In the top three list of questions I get asked about Technology will be something to do with WiFi in the home. Netgear’s Orbi was released in December and I can tell you first hand – this device redefines in-home WiFi and what you can expect from your network.
- “I’ve got the fastest internet plan, but my internet is still slow”
- “Our WiFi won’t reach the other end of the house”
- “We have WiFi deadspots in our home”
These are just a few questions I get a lot – and I mean every week, on Talkback radio when people are calling asking for tech help.
The problems are pretty simple really – speed and coverage.
Over the past few years we’ve had improvement in WiFi speeds using new routers with Beamforming and Tri-Band technology, we’ve also had a lot of “range extenders” on the market to help push your signal through the home. For the most advanced users, these have offered some relief. But for many, the problems need a simple solution.
That simple solution has been in place in corporate environments for some time, and there have been some consumer version attempts – but with these things it needs networking companies with the brand and retail presence of Netgear to make it work. The solution is called a “mesh” network.
In corporate environments an “Access point” is placed in each area for WiFi. They are connected together by cables and form one big and importantly single network.
Netgear’s approach with Orbi is to use one of the three bands in the “tri band” router to connect the base router and each and any Satellite router in the home. This dedicated connection means all the traffic from the satellite to the base is not hindered by the general internet traffic.
And the result is sensational.
Now to be clear, I’ve not had the worst of times with WiFi – I’ve had a Nighthawk X8 for some time, and it’s been great. In my home there has really only been one small pocket of space with any issues – mainly because of the number of brick walls between one corner and the other.
However, for this test, I disconnected the X8 – installed the Orbi base and got my PC back online. To ensure things were fair, I created an all-new network name and password for the home. This meant walking around to some 30 wireless devices and reconfiguring. In a smart home that means light switches, air conditioners and more.
Before doing that though, I setup the second and critical part of the Orbi system. The Satellite. The kit I have is the single satellite and router unit. That will set you back $749. Pricey, but if those questions above are yours, this is your answer.
The Satellite is installed by placing it in a central location in the home. Importantly, not too far from the main router – it won’t work down the “far end” it has to be mid-way. Powered up, the Orbi uses glowing lights to show different colours while connecting, which takes five minutes at most. Once it glows blue, you’re off and running.
From this point on, your devices connect to a single WiFi network. Not an “EXT” network as many would know from the range extenders, a single WiFi network.
Both 2.4 and 5gHz networks have the same name, the system intelligently allocates devices based on their speed.
It could not be easier.
But does that justify the price tag? If your problem was coverage. Yes.
I installed Orbi at my father-in-law’s home. To be more correct, he installed it himself while I was on holidays – it’s that easy.
Here’s his network (on a hand-drawn diagram of the home) before the Orbi:
And after Obi Installation:
The difference is remarkable. Sadly his network is a shockingly slow ADSL – but this makes the perfect point for investing in Orbi, as it’s future proof. You use your existing Internet Modem. When the NBN comes to my father-in-law, nothing will change except plugging Orbi into the new modem.
But does that justify the pricetag? If your problem was speed. Yes.
I have Cable broadband. Speed in the pipe – around 100mbps. Speed on Wifi sitting in my loungeroom – normally 60mbps.
Today, the speed on WiFi, sitting in the loungeroom where the Orbi Satellite is – 100mbps. Very little if any speed loss.
I was genuinely impressed. Shocked even.
I’m not sure I’ve done the concept justice in my explanation. But I can tell you that from now on when someone has WiFi issues, apart from first testing the core internet speed and suggesting a relocation of the line/modem, there’s no better solution to most WiFi problems than a decent network in the home, one that to date only Netgear Orbi can deliver with ease.
Aesthetically, the Orbi system is much more welcoming than a nerdy looking router with antennas all over it, or a range extender. Mind you, my Wife still insisted on it sitting behind a picture frame, but that’s ok with me:)
The Satellite unit has Ethernet ports on the back, great for things like your TV or other entertainment devices.
My only issue with Orbi frankly is the number of ports on the router. Just three instead of the four you might get on a standard router, or six you’ll find on similarly priced routers.
Othewise – OMG WIFI. That’s what your family is going to be saying when they connect their phones and devices to the new Netgear Orbi network.
Trev is a Technology Commentator, Dad, Speaker and Rev Head.
He produces and hosts two popular podcasts, EFTM and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He also appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the resident Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show each day and appears regularly on A Current Affair.
Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave.