Recently released by NETGEAR, the Orbi™ WiFi System promises to provide high-speed WiFi throughout buildings of up to 4,000 square feet in area. This kit consists of units that are designated as the router element and a satellite which make use of tri-band technology. You also get appropriate power lead and an Ethernet cable. You will need to provide a modem for the required Internet connection.
Tri-band technology, as its title implies, increases the bands available to the data traffic to three rather than the more traditional two-band offering featured in many existing routers sitting at the heart of numerous LANs. With the three bands, tri-band technology is more able to deliver faster data speeds and bring in more devices into a home network as it controls the network traffic.
In the case of the Orbi system, the three bands are split between a single 2.4GHz stream and two 5.0GHz streams covered by the six antennas residing in the bodies of the two elements. Orbi has reserved one of the 5.0GHz streams purely for the traffic that travels solely between the router and its satellite unit. The Orbi system has access to 4GB of Flash and 512MB of RAM.
In appearance the two units look identical with each one decked out in a soft-touch white finish and adopting a squashed oval tower shape with dimensions of 170.3 x 78.9 x 225.8mm (W x D x H). Both units have a weight of 890.5g. Removable Perspex collars, which just slide off, indicate which unit is the Router and which is the paired Satellite. The Router’s collar contains the WiFi Network Name (SSID) and password.
There is a subtle difference, which may not be immediately obvious, in the appearance of the two units. At the top of the units is a ventilation opening containing a different coloured pad from which a ring of light appears using different colours to indicate status and connection options during the set-up process.
Positioned on the rear of each unit, near its base, are the available connection and control options available with the unit. The Router’s collection consists of the modem input socket, three Ethernet ports and a USB port sandwiched between Sync and Power buttons plus a socket for connection the supplied power lead. As the Satellite does not require a physical connection to a modem that socket reverts to normal Ethernet mode thus given the user access to four Ethernet ports on that particular device. All the Ethernet ports are of the Gigabit variety.
While the presence of the Power on / off button, enabling a quick powering down in at attempt to clear certain problems that can occur at times, is a definite plus point, I was a little disappointed to note that the USB port was of the 2.0 standard. With the emphasis that the Orbi system puts on speed, I would have expected the USB port to be of the latest 3.0 variety to enable the faster transfer of data from flash drives.
Setting up the Orbi system is relatively straightforward. Once powered up the Router will automatically detect the presence of the Satellite to which it is already paired ready for connection. The light rings at the top of the units will glow the appropriate colours to indicate the state of the connection. This colour scheme method is particularly useful when it comes to positioning the Satellite for the best connection. A blue glow indicates a good connection while an orange glow means a repositioning will be required. I encountered this situation with my first choice of location for the Satellite. I needed to move the Satellite to the same room I had used previously when tested various WiFi extenders from various companies. This was disappointing as I had expected to get a better range from this particular kit.
Logging on to a browser will allow you to customise the Orbi system. Amongst the options available is the ability to turn one of the units into a WiFi access point and block access to designated website or certain users via parental control. You can also set up MU-MIMO capability allowing for simultaneous data streaming on multiple devices although over-use of this feature might affect performance which was generally above average across my single level building.
I should point out that during testing, building work (loft conversions) was being carried out on both sides of my home with plenty of scaffolding and other equipment. Hopefully this activity did not result in any performance downgrade. While the appearance of the Orbi Router and Satellite was such that they did not look out-of-place in various rooms, the upright stance of the units did mean they could be a candidate for being accidentally knocked over especially if you have a boisterous family pet.
The Orbi system can be extended with the additional of further satellite units to expand its initial range of 4,000 feet. This review is based on the two units (Router and Satellite) kit which is priced at £349.99. While this might sound expensive, you do get what you pay for.
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