Orbit Baby G3 Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Orbit Baby G3 car seat rotates on a patented "Smart hub" that allows baby to face you for putting them in and adjusting the harness, and then rotates back and locks for a rear facing ride. The unique deep cradle design provides maximum side impact protection and the interior is lined with premium energy absorbing padding for even more added protection. The "strong arm" mechanism pulls the seatbelt tight for you so installation is a breeze with the turn of a knob. This seat features removable seat cover that is machine washable without the need to rethread the harness. This car seat features a soft ergonomic handle for carrying baby close to you and it folds away in the base when not in use. It also comes with a full coverage shield that covers the entire seat opening for protection from the elements and nosy folks, as well as some added peace and quiet. This seat works with Orbit strollers and we found it to be easy to dock on any Orbit stroller base.
The chart below provides a comparison of overall scores for all the car seats tested in this review. The Orbit Baby is shown in blue.
Information provided below includes performance details for each metric. Metric scores were used to determine overall scores for each seats.
The Orbit has a deep seat that the manufacturer claims increases overall safety. However, without specific crash test data designed to quantify what difference this feature makes in impact, it is hard to say how the deep seat design affects overall safety potential, and whether or not it offers any additional margin of protection during an actual crash.
Ease of Install - LATCH
The Orbit G3 scored a 6 of 10 for ease of install using the LATCH system anchors. This is below average for the group. The hardest seat to install with the LATCH in this review is the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect, which earned a 3. The easiest seat to install using this method is the UPPAbaby Mesa and the Cybex Aton 2, each earning a 9 for this metric.
Both portions of the Orbit G3, the base and the seat, are heavier than the competition. Luckily you won't be lugging around the base portion very often, but it should still be noted that it has a substantial heft to it. At over 14 pounds it feels significantly more substantial than the other bases in this review. This is one aspect that makes installing it more of a problem than the more traditionally designed bases.The ease of connection for this seat is just below average overall, which might not be a deal breaker given that several seats scored lower here. However, the straps are very difficult to tighten and not much easier to loosen if removing the seat. The clips are the nice hard plastic encased clips as opposed to the loop clips, but that doesn't seem to improve the overall experience much.
The process for install is also more convoluted and requires knob turning to tighten the straps and ensure a proper install. Even after we tightened the belt as much as we could, and further cinched it down with the handle on the front of the base, it still didn't feel secure. In addition, after repeated attempts to turn the knob for the perfect fit our wrist grew tired. In the end, we had to use a towel to install it properly, and it feels much harder than it should be or is with other seat types. It does have a level indicator that is easy to see and use.
Ease of Install - Belt
The Orbit earned a slightly higher score for ease of install with a belt than the LATCH, which is sort of a shame when the LATCH system was originally designed to make installation easier. It earned a 7 of 10 for this metric which is better than average. The highest score for this metric is a 9, earned by Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 and the Phil and Teds Alpha, and the lowest is a 4 earned by the Evenflo Embrace LX with a 4.
The Orbit does offer a lock off for the belt to help get and keep it tight during and after installation. However the lock off isn't the greatest design and we found it harder to use than the other competing approaches to lock off. The belt is easy to thread despite the fact that there is no color coded belt path. It is easier to install using a lap only belt, but it can be managed with a shoulder/lap belt. Once installed the seat is more stable than some of the competition, though several seats scored higher than this one. Overall, in our experience we found that after cranking the knob down the belt is pretty tight, but keeping the belt positioned correctly in order to lock it off in the first place is difficult. This base feels more secure installed in a bench style seat commonly found in trucks, than the sedan style back seats most parents drive.
Ease of Install - Without the Base
Installing the G3 without the base is not an easy feat. It tied for the lowest score with the Chicco Keyfit 30 earning a 4 of 10. This is not a seat we'd recommend using in a taxi cab or for airplane travel due to its poor performance in this metric. The highest scoring product in this metric is the Peg Perego with a 10.
The seat belt is hard to thread on this seat, and the lack of color coding just ups the ante on difficulty if you are in a rush. It sports the American belt routing system that isn't as secure in our minds as the the European method that incorporates the shoulder belt around the back side of the seat. This seat sits higher up in the vehicle seat than the competition, so it feels significantly less stable than the other seats we looked at and is wobbly even without the base height added. Its height was also a problem for us during installation when the center lap belt on a truck almost wasn't long enough to fit. The belt guides on this seat act somewhat as a lock off and help bind the seat belt to the vehicle. In addition, we had to use a towel to install this seat and we feel this could be potentially less stable as well as annoying to carry a towel around. The last problem is the belt threading lock off points were not located in a spot where they could be utilized in every situation. Installation in one of the sedans we used resulted in the belt being too far down in the vehicle to make it through the clip.
Ease of Use
The G3 earned the lowest score for ease of use with a score of 3, tying with the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 in this metric. The best score for ease of use in our review is an 8 that is shared by the Recaro Performance Coupe and the Evenflo.
The buckle on the Orbit earned the lowest score for ease of use in our tests. It is stiff, but not as stiff as some of the others. Its main problem is the crotch pad gets in the way of using this buckle easily. The chest clip or restraint clip is the most difficult clip to buckle and unbuckle. It is the hardest clip to squeeze and mating the two sides is also hard. The male end of the clip is the same size as the female end and you have to sort of tilt the end to fit in the bottom and then the top. We found it possible to do, but annoying in a way we believe will be worse with a wiggly baby in the seat.
Tightening the harness is achieved by pulling on the strap at the foot of the seat. The difficulty level for tightening is about average, as is the loosening by pushing the button at the foot while pulling the harness out at the same time. The button is under about 3 inches of padding however, so be prepared to go digging for it. If you have shorter fingers this could be a deal breaker.Adjusting harness shoulder height is not a fun process with this seat being a rethread from behind design. It has 3 shoulder strap positions and 2 crotch positions. We kind of liked the seats with more height options and feel it is easier to get a snug proper fit with more variability. This seat has a different attachment than the other seats in the review. There are 2 "L" style plates that are kind of hard to get apart. This is where the 2 shoulder straps meet the single adjustment strap in the back. On the upside the padding on the seat attaches with Velcro and can be easily moved aside to re-thread the straps through the slots in the back of the seat.
Installing this seat on an already installed base is a chore and one we didn't really like, especially after installing all of the other options. For starters the seat itself is heavy, add the weight of a baby to it and it starts to feel prohibitively heavy. Next it does not click into place as simply as the usual design, but instead it pushes into the round "hub" and then needs to be rotated to the side to make it rear facing. There is a small window that will show up green if the seat is properly rotated and securely in the base which is nice and helps parents feel confident they have the seat installed correctly, but if parents are in a hurry we think it will be easy to rotate the seat without making it a all the way leaving the seat unsecrued.
Releasing the seat from the base is also not the nicest operation in our opinion. It requires that you squeeze the handles on each side of the seat to rotate and pull. This could be a problem if you are more petite, have a taller vehicle, or have any kind of trouble using both hands. The seat is rather large and it can be difficult to reach all the way around to both handles at the same time.The handle on this seat is a flexible and only has 2 position. It is a little hard to hold onto and we aren't big fans of the design in general. To move it you have to do the Velcro around the red plastic loop to put it in the up position. The flexibility of the handle is strange when the seat is weighted down with a baby, and the hand portion cut into our hands when we carried with no weight inside.
The LATCH anchor storage on the G3 does keep the anchors out of the way when not in use and does not allow the straps to get in the way of attaching the carrier portion of the seat to the base. The anchors clip into a pocket on the top of the anti-rebound bar, are easy to access, and do their job appropriately.
The Orbit earned one of its highest scores in the comfort and quality department with a 7 of 10 in this metric. Unfortunately for the Orbit, 2 other car seats came in with higher scores of 8, including Phil and Teds Alpha and the Peg Perego. The lowest score in the review is a 2 earned by the Graco SungRide Classic Connect.
This seat has a nicely padded soft foam cover over the top of harder impact foam. The fabric itself is soft and very skin friendly, but it does seem like it would get dirty and stained easily. It also feels to us like it won't wear well over time, especially if you have to clean it frequently, as it feels thin and not very durable.
The shell of the seat appears more durable than some of the competition and is covered in a light fabric that gives it a nicer overall fit and finish than the competition. The fit on the seat and shell is better than average, but the fabric on the canopy doesn't fit as nicely as the rest. The handle, as already mentioned, is not one of our favorites and it looks cheap in comparison to the rest of the seat and we have concerns about its long term durability.The canopy on this seat is medium in size and has no peek-a-boo window for parents to check on baby. This wouldn't be such a big deal except it also comes with this interesting full seat cover to protect baby from the elements which makes needing to see baby all the more important. In our opinion if you are going to design a product to cover up the entire baby, adding a small window for observing baby would be a good idea or better yet, a must have. The cover is nice though and takes the place of covering baby with a non-breathable heavy blanket.
This is where bigger is definitely not better. The Orbit G3 is the heaviest seat in the group, both in base and carrier. The lightest seat in the group, is the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect, which is slightly over 7 pounds. The Orbit carrier is 12.5 pounds with its closest heft partner being the Britax B-Safe 35 at 10.57 pounds. It is hard to get over a seat that is this heavy and bulky to boot. We feel certain that they had good intentions and planned to bring something innovative and truly different to the market flush with seemingly identical products, but they seem to have failed with this ginormous beast. It is heavy and awkwardly shaped making it difficult to carry and maneuver no matter how you plan to use it.
While we admire the attempt to innovate in the Orbit's unique design, we don't think this design is a product that parents will like in day-to-day use. The weight and poor ease of use score makes this a seat that can't match the scores earned by the competition and the high price is hard to justify.
This seat has a list price of $440, making it the most expensive car seat in our review. Given that it scored dead last in overall performance points, we cannot recommend it for those seeking value.
It seems like no matter what baby gear category we test the Orbit products in, they just don't fare well. We consistently find Orbit products to embrace innovation in their design, and that excites us initially, but once we start using them we find those innovations don't translate well into day-to-day functionality. This seat misses the mark and performed below average in almost every metric we test for. The fact that it is only compatible with Orbit strollers also doesn't curry any favor with us, given that their strollers are comparatively expensive and didn't perform very well in our stroller review either. This seat came in last place in our review with scores that were lower than the competition in almost every metric.
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