter only
Gigabit Port4x LAN3x LAN
Multi-Gig Port1x 2.5Gbps WAN/LAN
2x 10Gbps LAN/WAN
1x 10Gbps WAN
1x 2.5Gbps LAN
LAN Link AggregationYes 
(LAN ports 1 and 2)
No
WAN Link AggregationYes 
(WAN + LAN4)
No
Dual-WANYes
(WAN + USB 
or any other LAN port)
No
USB1x USB 3.0
1x USB 2.0
None
Mobile AppAsus RouterNetgear Orbi
Web interfaceFull Neutered
Remote ManagementMobile app or web interface
(via Dynamic DNS)
Mobile app only
(Login account required)
Processing Power2.0GHz Quad-core CPU, 
256MB Flash, 2GB RAM
2.2GHz Quad-core CPU,
512MB Flash, 1GB RAM
Power Usage
(over 24 hours)
β‰ˆ 475 WhNot tested
Dimensions (no antennas)10.4 x 10.4 x 2.9 in 
(26.4 x 26.4x 7.4 cm)
11 x 7.5 x 3.3 in
(27.94 x 19.05 x 8.38 cm)
Weight5.3 lbs (2.4kg)3 lbs (1.4 kg)
Firmware Version
(at review)
3.0.0.4.386_48786V6.0.3.68_3.1.9
Release DateJune 2022October 12, 2021
US Price
(at launch)
$699Only available as part of a $1499 3-pack
RBKE963 mesh
Hardware specifications: Asus GT-AXE16000 vs Netgear Orbi RBRE960

AiMesh vs Orbi: Differences galore

The Asus GT-AXE16000 and Orbi RBRK960 are as different as can be.

160MHz vs 80MHz channel width

On the table above, you’d note that the Asus has full support for the 160MHz bandwidth, while the Orbi only uses 80MHz on the 5GHz band. Consequently, the Asus has double the speed on this band when working with a supported client.

Bands vs Channels vs Streams

Bands (2.4GHz, 5GHz, or 6GHz), channels (in 20/40/80/160MHz width), and streams (2×2, 3×3, 4×4, etc.) are items that make Wi-Fi confusing. Here’s a crude analogy:

A Wi-Fi band is like a road, channels are lanes, and streams are vehicles. On the same road, wider lanes are for larger vehicles. Vehicles with larger cargo spaces (2×2, 3×3, 4×4, etc.) can carry more goods (data) per trip (connection). Streams are like cars vs buses.

A Wi-Fi connection takes place on a single channel (lane) of a single band (road) at a time, but the more channels and bands there are, the more options and hardware devices you can use simultaneously to deliver better speeds. That’s because you can combine multiple contiguous channels (lanes) into a larger one.

The actual data transmission is always that of the lowest denominator. Similarly, a bicycle can carry just one person at a relatively slow speed, even when you ride it on an open freeway.

The way Wi-Fi 6 works, 160MHz is not a guarantee. If you live in an area with lots of RADAR activities — every city has a weather station, many with an airport or two — chances are both routers have the same bandwidth.

But, weather permitting, the Asus gives you the options of the top bandwidth. And I’d take that any day.

Wi-Fi 6: A Wi-Fi band of complicated speeds

The mesh roles and that 5GHz-2 backhaul band

In a mesh setup, the Asus GT-AXE16000 is much more flexible than the Orbi RBRE960.

The Orbi RBRE960 can work only as a router — you must get the satellite (RBSE96) that won’t work as a router. And it only supports certain Orbi satellites.

The Asus GT-AXE16000, on the other hand, can work as the primary router or a satellite hosted by another AiMesh router. And it works with all AiMesh routers.

AiMesh: Asus’s long journey to bettering Wi-Fi coverage

Most importantly, the Orbi RBRE960’s second 5GHz (5GHz-2) band is never available to the client.

In all Tri-band sets, the Orbi ecosystem reserves this additional band with Netgear’s proprietary Wi-Fi configuration sole for the backhaul purpose.

The result is that the Orbi has excellent backhaul range, but the band is wasted when the wireless backhaul is not needed, such as when you see a wired backhaul or only need the router unit.

Users have much more flexibility with this band than Asus’s AiMesh.

Asus GT AXE16000 vs Netgear Orbi RBRE960 2
Asus GT AXE16000 vs Netgear Orbi RBRE960: The Asus is decidedly better on the port front.

Multi-Gig and port flexibility

The Asus GT-AXE16000 and Orbi RBRE960 support Multi-Gig, but the Asus has two 10Gbps and one 2.5Gbps port. On top of that, it includes more Gigabit ports and supports all you can think of in terms of port configurations, including:

  • WAN assignment: You can make any of its ports work as the primary WAN port, instead of the default port.
  • Dual-WAN: The router can support more than one broadband connection.
  • Link Aggregation: You can combine two of its Gigabit ports into a 2Gbps connection for either a WAN or a LAN application.

The Orbi, on the other hand, has just one 10Gbps port (which works solely as the WAN port) and one 2.5Gbps LAN port. It has no port flexibility.

In a wired backhauling mesh system, the GT-AXE16000 has 10Gbps Multi-Gig right out of the box — you can get multiple units and daisy-chain them. The Orbi only has 2.5Gbps Multi-Gig, and you’d need a switch if you want to have more than one satellite.

Finally, the Asus has two USB ports to host several add-on storage features. The Netgear has none.

Features and privacy

Both routers have a standard set of network settings. Beyond that, the Asus GT-AXE16000 has many extra features, including a boatload of game-related settings and free-for-life online protection.

On top of that, you don’t need to register an account with Asus to manage the router remotely — you do that via Dynamic DNS — even when you use the mobile app.

On the other hand, the Orbi is one of the first flagship routers from Netgear that no longer has Remote Management. You must opt for a login account with Netgear to manage the router remotely, which can only be done via the Orbi app.

The RBRE960 has Armor online protection and Game Booster, but they are available as add-on packages that can cost over $100/year combined.

In short, the GT-AXE16000 gives you a lot with little or no privacy risk, while the Orbi requires you to connect to Netgear’s server and pay extra to enjoy it to the fullest.

Asus GT-AXE16000 vs Netgear Orbi RBKE960: Performance and rating

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE16000's Rating

9.1 out of 10
Asus GT AXE16000 Quad band Wi Fi 6E Router 3
Performance
9.5 out of 10
Features
10 out of 10
Ease of Use
9 out of 10
Value
8 out of 10

Pros

Powerful hardware, Quad-band with Wi-Fi 6E support, three Multi-Gig ports (one 2.5Gbps and two 10Gbps)

Stellar performance throughout

Excellent set of game-related, online protection and monitoring features, full AiMesh 2.0 support

Unmatched port flexibility, including interchangeable WAN, Dual-WAN, and LAN/WAN Link Aggregations

Beautiful ROG Aura lighting

Cons

Expensive, 10Gbps ports' sustained rates and NAS performance (when hosting a storage device) could be better

Awkward backhaul band design in a wireless AiMesh setup, no UNII4 (5.9GHz) support, no SFP+

Bulky design, not wall-mountable

Asus GT AXE16000 vs Orbi RBRE960
Asus GT-AX16000 vs Netgear Orbi RBRE960: Wi-Fi performance

Since there are only 2×2 Wi-FI 6 and Wi-Fi 6E clients, there’s no way to clearly show the difference in bandwidth (160MHz vs 80MHz) between these two routers on the 5GHz band.

Nonetheless, as single routers, the Asus GT-AXE16000 proved to be mostly faster than the Netgear Orbi RBRE960.

Netgear Orbi RBKE960 Series' Rating

7.3 out of 10
Netgear Orbi RBKE960 Quad-band Mesh Wi-Fi 6E System
Performance
8.5 out of 10
Features
6 out of 10
Ease of Use
8.5 out of 10
Value
6 out of 10

Pros

Powerful hardware with Quad-band Wi-Fi and Multi-Gig wired backhaul support

Excellent Wi-Fi coverage, fast performance

Multiple Multi-Gig ports

More Wi-Fi networks than previous Orbis, including two additional virtual SSIDs

Easy to use

Cons

Expensive

No web-based Remote Management, few free features; mobile app (with a login account and even subscriptions) is required to be useful

Rigid Multi-Gig ports' roles, few Multi-Gig ports

The 2nd 5GHz band is unavailable to clients even with wired backhauls, no 160MHz channel width on 5GHz

Limited Wi-Fi customization, bulky design

Conclusion

The Asus GT-AXE16000 and Netgear Orbi RBRE960 are two different Quad-band approaches.

The Netgear Orbi RBRE960 is designed primarily for a wireless mesh system where the 2nd 5GHz band works solely and permanently as the dedicated backhaul. For this reason, you can’t even buy the RBRE960 as a standalone unit, which you shouldn’t anyway.

The Asus GT-AXE16000 is a flexible mesh router that works however you’d like to use it. In a mesh setup, though, only consider it if you intend to have Multi-Gig wired backhaul.

Oh, they both share one last thing in common: You might need to get a loan to get either. They are expensive hardware.

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6 thoughts on “Asus GT-AXE16000 vs Netgear RBKE960: A Solid Pair of Quad-band Wi-Fi 6E Rivals”

  1. Hello Dong,
    I was leaning towards a pair of ET12 for my wired mesh system. Roughly $1000

    I have Xfinity at 1Gbps with a Motorola MB8611 modem. They already offer 2.5 Gbps in some areas near me.

    I Read another of your posts where you rated the GT-AXE1600 with wired ET12 satellite(s) as the top 6E mesh. Roughly $1200, for an extra $200 this seems to be a no brainer. Only thing is that the GT-AXE1600 is no where to be found. But, I have a working system (RBR50 with one satellite, wireless connection) and I am patient. Plus, I still have to run the CAT7 wire. CAT8 wire and jacks I can’t find anywhere.

    Now, why not two GT-AXE16000 in a wired mesh? Roughly $1400. If I use this system for 4 years, before upgrading, it is only an extra $100/year over the ET1200, or $8.00 per month!

    Your thoughts please.

    Best,
    Luis

    Reply
  2. Years ago I setup AiMESH with a couple Asus routers. It didn’t work so well, my HomeKit network had constant issues. Do you think Asus AiMESH 2.0 today will be significantly improved?

    I need to use wireless backhaul. Would you still go with this particular Asus router as the main unit? Any suggestions for the satellite AiMESH units? I’m thinking 1 or 2 satellites for coverage.

    Thank You

    Reply
    • I think that’s a question of how Homekit has changed over the years, DL. AiMesh (or any Wi-Fi solution) has little or nothing to do with it. You’re lumping the connection (a road) and an application (a type of vehicle) together. In my opinion, HomeKit is snake oil. Don’t drink Apple’s Kool-Aid, or at least don’t use it as the base of judgment for other things. But that’s your call. πŸ™‚

      As for AiMesh, you can start with this post.

      Reply

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