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The Curious Little Orbi RBR20

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I'm fascinated by the pint-sized Orbi RBR20. Prior to the RBR10, it was Netgear's entry level Orbi product. I, like many OG Costco RBK53 buyers, had dismissed the little one as "less than" - after all, it only has one lonely ethernet port and an inferior wireless backhaul.

But if you look a little closer, you'll see it actually is quite the performer.


For people like me who can't bear the thought of a wireless backhaul (and with CAT6 cables running all over the house), the RBR20 is an interesting proposition.

After all, it has the same quad core IPQ4019 processor as the RBR50 and the same front haul 2x2 radios. Looking at Netgear's Orbi Comparison spec sheet, they appear to be nearly identical. If the RBR20 performed similarly to the RBR50, perhaps I could place it in a more conspicuous location and improve wireless performance ... the minimalist in me was intrigued.

So I threw caution into the wind and picked up a used one on ebay for ~$50, figuring I could easily sell it after giving it a test drive. I also grabbed a used RBR50 for ~$70 to get a good baseline compare.

Here is a summary of my observations after testing and comparing both devices for the past few weeks:

Same as RBR50
  • IPQ4019 Quad core CPU
  • Front haul radio 2x2
  • Firmware rev (currently
  • Wired speeds (all gigabit)
  • 2.4 GHz range
    • as tested - RBR20 even outperformed the RBR50 at times by 1-2 dBm
    • no difference in speed tests

Cons vs. RBR50

  • 2 fewer ethernet ports
  • Back haul radio (866 Mbps vs. 1733 Mbps theoretical)
  • 5 GHz range
    • as tested - average 3 dBm weaker
    • Speed test difference was pretty negligible (~7%)
Pros vs. RBR50
  • Lower cost (28% used, ~40% new)
  • Smaller footprint
  • Lower power consumption (30-50%)
  • Surprise! Second 5 GHz channel (see below)

About that Second 5 GHz Channel...

The RBR20 broadcasts a second 5 GHz channel (generally 157; definitely not in the 36-48 range) but only when it is used without any satellites (regardless of how they are attached - wifi or wired).

The second 5 GHz channel on the RBR20 has the same SSID as what you setup for all your clients, and it is visible. It is likely the backhaul radio being repurposed for band steering but has a discrete MAC address and SSID broadcast. I noticed my MacBook used this second channel, and even preferred it to channel 48.

Interestingly, the RBR50 does not exhibit this behavior - the wireless backhaul uses a hidden SSID regardless of whether you have any satellites attached.



The Orbi 20 series is an excellent alternative to its large 50 series siblings. Its performance is very close, especially if you have a wired backhaul.

With its second broadcasted 5 GHz channel, small form factor and low power consumption, the RBR20 also makes an excellent Access Point. I'm currently using the RBR50 as the main router and placed an RBR20 in a weatherproof box outside the house, configured as an AP. If I had to do it all over again, I'd just have a couple of RBR20's - there's really not much difference, other than a few $.
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Excellent findings. Do you know if you can add the 20s satellite to your existing 50s Orbi setup?

Yes, you absolutely can. I actually have both RBS50 and an RBS20 and have mixed and matched both with both routers.
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That is true of all Orbi. I guess the problem of the product managers is that to get good wireless performance you need a big device and you can’t hide a big device

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