So you’re in the market for a new router and are debating between the NETGEAR Nighthawk and the Orbi. Well, you’re in luck cause I’m here to break down the differences and determine which router is the best.
Orbi Vs Nighthawk: Which Is Better?
The NETGEAR Orbi is better than the Nighthawk because it is more straightforward to use, has fewer difficulties during setup, and is faster than the Nighthawk router. The Nighthawk does have some features that the Orbi does not have, but most people won’t use those features, so the Orbi is better for most.
|Speed||3 GBps||1.75 GBps|
|Coverage||5,000 sq. ft.||1,500 sq. ft.|
|Features||Basic features||Advanced features|
|Number of Devices||25+||25|
|Setup Difficulty||Easy||Easy, but tedious|
|Design||Compact, aesthetic||Wings and antennae|
There are pros and cons when it comes to both devices, but the Orbi is just plain better for the vast majority of people than the Nighthawk is.
The thing I love about the Orbi is that it’s basic in the best possible way. When companies go overboard on adding features, a few things can happen.
First of all, those features bog down the device and create a headache for people that don’t need them. Secondly, many of the features may be implemented poorly which leads to poor performance.
The Nighthawk doesn’t suffer from the second problem, fortunately. Its features are actually well-built from my experience.
However, it does suffer from the first problem. There are so many features on my Nighthawk that I’ve never and will never touch, and I’m a nerd!
The Orbi does what it’s supposed to. It gives the entire home WiFi and it works without any complicated setup.
I had to troubleshoot and restart my Nighthawk multiple times when I first got it and honestly it was a bit frustrating. The Orbi is pretty much a plug and play home WiFi device.
It’s also a mesh network, which leads to faster wireless speeds by practically creating a WiFi blanket across the house.
Which Is Better: Orbi Or Nighthawk?
The NETGEAR Orbi is better than the NETGEAR Nighthawk because the Orbi is easier to set up, faster, and more practical for most people. The Orbi is a true mesh WiFi system that can create a broader high-speed WiFi area than the Nighthawk can. Orbi is also easier to set up and more reliable than Nighthawk.
I’m going to go into much more detail about everything in the chart listed up above, but as you can see, the Orbi pretty much wins in every category, making it the superior router for most people.
There are a few people that might benefit from buying the NETGEAR Nighthawk over the Orbi, though.
The Nighthawk is much cheaper than the Orbi while offering a few more features. So, if you want to save some money, have a small area to cover, and like to fully customize your home WiFi network, then the Nighthawk is going to be for you.
On the other hand, if you have a larger home to cover with WiFi and just want something you can pretty much plug in and start using – go with the Orbi every single time.
It’s just so easy to set up and it just works. It’s also a true mesh network, which means instead of using one router to cover the whole area – there are “satellites” that communicate with each other to cover a huge area.
The Orbi devices also have Backhaul, which means that the satellites will speak to each other outside of the wireless network, which leads to faster speeds for wireless devices.
Personally, I also like the look of the Orbi much more than the Nighthawk. I used a Nighthawk for years, and in my experience the antenna just gets in the way and doesn’t really do a lot.
The Orbi has a much cleaner design in my opinion and is also much more practical.
Which Is Faster: Orbi Or Nighthawk?
The NETGEAR Orbi router is faster than the NETGEAR Nighthawk router. Orbi routers have about double the speed of Nighthawk routers. Orbi routers are also mesh systems that utilize Backhaul and satellites, which ensures that wireless devices will receive the fastest internet speeds no matter their location.
Most modern Internet Service Providers (ISPs) really can’t take full advantage of either router yet, to be completely honest.
The Nighthawk can handle speeds of up to about 2 GB/s, while the Orbi can hit 3 GB/s. Unfortunately, most ISPs are not going to be able to provide that kind of speed to your home.
However, Orbi does a much better job of transferring the speed that you do get to your devices. The mesh network does a great job at ensuring that no matter where you’re at in your home/office/wherever, you’ll get the fastest speeds possible.
The Nighthawk is just one router, which means you’ll have to be close to it to receive the fastest speeds.
This video by Zachus does a great job of explaining just how fast the Orbi router is. The gist of it is, the router is fast enough for pretty much any home or business that needs high speed wireless coverage.
I’ll link you to the timestamp that Zachus is speaking on the speeds, but he does a great job of comparing Orbi and Nighthawk in general.
Which Has Better Coverage: Orbi Or Nighthawk?
The Orbi router has better coverage than the Nighthawk router. Orbi routers are mesh network systems, which means that instead of using one router to cover the entire area (like Nighthawk), Orbi has a router and extra “satellites” that communicate with each other in order to cover a much larger area.
You really can’t beat Orbi or mesh systems in general when it comes to coverage. Nighthawk is just one device, afterall, which pretty much sets a hard limit on how far it will be able to cover.
Another unfortunate side effect of being a single router, is that the further you are from the Nighthawk, the worse your connection will be.
This usually isn’t a problem if you’re in a smaller apartment or home, but if you’re in a large home or have a large office/business, you need coverage everywhere if you want usable WiFi.
Orbi’s mesh network means that you’ll set up one main router, and then place smaller “satellites” around the area you need covered.
So when you use your device around the satellite, you’ll be sending your data to it, then it will send your data to the router.
The awesome thing about this system is that it is built to be fast with Backhaul technology, so even though there is technically a middleman between your router and your device, you won’t notice any delay or speed drops.
Which Can Handle More Devices: Orbi Or Nighthawk?
The NETGEAR Orbi router can handle more devices than the Nighthawk router. Orbi is rated for 25+ devices, while Nighthawk is only rated for up to 25 devices. Both devices can handle the same variety of devices (laptops, phones, gaming consoles, etc), but the Orbi can have more devices connected to it at once.
The two devices are actually pretty similar when it comes to the number of devices that can be connected at once. Nighthawk recommends up to 25 devices, while Orbi specifically states “up to 25+” devices.
So, technically, Orbi can handle more devices even though you probably won’t want to go much higher than 25.
Most people never have 25+ devices using the wireless network at once, though, so the routers are on pretty even ground in this department.
Still, if I need to have a bunch of devices connected to my WiFi, I’m going to go with Orbi. Its mesh network is much better suited for having a lot of devices connected throughout a building, and will ensure that every device gets the best speed possible.
Which Has More Ethernet Ports: Orbi Or Nighthawk?
The NETGEAR Orbi router / mesh system has more ethernet ports than the Nighthawk router. The Orbi is a system of one router connected to many satellites. The router itself has 3 ethernet ports, while the satellites all have 4 ports. The Nighthawk only has 4 ethernet ports compared to the Orbi’s 7+.
Technically speaking, if you’re going based off of one router – then the Nighthawk would have one extra ethernet port when compared to the Orbi.
The Nighthawk has 4 free ethernet ports that you can use for whatever you want, while the Orbi router has 3. However, if you’re getting an Orbi, you’re getting it to use it in tandem with at least one “satellite” (AKA a router for your router) to create a mesh network.
This means your Orbi mesh network will have at least 7 ethernet ports available for you to use when compared to Nighthawk’s 4.
Which Is Better For Gaming: Orbi Or Nighthawk?
The NETGEAR Orbi router is better than the Nighthawk router because the Orbi is faster, more reliable, and covers a greater distance than the Nighthawk router does. The Orbi also has more ethernet ports available thanks to its satellites, which lets you use more gaming consoles on a fast, wired connection.
I’ll be completely honest here, I’m very biased against the Nighthawk router. I have used one for about two years now and it is pretty unreliable when it comes to gaming.
It works perfectly fine 90% of the time. I always have good ping, I download games fast, and everything works beautifully.
10% of the time, though, I randomly disconnect from games and have to close them to reconnect. It happens with every game from League of Legends to Overwatch 2, and after some testing I figured out the issue is my Nighthawk router.
The Orbi, on the other hand, doesn’t have this problem. Games connect smoothly and stay connected. When you’re gaming you want two things in your router: reliability, and speed.
You don’t want your ping to spike due to poor download speed, you want to download games fast, and when you get in game you want to stay connected to the game.
Orbi far outmatches Nighthawk when it comes to these factors, which is why it is better for gaming.
Orbi has one more less obvious advantage over Nighthawk when it comes to gaming. Since Orbi is a network system and not a single router, it covers a much larger space, which leads to faster and more reliable internet all over the house.
So, if your gaming console is connected via WiFi and not in the same room as your router, you’re going to have a much better connection with an Orbi system than a Nighthawk router.
Which Is Cheaper: Orbi Or Nighthawk?
The NETGEAR Nighthawk router is cheaper than the Orbi router / mesh WiFi system. The Orbi router can become very expensive because it requires that you purchase the router and the satellites that connect to the router, which can add up very quickly. The Nighthawk router, on the other hand, is budget friendly.
Price is one of the only places that Nighthawk has Orbi beat, and it has it beat by a mile. Even though it is truly a great product, NETGEAR is definitely milking Orbi for all that it’s worth.
With the Orbi router, you need to connect “satellite” devices to the router itself to get the full use out of it. No matter what you’re going to want one satellite, but most of the time the Orbi will come bundled with one.
If you want to add more satellites to your network though (if you have a big house or are using Orbi in a business / office building), then you’re going to have to shell out the cash for some more NETGEAR Orbi satellites.
NETGEAR also makes a very clear distinction between the Orbi satellites and the routers, so even if you have two Orbi routers, you won’t be able to use one as a satellite (even though this should be possible as far as hardware is concerned).
With the Nighthawk, you just have to buy one router and be done with it, which makes it far cheaper than an Orbi system ever will be.
Which Is Easier To Set Up: Orbi Or Nighthawk?
The NETGEAR Nighthawk router is easier to set up than the Orbi router. Orbi is not a single router, it is a mesh WiFi system that requires a router and “satellite” devices to be set up in order to create a wide area of coverage. With the Nighthawk router, only one device has to be set up, so it is easier.
The one caveat here is that sometimes Nighthawk can throw a fit when you’re setting it up, but that’s only if you’re unlucky (like me).
When I set up my Nighthawk, I had to restart the router and unplug it completely a few times, but there was still only one router to set up.
With the Orbi router / system, you’ll need to install the router and then connect the satellites. The good news is that this is actually pretty easy to do and Orbis usually do not have any trouble during setup.
So, while Orbi set up is a little more complex, there will also be less troubleshooting involved.
Can You Add Nighthawk To Orbi?
You cannot add a Nighthawk router to an Orbi mesh system. You can connect your Nighthawk to your Orbi via ethernet, turn the WiFi off on your Nighthawk, and use it as an additional router. However, there is no way to truly add your Nighthawk to your Orbi because it doesn’t have the Backhaul capabilities.
If you have an extra Nighthawk laying around, the only thing you can really do with it on your Orbi system, is use it for its ethernet ports.
It’d be nice if you could add it to your mesh network, but it’s just not possible and likely never will be.
It doesn’t have the backhaul features that make Orbi systems work and, in all honesty, NETGEAR would rather you buy one of their satellite devices if you want to expand your system.
Which Router Is Right For You?
The Orbi router/mesh network system is the best router for most people. It is easy to set up, covers a huge area, and does everything most people need without any unnecessary features getting in the way. The Orbi router is also extremely reliable and experiences far less issues than other routers.
Reliability, speed, and ease-of-use are all extremely important to me. When I have an issue with a device and I go to fix it, just to be overwhelmed by a ton of bloat and nonsense, it’s very frustrating. Unfortunately, this is my experience with so many routers out there.
Orbi is different, though. It’s pretty bare bones as far as routers go, and I really enjoy that aspect of it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to do everything that 90% of people need it to do and it’s going to do it well.
Orbi is fast, it’s reliable, and it works when you set it up and will continue working until you upgrade.
Since Orbi is a mesh network with backhaul, you’ll have a fast, solid connection no matter where you are in the house/office/wherever. You don’t have to sit in the same room just to get a good connection.
You can also easily expand your Orbi radius by adding extra satellite devices.
So, overall, Orbi is the perfect router for most people.
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Eric streams 3 days a week on Twitch and uploads weekly to Youtube under the moniker, StreamersPlaybook. He loves gaming, PCs, and anything else related to tech. He’s the founder of the website StreamersPlaybook and loves helping people answer their streaming, gaming, and PC questions.