Netgear is bringing its wireless mesh WiFi Orbi system to a new era. The launch of the Netgear Orbi WiFi 6E adds support for features such as WiFi 6E, 10GbE, and 2.5GbE. This is a big deal since the entire system gets a large upgrade with this generation.
Netgear Orbi WiFi 6E RBKE960
The Netgear Orbi WiFi 6E system adds WiFi 6E support. This means that we get a new 6GHz band to increase the performance of WiFi significantly. More spectrum means more bandwidth in this case.
The new Orbi WiFi 6E has 4×4 on all four bands. 2.4GHz, 6GHz, and it also splits the 5GHz spectrum into high and low, similar to what we saw on the Netgear WAX630 on the 5GHz side. That means 16 WiFi streams simultaneously.
One of the 4×4 bands in the 5GHz spectrum is a dedicated backhaul to other Orbi devices for the mesh. That means that Orbi-to-Orbi wireless connectivity is being done via a radio band that is not being shared with device WiFi.
Having all four bands also means, with the addition of 6GHz also means that Netgear can deliver twice the performance versus the older tri-band technology.
One of the other interesting points is that the router, which is the anchor of the mesh WiFi system designed to deal with data to the modem, is able to handle up to 10GbE speeds. Many WiFi routers today have 1GbE, and maybe 2.5GbE, so this is a big upgrade. The router also has a 2.5GbE port and a 1GbE block.
The Satellite nodes also have 2.5GbE for a backhaul if one does not want to utilize a full mesh topology. It would have been nice if all four non-10GbE ports on the router were 2.5GbE to enable this scaling to a larger network.
Netgear also says that it changed antenna locations in the large Orbi units to increase performance.
For those wondering, here is an interference test that Netgear did on why the new 6GHz band adds more bandwidth and is less susceptible to interference.
The Orbi App allows one to monitor the status of their WiFi.
Overall, this is a big upgrade for Orbi hardware.
Pricing and Availability
This one is interesting. Undoubtedly there are supply chain challenges due to port congestion in the US and elsewhere, but availability is relatively soon. The pricing though may give some pause.
These units are $1500 for a router plus two satellite system or $1100 for the router plus a satellite system. The satellite additions are $600 each. This feels on the expensive side. WiFi 6E is new, so there are only so many alternatives in the market, but $500-600 for a consumer access point feels a bit high. The benefit of a mesh networking solution is that one does not have to run wired backhaul, but at this pricing level it may be worth getting the more reliable and faster wire backhaul to use less expensive APs, especially if you upgrade regularly to the cutting edge, as one would be doing with WiFi 6E.
For those wondering, the RBKE683 is the standard white version, the RBKE683B is the black version. Netgear is adding a black version since these units are fairly large and so they are harder to hide.
This is one of those solutions where we are a bit mixed. It looks very promising, and it looks like the capabilities are the right ones. The pricing just feels high for what one is getting. If you are planning on upgrading to new WiFi in the future, and we suspect many of those who are early adopters of a new WiFi solution like this is, then on 3 AP systems there is a valid question on whether one should just run copper to locations and use cheaper APs versus higher-cost mesh units. Still, being early in the market, Netgear is really targeting the early adopters with this so higher pricing is expected somewhat. It is not helped by the fact that we are seeing huge inflation in the technology markets due to supply chain and logistics challenges.