The appeal of the Netgear Orbi 4G LTE is obvious: it blankets your home in Wi-Fi that connects back to a SIM card, which means that even if your broadband falls over, you can still get online (assuming you have a decent connection to a nearby cell tower of course).
With more of us spending more time at home, getting the best mesh networking setup is more vital than ever – for work, for education, for entertainment, and for everything else you need the internet to do. This Netgear Orbi router can be part of that overall setup.
You might think that your regular broadband internet is reliable enough not to invest in a device like this, but you never know when disaster might strike – and if you absolutely have to be online at all times then this is a networking upgrade worth considering.
Netgear Orbi 4G LTE review: design and setup
If you've seen other Netgear Orbi routers then you know what to expect from the 4G LTE version – it's a tall, narrow, curved object not unlike an oversized tablet. If you invest in a Netgear Orbi router then you're going to get a boost to your home Wi-Fi, but you're also going to struggle to get it hidden away anywhere: this is a bulky bit of kit. Don't expect something in the Eero mould.
That size does mean plenty of room for some advanced networking gear of course, and we don't mind the design overall. Ports and buttons are easily accessible on the back of the router, and the status light on the top is a nice touch too – glowing with a reassuring soft white light when everything is working fine. The placement of the product QR code on the bottom is a bit awkward, but we can live with it.
Setup happens via an Android and iOS app, as is often the case these days, and despite one or two false starts we eventually managed to get everything up and running in 15 minutes or so. Our phone did fail to connect to the router a couple of times to begin with, but whether that was the fault of Netgear or user error it's hard to say. The app is definitely friendly and takes you step-by-step through the router initiation process.
Once you've used the app to go through the setup routine, the Netgear Orbi 4G LTE router should largely be able to look after itself, though there are extras such as parental controls and voice control you can add on top if you need to. The app also lets you manage the devices connected up to your network and run speed tests. If you have multiple Netgear Orbi routers in the home, they can all be managed together.
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Netgear Orbi 4G LTE review: features and performance
The Netgear Orbi 4G LTE is a tri-band router, so it offers both the faster 5GHz band, the slower but longer range 2.4GHz band, and a backhaul band for creating a Wi-Fi mesh around your home. With a 4G LTE data SIM loaded up from your choice of network operator, it can send wireless internet at speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps around the home.
The router is also able to plug into your existing router fastened to the wall, extending your normal Wi-Fi broadband, and it works as part of a bigger Orbi mesh network as well, if you need it to. If it is set up with multiple Netgear products, then the 4G LTE service will kick in automatically when the Wi-Fi goes down – you won't be struggling along at slower speeds if a faster connection is available.
Based on our testing, the router works as advertised: we don't have the greatest 4G coverage at our house, and performance will of course depend on that, but the Netgear Orbi 4G LTE did a good job of beaming that connectivity around the home, as well as extending the reach of the standard Wi-Fi into corners of rooms where connectivity had previously been spotty.
One nice touch that we appreciate is the addition of two LTE antenna sockets – this means you can upgrade the Orbi to get a better signal. There's the added bonus of Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa control if you need it, and based on our experience of using the router, you can rely on it for speedy SIM-based internet connectivity around the home. It won't beat broadband in some respects (latency, for example), but it's a good option to have in reserve.
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Netgear Orbi 4G LTE review: price and verdict
There's no doubt the Netgear Orbi 4G LTE is one of the best in the business if you're looking for a 4G LTE-capable router – it has all the usual Orbi smarts and advanced tech, but with SIM card connectivity. Setup was mostly fine, and performance was good during our time with the router, so we have no doubts that this is going to give you a reliable backup to your standard broadband.
Of course, if your internet goes down, you can usually just tether a connection from your phone to keep your laptop online – what the Netgear Orbi 4G LTE gives you is much better range and reliability. You also need to think about all the smart home devices you've got that might need to stay online to work. Alternatively, maybe you can't get a decent broadband connection where you live, in which case this device could be really handy.
There's a lot to consider when it comes to working out whether a 4G LTE router is something you need – data charges, coverage, and so on. This is a relatively expensive bit of kit too, with no support for the latest Wi-Fi 6 or 5G standards (though that would inevitably have pushed up the cost further). If you're planning on watching 4K movies or streaming some games then this may not be up to the job.
To those of you looking for a reliable, seamless backup for your internet broadband though – or an alternative to poor broadband – we absolutely recommend the Netgear Orbi 4G LTE. If you're working from home, or just want to make sure your smart security cameras aren't going to go offline, it's a powerful and professional option to have. You just might not end up using it very much.
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