Review: Netgear Orbi is true to its promise of providing a Wi-Fi blanket for your home
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There are many reasons why your existing Wi-Fi router is perhaps inadequate for your home. One of them could be that the indoor area it is supposed to cover is far too large. Then, not all homes are designed in straight lines or spread out in a perfect circle, and that leads to loss of signals that your router emits. And finally, the number of walls between the router and the device accessing the internet also has a bearing on what sort of wireless signals and internet speeds you will experience. This is where the concept of a Wi-Fi system becomes relevant.
A Wi-Fi system consists of a primary router which hooks up to your internet connection. Then there are additional units, known as satellites, that connect wirelessly to the primary router, and spread the wireless signals better across your home. Netgear’s Orbi system (RBK50), priced at Rs28,990 (Amazon.in) works on the same principle.
What you get for this price is the kit that has two units. Each unit can cover around 2,000 sq.ft area, which means this should be ready to go for even fairly large-sized homes. However, you do have the option of adding up to three satellites to the main router if you still feel that the coverage area is larger or your home has a more complex design.
Each Orbi unit is fairly large, and while it doesn’t take up much space on a table, for instance, it is quite tall. They may look the same too, but cannot be interchanged. There is a notification LED around the oval top panel—the different colours it shows signify different things. It glows white when the unit is booting up, blue means everything is fine with your internet connection, amber means weak connectivity and magenta means there is no internet access at the moment.
Setting these up is a breeze, and you can be up and running in less than 10 minutes. The Netgear Orbi app (free for Android and iOS) will allow you to configure the primary router unit first. Once that is done, the secondary unit needs to be paired with the primary unit—for that, there is a pair button on the back of the primary unit, which when pressed, looks for a connection with the secondary unit you may wish to set up. Orbi is powered by Qualcomm’s IPQ4019 Wi-Fi chip and a quad-core processor with 512MB RAM and 4GB solid-state storage.
The Orbi Wi-Fi System has a max transfer rating of 3 Gigabits and creates a tri-band wireless mesh. What is interesting to note is that this includes a 1.7Gbps channel, which works on 5GHz, and is dedicated for the communication between the primary router and the satellite. Since this data transmission is on the separate channel, the primary 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels retain strong and consistent performance.
The satellite alone can cover a maximum of 2,000 sq.ft area, though the real-world range will depend on walls and furniture placement. Combined with the primary router, this coverage area well surpassed 5,000 sq.ft in total. There are six internal antennas around the perimeter of each unit, something that high-performance routers tend to offer. In the areas inside the home where the traditional single unit routers struggle to provide wireless signals and internet connectivity, the Orbi was strutting along offering great signals and Wi-Fi speeds. In fact, five feet away from the primary router at a right angle, the standard routers reduced the speeds of the 50Mbps connection to around 19-23Mbps, whereas the Orbi’s unit ensured that we were registering around 48Mbps at the same zone. That is a testament to how good the link between the units is, which translates into slick real-world performance and no loss of bandwidth.
The reality with Wi-Fi mesh systems is that you will feel the need for one if your current router is proving to be inadequate. And trust us, that happens quite often, even in homes that aren’t very large. These do cost a significant amount of money, but the Orbi certainly has its advantages—it is easy to set up, the performance is spot on and the coverage area is quite huge. If you are unable to stream Netflix in the comfort of your bed, just before you fall asleep, the Netgear Orbi might just be the solution.