The Netgear Wi-Fi 6 Orbi RBK353 pack is likely to get on your shortlist if you're looking for the best mesh networking devices for your home – as indeed is the cheaper RBK352 configuration, which only gives you one satellite unit with the main router rather than two.
No doubt you're aware of how these mesh networking systems work now: by placing multiple boxes around your home, your Wi-Fi reaches further and is more stable, hopefully eliminating any dead zones for good – at least, that's how they should work in theory.
The Orbi series from Netgear is one of the leading brands in home mesh networking at the moment, and this RBK353 kit aims to find an appealing balance between power, features and price. Does it succeed? Our full Netgear Wi-Fi 6 Orbi RBK353 review will reveal all.
Netgear Wi-Fi 6 Orbi RBK353: design and setup
The one router and two satellites that make up the Netgear Wi-Fi 6 Orbi RBK353 pack are more or less identical, at least from the front – the main router (which connects to your existing router/modem) has one extra Ethernet port, as well as a port for your actual internet connection. You can create a separate network with the Orbi units, or give the new network the same name as your existing one so everything stays connected.
The familiar white plastic Orbi aesthetic is in evidence here again, though these devices are much smaller than the more expensive models in the range, measuring 178 mm x 145 mm x 61 mm. While the router and the two satellite speakers don't exactly blend in with their surroundings, it is easy enough to find somewhere to stick them out of the way on a desk or a shelf. Each satellite has two Ethernet ports of its own for a more stable, wired connection to laptops, consoles and so on – something you don't always get (see the Eero 6 system, for instance).
The router and the two satellites come with their own power plug, and there's an Ethernet cable included in the box too for connecting everything to your existing setup. Getting the new Wi-Fi network up and running is as simple as downloading the app for Android or iOS, then following the instructions – you have to plug the boxes in one by one, and that's about it (though there may well be a firmware update waiting for you as well).
From opening the box to starting to connect all of our devices to the new Wi-Fi network took us about 10-15 minutes in total, so it's certainly not going to take up a huge chunk of your day – though the process of detecting the satellites does seem to run at an interminably slow pace at times. LED lights on all three units let you know if there are any problems with the devices or their connections to the internet.
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Netgear Wi-Fi 6 Orbi RBK353: features and performance
Wi-Fi 6 is the headline feature here, ensuring the fastest possible connections to all your gadgets – assuming they are also Wi-Fi 6 enabled, of course (most new hardware now is). While the Netgear Wi-Fi 6 Orbi RBK353 won't actually do anything to the speed of the internet coming into your home, it should make that internet reach further and stay more stable – Netgear says you can connect more than 30 devices to this system, and it should be good to cover an area of around 488 square metres.
We weren't able to put those precise stats to the test directly, but we can tell you that the Orbi router and satellite boxes covered our medium-sized property with plenty of fast and stable Wi-Fi, achieving slightly higher speeds around the edge of our home than we were used to from our standard Wi-Fi network (and the signal strength was boosted from "weak" to "medium" on our laptop in some cases).
Obviously the results you get will depend on what your home is like and where you place the satellites – in our case we're already quite well covered with our existing setup – but with a maximum speed of 1.8Gbps across the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands combined, this kit is unlikely to let you down (you can't choose between bands, you just get what you're given). What you don't get is the third band that some mesh networking systems use, a dedicated backhaul channel for handling communications between nodes (rather than between you and the internet).
The system is also lacking in any kind of advanced parental controls, and the extra security package (including BitDefender software) is a paid-for extra that we're not sure is really necessary. There's Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa support built in, just in case you want to turn your internet on and off with your voice. If you don't want to manage your network through your phone, a web interface is also available, and we do like the ability to create a guest network to keep visitors away from all your other devices.
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Netgear Wi-Fi 6 Orbi RBK353: price and verdict
Take a look at the Netgear Orbi range as a whole and you know what to expect from the RBK353: this is the cheapest option of the lot, so you're not going to get the same level of performance or the same amount of features as the pricier models, and for some people that'll be just fine. Not only are these the cheapest of the Orbi Wi-Fi 6 systems that Netgear makes, they're also the smallest (more along the lines of a Google Nest or Eero system), which is something else to bear in mind.
Like just about everything we've tested from Netgear, this router and satellite pack is easy to set up and performs well: it does what it says it will in terms of getting your Wi-Fi network into every corner of your home. We like having Ethernet ports on all of the units that make up the system, and we like being able to set up a guest network that other people can use when needed.
What negatives we did come across are relatively minor, or won't really affect most users: no tri-band support, no integrated parental controls, having to pay extra for more security features. It's also worth considering whether a really good, single Wi-Fi 6 router might suit your needs – these units can cover reasonably large areas on their own, and could save you even more money.
Overall though the Netgear Wi-Fi 6 Orbi RBK353 is a product that we're happy to recommend: advanced users who need the very best spec will want to check out the more expensive Orbi models, but this gets you the latest Wi-Fi standard in every corner of your home for a price that's reasonable. We'd expect the bundled app and other extras that come with the mesh networking system to get better over time, too.
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