Hands-On Review of the NETGEAR Orbi WiFi System

The following is a review of the Orbi router and satellite (RBK50). We have been having issues with a very old secondary router since moving into our 111-year old house 3 years ago. It seemed like every few days, we would have to reset the secondary router again because it lost its signal. Some days, this included multiple attempts before finally getting a stable connection. Finding something that could project through my 3 stories of lath and plaster (and cement in some areas) walls was difficult, and I’m happy to say that the Orbi stood up and accepted the challenge!

Setup was fast and easy. The Orbi brought a page up in my web browser and ran me through the setup. I was given the option to download NETGEAR Genie as part of the router setup. It even brought me to a page where it scanned for updates and allowed me to click “update all” for the firmware updates. I was completely finished in approximately 45 minutes. This included plugging in and setting up the router in my home office, placing and connecting the satellite in a second floor bedroom, downloading NETGEAR Genie on 2 separate devices (my desktop PC running Windows 10 and my mobile phone running Android 6.0.1), setting up an account with OpenDNS to set up parental controls, and adding the network to the immediately available devices (3 mobile phones, 2 laptops, and 1 desktop PC). It was not clear if I was setting it up in Router mode or Access Point mode, but I did find that information later while playing with the settings.

All testing was completed with the Orbi in router mode and placed up against my Xfinity modem/router (both devices broadcasting their own networks in an effort to test for interference from either device).

Despite the construction of my house and the Orbi Router’s placement, I had no problems accessing the network and getting amazing speeds on my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Through the original network on my Xfinity provided router, I was receiving download speeds between 25Mbps-57Mbps. Through the Orbi, I was receiving download speeds of approximately 125Mbps. Upload speeds were consistently around 25Mbps from each router. It did not seem to matter whether I was on the first floor with the router or on the second floor with the satellite, the speeds were consistent.

To test how far the network would reach, I went exploring with my Galaxy S7. I was able to connect to the network inside my detached garage with all the doors closed and in the park behind my house. This was the furthest connection, likely because the Orbi satellite was placed on a dresser near the back window on the second floor. I was able to go about 4 houses down in the other directions before losing the connection (the network was discoverable for several more houses, just couldn’t connect past the 4th house).  Tests on an older model iPad, which has no internet access other than through WiFi, got similar results.

I subsequently tested placing the Orbi Satellite in my detached garage (located approximately 40 feet from my backdoor) with all the house and metal garage doors fully closed. The Orbi Satellite had no problem locating the signal and forming a solid connection, allowing us full access inside the enclosed garage.

Downloading files showed blazing fast speeds. An approximately 58MB app update (the largest I’ve noted while connected to my Orbi network) took 2 seconds to download.

The only issue I’ve found is that, when adding the network manually to a device after disabling the SSID broadcast, I had to be aware of the case-sensitive nature of the SSID name in order for it to locate the hidden network. I also found that Netgear Genie app on my phone (didn’t seem to be an issue on my desktop) was insisting that the satellite, my desktop computer that the router is hardwired into, and my mobile phone all had 0% signal despite being able to use the devices and my mobile phone showing showing a solid, full connection with no issues. I imagine this may resolve itself or be remedied with an update to the app, but it didn't affect functionality at all. Additionally, OpenDNS was blocking sites like Accuweather.com despite my changing the settings to “none” under parental controls for each device (I had to turn off Live Parental Controls entirely to remedy this. I haven't heard of others experiencing this issue but wanted to mention it.)

In conclusion, I have been thoroughly pleased with the functionality and connection strength of the Orbi system and highly recommend it for those with larger homes, those with many connected devices, and for those running multiple high-bandwidth applications across multiple devices.

You can find more information on Orbi at NETGEAR's official site.

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