We will turn now in our product reviews to mesh systems, firstly covering the Netgear Orbi Mesh system. a very popular and well regarded mesh system to boost wireless coverage around the home. Whilst very expensive, they are also very effective at delivering better wifi around larger homes which are struggling just using the current single router.
Weak wifi is a regular problem in many homes and can be frustrating for users as pages load slower, videos buffer and games lag when using a wireless router at distance. This is unfortunately somewhat built into wifi, since wifi waves are a form of radio frequency or RF waves, which always degrade and weaken the further they get from the source, in this case your wireless router.
Mesh systems are a solution to this problem which aim to extend and amplify the wireless coverage by using a network of two or three routers spread around the home instead of just one. The idea here is to overcome this problem of signal weakening by using nodes or pods to capture and boost the wifi signal to more remote parts of the house, so users can get a better signal and more bandwidth even when further away from the main router.
The Netgear Orbi Mesh System has been almost universally praised in it’s performance in delivering very high speeds throughout even large homes, giving access to large amounts of bandwidth that would be very difficult to achieve using just a single conventional wireless router such as the one supplied by your ISP.
There are different Orbi models available depending on the size of the home you want to cover. Their starter RBK-40 model covers homes around 3000 sq ft, their have other models with more nodes which can cover 4500 sq ft homes, and even homes up to 6000+ sq ft. See our Mesh Systems Page for a breakdown of the different models.
Regardless of the model purchased, all the Orbi models work in exactly the same way. The video below covers the RBK-50 model with two nodes.
The Netgear Orbi RBK40 Mesh System is an entry level kit which will spread reliable wireless coverage for an average 4 bed, 2 floor property up to 3000 sq ft. Click here to view the model on Amazon. See our Mesh System page for links and product reviews for more brands and models of mesh systems which can cover larger properties.
Product Details and Setting Up
The RBK-40 model comes with two nodes or pods, two power adapters, an ethernet cable and an instruction manual. The first node acts as the main node and the other one acts as a satellite node, which is placed around the home to spread the wireless coverage to more corners of the house.
This model will cover you for around a 3000 sq ft home; a standard 4 bedroom, 2 floor property. More advanced models with three nodes are available for even larger homes. See our Mesh Page for a breakdown of the models by the approximate space they can cover.
Setting up the mesh kit is usually very easy. You plug the main node directly into your current router with a network cable, and it will sync up with your current wifi network. You then connect up to this main node using your computer or phone app to configure the mesh network. You may have to wait a few minutes for any firmware updates to install to make sure you have the most up to date and effective version of the product.
Once you have connected and configured the main node, this then becomes your new main router. You can then configure this as your new wireless network, with it’s own username and password, which works across all nodes to avoid any confusion. No matter which node you are connected to, you are on the same wireless network.
You then need to install the other one or two nodes (depending on the kit you got) around the house, close enough so they can pick up the signal from the main node, but far enough away that they can boost the wifi to more remote corners of the home.
The lights on the top of the node help you with this – blue means a good connection, amber means an average or poor connection and magenta means no connection, in which case you need to move it closer to the other node(s).
Once set up, you should now have an extensive dual band wifi network all throughout your home, with stronger and more comprehensive coverage and more bandwidth even at distance from the main router. The Orbi models are actually tri-band models, but one of these bands is reserved solely as a dedicated data backbone to send data between the different nodes. This leaves the other two bands uncluttered for smoother streaming and browsing.
The entire network has one username and password, and an auto connect feature to connect devices to the nearest node, so in theory there is no need to touch it once set up. You are good to go and can test speeds around different parts of the home to see if you are getting improvements in bandwidth where you may have been struggling with weak wifi before.
Each node has a couple of ethernet ports on the back to connect up wired devices, plus a USB port for printers
Pro’s of the Netgear Orbi Mesh System
There are many pro’s of the Netgear Orbi Wifi Kits, but the main benefit is simply that they work. They are very effective in delivering stronger wifi and higher bandwidth all around the home when installed properly.
All the reviews of the product are in agreement on this – it remains one of the best, or the best, system to date for delivering better coverage and speeds to all parts of a large property. Here are some other key benefits:
- Compatible with all major ISPs and routers.
- Extends reliable wireless coverage to all parts of the home – reviews are unanimous on it’s good performance. Eliminates wifi deadzones in the house for smoother wireless browssing and streaming.
- Tri band wifi setup means less congestion and interference – you have the 2.4GHz and 5Ghz bands as per normal dual band wifi, but also a third band solely to transfer data between the nodes, so it doesn’t interfere with the other two bands. Speeds can improve considerably as a result – see the video above.
- Delivers more of the available bandwidth more consistently around the home than other mesh systems like Google Wifi. Great if you have a high bandwidth internet package (100 mbps plus) and you want to be able to access more of this bandwidth all around the home.
- Can also be used to extend wireless coverage to outside gardens, patios and garages if placed in the correct place.
- Can add more nodes if needed to further expand coverage if needed.
- Multiple ethernet ports on each node to connect up wired devices if you like.
- Relatively easy setup using the phone app. Can be up and running in 10-15 minutes.
- Auto-connect feature which will connect your device up to the node with the best signal for where you are in the house, for example if you are walking across the house with your iPhone.
- All wireless connectivity – no wires trailing around and perfect for using portable devices like tablets and iPhones on the move.
- Standard parental controls available to protect children and monitor/restrict browsing
- Some models come with free 90 day anti-virus trial to protect all devices used on the network.
- Built in VPN server as well for added privacy and protection.
Downsides of the Netgear Orbi
The main negative of the Orbi Mesh Systems is the expense – they do cost a lot of money, but then so do most mesh systems. If you are wanting reliable wifi coverage around large homes, then this may be your only reliable option. Powerline adapters are available though as a cheaper option for users wanting a wired connection to a specific room in the house. See our article on this for more details.
Here are some other downsides to the Orbi Mesh System:
- Available speeds can drop as you move onto different floors; however often nowhere near as much as using the standard ISP supplied wifi router. Still delivers more bandwidth.
- USB ports on each node only support printers and not other USB devices
- Product can look a little ugly for some tastes, compared to more compact and discreet mesh models like the Google Wifi nodes.
- Large plug adapter can make it difficult to plug in discreetly behind cabinets, tables, etc.
- App and menu interface is not great for more advanced users – not a problem for people that just want to “set and forget” it and aren’t bothered with technical stuff.
- Auto-transfer feature to switch devices between nodes as you move around the house not as smooth as some other mesh systems.
The Bottom Line
Overall, the Netgear Orbi Mesh System is an expensive but very effective home networking solution which can spread wireless coverage more seamlessly around large homes for smoother browsing and streaming if you are struggling with just a standard wireless router. It can very consistently deliver better speeds at distance from the main router.
The hefty price tag might be a put-off for some customers, and it is definitely true that cheaper products like powerline adapters can be a better solution for some people, which will deliver the connectivity needed without having to spend hundreds of dollars or pounds. See the linked article below comparing mesh systems to powerline adapters for more on this.
However, for users living in large homes who are struggling with their current wifi, want reliable wireless coverage to all parts of the home, not just a certain corner, and don’t want any wires trailing around, then the Netgear Orbi Wifi System can be an excellent choice for better internet speeds all around the property.