The Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 is one of the next-generation of mesh networking kits now appearing with Wi-Fi 6 on board, beaming internet around your home at faster speeds than ever before – assuming you've got the budget to be able to afford one of them.
Netgear is one of the most reliable names in the business when it comes to networking kit, and this isn't actually the first Orbi-branded bit of networking gear that the company has put out. Is it worth a place in your high-tech home? Read on for our verdict on the system.
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As well as Wi-Fi 6 support, the Netgear Orbi Wifi 6 two-pack promises a coverage area of 5,000 square feet (about 465 square metres), and there are four wired Ethernet connections on each satellite as well as the main router (they'll be labelled in the box).
The Netgear Orbi Wifi 6 system comes in both a two-pack and a three-pack (we're testing the two-pack here), and you can even add extra satellite units on top of that, if you really need the coverage. Oh, and it'll respond to Google Assistant and Alexa commands too.
Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 review: design and setup
Design and aesthetics probably aren't top of your list when it comes to choosing a new router – after all, it's the speed and coverage that counts – but as you can tell from the pictures accompanying this article, the Netgear Orbi router and satellites are fairly chunky bits of equipment. They're so big you're going to have to find a specific space for them, as you can't just stick them on a mantlepiece or a bit of spare desk shelf.
These big boxes hide eight powerful antennas each, which is some excuse for their large size, and overall we'd rather have fast Wi-Fi than a beautiful-looking mesh router system. They're not exactly ugly though, and give your home a bit of a futuristic, space age feel as well – your neighbours and guests are bound to ask about them.
Setup is pretty much the same as it is for every other modern mesh router system: install the app on your phone and follow the instructions. In about 10 minutes, after the usual "please wait" and "firmware updating" messages that appear when you're setting up most hardware devices like this, we were up and running. Not bad at all.
The Orbi app does a good job of guiding you through the whole setup process and getting your satellite(s) connected to the main router – you don't even need to push any buttons, just power up the devices and wait for them to connect. We could do without having to register yet another online account to get connected, this time with Netgear, but again that's pretty much par for the course with these systems.
Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 review: features and performance
The Netgear Orbi Wifi 6 is just about the most capable and powerful mesh networking system around at the moment. The latest and greatest Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) standard is supported, which means wireless speeds of up to 1,200Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 2,400Mbps on the 5GHz band – provided all your other gadgetry is Wi-Fi 6 compatible of course (you probably won't get close to that in reality, but you should still notice a substantial improvement).
The Orbi system is tri-band too, which means as well as the regular 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands you might be used to, there's also a second 5GHz band that acts as a dedicated backhaul between the main router and your satellite nodes. It makes sure there's a super-strong connection between the Orbis, and is the main reason why this is a much better solution than a simple Wi-Fi extender.
As well as improving speeds across the 5,000 square feet (465 square metres) that the Netgear Orbi Wifi 6 says it covers, the mesh router and satellite can also support more devices being connected simultaneously, and keep stable connections with them all. You should be able to hook up 100 gadgets and gizmos to the Orbi network at the same time, which should be enough for even the most tech-savvy house.
Whatever the details of the tech Netgear has put in here, it seems to work – while we were testing the Orbi devices in a house with decent Wi-Fi already, we were getting faster speeds around the edge of the building on the Netgear network – your home setup will vary, and so will your broadband package (you won't magically get faster internet from your ISP), but we were getting a good 50 percent more in terms of download speed on the Orbi network at some points.
Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 review: price and verdict
Buy the Netgear Orbi Wifi 6, and you're going to get the fastest possible wireless network connections around your home, and solve all your device congestion problems in one go, as well as future-proofing yourself for upgrading to phones and laptops that support Wi-Fi 6 in the months and years ahead (many phones already do).
That's all very appealing, but there's no doubt that the mesh system is expensive – prices start at £709.99/$699.99 for a two-pack (though double-check the widgets on this page), which is some way above what you'll pay for mesh networking kits from the likes of Google and Eero. Those don't support the latest Wi-Fi standards though, so it's a question of how much of an early adopter you want to be.
The associated app is a bit bare bones, and doesn't come with any parental controls built in, though we do appreciate the ability to set up a guest network if you want to keep visitors away from your main devices. This is perhaps one area where other router makers have a slight advantage, but we wouldn't knock too many points off for it.
If you already have a Wi-Fi setup that you're happy with, then it's reasonable to think that the Netgear Orbi 6 is just too expensive an upgrade. There's no doubt about it though: with strong speed across a wide area and support for up to 100 devices, the Orbi 6 is going to almost certainly give you a faster, more reliable Wi-Fi network than you've got at the moment, and for a lot of people that'll be worth paying for.