Orbi WiFi 6 mesh router review: Quick and easy to connect, but how fast?

79,800 yen (including tax) for a system includes a WiFi router and one satellite

Engadget JP (Translation)
Engadget JP (Translation) , @Engadget_MT
2020年09月28日, 午後 02:02 in egmt
Netgear Orbi

This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl.

It's been a long time since Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE 802.11axax) enabled products were introduced to the market, and Wi-Fi 6 support has become the norm in high-end models of smartphones and PCs.

Although I have products that are compatible with Wi-Fi 6, such as the iPhone 11 Pro and the Galaxy S20 5G, unfortunately, my home Wi-Fi environment is not Wi-Fi 6 compatible. I have never experienced that speed.

However, I was able to borrow the Orbi WiFi 6, the Wi-Fi 6-enabled mesh Wi-Fi router I'm introducing here, from Netgear, and try it out at home actually. Although Wi-Fi 6 is still fast, the speed of the optical line at home seems to be a bottleneck.

Wi-Fi 6-enabled mesh router

The Orbi WiFi 6 is a mesh WiFi router launched by Netgear in February. As the product name suggests, it supports Wi-Fi 6 and supports two 5 GHz bands and one 2.4 GHz tri-band. The transmission speed is up to 2402Mbps on the 5GHz band and up to 1201Mbps on the 2.4GHz band.

This product is used in combination with satellites that act as a parent device and a child device. One of the advantages of this product is that a mesh network can be set up immediately after purchase. Of course, it is also possible to use the base unit alone or purchase additional satellites only.

For your information, the RBK852 is available as a set of two units (a base unit and a satellite), while the RBK853 is sold as a set of three units (a base unit and two satellites).

The price has recently been revised and reduced to 79,800 yen for the RBK852 and 108,800 yen for the RBK853.

Unlike general repeaters, the same SSID is used in a mesh network, so there is no possibility of the repeater grabbing the signal from the base unit even though the signal is stronger. You can cover a wider area without worrying about it.

Wi-Fi 6 has a theoretical maximum speed of 9.6 Gbps, which is faster than the 6.9 Gbps of Wi-Fi 5 (IEEE 802.11ac). Also, while Wi-Fi 5 is only a 5GHz standard and the maximum speed is 600Mbps in the 2.4GHz band, Wi-Fi 6 has a maximum of 9.6Gbps even in the 2.4GHz band. However, this is just a theoretical value on the standard, so this kind of speed is not possible. Nevertheless, many WI-Fi 6 devices have effective speeds of over 1 Gbps, so you can experience gigabits on Wi-Fi as well.

The Orbi WiFi6, which is compatible with Wi-Fi 6 and mesh network, is a set of two units, a router as a parent unit and a satellite. From the front, there is no difference, but the LAN port on the back is different.

Netgear Orbi WiFi6
A router and a satellite. But there is no difference in appearance.

Netgear Orbi WiFi6
The rear interface is different, and the router (right, front side) has an internet port (WAN port)

Basically, the router and the satellite use one of the 5GHz tri-bands for backhaul communication, so even if the number of connected devices increases, stable and fast Wi-Fi communication is possible. Wired connections are also possible in environments where Wi-Fi is not readily available between the router and the satellite.

Each unit measures 25.4 x 7.1 x 19.1 cm and weighs about 1.3 kg, which is surprisingly large and heavy, but the width is thin, so it won't get in the way if you place it near a wall.

Netgear Orbi WiFi6
The size of the Orbi WiFi6 compared to the iPhone 11 Pro.

Netgear Orbi WiFi6
The width is thin.

Many Wi-Fi routers have very insistent antennas, but with the Orbi WiFi6, it seems to be less uncomfortable to place it in your living room. In that sense, you may not have any trouble finding a place to put it.

Just connect it and you can use it

The initial setup is very simple, just install the dedicated app (Android, iOS) on your smartphone and follow the app's instructions. All you have to do is basically connect to the ONU and modem with a LAN cable and set up an administrator account.

Netgear Orbi WiFi6
Dedicated App for Smartphones

Orbi itself is a router, so you can register a provider account and configure DHCP settings. But you can't do those advanced settings from the app, you have to access the management screen of the device from your browser.

Netgear Orbi WiFi6
The management screen accessed from a browser. Basic settings are the same as in the app, but advanced settings can only be made from this screen.

However, if you are renting a router from FLET'S Hikari, you may want to use it as a router and mainly use it as a Wi-Fi access point. Since my environment is the same, I didn't modify the router settings and simply used it as an access point.

By the way, you need to switch between router mode and access point mode from the browser. I wanted to be able to switch this much from the app.

What's the most important speed?

With Wi-Fi 6 support, what you're probably wondering about is its transmission speed. Wi-Fi 6 is 9.6 Gbps according to the standard theoretical value, but the Orbi WiFi 6 is up to 5.9 Gbps (2.4GHz+2.4GHz+1.1GHz) in total tri-band. In my environment, it connected at a maximum of 1.2 Gbps.

This is between the handset (smartphone) and the parent device (Orbi WiFi6), and the speed of the Internet connection is another story. Anyway, if you can link up with such a high speed, you won't have a slow internet connection because of the Wi-Fi bottleneck...

Netgear Orbi WiFi6
The link speed can be checked from the Android WI-Fi settings screen (left). The signal strength can also be checked on the Orbi app (right). The device used is a Galaxy S20 5G.

I have a router on the second floor and the signal is extremely poor in the opposite corner of the first floor, this did not change with Orbi WiFi6, but it improved dramatically when I installed a satellite on the first floor.

Netgear Orbi WiFi6
Before the installation of the satellite (left), the speed was 325 Mbps, but after installation (right), the speed went up to 866 Mbps. The device used is the Pixel 4.

However, even in this environment, when I measure the speed of the Internet connection, it is 180 Mbps at best and 24 Mbps at worst, and I am not able to make use of the speed of Wi-Fi at all. I use Docomo-Hikari service which has a maximum speed of 1 Gbps at home, but this connection speed seems to be the bottleneck.

Netgear Orbi WiFi6
My home's fiber optic line is really slow when it's slow...

Still, with Wi-Fi 6, the more devices you use, the more you'll benefit from it, such as more simultaneous MU-MIMO connections.

Investing in a home communication environment is a good idea

In this article, we reviewed the RBK852, a combination of one parent unit and one satellite. As mentioned above, the RBK852 is still 79,800 yen including tax, and the RBK853 set of three units is still 103,800 yen including tax, which is not exactly cheap, but with more and more people working from home these days, it may be a good idea to invest in your home communication environment so that you won't have a problem because your kids start playing games or watching videos while you're on a video conference.

Source: Orbi WiFi 6

This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl. The Japanese edition of Engadget does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of this article.

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