Netgear Orbi Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi System

For some time, I have been considering upgrading my home WiFi network to a mesh system.

Background

My existing network was powered by an aging Apple Airport Time Capsule (essentially an Apple Airport Extreme with a hard drive for network backup storage) as the main router with five Airport Express devices used as satellites to extend network reach. Where reasonably convenient, I wired the Airport Expresses to the Time Capsule via Ethernet cable runs. This functioned similarly to a mesh system (single network name or SSID).

Apple discontinued its Airport routers in April 2018 and began selling Linksys’ Velop and later Netgear’s Orbi mesh systems. Apple has always valued the user experience in setting up and using its products (and yes there is something of an Apple “tax” to be paid for that though the reality is said “tax” isn’t terribly different from what one pays Samsung or Google for their higher end products). As with many technologies whose use we now take for granted, Apple by no means invented WiFi but a case can easily be made Apple popularized WiFi with the release of the first iBook in 1999.

Choice of Mesh System

Recently, I’d noted a terrific YMMV deal on a Linksys Velop system at Walmart via Slickdeals. Unfortunately, none of the Walmarts local to me had the deal, so the search continued.

Keeping an eye on Slickdeals, two options soon caught my eye. One was a now expired deal on an eero system. The other was a still ongoing deal for the TP-Link Deco M9. The tri-band eero system was $299, the Deco M9 system remains $220 at Costco. While reading through the comments on the eero system, I stumbled upon the fact, Amazon was for a time significantly discounting a Netgear Orbi system (the RBK23-100NAS) from $250 down to $180. I opted for the Orbi system.

Setup

Setup via Netgear’s Orbi mobile app (available for both Android and iOS) was straightforward and one need not be a networking wizard to get things up and running. The Orbi app like many other mesh systems does its best to hide networking complexity and, therefore, those familiar with networking may find it lacking in configuration options. The good news is unlike some other mesh systems; the Orbi also has a web based configuration option, so if one wishes to get their networking geek on (or just needs advanced configuration options) that’s quite possible.

Use

The RBK23-100NAS system I purchased is a three piece (one router two satellites) system that supposedly covers a 6000 square foot home. I have nowhere near 6000 square feet, however, ended up using the router and both satellites to cover my 2000 square foot condo. I do have walls with metal rather than wooden studs.

I’ve been using the Orbi system for a few days now. The WiFi coverage is both robust and stable. It works well with all connected devices including most pertinently multiple Republic phones and an Extend Home ATA.

Final Words

I’m happy with the choice made and believe an Orbi system can be a good choice for other Republic members as well. In reaching my purchase decision, I also believe an eero system or the TP-Link Deco M9 to be worthy of consideration. I believe fellow Ambassador @louisdi is using and happy with a Linksys Velop system.

I did look at Google’s mesh WiFi system but decided against it and other dual band systems in favor of a tri-band system. Tri-band systems utilize a second 5 GHz WiFi connection between the router and satellites for backhaul (the connection between the router and satellites themselves), thereby dedicating another 5 GHz channel and a 2.4 GHz channel to connected devices. Dual band systems such as Google’s WiFi use a single WiFi connection for backhaul and connected devices on 5 GHz. Whether dual-band or tri-band, the slower 2.4 GHz channel is dedicated to connected devices only.

In my case, the Time Capsule is being repurposed via an Ethernet connection to the Orbi system for continued use as a network backup device and as a switch to connect wired devices (a couple of printers, an Obi 1062 IP Phone and Republic’s Extend Home ATA). Additionally, two Airport Express units remain connected to the Orbi network as wireless access points for streaming music to speakers otherwise incapable of that.

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Excellent write up on what many consider a superior product.

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Indeed. I have a 3 node Velop system in my house and it has been stable and provides great coverage over all 3 floors of the house. I got it a couple of black Fridays ago and was a great deal. I have Gigabit FiOS service at my home and we regularly have multiple 4k video streams running over wifi without a hiccup.

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My experience with AIO "mesh’ hardware hasn’t been the best when compared to a traditional setup.
I stand behind a proper network setup with a wired backbone and planed placement of dedicated APs. I have planned and installed several Ubiquiti setups for clients. They are rock solid.
I have had to trouble shoot and tweak several consumer grade mesh hardware packs(and standard routers), like Asus, Netgear, Google, and a few others I can’t recall brand…They are normally very easy for folks with very little tech savyness to setup and get running.

I will recommend the Ubquiti AmpliFi kit and am quite curious how many of these popular Mesh kits compare to it.

I am happy to see that your initial experience is good…I personally, never had good experience with any Netgear consumer products. A few days of use is far too soon to call it “robust and stable”. For that, it must be running for an extended period of time. At least 90 consecutive days. There may be bugs in the firmware that cause a memory leak or issues after a long up time. (I recall Belkin router(they now own Linksys models) that’s firmware was so bad, that it had to be rebooted every 24 hrs, and the setup wizard even told the user to do so and was enabled by default).

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To each their own. It’s my review and if I wish to call it as I see it as robust and stable I shall do so.

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I am just pointing out a key detail for future readers.

This particularly relevant in networking equipment and firmware I have noticed in my experience as part of the of SNB (SmallNetBuilder) forums team and a beta tester and professional reviewer for a few years a while back.

I am certain that many who end up reading your review will also want to know how things work out after a few months. So I hope you would come back and revisit/update your review after some time has past.
Thanks for sharing your experience so far.

I also have a Netgear orbi. Mine is the rbk50. 1 base plus 1 satellite for 5000 sq ft coverage. I’ve had it for 2 years now. I also get excellent coverage in my 2 story 2400 sq ft house…
I don’t run any complex network configurations. Everything just works. I think I’ve only rebooted it twice since my initial setup. And, of course, the occasional whole house power loss during major storms.

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Thanks @rolandh. That sounds like a very interesting system to check out.

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