Orbi WiFi System (RBK50) AC3000

The Consumer Electronics Expo happened this weekend at Suntec and I had the time and opportunity to take a look at what latest gadgets are on offer. I have been a MyRepublic broadband user for 2 years now and it is almost due for a re-contract. I have had ZERO issues with MyRepublic. No unexpected downtimes, or technical broadband glitches during the two years I have been with them. I find their service extremely reliable and stable, offering blazingly fast speeds of 1gbps of throughput that I originally subscribed for.

MyRepublic offered the Asus RT-AC88U router when I first subscribed with them 2 years ago. It was a monster of a router. But over time, as more and more wifi enabled devices were slowly introduced into the household over the years, I can feel the strain the router is having from trying to support all these new devices. Recently, I added always-on, smart devices like the Nanoleaf Aurora, and the LIFX bulbs in my room. The Asus router, while powerful, wasn’t able to reach far enough to my room to get a stable connection with my smart devices. Even the mining rig in the other room, closer to the router were getting dropped connections from the internet every now and then. Then, the 4K TV came along. Situated at one corner of my room, further away from the router, I couldn’t get a minimum of 50mbps of wifi speeds to stream 4K content from Netflix reliably. I had to resort to getting a wifi extender, leading to more headaches such as differing SSIDs, and more cables to deal with. All in all, the Wifi setup in my house was a patchwork of 2.4ghz and 5ghz networks from both the router and the wireless extender.

434793-netgear-orbi-high-performance-ac3000-tri-band-wi-fi-system-rbk50

That’s when I told myself; enough is enough. I am tired of having to deal with dropped connections, slow WiFi speeds and my smart devices having to reconnect to my weak WiFi signals so that I can control them remotely on my iPhone app. It’s time to upgrade my WiFi network.

In comes the Netgear Orbi RBK50 AC3000. I bought at CEE for S$488. It comes with one router and one satellite. It is a tri-band WiFi system consisting of 2, 5ghz band (1733mbps and 866mbps)  and a single 2.4ghz band (400mbps), for a total of 3 bands. Long story short: I am blown away by its WiFi performance.

Setting up is extremely easy. A quick start-up guide is available in the package. Simply connect the router to your broadband modem, and then place your satellite somewhere central in your house. Switch both on and while a couple of minutes for the router to connect to the internet and for the satellite to sync with the router. Once the LED lights at the top of the device go off, you are good to go. The satellite LED will light up blue, showing that the connection to the router is good and everything is ok. Set up is done through the Netgear Orbi app with step by step instructions to set the whole thing up. One thing I appreciate about the router and satellite is that both of them comes pre-synced right out of the box, meaning that the satellite, once it finds the router will work almost immediately.

The router comes with 3 ethernet ports (the 4th is to the internet) while the satellite comes with 4 ethernet ports. The router can connect up to 3 other satellites, vastly increasing your WiFi range if you have a huge house with multiple levels. With the recent firmware update, the Orbi RBK50 now performs like a true WiFi mesh network, allowing satellites to communicate with each other, much like daisy chaining, rather than just directly to the router, like a hub-and-spoke configuration.

So how does it perform? Out of this world! Imagine this: I live in a 5-room flat. My household has 2 smart TVs, a PS4, a NAS, 2 Macbook Pros, 1 iMac, 2 Windows PC, 3 iPhones, an iPad, a WiFi enabled speaker, an array of smart lightbulbs from LIFX and a panel of Nanoleaf Aurora. And the Orbi just connects with them seamlessly! All those dropped connections? Gone. WiFi signal is strong everywhere in the wrong. My room is the furthest away from the living room, where the router is. I placed the satellite in my room and directly connect my gaming PC via ethernet. Remember I have a 1gbps broadband subscription. My room is at least 10 meters away from the router. With a direct connection to the satellite my broadband speed is below:

speedtest

It’s insane. Remember, this is over wifi, router to satellite, and then satellite to PC via ethernet. My previous set-up, WiFi to the old Asus router (my gaming rig has onboard WiFi with an antenna sticking out from the back of the PC), couldn’t even get half as fast as to what I am getting now.

This is WiFi speed on my Macbook Pro at the same spot where my gaming PC is:

macbook speedtest.jpeg

I have never gotten such speeds before over WiFi. The Orbi performed beyond what I expected. The secret lies with the availability of the third band, the 5ghz 1733mbps channel that serves as a backhaul channel used for the router and satellite to communicate and transmit data. I think this is one of the few mesh WiFi systems with a backhaul WiFi infrastructure dedicated for use exclusively between the router and the satellites. The advantage of having this backhaul WiFi infrastructure is that when transmitting data from the router to your devices via a satellite, the data is transmitted using that special WiFi channel and not the wifi channel used between your devices and the satellites or router. This frees up bandwidth, allowing maximum WiFi performance between your devices and the satellites or router. The Orbi router and satellites actually contain 6 dedicated WiFi antennae just for the backhaul WiFi, and 2 WiFi antennae for both the 2.4ghz and 5ghz band. And because this is a mesh WiFi network, your devices will be optimally connected to either the router or satellite depending on where you are in the house.

Overall, I am happy with my purchase. This is by far the best WiFi system I have ever owned. Easy to set up, seamless connection and able to hand so many simultaneous connections at one go. Those looking for a good mesh WiFi system should seriously consider the Netgear Orbi.

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