Mesh Wi-Fi systems have been growing in popularity and have driven the development of better-looking and easier-to-use systems. Mesh systems are all about easily increasing wireless coverage without having to set up enterprise equipment with standalone access points. These systems need to share their wireless connections between connected devices and any connected nodes meaning that a tri-band device like the Wi-Fi 6 Orbi routers have a distinct advantage.
A Wi-Fi 6 device will be able to make the most efficient use of this router but even Wi-Fi 5 devices will be able to connect at over 1000 Mbps with the right hardware. While I, like most people, haven't been able to upgrade most of my devices to support Wi-Fi 6, it's nice to know the speed will be there when the time comes.
If you've decided to upgrade to a mesh system but you want to make sure you can connect all of your wired devices, Orbi is a great option. The RBK852 kit includes a router and satellite unit with four Ethernet ports on each. While you likely won't ever see full gigabit speeds while connected to the satellite, a dedicated 5GHz channel forms the backhaul, letting you get very close.
More than enough
Netgear Orbi AX6000 (RBK852)
Bottom line: The Orbi AX6000 delivers great Wi-Fi 6 speeds in a reasonably compact housing. With a 2.5Gbps WAN port and four vacant Ethernet ports on each node, this set is a great option to get a large home connected. A tri-band connection with a dedicated backhaul allows the Orbi to keep its speeds high even when under heavy usage. This package is a great upgrade to a slower mesh system, though its high price keeps it out of reach for many people.
- Great speeds even on Wi-Fi 5 devices
- Seamless transition between nodes
- Web interface for more advanced options
- Netgear Armor available for extra security features
- Plenty of Ethernet ports for wired devices
- App lacks advanced settings
- Long setup process compared to other meshes
- No 160MHz channel
- Very expensive
Netgear Orbi AX6000 The nerdy details
Let me be clear: having an AX6000 router will never mean 6 Gbps downloads are possible. Most AX6000 routers have their speed split between three bands. On the Orbi, two bands are available to Wi-Fi devices while one is reserved for connecting the main router to the node. For devices, a 2.4GHz band can deliver up to 1200Mbps and a 5GHz band can deliver another 2400Mbps. The remaining band connected the router and satellite at a max of 2400Mbps. Both of the 5GHz bands are limited to 80MHz, lacking a faster 160MHz mode.
The fastest device I had to test was a Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) MacBook Pro that had a link speed of 1300Mbps while my Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) capable iPhone 11 Pro was up to 1200Mbps. The MacBook was faster thanks to being connected at its theoretical max speed on a 3x3 MIMO connection. There's no real reason to build in such speed capabilities into a phone. A slower LG G8 connected at 870Mbps on Wi-Fi 5 but in everyday browsing and streaming it turned in identical results to the iPhone. Basically instant.
This is one of the fastest pieces of networking equipment I've ever used, even if my devices can't really take advantage of it yet.
Setting up a quick iperf3 server on an Ethernet-connected PC, I was able to get download speeds of up to 650Mbps on the remote node and closer to 800Mbps on the same node. I was hoping to get closer to the magic 1Gbps mark but considering my internet tops out 500Mbps down, it wasn't a goal worth chasing. Still, with a wired backhaul and an Ethernet-connected computer on either end, I was able to hit 970Mbps which isn't too shabby.
The Orbi RBR850, the base router, is equipped with a 2.5Gbps WAN port plus 1Gbps with link aggregation. If you have a wired network that has already been upgraded to 2.5Gbps or higher, this router can be a great choice. I'm still stuck at 1Gbps on my network so I wasn't able to test this feature. I'm glad it's there if I ever want to set up a fast NAS however. There are four Ethernet ports on each unit for a total of eight connected wired devices.
Netgear Orbi AX6000 What I like
Coming from an Eero Beacon in my living room, the Orbi feels so much faster. Starting a video stream was instantaneous on YouTube and social media apps updated in a blink. Getting the full 500Mbps of my internet connection on my phone was a great feeling and I didn't expect it to be as significant a jump over the very adequate 250Mbps I got on the Eero Beacon.
Using a computer connected to the Ethernet of the satellite was every bit as fast as being connected directly to the router as far as I could tell outside of a speed test. Connection speed throughout my admittedly small home rarely fell under 300Mbps.
The initial setup of the router system is performed in an app on Android or iOS. If you have the choice, I recommend using the Android app since it has an additional analytics section to help you understand signal strength in your home so you can find the best position for your nodes. The app is very streamlined and easy to use but if you're looking for more in-depth options, there is a web interface available that looks much more similar to a traditional router's settings.
Setting up the router is done in an app — we recommend the Android app for a better experience.
In a web browser on a device connected to the Orbi, type in 188.8.131.52 and hit enter. If you've set up a different IP for your router, you will need to type that in but you probably wouldn't need me to tell you that. Here you will find a few additional settings for things like setting up a VPN. You will also get more detailed options for setting up your network. While I would have preferred this all to be built into the app for better accessibility, it's nice that it's here for those who want it.
Setting up your router for the first time, you will be ushered into setting up Netgear Armor for a free trial. This is a nice feature for families since it adds more security features. This can be a good way to keep your network safe from intrusion.
Another one of my favorite features is the inclusions of four Ethernet ports on each unit. Many mesh systems are reducing the number of ports available to one or two but Netgear has correctly identified this product as one that should have a lot of wired options. Naturally, your connection speed will only be as strong as the backhaul connection when plugged into the satellite but for most applications, this is more than enough.
If you want, you can run an Ethernet cable from one of the ports on the router to one of the ports on the satellite and the software will automatically switch to a wired backhaul for better connection stability or better speed depending on how much interference your home has.
Netgear has also included an LED light under the front cover that can change color depending on your connection quality. If it lights up magenta, it has lost its connection. This is a stylish and simple way to communicate status without a display or phone notification.
Netgear Orbi AX6000 What I don't like
While the web interface has pretty much any setting anyone would need, it is a bit of a downer that so many of these features are not easily available in the app. The Orbi app has a nice appealing design but there are many features that fall behind the likes of eero. One issue is that setup and router startup takes quite a bit longer than I would expect. Connecting the satellite took longer than expected with a couple of minutes needed to start up.
There is a strange issue I experienced which led to my download speeds being quite a bit less than they should have been. After some research, I found that some users experience similar issues when features like the traffic monitor were enabled. I performed a factory reset and my speeds were restored to full but I was unable to fully isolate the issue. I'm hoping it was a one time bug or something that can get fixed with an update. It was a bit annoying but not the end of the world.
While the wireless speeds are great for the most part, it would have been nice to have the option for a 160MHz band. On some Wi-Fi 6 routers, you can enable a wider band compared to the typical 80MHz for a better connection depending on local wireless traffic. It's not a must-have but for the size and price of the AX6000 Orbi, it feels like it should be there.
Speaking of size, these units are quite large at around 10 inches tall. The design and color scheme are minimalist enough that it doesn't stand out too much in my living room but the size will be excessive for some people.
Finally, the price is going to be an issue for most people at $700 for a router and satellite combination. The speeds are incredible and the feature set puts many other mesh systems to shame but it's still hard to recommend anyone spend so much on Wi-Fi.
Netgear Orbi AX6000 Plenty of competition
There are a lot of mesh Wi-Fi solutions available and even quite a few Wi-Fi 6 mesh solutions. Netgear recently released a slightly slower Wi-Fi 6 Orbi That comes in at a more reasonable $450 with tri-band Wi-Fi 6 connectivity topping out at AX4200.
If you're looking for something that's easier to set up and much smaller, the eero or Eero Pro is a great option. You give up a lot of speed in pursuit of style and ease of use but for many people, it will still be more than enough.
It's also worth considering if you even need a mesh system. If you live in a small to medium-sized home, you can probably get away with a single one of the best wireless routers available. Not only that but you could save a lot of money on a router with similar performance to the Orbi AX6000 since it won't need to dedicate any speed to a backhaul.
Netgear Orbi AX6000 Should you go Orbi?
Who it's for
- Someone that needs to cover a large home with fast Wi-Fi
- Someone with a lot of wired devices
- Someone that needs VPN support
- Someone that doesn't want to upgrade for years
- Someone that needs a fast WAN input
Who it's not for
- Someone that doesn't want to spend $700 on Wi-Fi
- Someone that has a small house
The Orbi line has a lot of great options no matter what your needs are and the AX6000 is the biggest and most powerful of them all. That being said, most people will be happy dropping down to the slower AX4200 model or even one of the tri-band Wi-Fi 5 options. If you're willing to spend the money, there aren't many faster options when it comes to mesh. If you need a mesh system for a big home, this is a great option especially since you can add more satellites when they become available in the future.
For many people, this router is going to be overkill and that's OK because having more capacity than you need is going to be a lot less frustrating than getting stuck with something that isn't fast enough. If you know you need the speed and capacity that comes with Wi-Fi 6 and the coverage that comes with a mesh system, the Netgear Orbi AX6000 is one of the best systems you can buy.
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