We purchased the Netgear Orbi (Check latest price on Amazon) so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
Mesh Wi-Fi routers, such as the Netgear Orbi, are the best option in 2019 if you have a large home or office to cover. Because of their modular design, you can cover a larger area without having to rely on a jumble of wireless extenders. These options, such as the Netgear Orbi, are, however, typically much more expensive than a traditional router.
We’ve been putting the Orbi to the test to see if its speed, range, and design are worth the money, and if it deserves a place in your home.
There isn’t a better wireless router on the market than the Netgear Orbi.
Design: Large, but attractive
The Netgear Orbi, unlike the vast majority of wireless mesh routers on the market, is quite large. It won’t blend into the background like the Google Wifi because it’s 8 inches tall and 6.4 inches wide. However, this isn’t always a problem.
The Orbi has a lovely white design that is illuminated only when something goes wrong, making it look more like a piece of furniture than a wireless router. Because all of the ports and buttons are on the back, it can be quite attractive if you manage your wires properly. This attention to detail and design accomplishes two goals: it eliminates the need to stow it away in an inconspicuous corner of your home, and it increases performance by putting it out in the open.
Setup: There’s an app for that
Something has to be said about the improvements in quality of life that smartphones have brought. It was as simple as downloading an iOS app and scanning some QR codes to set up the Netgear Orbi (there’s also an Android app). We simply had to connect it to our modem, launch the Netgear Orbi app, and follow the on-screen instructions.
Setup took a little longer than expected, taking about five minutes to detect the satellite versus the near-instant setup of some other mesh units. Our 250Mbps Xfinity connection was smooth once setup was complete, though there were some strange connectivity issues that we’ll discuss later.
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It’s becoming more common these days for network management to be done primarily through a smartphone app. For most users, this is ideal because it eliminates the need to sift through arcane network gateway software. The Netgear Orbi is set up and managed through an app in a similar way to the competition, but unlike the competition, it retains advanced controls that are simplified on other devices like Google Wifi.
Thanks to a Disney partnership, the router also has robust parental controls.
Advanced users can use the Orbi to access the same old network gateway they’re used to, and adjust just about any setting. Because you can manually adjust your wireless channels, this is especially useful for anyone who has to deal with a lot of network interference.
Thanks to a Disney partnership, the router also has robust parental controls. The Circle: Smart Family Controls app, when paired with the Orbi, allows you to manage your family’s online time by blocking off-limits websites, managing screen time, and even setting a bedtime so your kids don’t stay up all night playing on their phones. The Orbi will suit your needs whether you’re a seasoned network administrator or just looking for something that works.
Connectivity: Ethernet galore
There’s no denying that the Netgear Orbi is a forward-thinking wireless router. The AC3000 speed rating, the abundance of Ethernet ports, and the Tri-Band wireless connections all indicate that this router will be a top-end router for years to come. Older devices, on the other hand, may have some issues.
We had trouble connecting some smart-home devices, including our garage door, because the Netgear Orbi combines its 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz bands into one network. It took some digging around in the Netgear Orbi’s back-end before we got it to work. On the app, these options were not available. To play around with the wireless settings, we had to navigate to the router’s gateway; fortunately, the Orbi still allows you to do so. This is unlikely to affect most users, but it is something to keep in mind if you have a lot of smart-home devices.
We should also mention the large number of physical ports available on both the router and the satellite. There are three LAN ports and a USB-A port on each unit. This is a godsend for anyone with devices in an upstairs bedroom or office that require a hard-wired connection.
If you pay for high-speed internet, such as 200Mbps or higher, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t get the Netgear Orbi. This is without a doubt one of the most powerful wireless routers available today. We ran speed tests upstairs, downstairs, in the backyard, and in the basement of our house. Only when we walked to a neighbor’s house did we see less than 290 Mbps.
For the most part, Google Wifi is adequate, but the Netgear Orbi outperforms it in terms of raw power.
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The Orbi is advertised as having 5,000 feet of coverage by Netgear, and while we didn’t use a giant tape measure, that appears to be the case. You can have a large house and still have consistent network performance. If you’re looking for a router with a longer range, take a look at our other reviews of the best long-range routers on the market today.
Because the Netgear Orbi supports MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple inputs, multiple outputs), it’s nearly impossible to overload it with too many devices. We loaded up 4K video streams on all of the laptops, tablets, and phones in the living room where the Orbi was located in order to test this. They didn’t even buffer for a second.
Any one of these accomplishments would be enough to make a great router. However, when you combine the incredible range, fast performance, and MU-MIMO support in one package, it’s truly incredible. There isn’t a better wireless router on the market than the Netgear Orbi. It’s pricey, but the near-unparalleled performance it provides justifies the cost.
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Price: You get what you pay for
The Netgear Orbi is, indeed, pricey. The router and satellite in the unit we reviewed cost $306 at the time of writing (Check latest price on Amazon), though the MSRP is $369. If you need more coverage, extra satellite units can be purchased for $249 for an additional 2,500 feet of coverage. It’s more expensive than many other mesh routers on the market, but you’re getting a level of performance that’s well worth the investment.
Netgear Orbi vs. Google Wifi
In 2018, it’s impossible to discuss a wireless mesh router without mentioning Google Wifi. Google’s approach to mesh networking has made such an impact that it’s almost become the de facto wireless router for the majority of people. The Netgear Orbi, on the other hand, is superior in nearly every way.
The Google Wifi is usually on sale for around $250, but it’s still a $299 router, and the level of performance you get with the Netgear Orbi is well worth the $50-$100 premium. For the most part, Google Wifi is adequate, but the Netgear Orbi outperforms it in terms of raw power.
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The Final Word
This router will appeal to anyone with a large home or office who requires a fast and reliable network connection. The speed and reliability provided by the AC3000 connection and MU-MIMO support can’t be overstated, even if your home isn’t 5,000 square feet. Overall, the Netgear Orbi is the way to go if you want the highest level of performance from your wireless router.