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Netgear Orbi Mesh WiFi System

Netgear Orbi WiFi System

I mentioned last week that Amazon was running a deal on the Netgear Orbi mesh WiFi system, and I finally got a chance to install it. I currently run the generic Comcast/Cisco WiFi cable modem with a WiFi extender, upstairs. A mesh system eliminates all of the problems with the router/extender combo, including not having to manually switch networks and not losing bandwidth on the extender (a WiFi extender is about half the bandwidth of the parent network). With a mesh system, the WiFi is seamless all over the house. And it's fast.

Netgear Orbi size

The Orbi router and satellites are not small, at 7 inches tall and 5 inches wide - nearly the same as a Sonos speaker, though quite a bit thinner. They do sell a wall mount bracket, but I can't imagine that's a real good look. Needless to say, you're going to need some tabletop or shelf space that's near an AC outlet.

Orbi Router vs Satellite ports

The only external difference between the router and the satellites is the Ethernet input port on the router, highlighted in yellow. I'm using Ethernet-out on the router to run some wired powerline adapters. Not much use for the satellite ports, unless you have a Ethernet-only game console, or an older device that is 802.11b only. If that's the case, then it would be faster through the Ethernet port.

Netgear Orbi app

As you can imagine from looking at the back of units, setup is as simple as hitting the Sync button on all the units - although if you plug them all in at about the same time (roughly 1 minute), you don't even have to press the button - they power up in Sync mode. Despite that, Netgear does have a useful app that walks you through the process, and handles management of the system. It looks like mine needs a firmware upgrade.

Orbi speed test

Here is a comparison of my downstairs bandwidth on the left, vs. the bandwidth upstairs in the nether-regions of the house (right). I could not find a way to turn off the WiFi on the Comcast/Cisco cable modem, so it's clashing with the Orbi router downstairs [Edit: logging into the cable modem and enabling "bridge mode" disabled its WiFi, and I now have full bandwidth, downstairs]. There's no conflict upstairs, though! And we can now move between floors without any impact to our wireless connectivity or bandwidth, which is very cool.

There is quite a wide price-range among these WiFi mesh systems. The Orbi system was on my radar because it fell within the upper-middle of the range and had good reviews for its throughput and coverage (PC Mag, Cnet, TechRadar, etc.). Getting it for $240 sealed the deal, for me.

-- Scrib