Luma vs. Orbi — Differences Explained

Luma vs Orbi

Having a fast WiFi connection is well and good, but it’s only one half of the equation. In order to really ensure that you have a strong signal throughout your entire home, you’ll need a WiFi router that has cutting-edge technology and the ability to eliminate dead zones within your home.

Below we compare the Luma vs. Orbi — two smart routers that use a mesh network in order to beam reliable WiFi to every corner of your property. They both have their benefits and drawbacks, but which router comes out on top?

Luma vs. Orbi — About

Luma, alongside competitor eero, was largely responsible for the surge in smart WiFi solutions in recent years. They are a startup company based out of Atlanta, and were truly one of the pioneers of the mesh revolution.

Luma products are available in bundles to power the smart home in properties ranging from small apartments to sprawling mansions. Each unit creates a smart network around the home that is incredibly easy to connect to, and the system as a whole manages to bypass the inconvenience of bridges and multiple routers. By keeping things simple and effective, Luma manages to avoid issues like slow signals and congested networks even at some pretty impressive distances.

Also worth noting is that Luma products look just as well as they function. Rather than being a mess of antennas and cords, everything is contained within the device itself — allowing it to blend in and look innocuous in pretty much any area of your home.

The Netgear Orbi is another mesh router system backed by a company with a significant reputation in the internet technology arena. Netgear has been producing routers since far before the idea of smart WiFi was even around, and the Orbi and the Orbi Pro are two of their premier intelligent devices.

The Orbi is their solution for residential properties, while the Orbi Pro is perfect for a medium-sized office. For a more in-depth comparison between the two Orbi models, check out our take on the NETGEAR Orbi vs. Orbi Pro.

Setup of the Orbi is incredibly easy, and with the router itself, the satellites, and a smartphone app, you’ll have your network up and running in a matter of minutes. Just keep in mind that while the router unit and the satellites look the same, they are different devices and you’ll need to have a singular base that is then supported by additional connected units.

Outside of their routers, Netgear has also expanded into other types of technology such as smart home products like the well-reviewed Arlo smart cameras.


Luma vs. Orbi — Things in Common

Luma Router

While there are definitely some significant differences between the routers in a number of areas, there are some features that you’ll find common to both devices.

At its core, the point of a mesh network is to reduce WiFi dead zones. With the Luma and Orbi, gone are the days where you’d have to run around the house in order to find that perfect sweet spot for a reliable connection. By using satellites to beam the network through the entirety of your home, you’ll have a strong signal wherever you happen to be.

With that said, there’s definitely a possibility you can fix your dead zones without investing a whole brand new router. An app like Wi-Fi Sweetspots for iOS or Wi-Fi Analyzer for Android can help you locate areas where your signal starts to degrade. Oftentimes by moving the router to a different room, or even just a few feet, you can fix signal issues with no additional expense.

Even if you manage to fix the dead zones by moving your existing router, however, there are a number of other reasons why the Luma and Orbi might be worth the upgrade. Both routers feature ethernet ports which offer the perfect opportunity for smart home support. Just hook in the smart hub into the base in order to instantly support your various Zigbee and Z-Wave devices. While their primary application might be to provide internet to your computers, smartphones, and tablets, that smart home capability is also an excellent perk for those of us with connected homes.

On both routers, you’ll find support for voice control via Amazon Alexa. Through a device like the Echo or Echo Dot, you can adjust the various settings of your network through voice commands alone. It’s the perfect way to pause the internet without lifting a finger, or to ask Netgear to turn off the Guest WiFi — just keep in mind that your kids can do so too, so Alexa integration isn’t exactly the most secure method of control!

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Netgear Orbi RBK40 IEEE 802.11ac Ethernet Wireless Router
848 Reviews

From a technology standpoint, both routers support MU-MIMO, which stands for multi-user, multiple input, multiple output. Traditional routers can have a bunch of devices connected to them at the same time, but they can only transmit data to one at a time. This still happens incredibly fast so you often don’t notice any delays, but it does result in devices competing against one another for bandwidth. The MU-MIMO technology common to both the Luma and Orbi ensures that your network can transmit data to every device equally, allowing them to share the connection rather than compete for service.

Last but not least, you’ll enjoy a simple installation process regardless of the brand you choose. The only utility you’ll need for either device is the Luma or Orbi app. Your router comes pre configured out of the box, so it’s just a matter of plugging things in and running through some simple steps on your smartphone.


Luma vs. Orbi — Differences

Orbi Home

  • Difference #1: WiFi Connectivity – Your primary concern when buying a router is having a strong WiFi signal, but there are some significant differences between the type and quality of wireless connection when comparing the Luma and Orbi.

    The Luma unit is a dual-band router with one 5GHz band and one 2.4GHz band. These multiple bands allow for more space on the network and for less congestion as your various devices try to communicate. The specific router also has a feature that will always select the perfect band for every gadget that connects, which ensures a quality connection across all of your devices.

    With that said, there are some pretty significant issues with the Luma connectivity — most notably the fact that it will occasionally disconnect for 5 or 10 minutes at a time. When this happens, there’s not much you can do besides wait for things to come back online, which can seriously hamper productivity and bring down a lot of the smart features in your home. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal if it only happened occasionally, but some reviewers state that it happens at least three times a day which is pretty inexcusable.

    The long range and close range throughput of the Luma is also less impressive than the Orbi, with a speed of 70.5 Mbs and 321.4 Mbs respectively.

    The Orbi, on the other hand, is incredibly impressive when it comes to connectivity. While the Luma is a dual-band system, the Orbi is actually a tri-band setup that offers unprecedented stability and speed.

    Just like the Luma, there is a 2.4GHz band and a 5GHz band that handle most of the internet activity. What sets the Orbi apart from the Luma, however, is the third band — a second 5GHz radio that handles WiFi backhaul. This essentially means that there is a frequency dedicated entirely to the connection between the router and the satellites placed throughout your house, which leads to a better-quality network overall.

    The throughput of the Orbi is also far more impressive, with speeds of 510.9 Mbps at close range and 371.4 Mbps at 100 feet.

  • Difference #2: Wired Connectivity – There are also some pretty significant disparities between the Luma and Orbi in terms of wired connectivity.

    Since both the Luma and Orbi are mesh networks, they have both a base and satellites that combine to form a reliable network. With the Luma, you’ll find two 1Gbps LAN port, as well as a USB 2.0 port on each device. This means that it’s easy to hardwire technology to your network even if it happens to be far away from your main router. Just make sure that you’re in close proximity to at least one Luma unit, and you’re good to go.

    The Orbi functions similarly, but just on a larger scale. Since one Orbi unit hooks into your modem, that router will have 1 WAN and 3 LAN ports. This essentially allows your device to receive internet while giving you the ability to hook up devices like smart home hubs, gaming PCs, or printers.

    The Orbi Satellites also have four ports, which essentially allow these satellites to function the same as the Luma units — albeit with more ports to work with.

    The Orbi equipment all sport a USB 2.0 port as well, but they are currently awaiting activation by a future update, leaving their utility somewhat limited at this point in time.

    Overall, the Orbi is the superior model in terms of wired connectivity at well, chiefly due to the larger number of ports that it has to offer. The less functional USB port is definitely disappointing, but it isn’t nearly a big enough deal to take away Orbi’s significant advantage.

  • Difference #3: Units & Range — Each router functions a little differently in terms of the way units work and their range.

    Just like the Orbi devices, the Luma functions with one gadget as a primary router and the others as access points. However, all Luma models are identical so it doesn’t really matter which one is the base — just choose one to hook into your router and allow the others to work as nodes throughout your home.

    With one device, you’ll see a range of 1000-1500 feet, while three devices expands that range to 2000-3000 feet.

    The Orbi comes with one router and one satellite by default, but can support up to 3 satellites. The default setup has an impressive range of up to 5000 square feet, but you can easily expand that by a significant amount by adding in more satellites. For even more impressive range, check out the Orbi Pro System.

  • Difference #4: Bridge Mode – By default, your routers are intended to completely replace your existing setup and provide a whole new network. However, the Orbi also offers an option for “Bridge Mode,” which allows you to change the device to function as an access point rather than the primary router. This feature keeps your existing network infrastructure but expands it through the mesh, and may be a cool perk for those who have a complicated setup and who are currently happy with their setup. Bridge Mode is especially useful for commercial settings where the internet might have been set up by an IT team, as it allows for expansion via mesh without messing with original settings.

    One of the most notable downsides to the Luma is the fact that it can’t work in bridge mode. The only way that you can use a Luma is to replace your router system entirely, and if you use it behind another router system — even just a router/modem combination gateway — you will start to notice issues with your devices communicating. This also makes the Luma a hard sell for business use or for students in a dorm environment, as it’s frankly just not very compatible with other internet technology. For most users this won’t make much of a difference, but it’s definitely a notable drawback and a disadvantage that the Luma has when compared to the Orbi.

  • Difference #5: Hardware – The underlying hardware on your router is largely responsible for the way your network performs, and it’s quite clear that the Orbi has the better technology overall.

    The Luma is no chump with a Quad-Core 700MHz processor, 256MB of memory, and 128MB of storage, but it definitely falls significantly behind the Orbi. With a Quad-Core ARM 710 MHz processor, 512MB of memory, and 4GB of flash memory, the Orbi outclasses the Luma and the majority of other routers as well.

  • Difference #6: Parental Control – Both the Luma and Orbi offer parental control options, although they differ pretty significantly in the extent and control offered by the feature.

    With the Luma, you can set filters to G, PG, PG-13, and R, but it doesn’t function perfectly in real life. Also disappointing is the fact that you can’t black or whitelist sites manually, which leaves you out of luck if there are specific areas of the web that you want to control access to.

    For a sense of the type of content that each filter level allows:

    G rating only provides access to child-friendly content such as Sprout, Disney, or Nick Jr.

    PG opens up this access further and provides access to Google, Wikipedia, and other educational or child-friendly content.

    PG-13 will filter smoking, alcohol, drugs, and violence-themed content.

    – While R filters cyber-threats, illegal activities, and X-rated content.

    The Orbi offers much more control through Negear’s partnership with Disney and their parental control suite, Circle. By default, you can block access to sites and enable safe search, turn off the internet at will, block ads, and monitor your kids’ usage. That functionality is significantly expanded, however, with an optional premium subscription.

    Even with the free parental controls, the Orbi’s filtering comes out ahead. When you add in the premium option, however, that gap becomes significantly wider — more on that below.

  • Difference #7: Subscription – When it comes to subscription options, both the Luma and Orbi approach the service from a different angle.

    Luma, through their premium service Luma Guardian, focuses on privacy and device protection.

    The Privacy VPN protects your web traffic from monitoring by your ISP. Oftentimes your provider will track your activity, alter it, and even sell it to other companies who are interested in user habits. It’s an invasion of privacy that many aren’t comfortable with once they understand that they are likely being tracked, and Stealth mode with Luma Guardian encrypts web traffic from your Luma and anonymizes traffic before it reaches websites.

    Award-winning device antivirus keeps up to 3 devices protected at all times. Cybercriminals are constantly trying to compromise your system, and having that safeguard is great for peace of mind as you’re browsing the web.

    You’re paying for high speeds from your internet provider, but they don’t always deliver on their promises. ISP speed monitoring is an excellent perk that will give you an accurate reading of the types of speeds you’re getting from your provider, so you can always be assured that you’re getting the service you’re expecting.

    A Luma Guardian also comes with premium support. If you have a question, get an answer. Reach tech experts through chat, phone, or email 7 days a week and jump to the front of the line. Spend more time enjoying your network and less time waiting on the phone, with your questions addressed as promptly as possible.

    Outside of those features, you’ll also receive benefits like an extended warranty of 2-years to protect your investment, as well as a 10% discount on all future Luma purchases. Since Luma networks can be expanded quite a long way with additional units, it’s nice to know that you can save some cash when buying new nodes.

    The Circle subscription with the Netgear Orbi offers some of the most robust parental control features on the market. It’s now incredibly easy to keep an eye on your kids’ internet activity, as well as enforce rules and incentivize good behavior through the various settings available to Circle subscribers.

    Time Limits, as the name implies, allows you to set restrictions on the amount of time your kids can spend online. By restricting access to certain categories of internet like social media, streaming services, or games, you can exercise control in one fell swoop. Alternatively, you can target specific problem apps and make sure your kids spend more time being kids than they do glued to their screen. Time Limits essentially allows you to give your children a certain amount of screen time each day without having to worry about constantly watching over their shoulder.

    Bedtime allows you to set a certain point every night where internet cuts off for your kid’s devices. When it’s time for bed, it’s time for bed, and kids shouldn’t be browsing on their phone at all hours of the night. The controls are also highly-customizable, and allow you to set different bed times for each individual kid. Put younger kids in bed by 7 or 8, and allow your teenagers a little more leeway with specific settings for every group of devices.

    Offtime setting time limits is useful, but even if you restrict the amount of time that your kids can be online, there are bound to be certain times of the day where you don’t want them using screens. Whether it’s while doing homework after school or during the family dinner, Offtime allows you to set windows where technology is disabled for your children. Kids that try to get online during that time will get a friendly reminder that it’s time to put the screens down and be more productive or spend quality time with family.

    Rewards is a unique feature that allows parents to incentivize good behavior and dole out additional internet time whenever they please. Reward your son for doing the dishes, or give your daughter more access to social media if she finishes her homework on time. Rewards offers the ability to adjust time limits, offtime, and bedtime temporarily to give your kids a little perk when it’s appropriate.

    Usage is the perfect way to monitor your family’s internet access both individually and as a whole, as it keeps an eye on all traffic, 24/7. Curb your social media addiction, or get some real numbers as to how much time your kids are spending on video games from one convenient location. Usage is a great utility to see the effects that the other controls are having on your family’s habits onlines, as well as a way to identify problem areas and rein in addictive behavior.

    In addition to the utility offered by a Circle app subscription, Orbi products also come with free technical support for 90 days from the point of purchase. At that point, you’ll have to pay to receive technical support. This is unfortunate, but having that free support during the first few months gives you the time to get acq uainted with your new technology and ensure your network is running quickly and efficiently.

  • Difference #8: Design – Last but not least, one of the most immediately apparent differences between the Luma and the Orbi are their physical design.

    The Luma looks like a compact, unobtrusive hexagon — measuring 4.5 x 4.5 x 1 inches and available in Black, Gray, Orange and White. It looks much more attractive than a traditional router, with the only downside being that it has to stand vertically in order to function. This isn’t a major problem, but definitely makes it stand out a little bit more than a device like the eero which can lie flat.

    Design is an area where the Orbi falls short, at least in terms of making it blend into its environment and not be obtrusively a router. It’s a tall tower measuring 8.9 x 6.7 x 3.1 inches, and while you could probably use it as a book end of some sorts, it’s going to be pretty prominent in the room rather than fitting in well with the rest of your decor.


Luma vs. Orbi — Comparison Chart

LumaOrbi
WiFi ConnectivityDual-band WiFi radios,
Simultaneous
2.4GHz and 5GHz
IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Tri-band WiFi radios,
Simultaneous
2.4GHz and 5GHz(2)
IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Wired ConnectivityTwo 1Gbps LAN,
USB 2.0 on each device
1 WAN; 3 LAN;
One 2.0 USB;
Orbi Satellite:
4 Gb LAN;
One 2.0 USB;
MU-MIMOYesYes
BeamformingYesYes
Bridge ModeNoYes
Security and network servicesWPA/WPA2WPA/WPA2-PSK
Reduces WiFi Dead ZonesYesYes
Range1 device 1000-1500 sq. ft.
3 devices 2-3000 sq.ft
1 Router + 1 Satellite
up to 5,000 sq ft
ProcessorQuad-core 700MHzQuad-core 710MHz
Memory256MB512MB
Storage128MB4GB
SubscriptionLuma GuardianPremium Circle app
Technical Support after
90-day free trial
Alexa SupportYesYes
Dimensions4.6” x 4.6” x 1.2”8.9” x 6.7” x 3.1”
ColorBlack, Gray, Orange, WhiteWhite

Luma vs. Orbi — Accessories

Orbi Voice

With the Luma router, the only real “accessory” worth mentioning is the Luma Guardian subscription mentioned above. For those concerned with privacy and security, we definitely feel it’s worth the extra expense. It’s just a few dollars each month, and the benefits are numerous.

For the Orbi, there’s of course the Circle premium subscription, as well as convenient mounting options like the Netgear Orbi Wall Mount Bracket, and Wall Mount Holder/Wall Ceiling Bracket that get the router up and off the ground.

Outside of that, there are some unique satellites that offer additional utility in addition to expanding your network.

The Orbi Voice Add-on WiFi Satellite and Smart Speaker allows your Orbi satellite to double as an Alexa speaker. Play music, check the news, manage your schedule, and control your smart home — all from a mesh node that plays double duty as a smart device.

The Orbi Outdoor Satellite is the only weather-resistant outdoor WiFi mesh system, and it can extend the coverage of your network an extra 2500 square feet into your yard. Watch YouTube or listen to music at the far corners of your property — there’s no reason that you have to ditch the devices when it comes time to go outside!

Last but not least, the Orbi Plug In Satellite can extend your network up to 1500 feet with high-performance AC2200 WiFi. The main benefit of this option is that it plugs directly into your outlet rather than taking up a spot on the table. Keep your entire home covered in a powerful WiFi mesh by sticking a satellite into your hallway or kitchen plug. It’s an excellent option for those with limited space, since the only requirement is a free outlet.


Luma vs. Orbi — Our Thoughts

Orbi - Extra - 03

When it comes to comparing the Luma vs. Orbi, there’s really no competition. The Orbi is the superior device in pretty much every single category. The main benefits that the Luma has going for it are the more attractive design, the security features through Luma Guardian, and the ability to extend your network as you please with unrestricted access to Luma satellites. That definitely compares in comparison to everything that the Orbi has to offer, however, and the fact that the connection drops multiple times a day is frankly unforgivable.

The one downside of the Netgear Orbi is that it is significantly more expensive, but there are also alternatives to the Luma that won’t break the bank such as the AmpliFi HD or eero.

Long story short, the Orbi is the clear winner, and there are very few situations in which the Luma would be the best choice — even when compared to smart routers outside of this comparison. The Luma is definitely a step up from most traditional routers, but it just can’t compete on an equal level with routers like the Orbi.

Our Score:
  • Luma
  • Orbi
4.5

Let us know what you think!

Have you noticed other differences between Luma vs. Orbi? Feel free to add them or share your experience with the products in the comments section below. Your input can help other people make the right choice!


Last update on 2018-12-13 at 20:00 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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