How Netgear's Orbi plans to eradicate Wi-Fi dead zones

It involves two units, three radios, and US$400.

Wi-Fi dead zones suck, and worse, most current tools to eliminate them suck, too. Setting up range extenders is always a headache, and the signal they output is weaker than the Wi-Fi beamed directly from your router. Converting to a powerline adapter setup costs money and requires you to litter your house with wall warts. Wiring ethernet all over your house? C’mon now. That’s ugly and it doesn’t help deliver data to mobile devices.

Netgear’s new US$400 Orbi router aims to fix all that, and some of the other nasty headaches associated with Wi-Fi networks.

Pardon me; Orbi isn’t just a router, it’s a “Wi-Fi system.” Like Eero and Luma before it, Netgear’s solution relies on using multiple base stations to blanket up to 4,000 square feet with Wi-Fi. But while Eero and Luma rely on numerous tiny, easily hidden units to create a mesh network, Orbi’s duo of devices takes a page from Google’s OnHub with a larger, yet attractive design. And that extra bulk hides Orbi’s secret sauce.

orbi

Netgear’s router and satellite unit pack a trio of radio antennas. Two deliver the usual 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi channels. The third is devoted solely to communication between the Orbi router and its range extender. Traditional range extenders basically act as yet another device connecting to your router, which is part of the reason why the Wi-Fi signal they retransmit is weaker than the one coming directly to your router. By adding a dedicated connection between the two devices, Netgear claims that devices connecting to the extender will still receive full, unfettered Internet speeds of up to 3Gbps using 802.11ac AC3000 Wi-Fi, according to VentureBeat.

While the main Orbi router connects directly to your modem, the second unit is designed to be placed centrally in your home—no doubt the reason Netgear opted for the clean aesthetic. The radio connecting the two devices operates on the shorter-reaching 5GHz channel, so they can’t be on complete opposite ends of the house, but an indicator light on the top of the Orbi units lets you know if they’re in range of each other. If it’s blue, you’re good to go.

That’s easy-peasy, and it seems indicative of the entire setup process. The two devices are configured to work together out of the box. All you have to do is plug them in and configure both using a simple browser-based installation program, according to Chip Chick—no complicated pairing process required. Once you’re up and running, Orbi intelligently optimizes your network traffic, though you can tinker with advanced settings in the browser app if you’d like.

orbi 3

Both units can also be used as wired routers. Each offers four Gigabit ethernet ports, as well as a USB 2.0 port to connect storage drives directly to your network.

The impact on you at home: Netgear considers this a premium product, and it’s priced as such. When Orbi launches in September, you’ll need to drop US$400 to pick up the duo. A standalone Orbi router that covers 2,000 square feet with be available for US$250, and extra satellite units will sell for the same price. While that plants Orbi firmly in the “enthusiasts only” camp, the sudden influx of networking gear designed to blanket homes with Wi-Fi show that the industry is actively working to kill the pesky problem of Wi-Fi dead zones—and one day, these innovations will no doubt reach more consumer-friendly price points.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags routersnetgear

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Brad Chacos

TechHive (US)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?