NETGEAR ORBI WI-FI 6E (RBKE963): KEY SPECS
Wi-Fi spec: Wi-Fi 6E (AX10800, 802.11ax, 10.8 Gbps)
Router ports: 1 WAN/4 LAN
Satellite ports: 4 LAN
Processor: Quad-core 2.2GHz
Wi-Fi chip: Qualcomm Networking Pro 1610
Max range: 95 feet
We review a lot of the best mesh Wi-Fi systems here at T3 and I myself have reviewed my fair share. Which is why I was really rather excited to review Netgear's latest flagship system, the Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6E (RBKE963).
This system is so special as it is the industry's first quad-band mesh Wi-Fi 6E system, which in layman's terms means next-gen speeds, connectivity, range and device capacity. I am lucky enough to own quite a large home and also have many devices (I do work at T3 after all!), so theoretically this should be the ideal fit for my networking needs.
Here in T3's Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6E (RBKE963) review I will run you through my findings of using this system for over a month, covering everything from design to setup and onto performance and features.
NETGEAR Orbi Wi-Fi 6E (RBKE963) review: pricing and availability
The Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6E (RBKE963) costs, if I'm being candid, an eye-watering £1,499.99 in the UK ($1,499.99 in the USA). This is huge amount of money to spend on a mesh networking system, even with a router and two satellite package. Are there cheaper mesh networking systems available? Absolutely. Are there any that offer this package? No. It is obviously also massively future proofed.
In terms of availability, the product is available right now (writing as of March 2022). Today's best deals on the Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6E (RBKE963) in your territory can be viewed directly below.
NETGEAR Orbi Wi-Fi 6E (RBKE963) review: design and setup
If you're familiar with the Netgear Orbi brand then you'll recognise the design of the RBKE963's router and extension satellites, which are immediately visible when opening the large box the system is delivered in.
Each looks like a futuristic space pod and are a clean and stylish blend of white and chrome silver. They are in my opinion the most stylish mesh Wi-Fi nodes on the market and it makes having them on display around you home a joy rather than a necessary evil.
The router and its satellites are large though, there's no getting away from that (due to all the antennas and technology loaded within), so if you buy these then you're going to need to see them for sure.
The router delivers a 10 Gigabit WAN port, a 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet port and three Gigabit Ethernet ports, with the unit measuring in at 11 inches in height and 7.5 inches in width.
The satellites, meanwhile, have the same dimensions as the router but deliver just a 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet port and three Gigabit Ethernet ports on the rear.
Physical setup is super easy. You plug in the RBKE963's router and then proceed to position the two satellites around your home. Rather than having to do this blind, or uninstructed, the entire setup procedure is guided via the Netgear Orbi app, which has a step-by-step setup wizard.
This setup procedure literally holds you hand every single step of the way, with it detecting if the correct cables are plugged in, if your router is receiving broadband, if the satellites are speaking to the router and so on. I had the system setup and detected within 10 minutes of opening the box.
Setup in this sense was literally a case of plugging in the router and satellites, loading up the Netgear Orbi app, and following the instructions.
As part of the setup procedure the firmware on the system is also updated and you can setup security features like fingerprint ID for accessing the app. Once the setup procedure is complete you are informed your Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6E (RBKE963) is up and running, the connection stability between the router and satellites is optimal and that you have mesh Wi-Fi coverage.
Once setup is complete the app offers you access to a device manager, a speed test tool, parental controls and security features, the latter powered by Netgear Armor. You get a free trial of Netgear Armor out of the gate in this package, but then you have to pay for it once that runs out, which I have to say I thought was frustrating considering you've just spent a grand and a half on this package.
Just for the record, I placed my Orbi router in my kitchen (where my broadband enters the property), a satellite at the other side of the house on the ground floor in my living room, and the other satellite upstairs in the centre of the house in my study. This placement delivered a maximum stability connection despite the three nodes being far apart and separated by numerous walls and floors.
Overall, setting up the Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6E (RBKE963) was easy and I am a big fan of their design, even if they are really rather large.
NETGEAR Orbi Wi-Fi 6E (RBKE963) review: performance and features
Here we get onto the real reason why most buyers will pick up the Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6E (RBKE963) system, performance. This system delivers 10.8Gbps, AXE11000 Wi-Fi 6E speeds (which, for the un-initiated, are ludicrously fast and the absolute best you can get on the market today), as well as a monstrous 7,500 square feet coverage area and world-ending 250 device connectivity capacity.
With the Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6E (RBKE963) router and six satellites (sold separately of course) the maximum range of this mesh networking system blows up to a simply staggering 17,500 square feet. Yes, we're not in Wi-Fi Kansas anymore. The Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6E (RBKE963) supports internet services up to 10Gbp.
The performance is powered, in terms of core router hardware, by a quad-core 2.2GHz processor and 1GB of RAM.
The big take away, of course, is the system's Wi-Fi 6E capabilities, which means the Orbi here adds in a 6GHz wireless band that can be tapped into by new high-performance Wi-Fi 6E enabled devices, such as seen on the best TVs, best phones and best laptops.
So, the quad-band capabilities of this system include, firstly, a direct connectivity between the router and the satellites, and then you get a 2.4GHz, 5GHz and 6GHz Wi-Fi bands from the system for your various devices to connect to.
This is super useful as, regardless of how fast your paid broadband connection is, you can tier the devices in your house and prioritise the most important to the higher connectivity bands. For example, a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra smartphone that is Wi-Fi 6E compatible and a device that is used all the time can sit on the rapid and clean 6GHz connectivity, which is unimpeded by older or less important devices that can operate off the 2.4GHz, for example.
Got a home office and work from home a lot? Then providing you've got a laptop that can make use of the 6GHz connectivity then you've just guaranteed video meetings run smoother than you've likely ever experienced before.
My experience with the RBKE963 was flawless in terms of performance, even though my home is not equipped with a top tier broadband connection. The range of the Orbi's mesh network was incredible, with me even getting strong connectivity at the bottom of my garden in my garden pub (lockdown project for the win!) and I experienced no connectivity issues at all during use.
I just loaded every single device I owned onto the RBKE963 mesh network and just kicked back and enjoyed flawless operation. Video streaming was smooth and flawless with no skips or artefacts, downloading and playing Xbox Series X games online fast and easy, and transferring files between devices rapid.
Mobile devices just kept reporting to me that they had excellent 5 bar signal no matter where I moved around my house (even in my attic!), and I've finally managed to find a system that my Sky Q box will actually stay connected to (on my past network the Sky Q box kept losing Wi-Fi signal and disconnecting).
And talking of connections, I loved how I could still hardwire multiple devices into the RBKE963's satellites, with a host of Ethernet ports available. Upstairs in my study, for example, I hardwired my PC, TV and Xbox Series S into a satellite for the best possible connectivity (if I have a 5-star connection from router to satellite, why would I introduce anything that could degrade that!).
Lastly, in terms of features, I was a big fan of the parental controls and device manager offered in the Orbi app. I've got a 12-year-old daughter with a phone and a love of playing video games, so being able to control what she can do and when she can do it was great. Being able to funnel connectivity to certain devices was also great, as well as setup a guest network (my partner and I recently held a post-show party at our house and had a lot of guests).
NETGEAR Orbi Wi-Fi 6E (RBKE963) review: verdict
Here at T3 we like surfacing the very best products for our readers, as we want these products to help them live better lives. And, in that sense, the Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6E (RBKE963) system is, by far, the best mesh Wi-Fi system on the market today. Its design, performance and features combine to deliver the ultimate home networking solution.
I simply loved how comprehensive a networking package the RBKE963 delivered which, regardless of its first-in-the-world quad-band Wi-Fi 6E flagship performance, is so, so welcome. Incredible speed, range and capacity aside, this system is one of the absolute finest mesh networking systems I've used for ease of use and making your life easy. And, for me, that's literally what I want most from a networking product. What's the point in having amazing performance on offer if you can't use it?
The price of the Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6E (RBKE963) system, though, means that this ultimate performance will be out of reach for many, many people and, being candid, the performance this system offers will likely be overkill for a lot of those people anyway. Do most people need this system's quad-band design with Wi-Fi 6E capabilities? I'm guessing not. But, for me as a technophile, this is a dream mesh Wi-Fi system.
As such, if you can afford the Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6E (RBKE963) system and have a home that is big enough to justify it, then it's an super easy recommendation. You're simply going to love this product. If money is no object and you're looking to inject your home with the absolute best range, speeds, stability and device capacity then this is the mesh Wi-Fi system to buy.