I am a big fan of mesh Wi-Fi systems and the Netgear Orbi range is the market leading option, so I was quite excited about finally getting to do a full review.
With Netgear Orbi, they have multiple products under the same name all doing the same thing but offering slightly different specification, performance, and most importantly price points.
Apart from the flagship RBK50 series, all the models in the Orbi range run at AC2200, some are plugin options while others have two ethernet ports, and others have four. It can be a bit confusing to differentiate them all. However, to simplify it a little, the leading number represents where it sits in the product line up and the last number if the number of devices in the pack.
Most people only require a two pack, but I have a reasonably large house and a garage set apart from the building where I would like Wi-Fi as I have a turbo trainer for winter
The RBK20 models are all shaped the same, and look like an attractive vase or some other table ornament; this model only has two ethernet ports per device compared to the four found on some of the more expensive models, it is also a bit smaller physically.
Beyond the physical shape, and port number I don’t think there is a great deal between the models until you get to the RBK50. Netgear states different coverage on these units, which I assume is due to smaller antennas. Netgear claims 3,000 square feet (around 280m2) of wireless coverage, while the larger models promise around 370m2 and 460m2 respectively.
Beyond that everything else is about the same between these and the other none RBK50 models, the Wi-Fi speeds are the same, and the software is the same.
The RBK20 units contain three 2×2 MIMO radios, one of which serves as a dedicated 5GHz backhaul channel, though it’s rated at 867Mbits/sec, rather than the 1,733Mbits/sec of the top-tier. A dedicated backhaul channel improves the connection reliability between satellites and is something that is missing on cheaper options such as the BT Whole Home.
The Orbi can work as a full router for your home, but it does not have a modem built in, so you will need to feed the internet from your ISP supplied router/modem into the internet port of the root device.
You can optionally set up via mobile or browser, the mobile experience is arguably easier but there are fewer settings you can tweak from the app. When I first did the installation, I had some issues getting it to work, but this was largely a case of user error and my complex home network.
I found the browser option to be easier, as I could connect my laptop directly to the router and not worry about various Wi-Fi connection errors from my phone. The fact that you can use a browser to do the set-up is a big plus for me, some other systems lack this.
One of the nice parts about the set-up procedure is that the satellites come pre-paired with the main device, this helps reduce set up time and all the issues associated with pairing devices.
During the set-up process, possibly due to my impatientness I found the main hub quite slow to reboot, it also required you to reboot the main modem, which is equally slow with Virgin. This could be why I had some issues with the app as I kept getting Wi-Fi connection warnings, but with a laptop, I could at least leave it until the network icon showed working internet.