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Top Mesh Matchup: Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien vs Netgear Orbi RBK852

AmpliFi Alien Mesh Kit
The Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien Kit comes in a fancy box.

This post will help you figure out which to get between these two top-tier Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems. It’s a story of the Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien vs Netgear Orbi RBK852 matchup.

Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien vs Netgear Orbi RBK852: Similarities

The Alien Kit and Netgear Orbi RBK852 are Wi-Fi 6 mesh solutions, including a router and a mesh satellite. As a result, if you need no more than two hardware pieces to blanket your home, they are mostly the same.

Both are tri-band solutions, and neither supports 160MHz channels. For this reason, they cap at 1200 Mbps (and not 2400 Mbps) when working with currently available 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients.

The two systems share similar hardware costs, with the suggested retail price of around $700. In real-world usage, both deliver excellent coverage and reliable signals.

Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien Mesh Kit vs. Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6 AX6000: Hardware specifications

NameUbiquiti AmpliFi Alien KitNetgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6 AX6000 
(RBK852 )
HardwareAlien Router: AFi-ALN-R
Alien MeshPoint: AFi-ALN-P
Router: RBR850
Satellite: RBS850
Dedicated Backhaul BandNoneYes (1 x 5GHz band)
User-Manageable BackhaulYes (2.4GHz/5GHz or Wired)No
Wired BackhaulYes (1Gbps)Yes (1Gbps)
Dimensions9.84-inch (250 mm) tall, 
4.33-inch (110 mm) wide
10 x 7.5 x 2.8 in 
(24.5 x 19.05 x 7.11 cm)
Weight2.65 lb (1.2 kg)2.86 lbs (1.3kg)
5GHz-1 Wi-Fi Specs4 x 4 Wi-Fi 5 up to 1733 Mbps 
(low band)
4×4 Wi-Fi 6: 2400Mbps 
5GHz-2 Wi-Fi Specs4 x 4 Wi-Fi 6 up to 4804 Mbps
(high band)
4×4 Wi-Fi 6: 2400Mbps 
2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs4 x 4 Wi-Fi 6: 1148Mbps4 x 4 Wi-Fi 6: 1148Mbps
Channel Width Support20/40/80MHz20/40/80MHz
Backward Compatibility802.11ac/n/g/a/b802.11ac/n/g/a/b
Touchscreen SpecsOn router only:
4.7-inch (110.38 mm), 
274 x 1268, 279 PPI, 
G+F Touch, Full Color
None
Mobile AppAmpliFiOrbi
Web User InterfaceRouter: Yes (simple)
MeshPoint: None
Yes (Full)
AP (Bridge) ModeYesYes
USB PortNoneNone
Gigabit PortRouter: 4 x LAN, 1 x WAN
MeshPoint: 1x LAN
Router: 4x LAN
Satellite: 4x LAN
Link AggregationNoRouter: Yes (2Gbps WAN)
Satellite: None
Multi-Gig PortNoneRouter: 1×2 .5Gbps WAN port
Satellite: None
CPU2.2 GHz 64-Bit Quad-Core CPU2.2 GHz 64-Bit Quad-Core CPU
Hardware specifications: Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien Mesh Kit vs. Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6 AX6000

Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien Mesh Kit vs. Netgear Orbi RBK852: Differences

There are many differences between these two.

Hardware options

The Orbi includes a router and a mesh satellite. After that, you can extend the system by adding more satellites, up to 6 of them. The router unit, however, can not work as a satellite.

The Alien’s satellite unit, called MeshPoint, is not available by itself and permanently synced to the router of the same kit. As a result, you can’t extend an Alien mesh system by adding more MeshPoint units. Instead, you’ll need more Alien routers, which can also work as mesh points.

The Orbi Wi-Fi 6 router includes a 2.5Gbps WAN port and the ability to combine it with another LAN port to deliver a 2Gbps WAN connection when working with a supported modem. The Alien is a pure Gigabit wired solution.

Software options

The Orbi features a full web interface and includes all basic and advanced network settings for those who want to customize their system. There’s also an optional Orbi mobile app for mobile users.

The Alien uses the mobile app primarily and has a limited amount of network settings and features. It has a simple one-page web interface where you can turn a few settings on or off.

See also  Synology RT2600ac Revisited (vs MR2200ac): A Lasting Flagship Wi-Fi 5 Router

Features

Ultimately, the Orbi Wi-Fi 6 has all the elements present in previous Orbi systems, including a paid online protection feature called Armor and a robust parental control feature via Circle by Disney.

The Alien has just two notable features, including ad-blocking and Teleport VPN. It does have an internet restriction feature — or “Parental Controls,” as Ubiquiti calls it — which is a bit too simplistic to be useful.

On the other hand, Teleport is quite excellent, both in terms of ease of use and effectiveness. But it’s only available to mobile devices, not a regular computer. The ad-blocking feature is somewhat hit or miss. Some ads can still get through, and you can’t customize it to allow ads on specific sites.

The Orbi has VPN, too, but it requires a bit of work to set that up. The Orbi has a dedicated backhaul band — one of its two 5GHz bands — and therefore has almost no signal loss. It’s fast.

The Alien, on the other hand, doesn’t have a dedicated backhaul band. But it’s the only mesh I’ve known that allows users to pick which band to work as backhaul.

Orbi RBK852 Ports
You can only tell the two units of the Orbi RBK852 apart by looking at their back.

Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien Mesh Kit vs. Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6 AX6000: Performance

While both systems delivered similar performance when working with 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients, the Netgear was generally faster with Wi-Fi 5 and legacy clients in my testing.

Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien Kit vs. Netgear Orbi RBK852 Performance

Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien Mesh Kit vs. Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6 AX6000: Ratings

AmpliFi Alien Router and MeshPoint

8.5

Performance

8.5/10

Features

8.0/10

Design and Setup

9.5/10

Value

8.0/10

Pros

  • Dead-easy to set up and manage
  • Excellent Wi-Fi coverage
  • Fast performance, wired backhaul supported
  • Users can manage backhaul link and virtual Wi-Fi networks
  • Useful VPN and ad-blocking feature
  • Cool hardware design

Cons

  • MeshPoint has only one LAN port, and only works with the one router of the same Alien Kit
  • No dedicated backhaul band
  • Expensive

Orbi WiFi 6 System AX6000 (RBK852)

8

Performance

8.5/10

Features

8.0/10

Design and Setup

8.5/10

Value

7.0/10

Pros

  • Fast, reliable Wi-Fi with large coverage
  • Full web interface with all common settings and features
  • Useful, well designed mobile app
  • 2.5Gbps multi-gig WAN ports
  • Support WAN 2Gbps Link Aggregation

Cons

  • High cost
  • No 160MHz channel support, limited Wi-Fi customization
  • Not compatible with Wi-Fi Orbi hardware
  • No multi-gig LAN port, intermittent lags
  • Bulky design

Which is the better choice

First of all, only consider these if you intend to use them in a wireless setup. If you have wired your home with network cables, it makes more sense to get a dual-band system.

With that in mind, I have to admit it’s hard to say which is better between these two.

If you want something fresh, fun, easy-to-use, the Alien kit is an excellent choice. That’d also be my pick, but mostly because I’m willing to take risks when it comes to tech toys. Also, I don’t have Gigabit Internet.

On the other hand, if you want simple network customization, a brand name you can trust, the Orbi Wi-Fi 6 is a better pick for those wanting the peace-of-mind. Most importantly, if you have Gigabit-class Internet, this set is a must out of the two.

Looking to compare other Wi-Fi solutions? Check them all out here.

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15 thoughts on “Top Mesh Matchup: Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien vs Netgear Orbi RBK852”

  1. Hi Dong, thank you for this helpful writeup. I currently have an older Orbi (might even be first generation) and need to add a satellite, and I’m discovering the used price of just one older satellite is expensive enough to make me figure out if it’s time to upgrade to Wifi6, rather than invest more in an older system.

    I think I see a mistake in the pros/cons. For the Ubiquiti, one of the pros includes “wired backhaul supported” but this device does not have that feature. I believe this info is flipped with the Orbi (which supports wired backhaul).

    FWIW, I currently have a gigabit fiber connection, and am using wired backhaul between the Orbi router and the satellite. My work computer is plugged in to the satellite via ethernet. I’m able to “isolate” myself from the wifi network and get my highest possible fiber speeds that way for work video calls, while retaining smooth wifi connections for everyone in the house for school and entertainment.

    Reply
    • You should keep the current Orbi, Peter. Upgrading to the newer one won’t help much in your case. And the Alien does support wired backhaul, and the Orbi shouldn’t be used with wired backhaul. More in this post.

      Reply
  2. Dong, love your site and responses,

    I am looking to upgrade to a WiFi 6 Mesh system for my 6000 sq foot house.
    I will use wireless backhaul because I don’t want to run any cable at this point.
    The most important feature to me is the reliability and stability of WiFi service as most often I am not home to fix or tweak things and my kids and wife need the internet to be reliable.
    The next most important feature is speed. We have 3 kids who are online for school and games and my wife has her own web-based business.
    I don’t need much in the way of customization as I am competent with network setup but I am not a tech guru by any stretch and would like the setup to be as easy as possible.
    Which system would fit my needs the best in your opinion — Netgear Orbi, Amplifi Alien, ASUS Zen Wifi (although I heard it was buggy), Linksys Velop or maybe one I have not considered.
    Thanks

    Reply
      • Ok If I run cables which mesh system would be the most stable/ least buggy?
        And would my system be more stable if I got rid of the modem provided by the cable company and bought my own such as a netgear modem?

        Thanks

        Reply
      • Considering these two. My house is 3 stories, 3100 square feet. I have wifi cameras outside of the house that are connected. I do have 6 cable runs in the house so I would connect the satellite via wire. I like the fact that I can get ride of some of the switches I have using the rear ports on the units. I have 1gb internet. I currently have 1st gen google wifi and don’t get anywhere near the 1gb speeds. Which do you think is the best for me and where on the three floors would the satellites provide the best coverage including the outdoor cameras?

        Thanks in advance for your help.

        Reply
  3. I have a 5,000 square foot home with gigabit internet. I was looking into either the Alien or Orbi model you discussed in this article and will be using a wired backhaul for the satellite. So far leaning toward the Orbi.

    I am confused by your comment that we should go with a dual band setup if using a wired backhaul? Can you share more about why that is? I couldn’t see from your link why you recommend it. Thx

    Reply
    • Most, if not all, tri-band systems use one of the 5GHz band as the dedicated backhaul band. More here. Even when you use wired backhaul, the dedicated backhaul band is NOT available for clients — it’s just not used, wasted. That’s definitely the case of the Orbi. You should consider an AiMesh system instead.

      Reply
      • Thanks Dong. I have been reading a lot since I found your site, and have a few more questions.

        While ideally I would like to wire the satellite, I am concerned the locations I have ethernet may not be the best to blanket the house with wifi.

        If I wanted versatility in the system, would it make sense to just purchase a tri band system, so I have the advantage of 5ghz wifi backhaul if necessary?

        If so, and I go a tri-band, do you still recommend the Asus systems (ZenWifi), or do you prefer Orbi or Ubiquitis Alien?

        I may also need to add a third sattelite, so want to make sure whatever i choose is expandable.

        Thanks

        Reply
  4. NEVER BUY UBIQUITI.

    They have ZERO phone support- if you have a problem with any of their gear you have to sit for HOURS with their chat people or deal with snotty people in their “community”.

    Reply
  5. Was “forced” to get two sets of ax4200 a month ago. I have a 9000 square ft home. Was able to set up one router with four satellites and set up the second router as a wired access point. So you can get some use out of the second router.

    Reply

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