This Netgear Orbi AX4200 (model RBK752) vs. Linksys Velop MX4200 matchup boils down to one important factor, which is whether or not you have gotten your home wired. Sure, both will work in a fully wireless setup but at a different performance level. Feeling so indecisive? Read on!
(Note: Technically, the 2-pack Linksys has the model MX8400 number. But to avoid confusion, I’ll call it as that of a single unit instead, which is MX4200.)
These two share the same hardware grade which is tri-band with two different 5GHz bands — 2400Mbps (5GHz) + 1200Mbps (5GHz) + 576Mbps (2.4GHz). So neither supports the venerable 160MHz channel width. In other words, they are of relatively modest Wi-Fi 6 specs.
Other than that, in a mesh setup, both come in identical-looking upstanding hardware units. Neither has a multi-gig port. And that’s about it. Their similarities end there.
As a mesh system, the Orbi comes in two distinctive hardware units, router and satellite. The Linksys, however, uses identical routers. In a mesh, one works as the main router, and the rest function as satellite units.
There are a lot of differences between these two.
Hardware availability and ports
The first thing is its availability. You can buy the Linksys as a single router (model MX4200), a 2-pack (MX8400), or a 3-pack (MX12600). And of course, you can also add more individual units to form a mesh of your choice.
In any case, the hardware units are the same — it’s a tri-band Gigabit router that comes with one WAN port and three LAN ports, plus a USB 3.0 port. As a result, each Linksys unit can host an external hard drive for its NAS feature.
The Linksys setup process can take a long time, however, partly because each hardware piece is an individual router, out of the box. To form a mesh, you must link them together one by one.
The Orbi, on the other hand, is available in two types of hardware units. There’s the RBR750, which is a tri-band Gigabit router that also has one WAN port and three LAN ports. And then there’s the RBS750 satellite unit.
In a mesh setup, you need one router and another (or more) satellite unit. For now, you must start with a 2-pack (or a 3-pack) and add additional individual satellites to scale up your mesh. In a 2- or 3-pack, the two hardware units are pre-synced, making the initial setup job a walk in the park.
By the way, the Orbi router can never work as a satellite. Also, the satellite unit has just two Gigabit LAN ports, and neither the router nor the satellite has a USB port. So, there’s no built-in network-attached storage at all. In return, the RBR750 can combine its WAN and LAN1 port into a 2Gbps WAN connection, which Linksys doesn’t have.
Backhaul: Dedicated vs. dynamic vs. wired
While both solutions are tri-band — they have the option of using one band as the dedicated backhaul to link the hardware units — they handle this quite differently.
The Orbi dedicates one of its 5GHz band, the 2.4Gbps 5GHz-2, as the backhaul band at all times. This band is never available to clients. This is partly why the RBR75 is not available as a standalone router. Instead, you can only find it in a multi-unit pack.
If you use it as a single router, though, it’ll work like a dual-band one. In fact, if you choose to have wired backhaul in a mesh, the 5GHz-2 band is still unavailable to clients to connect. For this reason, the Orbi is generally more suitable for a fully wireless setup, where you don’t have the option of wired backhaul.
The Linksys, on the other hand, uses dynamic backhaul — it uses any of its three bands as backhaul at any given time. As a result, all of these bands are also generally available to clients. That’s a good thing.
The catch is that the backhaul link can get pretty slow, especially when you place the hardware units far enough for it to pick the 2.4GHz band as backhaul. So, in a fully wireless setup, the Linksys can be quite slow.
However, if you choose to use network cables to link the hardware, the Linksys will have much higher bandwidth than the Orbi, thanks to the fact all of its bands are now available for clients to connect.
Mobile app and management
Both of these Wi-Fi solutions come with an optional mobile app and a full web interface. I prefer those of the Netgear, however, because there are more things to do. The Netgear also support Armor protection if you’re willing to opt for a $70/year subscription.
I tested both of these solutions (as well as all others) in a wireless setup, and you’ll note the Orbi Satellite unit edged out the Linksys’s quite significantly thanks to its strong, dedicated backhaul.
As a single router, though, the Linksys generally did better, likely because its fast 2.4Gbps 5GHz band was available to clients. This band of the Orbi worked permanently as the dedicated backhaul.
If you choose to use either in a wired setup, expect the satellite units’ performance to be the same as their respective routers’. In this case, the Linksys would be a clear winner.
By the way, the Velop did well in my testing when host external storage devices — each of its hardware unit can handle one, as you can find here. Again, you won’t find this feature in the Orbi since it has no USB port.
Netgear Orbi Whole Home Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System (RBK752)$379.99
- Fast, reliable Wi-Fi with large coverage
- Relatively affordable
- Useful, well designed mobile app
- Support WAN 2Gbps Link Aggregation
- Full web interface with all common settings and features
- No 160MHz channel support, limited Wi-Fi customization
- Not compatible with Wi-Fi 5 Orbi hardware
- Few LAN ports; No Multi-Gig, Dual-WAN, or LAN Link Aggregation, or USB port
- The fast 5GHz band only works as backhaul, even in a wired setup
Linksys Velop Tri-Band AX4200 Whole Home Mesh Router WiFi 6 System (MX12600)
- Reliable Wi-Fi with excellent coverage
- Helpful mobile app, full web interface
- Fast NAS speeds when hosting external drives
- Comparatively affordable
- No support for 160MHz channel bandwidth
- Mobile app (and login account) required for initial mesh setup
- Spartan Wi-Fi settings, modest feature set
- No multi-gig network ports, Dual-WAN or Link Aggregation
- No setting backup/restore
Which is a better choice?
From the performance’s point of view, both the Linksys MX4200 and Orbi RBK752 will make excellent mesh systems for a large home. If you only need to share a modest broadband connection, either will do and you probably experience no difference between the two.
However, if you want a fast full wireless mesh system, the Orbi is definitely a better choice. Its dedicated backhaul will make it worth every penny.
On the other hand, if you have wired your home with network cables, Linksys will make a much better choice since you’ll be able to use all of its three bands for clients.
Looking to compare other Wi-Fi solutions? Check them all out here.