Netgear's Orbi Is A New Approach To Fixing Bad Wi-Fi In Your House

Image: Netgear

We've all struggled with dodgy Wi-Fi at home. It's really hard to find a decent router — even an expensive and powerful one — that can cover every room, nook and cranny of your house with fast and more importantly reliable wireless. That's usually because your router sits in one place, likely near the front of your house where your internet connection is. Netgear's new Orbi router, though, has dedicated Wi-Fi satellites that evenly distribute fast wireless over a dedicated network.

Using one band of 802.11ac's three-band Wave 2 Wi-Fi for a mesh network running only between base station and satellites, the Orbi comes with one of Netgear's wireless routers in the box and one satellite, pre-paired to make setup easier. Netgear says the simplest approach is to install the router at your internet connection point and the single satellite at the centre of your house or apartment, where it'll radiate a wireless signal equally.

If your house is larger, though, or has a couple of levels, you can add multiple Orbi satellites — all of which communicate over that mesh network — to spread signal further. And because it's operating over a dedicated third band, it doesn't slow down the speed of the router's main 5GHz and 2.4GHz channels. Netgear promises no dead spots, as long as you have enough satellites installed, and moving between satellites is seamless.

It's a great concept in theory, and like Sonos' mesh network, it should be easily expendable to cover a huge range and multiple levels, with each satellite contributing range to the other. Netgear promises 3Gbps speeds from the Orbi's AC3000 network, which should be more than enough for everything but the most demanding and device-heavy households.

Of course, you can already supplement your existing Wi-Fi router with a range extender, and you can even get some that operate over a single network name. Orbi, then, isn't a solution for existing networks as much as it is a good first-time solution for new house buyers or owner builders. And, of course, there's the fact that range extenders limit the speed of your existing WiFi setup.

At the moment, only the single-satellite Orbi set will be available in Australia, some time before the end of the year, for $749. Larger kits and standalone satellites will be available in 2017. When that happens, it should be an easy solution to building a resilient wireless network in even the largest house. [Netgear]

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