With how prevalent smart technology has become and streaming content becoming a bigger deal than ever before, it’s important that your connection be reliable and fast. Buying an expensive package from your ISP may give you speedy internet, but you’re holding your network back from its maximum potential if you’re still using an outdated router.
When it comes to internet technology, very few companies do it better than Netgear. Below we take a look at the NETGEAR Orbi vs. Orbi Pro — two smart routers that make dead zones and thing of the past and fill your home with top-tier WiFi.
NETGEAR Orbi vs. Orbi Pro — About
The Orbi and Orbi Pro together make up Netgear’s main smart router system. They are similar in a lot of ways, but they do have some fundamental differences in the types of environment that they are designed for.
The Netgear Orbi mesh-router system is an incredible option to fill spaces ranging from small homes to medium-sized offices with fast, reliable WiFi. The Orbi is intended for residential applications, while the Orbi Pro offers an excellent option for small businesses that don’t have a dedicated IT team.
For initial setup of the router system, you’ll need an Orbi or Orbi Pro to connect to your modem, as well as satellites that combine with the base to provide seamless, high-speed WiFi throughout your entire home.
The Orbi Pro is very similar to the Orbi system, with an AC3000-class router, a 4×4 dedicated backhaul link, and one 2×2 5GHz and one 2×2 2.4 GHz radio at each node.
Both Orbi systems are incredibly easy to set up, and only require a smartphone app for DIY install. Management of either router is handled through that same app, but there’s also a web server available if you’d prefer to handle things more like a traditional model.
NETGEAR Orbi vs. Orbi Pro — Things in Common
As two parts of the same Netgear product family, the Orbi and Orbi Pro have a lot in common. While the Pro may be intended more for business settings, both routers at their core have the same intelligent technology.
Regardless of your choice, you’ll enjoy FastLane3 Technology. FastLane3 refers to a dedicated WiFi backhaul that is perfect for 4K streaming and gaming. Normal routers generally start to slow down when you add more devices, but the Orbi and Orbi Pro should maintain the same incredible speeds even with tons of devices sharing the network. This backhaul ensures a fast, dedicated wireless connection between the Orbi router and the satellites, beaming fast WiFi to your entire home.
Because of the mesh network format, both routers function to reduce WIFi dead zones. Normal routers generally lack the range and power to fill each and every corner with a strong connection, but the strategically placed satellites carry the signal further than your outdated equipment ever could.
With that said, you don’t necessarily need a brand new router system in order to reduce dead zones. There are apps available on the iOS and Android App Store such as Wi-Fi Sweetspots and Wi-Fi Analyzer that can let you know when your network’s signal starts to drop off. Oftentimes simply moving the router to a different location can solve any connection issues you have without costing you extra money.
The majority of routers use dual-band technology, but the Orbi and Orbi Pro actually use tri-band technology. The extra band works to deliver an extremely fast WiFi connection as it focuses entirely on the backhaul. The 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz radios provide a theoretical peak throughput of 1.2Gbps of data flow, and that extra radio takes some of the load off the main network, ensuring that the link between Orbi units and your devices stays strong.
Having top-notch speeds is more important than ever before. With how much technology the average home uses, it’s important that your router be able to keep up with your network demands and deliver the maximum possible throughput. The Orbi and Orbi Pro have nearly identical speeds, with the Orbi Pro being just slightly faster.
The Orbi’s throughput averaged 508.7 Mbps at a close range and 369.6 Mbps at 100 feet. The Orbi Pro, on the other hand, transmitted dada at 509 Mbps when close to the router and 248 Mbps when within a 2000 square foot range. The speeds with the Pro do tend to drop off as you get farther and farther away from the router, but the lowest reported speed was around 193 Mbps.
Speaking of speeds, another type of technology that the Orbi and Orbi Pro have in common is MU-MIMO. This stands for multi-user multiple-input multiple-output, and is essentially a fancy way of saying that the routers can communicate with multiple devices at the same time. While all WiFI networks can technology can technically support multiple devices being online simultaneously, only MU-MIMO setups can transmit data equally to all technology. Rather than competing on the network, the devices can share the same frequency which leads to faster wireless speeds overall.
Regardless of the model you choose, you’ll get roughly the same range. Each product line offers a 5000 square foot coverage area with one router and one satellite, and every new satellite add-on will expand the network by up to 2500 square feet. The mesh design will beam WiFi an incredible distance from the router provided you have extra satellites, so you shouldn’t really have to worry about covering the entirety of your home with either the Orbi or Orbi Pro.
One of the advantages of having a WiFi network is being able to ditch the wires, and the wire-free connection between the router and satellite means that you won’t have to worry about unsightly cords with either router. You’ll still have to plug in the router and satellites themselves, but they communicate among themselves completely wirelessly — leaving you with less clutter to deal with when compared to traditional router setups.
Help guests get online without giving them full access to your private network with a dedicated Guest Portal. The portal allows for traffic separation and offers a great degree of customization over the amount of access you give visitors.
When you’re in the market for a smart WiFi router, you’re looking for equipment that will make life more convenient. The Orbi and Orbi Pro make internet use a breeze, and that convenience extends to the easy setup process as well. The routers are pre configured and ready for use right out of the box. Just pull out your Orbi app and set up your whole home with powerful WiFi in a matter of minutes. After setup, that same app can be used to personalize and manage the various settings of your new network.
NETGEAR Orbi vs. Orbi Pro — Differences
Difference #1: Default AP/Router Mode – Because the Orbi and Orbi Pro are designed with different markets in mind, there are some fundamental differences in how they function by default.
The regular Orbi will default to “router mode” when you first set it up. You can activate AP mode manually under advanced settings, however, if you’d like to use it as an access point rather than your primary router.
The ORbi Pro, on the other hand, is set to Access Point mode by default — even if an existing router isn’t detective. Just as you can set the regular Orbi to AP mode, you can manually adjust the Pro settings to have it function as your primary router.
When the Pro is set into router mode, the following functions will be supported.
- Access Control
- Traffic Meter
- Block Sites
- Block Service
- Static Route
- Port Forwarding
- Port Triggering
- Remote Management
- VPN Service
The main reason that Orbi Pro is set up to function in Access Point Mode by default is that its intended primarily for businesses, and Netgear makes the assumption that the business already has a router from their internet service provider. However, when you’re going through the setup in the Orbi App, your Orbi Pro will examine your network and give you the option to enable router mode very easily if it doesn’t detect existing equipment.
This prompt to change the format is very useful and pretty makes any disadvantage the router might have from starting in Access Point Mode nonexistent. The default setting for AP mode is actually an advantage, as it allows you to easily integrate your Orbi into an existing network and enjoy the benefits that the nodes have to offer. This is a particularly excellent perk for small businesses, as they are very reliant on their network and have often paid an IT team to set up a specific format for their networking. Having the Orbi Pro as an access point rather than replacing the existing router outright allows you to expand your network without messing anything up with your existing infrastructure.
Difference #2: Add-On Satellites – Since the Orbi and Orbi Pro function as a mesh network, they rely on satellites in order to expand their coverage. There are some pretty significant differences in the lineup of satellites available when comparing the two devices, however, largely due to the fact that one is meant for an office and the other a home.
The regular Orbi has far more options when it comes to satellites.
The default Orbi Satellite is an add-on that will expand your network by up to 2500 square feet This offers high-performance AC3000 WiFi to a greater area, and also allows you to connect more wired devices using the included 4 ethernet ports. It’s an excellent option for larger homes, and also for people who have equipment that they’d like to hardwire that is not close to the router itself.
Another option is the Orbi Voice Add-on WiFi Satellite and Smart Speaker, as it offers Amazon Alexa functionalities in addition to expanding your network. Have your satellite play double duty as a smart speaker, and enjoy access to the full range of Alexa commands. Get the news, check the weather, control your smart home, listen to music and more. No longer will you need an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot in order to control you WiFi with voice commands.
The Orbi Outdoor Satellite is the only weather-resistant outdoor WiFi mesh system, making Netgear the go-to brand should you want to take your network outdoors. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to use your laptop on the patio, and with an expansion of up to an extra 2500 square feet, you can browse the web in the far corners of your backyard as well. With uninterrupted video streaming on your mobile devices or smart speakers, you can take your favorite media with you as the perfect complement to a sunny day.
Last but not least is the Orbi Plug In Satellite. This is a slightly less powerful version of the Orbi Satellite, as it has a shorter range of 1500 square feet and uses AC2200 WiFi. However, the primary advantage of this technology comes with the fact that it plugs directly into a plug rather than sitting on your table. This eliminates having to deal with any sort of power cord, and also saves valuable counter space since the only area taken up is the plug itself.
For the Orbi Pro, the options for satellites are much more limited. The only option for expanding the network, besides the default Pro Satellite, is the Orbi Outdoor Satellite. This is great for business properties with multiple buildings that they want to cover, but the lack of the other options definitely take away some of the utility. There may not be as many uses for a smart speaker in a small business as there would be in a home, but losing access to the Wall-Plug and regular Orbi Satellite is definitely disappointing.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Orbi Pro will not work with any of the regular Orbi satellites. This is probably an intentional choice to avoid business users buying residential products in order to save money and is an unfortunate decision for the consumer on Netgear’s part. It’s worth keeping in mind when you’re buying the Orbi Pro, as your options for satellites will be limited to those marked for that specific model.
Difference #3: Maximum Expansion & User Connections – While the Orbi may pull ahead in the variety of satellites that it can support, it lags far behind in terms of maximum expansion and simultaneous user connections.
The Orbi can support up to 3 satellites and 1 main router, which should give you adequate WiFi for most residential applications. However, that setup means that it’s somewhat limited in the amount of users it can support at any one time. More specifically, you’re pretty much limited to 20 connections at any one time. For the average household, it shouldn’t be much of an issue. For very large families with a ton of technology, however, you may start to notice some slower speeds.
The Orbi Pro is rated to have up to 40 devices connected at once, which is much more impressive than the regular Orbi. With the ability to have 40 simultaneous users, all with their own dedicated bandwidth, it’s much better suited for a small office environment. User testing has even shown that it’s possible to exceed those 40 connections, but at this point the load balancing software doesn’t work quite as well. As soon as you exceed 40 connections, it’s likely that users 41 and up will start to see a laggy connection.
Long story short, if you’re looking to hook up a ton of different devices or use the router in an office setting, the Orbi Pro is the clear choice.
Difference #4: Traffic Separation – As another notable difference between the Orbi and Orbi Pro, the traffic separation really drives home that one router is intended for the home and the other for businesses.
The Orbi allows you to have a personal network as well as a guest WiFi network. The Guest network is incredibly easy to set up and operate, and provides secure internet access for your guests without giving them full access to your home network.
The Orbi Pro, on the other hand, is a lot more flexible in the way that it separates traffic. In the configuration settings, you’ll find options for Admins, Employees, and Guests.
You’ll be able to create up to 3 WiFi networks with traffic separation, allowing you to completely contain traffic within your company securely. The SSID management is easily accessed through your Orbi app for instant setup.
The three different networks can each accomplish some cool things that make them an excellent addition to any business.
The Guest/Customer network allows you to configure access for a limited time. Avoid guests hogging your WiFi all day by just giving them enough access to conveniently access your business. This network also requires agreements to terms and conditions, which allows you to protect your company and maintain the integrity of your network. Last but not least, your guest network will be configured to not have access to any critical infrastructure, ensuring that your technology is protected from any outside influences.
The Employee network provides internet access, restricts access to critical network functions, and requires an SSID password to connect. This sets aside bandwidth specifically for workers in your company, but also ensures that the average employee doesn’t have any significant control over the network.
The Admin accounts have complete control over the network, and are protected by a separate password. This is the perfect level of access for those managing your IT, as it allows these employees to adjust the network as needed for maximum efficiency. Giving your technology team the tools they need in order to work efficiently is a major benefit, and it’s possible to do so through the Orbi Pro without opening up access to those who might mess up the settings or otherwise compromise the connection.
Difference #5: Captive Portal – Expanding on the traffic separation above, only the Orbi Pro features support for a captive portal.
This is a feature that will display a splash page upon entry to a guest network and require users to agree to a set of terms and conditions before accessing the internet. In addition to their use for displaying terms and conditions pages, captive portals also keep guest network visitors from seeing other devices that are connected to the network. These guests also cannot access the local area network (LAN).
Difference #6: Wired Connection – Both the Orbi and Orbi Pro come with a variety of ports that makes hooking up your various devices a breeze. However, there are some minor differences that give the regular Orbi router the edge.
The backside of each Orbi device has a power input, an on/off button, and four separate gigabit Ethernet ports. On the router itself, there’s a yellow port that connects directly to your broadband modem, and the other three ports are open to connect to devices like printers, stationary PCs, network-attached storage drives, and more.
Also included on the router are buttons to reset a device and to synchronize the router with extra satellites. The satellites that the Orbi router is sold with come out of the box synchronized with the base, but if you are to expand your network further in the future with additional satellites, you may have to take advantage of this feature.
Each Orbi unit also features a USB 2.0 port, but they’re actually awaiting activation by a future software update. What this means is that you can use it for devices like printers, but that it doesn’t support features like Readyshare storage at this point in time. While the activation will make them much more useful once that patch arrives, it overall feels like the USB system was poorly thought out. The fact that it’s USB 2.0 rather than 3.0 and the disappointing support for full USB functionality really makes it feel like an afterthought.
While the Orbi Router and satellites look nearly identical, they are not interchangeable. This means that you’ll always have one base that functions as the router, and then similar looking equipment that is only capable of expanding the network rather than hosting it themselves.
The Orbi Pro has nearly identical wired connectivity, although it lacks the USB port. This is a disappointment, sure, but considering how lackluster the USB integration is on the residential Orbi, we don’t really feel that it puts the Pro model at a significant disadvantage.
Difference #7: Parental Control – Since the Orbi is designed for residential applications, there are bound to be situations where kids are in the home and accessing the internet. While the online world is an excellent resource for kids, both for entertainment and productivity, there are definitely corners of the web that aren’t appropriate for children.
One key benefit of the regular Orbi is the host of parental controls offered through the Circle App. Circle is an internet management tool developed by Disney, and they have partnered with Netgear to build the functionality directly into a lineup of their routers.
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To unlock the majority of the Circle features, you will need a premium subscription. However, there are some benefits and protections put in place by default.
Included with your Orbi router for no additional fee is the ability to pause your internet whenever you please, filter out inappropriate website, and keep an eye on the browsing history on your kid’s devices. The subscription significantly expands the tools that parents have available to manage their kids’ internet usage, but if you don’t want to pay extra you’ll still have access to basic parental controls.
The Orbi Pro, as a router designed for offices rather than homes with kids, does not feature any sort of parental controls. If you’re looking for a router that can protect your children from the seedier areas of the internet, the regular Orbi is the clear choice.
Difference #8: Subscription – The basic version of the Circle app provides some quality parental control features by default, but if you’re willing to shell out a small monthly fee, you’ll unlock a huge lineup of benefits. Circle is one of the best tools for parents to keep an eye on their kids’ internet usage, and the benefits extend far behind blocking out adult websites and tracking history.
Time Limits gives you control over the time your children are spending online. Internet access is an excellent tool and a great way to pass the time, but sometimes kids spend more time on social media or gaming than they do playing outside or doing homework. The time limits has a lot of customization features that let you limit access to certain apps and websites. Cut off the connection to mobile games, social media, streaming services, and more with a tap of a button. The Circle app allows you to ensure your kids don’t spend excessive time online without you having to constantly keep an eye on their devices.
Bedtime, as the name implies, allows you to set certain times of the night where internet access is disabled completely for your children’s devices. When it’s time for bed, kids should be sleeping, not up all night on their phones. Just like the Time Limits feature, Bedtime is all about customization, and will allow you to set individual times for different children and their devices. It’s the perfect feature to ensure your younger kids go to bed on the earlier side, while being a little bit more flexible with your teenagers.
Offtime is a useful tool that allows you to set certain times of the day where internet access should be disabled. This is especially useful for when it’s time to do homework or spend time as a family, as it ensures your kids won’t be glued to their screen when they should be focusing on being productive. Your Orbi router will automatically cut off internet at the scheduled times, and kids that try to access internet services will get a friendly reminder that it’s time to disconnect from tech and focus on their other responsibilities.
Rewards adds the perfect way to incentivize good behavior and adherence to the schedules. While day-to-day internet usage may be handled quite well by your Orbi router and the Disney Circle subscription, it’s always nice to be able to reward your kids for a job well done, or ease up on restrictions when they deserve a break. The Rewards system is quite robust, and allows you to dole out screen time in general or for specific apps. Are your kids having a sleepover? Push bedtime back so they can spend more time gaming with their friends. It’s a useful tool that can come in handy as a parent trying to keep kids happy without things going off the rails.
Usage is a useful metric-reporting tool that gives you a detailed look at the time your family is spending online. Keep an eye on your kids’ social media use, or even try to keep your own browsing in check with detailed readouts of time spent online. It’s always nice to see the effects that the other Circle features are having on internet usage overall. The Orbi routers are designed to make your internet browsing fast and convenient, but that doesn’t mean you should spend all day connected!
Overall, the Circle app is one of the most impressive options for parental controls we’ve ever seen on a router. The competition frankly can’t compete. While a number of smart WiFi routers allow for content filtering, there’s just truly no analogous features when you start to look at all the benefits that the Circle premium subscription has to offer.
As mentioned above, the Orbi Pro does not have access to Circle, so there’s also no associated subscription. It’s nice to know that you won’t be stuck paying additional monthly fees when you purchase the router, but the lack of the cool Circle features definitely makes the Pro model a little bit less attractive for homeowners with children.
Outside of the Circle subscription, it’s important to note that the Orbi and Orbi Pro come with 90 days of free support once you purchase the router. After that point, you must pay to receive any technical support.
Difference #9: Design – Both the Orbi and Orbi Pro are designed pretty uniquely when it comes to smart router systems. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. They are aesthetically pleasing, but overall a lot more difficult to hide than another smart router like the eero or luma.
Both the host and extensions on the regular Orbi are large towers that measure 8.9 inches x 6.7 inches x 3.1 inches. It’s easy to see that it might be difficult to hide such a big router, so you’re going to have to have space to put it and deal with it being a prominent part of the room. It might be possible to use it as a bookend of sorts, and the design of the router isn’t exactly attractive, but it’s safe to say you won’t be able to easily hide it away.
The Orbi Pro is also difficult to hide, but the similarities end there. While the residential Orbi’s design definitely leaves something to be desired, the Orbi Pro has a sleek, industrial look that is the perfect complement to any office setting. The smooth white exterior and blue caps strike a good balance between looking “high-tech” while still being professional enough for business use.
The design on the Pro is definitely beautiful, but it’s also utilitarian in a way uniquely suited for a commercial setting. Residential settings usually only have a couple of different floors and are focused on transmitting WiFi signal outwards to cover the entirety of their property. Commercial buildings, on the other hand, can often have many more floors.
In order to meet the demands of both a traditional space and the many floors of a commercial property, the Orbi Pro can be installed in multiple ways. If you lay the router down horizontally, you will get more width and less height, which is perfect for businesses that only occupy a few floors. For bigger buildings that expand vertically rather than horizontally, you can mount the router to a wall to allow the signal to go up rather than out. With one Orbi Pro unit on either side of the building and vertically mounted to the wall, you should have fast and consistent WiFi connections on every floor.
The Orbi Pro routers also have an excellent cooling system on the bottom that is made up of a mesh vent and a small fan. The devices won’t make much noise at all, but they function to keep the router functioning optimally even during high-usage conditions.
NETGEAR Orbi vs. Orbi Pro — Comparison Chart
|WiFi Connectivity||Tri-band WiFi radios,
Simultaneous 2.4GHz, 5GHz
IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
|Tri-band WiFi radios,
Simultaneous 2.4GHz, 5GHz
IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
|Radio 1:||IEEE® 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz–256QAM||IEEE® 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz–256QAM|
|Radio 2:||IEEE® 802.11a/n/ac 5GHz–256QAM||IEEE® 802.11a/n/ac 5GHz–256QAM|
|Radio 3:||IEEE® 802.11a/n/ac 5GHz–256QAM||IEEE® 802.11a/n/ac 5GHz–256QAM|
|Wired Connectivity||Four (4) 10/100/1000Mbps Gigabit Ethernet ports
– One (1) WAN & three (3) LAN
– One (1) 2.0 USB port
– Four (4) 10/100/1000Mbps Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports
– One (1) 2.0 USB port
|Four (4) 10/100/1000Mbps Gigabit Ethernet ports
– One (1) WAN & three (3) LAN
Orbi Pro Satellite
– Four (4) 10/100/1000Mbps Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports
|Bridge Mode||Yes (default router mode)||Yes (default AP mode)|
|Security and network services||WPA/WPA2-PSK||WPA/WPA2-PSK|
|Reduces WiFi Dead Zones||Yes||Yes|
|Range||1 Router + 1 Satellite 5,000 sq ft||1 Router + 1 Satellite 5,000 sq ft|
|Subscription||Premium Circle app features
Technical Support after 90-day free trial
|Technical Support after 90-day free trial|
|Dimensions||8.9” x 6.7” x 3.1”||6.8” x 9.7” x 3.3”|
NETGEAR Orbi vs. Orbi Pro — Accessories
Outside of optional subscriptions like the Disney Circle for the regular Orbi, there’s not too much else you’ll need to get everything up and running.
For the Orbi, we recommend taking a look at the Netgear Orbi Wall Mount Bracket, or the Wall Mount Holder/Wall Ceiling Bracket to get your router up off the table and save some valuable counter space!
NETGEAR Orbi vs. Orbi Pro — Our Thoughts
The Orbi and Orbi Pro are designed with different customers in mind, so which one is truly “best” is up for debate.
The Orbi is an excellent option for residential settings, while the Orbi Pro is definitely superior when it comes to small businesses.
Both devices use the same underlying Tri-band radio system and FastLane3 technology to fill your entire home or business with excellent WiFi — all without that jumble of annoying cables.
With that said, the Orbi Pro takes everything that the Orbi does well and then adds on even more features that are specifically designed for commercial settings. Being able to set up multiple networks is a breeze, and having that Admin, Employee, and Guest distinction really adds a level of professionalism and security to your business. The Orbi Pro does lack parental control via Circle, however, and has much fewer options when it comes to add-on satellites.
Long story short, the Orbi Pro is the superior product for business owners or for residential power users that really need a device that can support a ton of simultaneous connections. Outside of that, the benefits that the regular Orbi adds to your home certainly give it the edge for the majority of residential applications.
Last update on 2020-01-22 at 08:59 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API