Netgear, one of the companies that makes the thing in your closet that keeps you on Facebook for hours a day, is celebrating its 20th year in networking tech with a device(s) that could turn Wi-Fi into something as turnkey as your smartphone.
And, no, it's not another router. It's Orbi, Netgear's new two-point (or more) Wi-Fi system. For $399 (about £305, AU$525) this September – a bit more than you're likely used to paying for a router – Orbi provides a both a router and what Netgear calls a satellite that work together to blanket your whole house in faster Wi-Fi.
Oh, and Orbi is said to create fewer dead spots in your home than ever, with its tri-band Wi-Fi mesh communication system.
Taking tri-band in a new direction
If you've bought a Netgear router within the past few years – like a Nighthawk, perhaps? – the term "tri-band" may be familiar to you. Making a long story short, this approach beams out not one, but two 5GHz signals in addition to the standard 2.4Ghz one.
Up until now, tri-band (which Netgear came out with first) has allowed routers to handle more connections on the 5GHz band of the radio spectrum at once. Today, Netgear is doing something completely different but vaguely familiar with its tri-band system.
With Orbi, Netgear is taking that second band of 5GHz spectrum and creating a closed, 1.7Gbps quad-stream Wi-Fi network that only the Orbi and its satellite(s) can see. This network facilitates the connection and communication between the Orbi router and station, which has a few huge benefits.
First, this allows both the Orbi router and satellite to broadcast Wi-Fi at up to 3Gbps on both the 2.4GHz (802.11b/g/n) and 5GHz (802.11ac) spectrums. Second, with the Orbi router placed in an open area by your data connection and the satellite placed somewhere central and open in your home, the system can cover up 4,000 square feet.
If you're having trouble visualizing it, think of things like wireless local storage or even Bluetooth, but over Wi-Fi and something you can't even see on your list of networks.
(This is a clear advantage over today's access point and range extender solutions in that it doesn't require Ethernet connections between devices or use the router's Wi-Fi bandwidth to provide said extended signal, respectively.)
Finally, Netgear claims that Orbi can do this with zero dead spots in your house. But, something turnkey should something you can set up and operate regardless of whether you know what "802.11ac" or "quad-stream" is.
Making Wi-Fi less scary
I'm not ashamed to admit that I currently use a router supplied by my internet service provider, or ISP. And, no, it's not because I don't know how to set one up. I've done plenty before, which is exactly why I can't be bothered anymore.
Netgear wants to empathize with my (and probably your) situation better than ever with Orbi. The firm has already shown off a simple, smart browser setup interface that automatically detects your connection – from nearly any device – and allows you to create a new network in minutes.
(However, we've yet to see this or the router's performance in action first hand just yet, so bear in mind.)
Then, the devices' cute little rings actually light up with LEDs to indicate Wi-Fi performance. Blue means optimal, amber means that the satellite is connected but too far, and red means that the satellite is too far to connect at all.
There will also soon be an Orbi app for iOS and Android for managing your network, and Orbi is compatible with Netgear's existing Genie app for all of its Wi-Fi products.
The idea here is, of course, to turn the process of getting the best Wi-Fi coverage in your home into a game of hot and cold. That's probably already what you've done with your phone, only to find the dead spots.
Orbi may cause a bit of sticker shock when it hit shelves this September, but it's comparable to most router-plus-range-extender combos and cheaper than if you were to buy both separately (each goes for $250 a piece). While we can't speak much further to Orbi's price before a full review, what we can say is that we can't wait to do just that.
- But, will it make our best wireless routers list?