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Netgear Orbi Review: Beat bad WiFi signal with this tri-band router

4.5

The Good

  • Sleek design
  • Tri-band tech
  • Genuinely works

The Bad

  • Not cheap

Netgear Orbi Review: We test out Netgear’s new router and satellite package, which is designed to deliver fast WiFi to every corner of your house, even mighty country manors.

If you’re struggling to get a decent WiFi signal in the furthest reaches of your house, then the new Orbi router by Netgear may be the solution. Here’s everything you need to know about the Orbi and how it fared in our personal tests.

Netgear Orbi review: How Orbi solves the problem of poor WiFi signal and speeds

Most of the time, we have to stick our modem and router in a downstairs corner, because that’s where the phone line enters our house. Of course, in terms of good WiFi signal distribution, this is a terrible idea. After all, the further you move from the router, the weaker the signal - especially when there are walls and other barriers in the way.

That means you might struggle to indulge in some 4K video streaming or gaming when you head upstairs, even if you’re on a Fibre Broadband package.

That’s where the Orbi comes in. This isn’t just a single router, it’s actually a pair of devices - a router and a satellite, or slave unit. You connect the main router to your modem, wherever the phone line enters your home. This then communicates directly with the satellite unit, which is the thing that beams out a WiFi signal. And because you can place the satellite anywhere in your home (all it needs is a mains connection), this means you can shove it somewhere central and enjoy a decent, speedy connection from any corner of a large family house.

This may sound like your typical WiFi extender, but the main Orbi router and the satellite unit actually communicate on an entirely separate band to the rest of your wireless devices. This means the satellite unit doesn't leech any bandwidth and so performance doesn't drop, unlike standard extenders.

Netgear Orbi review: Setup

Setting up the Orbi is pretty easy, helped by some clear and concise instructions.

First, connect the Orbi’s main unit to your existing modem. Note that the Orbi doesn’t have its own modem built in, so you’ll need to hang onto the one your provider sent you.

Next, position the satellite unit somewhere central in your home. This only needs to be plugged into the mains, so you’re free to stick it anywhere there’s space. Turn both units on and the top ends flash, to show that they’re in sync mode. In my case, the two failed to connect straight away, until I pushed the sync button on the back of both. This time they paired up just fine, as indicated by the satellite unit turning blue.

You have a choice of setting up the new WiFi network either wirelessly, or by plugging your laptop into the main unit via an Ethernet cable. I tried both and the wireless option fell over at the very last step, which was most likely my own bad luck. However, connecting via Ethernet allowed me to quickly finish up without a problem.

Netgear Orbi review: Tests

I set up the Netgear Orbi so that it was connected to my existing gaming router, to see how my speeds compared between the old and new networks. First I went up to a room on the top floor, where I tend to get variable WiFi speeds. Then I went to a speed test website on my laptop and ran the test while first connected to my old WiFi network, and then the new Orbi network.

While connected to the old network, I got a download speed of 21.13Mbps and an upload speed of 14.59Mbps.

While connected to the new Orbi network, I got a download speed of 37.37Mbps and an upload speed of 17.73Mbps. The ping was almost identical.

As you can see, there’s a clear difference when using the Orbi, which almost doubled the download speeds I was getting in distant corners of the house. That’s particularly good news if you’re gaming or streaming 4K movies upstairs, well away from your current router.

Netgear Orbi review: Verdict

If you’re suffering from dodgy WiFi in your spacious home or office space, the Orbi is a solid solution. It looks neat enough to fit into any decor and delivers dependable speeds across an impressive distance, while the flexible nature of the satellite means you can move it whenever required.

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