What is the Netgear Orbi RBK23 Wi-Fi System?
Thankfully, there are now many simple solutions to this problem that don’t involve multiple different wireless networks, and devices that you hope will all live in harmony with each other. One such solution, and the subject of this review, is Netgear’s Orbi RBK23 AC2200 set. This is a set of three Orbi Tri-band Wi-Fi units, one acting as a router, the other two as satellites. These create a Mesh network that covers up to 4,500 square feet. Read on to see how it fares in our tests and whether it is worth £290?
Design and Connections
Each unit has a ring of light on the top to act as a guide during setup. This flashes in various colours to tell you when the units are connecting or when there is a disconnection issue. In normal use there will be no lights on the unit at all save for a small power LED light to the rear. Both the satellites and the router also have a sync button for use when one of the units has stopped talking to the others, plus a power button.
Setup and Features
With the Orbi Router now turned on, you wait for the LED ring to turn white, then place the two satellites (RBS20) in your desired locations, turn these on and wait for them to sync with the router. The satellite ring LEDs, once connected, will flash for 10 seconds in either Blue (good connection), Amber (fair connection) or Magenta (failed to sync). Whilst this is an easy process, you do need to wait about 5 minutes for the three units to have synced to each other before the app reports everything is set up and ready to use.
You can also use the web browser setup at orbilogin.net. In our setup with the BT Homehub, the app reported it all working correctly but our PC reported a failed internet connection. We had to log in to the web browser portal, where it automatically assigned the Orbi Router a new IP and then all worked ok.
The Orbi Router web interface includes many features you would expect from a normal router, such as the option to set up a guest Wi-Fi network, parental controls, access control, setting up a Dynamic DNS, VPN service and port forwarding. The security is also comprehensive, including the ability to block certain websites, keywords and services, on top of the already comprehensive parental controls. With the Orbi units, you are given the ability to control exactly what members of your family can see on the internet and when they can see it.
With a Mesh Wi-Fi network, all the devices talk to each other. This allows for much better coverage as the units can be daisy chained to extend to the very furthest corners of the house. This creates a system that you could never have achieved just by using Wi-Fi extenders. The Orbi unit's key component is Netgear’s Fastlane3 dedicated backhaul technology. Rather than the router and satellites stealing the bandwidth from client devices when they need to talk to each other, the Orbi System has a dedicated quad stream, 5.0Ghz, 1766Mbps radio for these backhaul tasks. This allows full bandwidth for any other client devices connected to the Wi-Fi network. The Orbi system gives you one Wi-Fi network name, wherever you are in the house, implicit and explicit beamforming on both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands and is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice control.
We used a program called LANSpeedTest by Totusoft, which is a simple but powerful tool for measuring Local Area Network (LAN) speeds. It does this by building a file in memory, then transferring it both ways (without the effects of Windows file caching) while keeping track of the time taken and performing the calculations for you. This gave us the results of transferring files between our PC and the Laptop using the Orbi network.
Our tests are as follows:
1. 1000 x 1MB files successively transferred.
2. 2 x 1GB files successively transferred.
3. 1000 x 10KB files successively transferred.
4. 2 x 1GB files simultaneously transferred.
PC connected via Ethernet to router and laptop connected via Ethernet to downstairs satellite.
|Test 1||187.00 Mbps||277.97 Mbps|
|Test 2||168.07 Mbps||288.64 Mbps|
|Test 3||4.92 Mbps||23.45 Mbps|
|Test 4||231.47 Mbps||544.24 Mbps|
PC connected via Ethernet to router and laptop connected via Ethernet to upstairs satellite.
|Test 1||175.72 Mbps||267.16 Mbps|
|Test 2||166.01 Mbps||271.59 Mbps|
|Test 3||4.91 Mbps||24.78 Mbps|
|Test 4||282.59 Mbps||550.35 Mbps|
PC connected via Ethernet to router, laptop connected wirelessly.
|Test 1||95.98 Mbps||158.62 Mbps|
|Test 2||97.17 Mbps||125.43 Mbps|
|Test 3||2.68 Mbps||12.07 Mbps|
|Test 4||176.97 Mbps||239.27 Mbps|
The results above show excellent speeds from the satellites both by Ethernet and wireless, with a maximum speed of 550.35Mbps. These speeds are impressive and comfortably beat the Wi-Fi network provided by our lone BT HomeHub and any Wi-Fi extenders that we have tried to use in the past.
- Easy installation and setup
- Well designed app
- Very fast speeds
- Rock solid connection
- Single Wi-Fi network
- Dedicated wireless backhaul
- Not the cheapest
- Only two Gigabit Ethernet ports per satellite
Netgear Orbi RBK23 Wi-Fi System Review
Is the Netgear Orbi RBK23 (AC2200) Tri-Band Wi-Fi System worth buying?At £290 this Orbi set, which includes a router and two satellites, does sound like a lot of money when you compare it to the relatively low cost of devices such as Powerline Adapters or Wi-Fi Extenders. But those devices are notoriously unreliable, with Powerline Adapters heavily dependant on the quality of your internal wiring, and Wi-Fi extenders generally being very flaky and low-speed devices.
Here, the Orbi set gives you a high-speed, single Wi-Fi network throughout the entire home and one that is rock solid in performance and connection. Add in an effortless installation and setup, an easy to use app, comprehensive web-based portal and features such as a dedicated backhaul, implicit and explicit beamforming, advanced parental controls and in-built compatibility with Amazon Alexa and Google voice control, and suddenly the £290 doesn’t sound as bad as first thought. But the competition is now stiff in this area.
What is the competition?Mesh Wi-Fi systems are now becoming widely available, with systems released from all the main players. Other alternatives are the much cheaper £197 TP-link Deco M5 or £170 BT Whole Home Wi-Fi system, which offers three units like the Orbi system. These, however, are lacking in some areas such as only having dual-band Wi-Fi and no dedicated wireless backhaul, for example. Another alternative is the Linksys Velop system which offers almost identical features to the Orbi system but is available at a much more expensive £330. Weighing everything up, we are happy to award the Netgear Orbi RBK23 set our AV Forums Recommended Award.
Ease of Use
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.