Netgear’s Orbi mesh system has been one of the most celebrated Wi-Fi 5 setup last year, and during CES 2019, the company had hinted that a Wi-Fi 6 version was coming. Orbi Wi-Fi 6 (Orbi WiFi 6 System AX6000, model RBK852) has finally landed at IFA / Berlin, and it is as powerful as we had hoped.
The smallest package contains two boxes, a “master” (RBR850) easily recognizable by its yellow Ethernet port in the back, and a “node” (satellite, model RBS850 ) that extends the range of the mesh to a different location. It is possible to add more nodes.
Each box has at least four Gb Ethernet ports, and the yellow port is to aggregate two Internet connections for up to 2.5 Gbps of maximum speed. Note that this aggregation is intended to be used with the same ISP and cannot be a load-balancing mechanism for automatic failure.
Wi-Fi 6 is the significant improvement of this release, and the theoretical peak performance is about 4X the performance of Wi-F5, thanks to proper use of concurrent streaming across multiple channels and antennas.
Behind the scene, the private wireless connection between nodes is also faster, going from 1.73Gbps to a maximum of 2.4 Gbps.
During our meeting with Netgear, the company mentioned that the router could handle 100 devices and 20 streams – a high bar that should satisfy the most demanding users, or those who want to “future-proof” their setup because no-one likes changing routers.
If you’re not familiar with Wi-Fi mesh networks, the concept is to have a unified seamless network, as if there was a single router – even though you may have 2 to 5 nodes. Your devices always connect to the best node, even though you may be moving around the house.
With non-mesh systems, had to use different passwords and connect manually as they moved around, or wait that a connection is lost before switching automatically.
When we reviewed the first generation of mesh WiFi with the Samsung Connect, the benefits of mesh networks were masterfully demonstrated. However, while the Samsung Connect was very consumer-friendly, it does lack the peak performance and high-end router options that power-users want such as guest network, VPN, and more.
All this advanced technology does come at a cost: priced at $699, the Orbi Wi-Fi 6 mesh network is instead an expensive upgrade proposition, but again for buyers who have invested in the latest gaming rig worth thousands and 4K / 8K televisions, it seems like having a high-performance is the key for having low-latency gaming and maximum streaming resolution on multiple screens.