Let's take a count of how many internet devices you might have at the moment and how many are running; more than likely you'll have a smartphone, tablet, laptop, and a smart TV. And if you're one of the lucky ones you might also have a smart fridge, a smart coffee maker, and maybe even a smart outlet, all of which are capable of sending you updates and can be controlled from your phone. And because of these growing numbers of technologies that's slowly becoming part of our daily lives; we are looking for more from our internet routers than ever before. - More power, more speed, and a wider range of connecting.
Enter NETGEAR, who has just the solution for your home or office - the ORBI Home Wi-Fi system. The Orbi is a two-piece system that consists of a router and satellite (wireless extender). The main Idea behind the Orbi is to get rid of your dead zones while maintaining a high-speed connection to your devices by using a router and satellite that manage the workload between two channels optimizing your bandwidth usage and distance.
Setting up the Orbi was easy. And once all the pieces were hooked up, it was ready for the setup wizard, which practically took little input as the Orbi did all the work. Now, the key with the satellite is to find the right distance and thankfully it's equipped with an indicator light in a wide a variety of colors to help you gauge its range. If it's too far, then you'll get a pink light and you lose performance. If you happen to get a yellow light it means your signal is being blocked or inhibited. White indicates it’s not connected at all. Once you get a solid light blue on the top of the satellite, it means you’ve found the sweet spot and you're ready for business.
Once out of the box, the Orbi system is touted as having enough range to cover a 4000sq. ft. home/office. But if you require additional coverage, you can add up to two more satellites (2000sq. ft.) for a total of 8000sq.ft. Now, I have an open layout in my home so I didn’t think it would be the best way to test out the Orbi system. So, I volunteered two of my friends’ homes, who both have cable internet at about 50Mbs/25Mbs and have notoriously bad Wi-Fi dead zones.
The first home I used in testing is a three bedroom, 2200 square feet, ranch style home with the modem and cable ports are near the front living room door. The entire interior is well within the range of a regular router reach. But this house came with a dead zone at the back of the house for both cellular and Wi-Fi signal due to the construction of a firewall running down the middle of the home and the back outer walls being made of brick. So, placing the Orbi by the door was a piece of cake. However, my concern was getting a signal pass the firewall. But my fears were alleviated when I plugged in the satellite, hit sync, and it turned blue right away. And even more surprisingly, there was Wi-Fi all the way out of the house about 30ft away from the satellite. I benchmarked out there about 40ft out and still got 56 down 27 up.
The second home has two floors, two bedrooms and is 1900 square feet, having what we would call a “fancy attic” that now acts as a third bedroom. Wi-Fi on the first floor worked fine. However, the problem was that all the wiring was put down in the basement, in a back corner next to the electrical box and the Wi-Fi service in the attic was horrible. I plugged the Orbi in the basement and took the satellite to the attic. The light started out as yellow for a bit and required some moving around before it finally switched to blue, which took about three minutes to find just the right spot. Soon we were getting a consistent signal on his laptop 55 down 24 Up, all the way to the roof. However, I didn't go that far as it was raining and I was too lazy to go outside.
I've used a variety of mesh network setups and it all works well when you hardwire it. But who wants to spend the time and money running a wire from one side of a home through an attic or basement? My current wireless mesh network is DIY using two WNDR3700v2. And in that setup, it worked when I needed it to. However, there's a catch to doing it all wirelessly without a dedicated line - I had constant performance issues and signal loss because the extender eats up part of the bandwidth trying to keep up with the router. If my Playstation 4 ever connected to the extender then that’s when shit would hit the fan.
Once I got the Orbi system setup in my home, I was impressed by how well it performed. The biggest reason I enjoyed it so much is mainly because it has a dedicated wireless band for router-satellite communications, while still leaving me with 2.5GHz & 5GHz signals for personal use. Currently, I have all of my devices up and running and they perform so much better than my previous setup. A prime example is my IP cameras, especially the outermost camera away from the router, which was my original reason for the mesh network, as none of my routers could reach it or handle so much traffic at my home. With a variety of sessions happening in the background, the camera's picture came in clear. I even did a speed test, while standing under it and still managed to pull speeds of up to 56/27 up. So I have to say I’m very happy with these results. One of my favorite features of the Orbi is how easy the router's user interface is; even the advanced settings display everything in an easily, legible fashion. My second favorite has to be the satellite, which is just like the router and comes with its own set of Ethernet & USB ports for those few devices that require being hardwired like my pioneer receiver or quick access to a storage device. Finally, the further along I go with this review and testing out the Orbi system, the more and more I enjoy having it around. So far I've used it with more devices going at the same time than most normal households or maybe even a small office. And I still haven’t had any performance issues. Even when placed in numerous areas; I've tried everything from placing the router in the basement, in the attic, under furniture, and in walls (oddly that last one worked well). But, as far as the Orbi Wi-Fi system is concerned, it has exceeded my expectation no matter where it was placed. And it still did one heck of a job as far as the amount of traffic, coverage, and performance management.
For the basic and most intermediate users, this would have little to no effect. But for those who love to tinker and tweak, they might find issue with this next bit. I like to consider myself an advanced user or at least someone who can't help but tweak things that normally people wouldn’t tweak. But the UI doesn’t allow me to play with certain certificates, DDNS, and the antennas other than enabling implicit beaming force & MU MIMO.
The NETGEAR Orbi Wi-Fi system is priced at 399.99, which will definitely take a bite out of most budgets. However, I believe this system will probably exceed what you currently have and is able to future-proof you for the years to come. So get that 4K smart TV, fridge, coffee pot, light switches, and outdoor wireless speakers that all consume a crazy amount of bandwidth or won't work because of distance/blockage. You'll have no worries when you've got the Orbi System up and running. I had my doubts going in about the Orbi since it claimed to do so much. And after giving it a thorough test run, it went beyond my expectations. Which I can easily, give the Orbi Wi-Fi system a perfect TOV 5 out of 5 stars.