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Home Wi-Fi 6 Solutions Compared: Which to Consider

Wi-Fi 6 routers compared: So many options, so little time. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

I’ve frequently been receiving requests regarding similar Wi-Fi 6 solutions compared against each other — those along the lines of  “This one vs. that one, which should I get?”. It’s a kind of decision so subjective there’s no straightforward answer.  So, I’ll try my best to be helpful. But, instead of answering them individually and risking repeating myself to death, I’ll put that all in this post.

Generally, when evaluating a product, I give the price quite a bit of weight on the rating. In this article, though, I’ll take the cost out and tell you which you should consider an why. It’s a good idea to follow the links within this post for the full reviews — I always appreciate more views –but if you’re in a hurry, you can make up your mind right here.

I’ll update this post as I review more Wi-Fi 6 solutions, but one thing remains: None will give you everything! 

Dong’s note: This is a frequently updated post. 


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

Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien Kit vs. Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6 RBK852: The similarities

Both the Alien Kit and Netgear Orbi RBK852 are Wi-Fi 6 mesh solutions that include 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 the same performance, at least for now, considering we only have 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients.

Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien Kit vs. Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6 RBK852: The specifications

Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien Kit vs. Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6 RBK852: The differences

There are so 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 satellite units as you want. The router unit, however, can not work as a satellite unit.

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 router.

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, therefore, 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.

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. Both are currently not yet available, though, and you’ll have to wait till future firmware available later this year.

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

The Orbi has VPN, too, but it’s standard and therefore 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.

Which to consider

It’s hard to say which is better between these two. But if you want something fresh, fun, easy-to-use, the Alien is a better choice. It’s worth the risk.

On the other hand, if you want familiar network customization, a brand name you can trust, the Orbi Wi-Fi 6 is a more of a piece-of-mind decision.


Asus GT-AX1100 vs. Netgear RAX200

Asus GT-AX1100 vs. Netgear RAX200: The similarities

These two are the currently the top-notch Wi-Fi 6 routers on the market. They are massive network devices of different designs.

Both are tri-band routers capable of delivering 4×4 Wi-Fi 6 speeds on 160MHz channels (up to 4.8Gbps) in a single Wi-Fi connection. Since there are only 2×2 clients on the market, for now, they have the speeds up to 2.4Gbps, which is still crazy fast.

READ MORE:  Dual-band vs. Tri-band Wi-Fi and that Burning Bandwidth Question

Both also have a 2.5Gbps network port and support Link Aggregation to deliver faster-than-Gigabit wired speeds. They also share the same number of Gigabit network ports, including one WAN and four LANs. The two delivered similar Wi-Fi coverage in my testing.

Finally, both routers have a full web user interface and a useful mobile app.

Asus GT-AX1100 vs. Netgear RAX200: The specifications

Asus GT-AX1100 vs. Netgear RAX200: The differences

The RAX200 is one of the coolest routers you can get. It looks like hardware coming out from the StarWars universe. The Asus GT-AX1100, on the other hand, is quite ugly, being a square box, with loose detachable antennas.

But the GT-AX11000 has a ton of extras, including AiMesh, AiProtection, and game-specific features. It also includes in-depth Wi-Fi settings and useful networking tools, like Wake-on-LAN. The RAX200, however, has a standard feature set with modest Wi-Fi settings.

The RAX200 works well right out of the box. Wi-Fi 6 clients consistently connect to it at full speeds. The GT-AX11000 requires a bit of tweaking before it works well, likely due to buggy firmware.

Which to consider

Get the Asus GT-AX1000 if you’re a gamer or an advanced user who enjoys tinkering with the settings. If you want something fast and reliable with minimum effort, and don’t care about gaming or online protection features, the Netgear RAX200 is a better fit.


Asus RT-AX88U vs. Netgear RAX120

Asus RT-AX88U vs. Netgear RAX120: The similarities

These two are dual-band 4×4 routers, capable of delivering up to 4.8Gbps in a single Wi-Fi 6 connection, or 2.4Gbps to existing 2×2 clients. They somewhat like the GT-AX11000 and RAX200 above, respectively, minus a 5GHz band.

Asus RT-AX88U vs. Netgear RAX120: The specifications

Asus RT-AX88U vs. Netgear RAX120: The differences

The RT-AX88U has a standard design of a Wi-Fi router while the RAX120 is an awesome looking piece of hardware (it shares the same design as the RAX200).

Port-wise, the RAX120 has the usual one Gigabit WAN port, four Gigabit LANs plus one 5Gbps LAN port — currently the fastest multi-gig port for a home router. The RT-AX88U has no multi-gig port at all, but it has eight LAN ports and one WAN port, all are Gigabit.

Similar to the pair above, the RT-AX88U has a lot of features but is a bit buggy. The RAX120 has a standard feature set, minimum Wi-Fi settings, but it works well right out of the box.

Which to consider

Get the Asus RT-AX88U if you want extra LAN ports and don’t mind tweaking the settings, and you don’t care about multi-gig wired speeds.

The RAX120 is a better fit for those wanting reliable performance out of the box, or the fastest NAS performance when hosting an external storage device.


Netgear RAX40 vs. TP-Link AX3000

Netgear RAX40 vs. TP-Link AX3000: The similarities

The Netgear RAX40 and the TP-Link AX3000 are two very similar routers in terms of specs. Both are dual-band 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 router with the support for the venerable 160MHz channel width. They are the sweet-spot routers considering there are only 2×2 Wi-Fi clients on the market.

Both routers also have a full web interface with a similar set of features and settings. Each also has a free app for mobile users. Hardware-wise, they have the usual 4 Gigabit LAN ports and one Gigabit WAN port. 

Neither router has a multi-gig network port, nor do they feature Dual-WAN or link aggregation. 

The two have the same Wi-Fi coverage, which is only suitable for a small home. So if you live in one, both routers will give you the best Wi-Fi 6 bang for your buck, costing less than $150 each.

Netgear RAX40 vs. TP-Link AX3000: The specifications

Netgear RAX40 vs. TP-Link AX3000: The differences

There are some differences between these two.

Design-wise, the Netgear RAX40 is better looking, but it’s also bulkier. The TP-Link AX3000 is a lot more compact, but it has a traditional Wi-Fi router design. It’s a bit boring.

The Netgear RAX40 has a USB 3.2 Gen 1 port, while the TP-Link AX3000 — at least it’s the version T-Link provided me for the review — uses a USB 2.0 port. The Netgear RAX40 had better performance in my testing, but it’s also slightly more expensive. 

Which to consider

As to which you should get, it’s a matter of whether you like Netgear or TP-Link. Even though the Netgear RAX40 scored a bit higher than the TP-Link AX3000 in my testing, in real-world usage, you might not notice the difference between the two at all. And the TP-Link’s lower price carries the extra appeal.


Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien vs. Arris SURFboard mAX Pro

Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien vs. Arris SURFboard mAX Pro: The similarities

Both the AmpliFi Alien and the SURFboard mAX Pro are tri-band 4×4 mesh-ready routers. They share similar cylindrical designs and are super easy to use via mobile apps. Both deliver near-identical performances in my testing.

Both are available as single routers, or you can get multiple routers to form a mesh system. Neither has a full web user interface — the mobile app is the only way to use them.

Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien vs. Arris SURFboard mAX Pro: The specifications

Ubiquiti AmpliFi Alien vs. Arris SURFboard mAX Pro: The differences

The Alien is a much cooler looking router with a high-end touchscreen and a bright ring of a status light at its bottom. It has some unique features, including the TelePort VPN for mobile devices and the ability to block online ads. There’s also a simple one-page web user interface where you can turn on a few settings.

Apart from using multiple routers, there’s also an Alien Kit that includes a router and an Alien MeshPoint. For more on the Alien Kit, check out its full review here.

On the downside, the Alien is an unconventional tri-band router with one Wi-Fi 6 2.4GHz band, one Wi-Fi 5 5GHz band, and one Wi-Fi 6 5GHz band. As a result, in a mesh setup, it doesn’t have a dedicated backhaul band. What’s more, it doesn’t support 160MHz channels, either.

The SURFboard mAX Pro is a traditional tri-band router with a dedicated 5GHz band when working in a mesh. It also supports 160MHz channels. The downside is it has no features and almost no network settings to customize.

Which to consider

As a single router, you should pick the Alien over the mAX Pro. It’s more fun to use, more reliable, and has some unique and valuable features for home users. You’ll even probably love it.

For the same token, the mAX Pro has nothing on Alien. That’s especially true since, in my testing, it didn’t work in the 160MHz when serving clients, either.

As a mesh system, the Alien offers more hardware choices. Its mesh point is slightly slower due to the lack of a dedicated backhaul band, but overall, it’s a better choice than the mAX Pro.


Wi-Fi 6 Routers Compared: The performance

I tested all Wi-Fi 6 routers using a few 2×2 clients since there are no faster clients on the market. As a result, you’ll find the performance of all Wi-Fi 6 routers to be quite similar.

What makes the most significant difference between them is the support for the 160MHz channels. With the support for these channels, a Wi-Fi 6 router can deliver up to 2.4Gbps of negotiated speed; without, you’ll get 1.2Gbps at most.

Note that for Wi-Fi  5 tests, I use a 4×4 client (1733Mbps) for the close-range tests and a 3×3 client (1300Mbps) for the long-range. The reason is there is no 4×4 Wi-Fi 5 adapter for laptops, and I can’t move my desktop around.

On the 2.4GHz, I only use Wi-Fi 6 client for the tests. Generally, on this band, there’s no difference which client, Wi-Fi 5, or Wi-Fi 6, you use. The result always fluctuates a great deal and is much lower than the ceiling speeds. That’s just how it is on this band. The numbers on the charts did come from my rigorous testing, but, still, you should use them only for reference.

 

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About the Author: Dong Ngo

Before Dong Knows Tech, I spent some 18 years testing and reviewing gadgets at CNET.com. Technology is my passion and I do know it. | Follow me on Twitter, or Facebook!

24 Comments

  1. Hi – sorry for the followup, but I am still confused as to the radio capability of Orbi “6” vs AmpliFi Alien. In your review and comment you indicate that both hardware’s specs are the same but in the chart, and from their respective websites, it would indicate that Orbi is 4×4 max on the client-side radio (1200+2400+2400), while Alien is 8×8 (both on the 80 Mhz spectrum) – 4804+1148+1733 (the latter being the 5 GHz 8×8 Wi-Fi 6 radio (Max speed 4804 Mbps)
    Are both companies just visualizing their radios differently in advertising? 🙂

  2. Great review as always.
    Quick questions:
    1) It looks like future-looking, the Alien may be a better bet than the Orbi since it seems the max speed of the alien is 4800Mbps (vs 2400), and a 8×8 setup (based on your comparison chart?) vs Orbi’s 4×4 per radio? Or am I misreading this (understanding there are no 8×8 Wifi6 clients today)
    2) It looks like Alien performance is fairly mediocre, compared to other single-router solutions (based on your measurements), yet you seem to recommend it as a powerful (simple) solution. Is that ‘correct’ or am I misreading this?
    Thanks again!

  3. Hello Mr Dong Ngo,
    I am using tp link c7 router. But It did not cover my whole house because of thick brick wall. Also I need to put the router at the corner room because of the internet cable and ips so I cant put it on d middle of the house. so at the other end of room I get weak signal. Im planning to buy a new router between 150 to 200 range can u pls suggest me some good one with better range. I prefer wifi 6 but also suggest me some wifi 5 as well..
    Thanks

  4. Thanks! Was wondering that. Equal features for $150 less is hard to pass up so picked up the Asus AX11000, also the mesh option especially with the third band seems really compelling if I move to a bigger space and want to expand my coverage.

    1. This depends on what you want. The Alien lacks common settings and has no web user interface. Alien is much easier to use and less buggy. Both will deliver similar Wi-Fi speed and coverage.

  5. A great review. My old Asus RT-AC66U is finally dying so looking at a new router. I like to future proof so think I’ll grab a wifi 6 one, so your article is a perfect reference. My wife and I do a lot of streaming and gaming for context.

    What’s interesting is how much cheaper the Asus routers are… For example the 12 stream tri-band Asus option GT-AX11000 is $342 on Amazon while the Netgear comparable the RAX200 is $500. Right now I don’t want to spend more than about $350 (though wouldn’t mind spending less, but again I prefer to future proof) so I’m compared the Asus AX11000 to the Netgear Nighthawk RAX80 which both sit at around $340, though the Asus is 12 stream and tri band (and supports mesh) while the Nighthawk is only 8 stream and dual band (and no mesh it seems). Is there a reason the Nighthawks are so much more expensive? Are they none to be more reliable than the Asus or something? Just curious why such a big price difference.

    1. Get the Asus, Matt. It’s a much better deal. Netgear is slightly more stable but for the most part, it’s just expensive for the hell of it. 🙂

  6. Thank you for your detailed comparison and valuable information. I have an year old Netgear X4S router which is serving us great and i really haven’t had any issues in my 1400 sqft apartment. Now we will be moving to 3200 sqft single story house and I started to look out for options. I started my search with thought of getting a Ex7300 with existing router but landed on your site and now I am thinking whether it will make more sense to go for wifi6 based mesh system. I am considering Orbi mesh system (wifi 6) but not sure if its worth the price difference over ASUS mesh system. I am planning to connect all smart home devices (planning to get lots of wifi bulbs instead of adding more hue bulbs) and video doorbell and looking for uninterrupted and reliable connectivity. I am no longer into online gaming 🙁 but we do stream netflix on multiple devices.
    If i get Netgear AX200, can i use my x4s in bridge mode for the dead zones. Or is it possible to make use of x4s with Asus AX11000 router. Or mesh is the way to go.
    Do you think i should stick to my original plan of using ex7300 till the time wifi6 becomes more common (and cheaper).
    Thank you

    1. Congrats on the upgrade, D. How did you afford it? 3200sf is HUGE!

      For that, you’ll need a mesh system. Don’t even think about using extenders. They suck.

      As for which system, it depends. I’d recommend running network cable (wired backhaul). In this case, you can get any systems (Wi-Fi 5 will suffice) that support wired backhaul. If running network cables is not possible (why?) then I’d recommend a Wi-Fi 6 system or the Synology Mesh.

  7. Thanks for the advice. I’ve never really understood this aspect, to be honest.
    I always see 4K movie streaming estimated at ~25Mbps but I’m guessing that’s for online streaming, not what I’m doing.
    I have a 4K movie remux on my NAS right now that has a bitrate of 97.5Mbps (according to Plex) with the lowest end files being ~40Mbps… I want to stream one of those movies from the NAS to an Apple TV while surfing the net on my MacBook and while it also completes a Time Machine backup at the same time as my phone syncs photos and music to the NAS. That’s not uncommon at all for me and it all has to happen on 5Ghz.
    Does that justify having a second 5Ghz band to split the activities (i.e. movie streaming on one band and the rest on the other)? I always thought it would…

  8. I want to go with Asus and I’m tossing up between the GT-AX11000 and RT-AX88U… It’ll come down to whether I really need tri-band or not…hoping for your help!
    Right now, I have a dual band router. My NAS is on ethernet using two LAN ports. On 5ghz wifi, I have 2 x ATV 4K, MacBook Pro, Android phone, LG TV, Google mini, 12 x smart home plugs/lights. Will be adding an xbox or PS soon too. On 2.4ghz, I have 12 x Sonos speakers. The highest traffic activity is streaming 4K movie remuxes between my NAS and the ATVs but there’s always backups and syncing between my MacBook and the NAS too.
    In terms of Wifi 6, I’m guessing that new model of the ATV will come out at some point and that I’d upgrade if that were the case. And, if they bring out a new Macbook, that too.
    Do you reckon I need a wifi 6 tri-band or will dual-band be enough?
    Alternatively, if wifi 6 capability is overkill for my needs, then I’m thinking the tri-band Asus RT-AC5300 as a third option…

  9. The RAX200 is riddled with issues. I am not sure if you purchased the router retail, but it has a major issue where it artificially caps the wired connection speed at 500Mbps. They have yet to solve it.

    1. I tested the retail version, Dr. And it didn’t occur to me as the case since I used the Gigabit ports (as well as the multi-gig port) for the testing.

  10. I’ve given up on Netgear – Have the Orbi in a 3 AP setup and have had nothing but issues – Their firmware is just horrible and their frequent updates tend to break the router – What would you recommend for a stable large environment 5000 sq ft – Was thinking the Amplifi, but with no dedicated backhhaul band I’m concerned – I have Cat 5 throughout the home so I can hardwire a second Amplifi, but wouldn’t that limit the throughput? I have 1 gig internet speed, my Orbi tests at 900 or so but hardwired I’m only getting 200.. frustrated..

  11. I have a problem. I can’t decide on the router I want. I purchased and returned the Netgear Nighthawk XR700 gaming router because I was having connection problems. I rebooted the router a number of times and would still have hiccups here and there. I also thought some of the features offered in the device like the 60Ghz band was going to go unused because the lack of devices on the market that supported than bandwidth. I also didn’t think I was going to use the 10Gbps SFP port. I’m still learning about networking in general so everything seemed a bit overwhelming. DumaOS was okay, but I wish there was an app that was simpler to use on a mobile platform. I highly doubt I will be using the Geoservice feature because alot of my friends are on the Westcoast and I’m in the Midwest. I know I’m going to have a less than optimal ping, but that’s okay as long as I can have fun with friends and family.

    I’m considering a purchasing a wifi 6 router. I’m currently looking at the Nighthawk RAX 200 and RAX 120. Money really isn’t a really big option for me. I just want a router that will offer the most seamless hassle-free experience possible. I just upgraded my internet speed to 1Gig and my Time Capsule Second Gen. just can’t keep up anymore. I spent about $300 on it Jan 2012. I don’t mind spending $500-700 on a wifi router or system as long as it’s worth it. I also don’t mind saving some money if I could as well.

    So, if you could, I would like you to offer a low end recommendation and a high end recommendation. I really enjoy your work here and look forward to following you in the future. I’ve been a fan of yours since Cnet so many years ago.

  12. Which firmware did you use on the Netgear routers? I tried the latest firmware (avail in nov 2019) on rax120, and it wouldn’t remain reliable when axmode+160 MHz channels were simultaneously enabled. Usually once I enabled 160 MHz channels, performance throttled to ~10 mbps within about 5 min or so. I tried two of these routers and same bad performance. So I gave up. I’m sticking with wired 10 gbps for now….until they make better hardware. I didn’t try Asus; but Netgear’s rax120 forums are crowded With complaints… So it’s not just me. It’s surprising you didn’t encounter any issues with the rax120.

    1. I always review router at the latest firmware available at the time of testing. For your situation, I think you should back up the settings, reset the router, then set it up again. Then restore the setting.

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