Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 review

The big bad wolf of Wi-Fi

Netgear Orbi WiFi 6
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If you’re struggling with Wi-Fi coverage, or your home is creaking under the weight of your family’s internet consumption, a Wi-Fi mesh system could be your saviour.

While Wi-Fi mesh technology has primarily arrived to resign Wi-Fi extenders and stop-gap solutions like Powerline to the annuls of tech history, investing in good home networking tech can also make for a better, faster experience.

The idea of a mesh network is that, unlike repeaters and extenders that just relay your router's Wi-Fi signal with deterioration, the mesh's satellites all communicate with each other – so even the one furthest from the router has a great signal as it hops around the system from one node to another.

By avoiding bottlenecks from entire households guzzling bandwidth and employing intelligent throttling techniques to make sure bandwidth is assigned where needed – systems like the Orbi WiFi 6, Eero or Google Mesh Wifi are becoming essential.

Orbi WiFi 6: WTF is WiFi 6?

Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 review

At $699 the Orbi WiFi 6 is one of the biggest, baddest on the market. At its heart is WiFi 6 support, which is very much for the next era of connected devices.

There are only a handful of WiFi 6 devices on the market today – such as the brand new iPad Pro 2020 and iPhone 11. Essentially only the latest and greatest devices are getting support.

So a punt on a WiFi 6 router is very much one for the future. And we will need it. It’s WiFi 6 that will enable you to stream Netflix 8K around your home, support up to 12 simultaneous streams and increase data throughput by 40%.

Put it this way, in 2025 you’ll be really pleased you spent all that money on the Orbi WiFi 6 – if it’s not obsolete by then.

Needless to say that The Orbi WiFi 6 is also backwards compatible, so it’s still helping you get the most out of your existing devices.

Netgear Orbi WiFi 6: Set up, specs and features

Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 review

So let’s start at the beginning. The basic package is the Orbi WiFi 6 2-pack system – and that will cost you $699. That gets you the main unit and a satellite.

If you’re looking for a single WiFi 6 Router with no satellite – because coverage isn’t so much of an issue in your home – then you’re better off looking at a Netgear Nighthawk AX4, which is a fraction of the price.

It’s tri-band, which means it creates two 5GHz bands – one of which it uses to communicate between the satellites, keeping the network clear for your gaming, streaming, surfing and smart home; as well as a 2.4GHz band as well.

If that sounds mind-blowing then you’ll be pleased to know it means less congestion on your network, and the Orbi handles this for you, so you don’t even need to think about it.

There’s no getting away from it – the units are big and plasticky, and you won’t want them on show; they won't blend in as seamlessly as Google's mesh system, that's for sure.

Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 review

They’re not easy to hide either, standing at around 30cm tall. If you want smaller units, you’ll have to forgo WiFi 6 and opt for a Netgear Orbi WiFi System which is diminutive, cheaper but far less advanced.

The set up for the Orbi WiFi 6 was beyond simple – and if you can download an app on your phone without supervision, you’ll be fine.

It’s simply a case of getting the Orbi app and signing up for an account, and then scanning a QR code, and then plugging in the satellite elsewhere.

Explainer: What is Wi-Fi 6?

We were replacing a Sky router which doesn’t play nicely with mesh systems, but we simply disabled the wireless signal on that device and plugged that into the Orbi router. We even mimicked the old SSID and most of our devices worked on the Orbi network straight away, with just a handful requiring a reboot.

The difference was immediate. Our bathroom was always a blackspot – annoying for streaming Netflix while having a soak – and immediately we enjoyed full signal strength. Likewise the garden, after installing a satellite into the shed. Netgear says that its device can cover 5000sq feet. Our property is sadly not that big, but we couldn’t find the limits even through plenty of solid walls.

Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 review

And there’s plenty of physical connections too. Each router or satellite has 4x gigabit LAN Ethernet ports, should they be required.

While hardly unique in the field, the extra features on offer are a breath of fresh air when you’ve been using your broadband providers’ own router.

The Orbi app enables you to check what’s connected to your network and the status of each device, and you can do a speed test on your connection from within the app. You can also set up a guest network from within the Orbi app too – and monitor the data consumption (should that interest you).

However, we were a bit disappointed in the lack of data on each device connected to the network. For example, we'd like to know if certain devices were guzzling the connection, or affecting performance across the network. Likewise, it would be great to prioritise devices on the network – or throttle others.

Netgear Orbi WiFi 6: Frills and spills

Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 review

Previous Orbi WiFi products have come with Alexa built-in, which means the unit doubles as a smart speaker in your home. While Orbi WiFi 6 has some basic Works with Alexa and Google Assistant functionality – that’s not present here.

There’s also no provision for devices using smart home protocols. While Orbi is a great smart home device by offering a better range and throughput for smart home devices in your home, there’s no Zigbee or Z-Wave compatibility.

Likewise, there’s no USB charging or other ways of making the Orbi more useful as a device that will take up space in your home.


Orbi WiFi 6
The Orbi WiFi 6 is the most advanced WiFi mesh on the market – and comes highly recommended to anyone with a) a massive certainly over two floors b) a huge family (or business) doing a hell of a lot of online streaming and gaming. The benefit it can bring to your home is an order of magnitude over your bog standard router. But most families don’t need this kind of power. Yes, Wi-Fi 6 is coming – but most users can forget about that for a good few years, and there are cheaper Orbi products that offer the same simplicity and most of the benefits for a fraction of the cost.
PROS
  • So fast
  • Kills blackspots
  • Mega easy set up
CONS
  • Pricey
  • Big old boxes
  • Lack of juicy extras

TAGGED    smart home

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