If you’re on the market for a top-tier Wi-Fi 6E mesh Wi-Fi system, you must be aware of the Netgear RBKE960 series (available as a 3-pack RBKE963, 2-pack RBKE962, or a single router RBRE960) and the 2-pack Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 (also available as a single router.)
And maybe that’s why you’re reading this ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs Orbi RBKE960 matchup post, which is intended to be the supplement to their full reviews.
Considering the confusing way Netgear names its Orbi sets, you can also consider this post as the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs Orbi RBKE963, ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs Orbi RBKE962, or ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs Orbi RBRE960 matchup.
In any case, you’ll quickly learn about the similarities and differences between these two and find out which, if any, to bring home by the end of this page.
Table of Contents
ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs Orbi RBKE960: More differences than similarities
Right off the bat, these two are Wi-Fi 6E hardware that supports the top-tier 4×4 specs on all of the frequencies, including 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6Ghz.
They are also ready for Multi-Gig wired backhauls and will work great for a wired home. Both are expensive. The Orbi costs a bit more at $1500 for a 3-pack, while the Asus’ 2-pack goes for $900 for a 2-pack.
Finally, both are large physically, possibly among the largest routers you’ve seen. And that’s a good thing. Powerful broadcasters need to be of a certain size to deliver, as I explained in detail in this post about Wi-Fi antennas.
And the similarities end there. Let’s check out their differences, starting with the hardware specs.
ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs Orbi RBKE960: Hardware specifications
|ZenWiFi Pro ET12|
Wi-Fi 6 Mesh System
|Netgear Orbi |
Multiple identical routers
Router + Satellite(s)
(5GH-2 band unavailable to clients)
|Multi-Gig Wired Backhaul||Ready out of the box|
|2nd satellite requires|
a Multi-Gig switch
|4.53 x 4.53 x 9.45 in|
(11.5 x 24.1 x 11.5 cm)
|11 x 7.5 x 3.3 in|
(27.94 x 19.05 x 8.38 cm)
|Weight||3.3 lbs (1.5 kg)||3 lbs lb (1.36 kg)|
|Wi-Fi Designation||Tri-band AXE11000||Quad-band AXE11000|
|1st Band |
|4 x 4 AX |
Up to 1,148Mbps
|4 x 4 AX |
Up to 1,148Mbps
|2nd Band |
|4 x 4 AX |
Up to 4800Mbps (20/40/80/160MHz)
|5GHz-1 4×4 AX|
Up to 2.4Gbps
Up to 4800Mbps
Up to 4800Mbps
|4th Band||None||5GHz-2 4×4 AX|
Up to 2.4Gbps
|Mobile App||Asus Router||Netgear Orbi|
|Web User Interface||Yes|
|Login Account Required||No||Yes|
|Features||Comprehensive, free||Add-on premium|
subscriptions via mobile app
(as a router or a mesh)
(as a router or a mesh)
|Gigabit Port||2x LAN||Router: 3x LAN |
Satellite: 3x LAN
|Multi-Gig Port||1x 2.5Gbps WAN|
1x 2.5Gbps LAN
|Router: 1x 10Gbps WAN, 1x 2.5Gbps LAN|
Satellite: 1x 2.5 Gbps LAN
(WAN and LAN)
|Processing Power||2.0GHz quad-core CPU, |
256 MB Flash, 1GB RAM
|Quad-core 2.2GHz CPU,|
512MB Flash, 1GB RAM
|Release Date||February 2022||October 2021|
|US Retail Price|
|$899.99 (2-pack)||$1,499.99 (3-pack)|
$599 (add-on Satellite)
ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs Orbi RBKE960: Differences in hardware
Though equally designed to stand upright, the hardware looks totally different. The ZenWiFi takes the shape of a square tower with a fancy light on top, and the Oribi is more of a simple white (or black) curvy box.
Rigid vs flexible mesh hardware
The Orbi RBKE960’s hardware is a bit restrictive as a mesh system.
Like all previous Orbi sets, it includes a router and one more satellite. An Orbi router and Orbi satellite can never work as the role of each other. In other words, if you have two Orbi routers, you can’t use one as a satellite.
On the other hand, the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 includes identical hardware units — you can use each as a standalone router. And featuring AiMesh, each unit will work with all existing AiMesh routers as the primary router or a satellite.
So, a whole piece of hardware, the ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is much more versatile than the Orbi RBKE960 series. And the two have many differences when you look more closely, too.
Multi-Gig wired backhaul, 10Gbps vs 2.5Gbps
Both solutions feature Multi-Gig ports.
The Orbi RBRE router has one 10Gbps WAN port and one 2.5Gbps LAN port, and the RBSE satellite has a 2.5Gbps LAN port.
As a result, out of the box, you can use the router and one satellite with a Multi-Gig wired backhaul — you connect the two using a network cable. But if you want to use more satellite(s) via this type of super-fast backhaul, you’ll need a Multi-Gig switch.
Each ZenWiFi Pro ET12 router doesn’t have a 10Gbps port, but it has two 2.5Gbps Multi-Gig ports (one WAN and one LAN).
As a result, you can use it with Multi-Gig wired backhaul no matter how many units you want to use in the mesh — you can daisy-chain the pieces. A Multi-Gig switch works, too, but is optional.
Dedicated backhaul band, Tri-band (160MHz) vs Quad-band (80MHz)
The Orbi RBKE960 is a Quad-band solution — the first of its type on the market. As a result, the Orbi uses the 5GHz-2 band as its dedicated backhaul band in a wireless mesh configuration. You can’t pick any other band for this job.
It’s worth noting that the 5GHz-2 band only works as backhaul — it never hosts clients (front-haul), even when you use wired backhauls. That’s the case with all Tri-band Orbi hardware. Also, none of the Orbi’s bands features the 160MHz channel width, effectively capping at just half of the 4×4 specs at 2400Mbps.
The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is a new Tri-band router that supports the 160MHz channel width on both 5GHz and 6Ghz bands. As a result, it has no dedicated backhaul band. But even with signal loss, either of its 5GHz or 6GHz bands can deliver a 2400Mbps backhaul link.
It is worth noting that the 160MHz channel width on the 5GHz band is susceptible to DFS interference, so chances are you might need to use it in the 80MHz. In this case, when used as backhaul, the 5GHz link will be 1200Mbps after signal loss.
ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs Orbi RBKE960: Differences in firmware and mobile apps
The firmware is where the Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is decidedly better than the Netgear Orbi RBKE960.
For one, the Asus has a robust web interface with many free features, including QoS, AiProtection, Parental Controls, etc. You can also use the Asus Router app to manage most, if not all, of these features and settings.
Most importantly, neither the app nor the web interface requires a login account with Asus. For remote access, you can use the router’s built-in Dynamic DNS, which includes a free SSL certificate that will help avoid the dreadful security/privacy message when you log in remotely.
On the other hand, Netgear has been entering its hardware’s local web interface and free features, and the RBKE960 is one of the latest hardware with this treatment.
Specifically, the company has been removing certain free features, including remote web-based management, from the hardware to coerce users into using the mobile app.
Not only must you register an account with Netgear — privacy risks implied — to fully enjoy Orbi, you have to pay for annual subscriptions for features that once were free, including Parental Controls and QoS.
ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs Orbi RBKE960: Performance and rating
Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12's Rating
Wi-Fi 6E-ready, extensive Wi-Fi coverage with top performance in specific setups with possible fas Wi-Fi performance in certain setups
Dual Multi-Gig pots with Multi-Gig wired backhaul, flexible port configurations
Excellent performance and coverage as a standalone router
Tons of useful features and settings, flexible Wi-Fi customization
AiMesh 2.0 full support, helpful mobile app, no login account required
Bulky, no USB, only four network ports
Fluctuating performance as a fully wireless mesh due to the lack of a dedicated backhaul band
Short 6GHz range
Expensive, not wall-mountable
You can see how the two compare in the chart below regarding performance. Both deliver similarly in performance overall, with the ZenWiFi sustaining at faster rates in most cases, by small margins.
Note that the Orbi doesn’t allow using its 6GHz band as the backhaul. As a result, I could only test it via a 5GHz backhaul (dedicated, default) or wired Multi-Gig backhaul.
Netgear Orbi RBKE960 Series' Rating
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
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
ZenWiFi Pro ET12 vs Orbi RBKE960: Which to get
First, you should consider either of these two if you have a broadband connection that’s 500Mbps or faster. Folks with slower Internet should get something more affordable instead.
While either will work in a fully wireless configuration, in this case, the Orbi has the edge over the former in terms of reliability, thanks to its dedicated backhaul band.
On the other hand, in a wired configuration, the Orbi still loses half of its 5GHz spectrum. And this use case is where the ZenWiFi shines.
That said, strictly from Wi-Fi coverage and performance points of view:
- For a wired home: The ZenWiFi Pro ET12 is the best fit. If you want to extend the range, get a third unit, or you can also consider the GT-AXE11000 as the primary router.
- The Orbi RBKE960 Series is likely a better choice for a fully or partially wired home. It’ll work well in a fully wireless or mixed wired and wireless setup since its 5GHz-2 band always works as the dedicated backhaul.
But if you factor in the free features, costs, and privacy concerns, it’s best to get your home wired and go with the ZenWiFi Pro ET12. Wiring is always the optimal way to extend your Wi-Fi coverage anyway.
Neither of these two is a must-have, but either will work out well, with the Orbi leaning towards ease of use and the ZenWiFi having more value and the cool factor.
Want to see more Wi-Fi solutions compared against each other? Check them all out here.