Netgear Orbi AC3000 Mesh WiFi System Review

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Netgear Orbi Final Analysis And Rating

WiFi mesh router solutions like the Netgear Orbi are designed specifically to eliminate wireless connectivity dead spots in your home or small office environment. The solution is intended to serve the requirements of a larger coverage area. Specifically, each Orbi system has a 2,000 square foot range, or 4,000 square feet of coverage when combined in a two unit system. In that regard, the Netgear Orbi performs and delivers in spades, when configured as a two or more unit mesh system. Compared to a standard high performance 802.11ac router (Netgear's own Nighthawk X8, in our test comparison), the Netgear Orbi two mesh pair generally out-performed the traditional router solution over distance by a large margin and offered a significantly more consistent WiFi signal across our test area of a 3200+ square foot dwelling. 

A stand alone Netgear Orbi offers solid 802.11ac WiFi performance in its own right, but might not have quite the drive to plow through a multi-level home or office application that some of the standard higher-end routers can deliver.  Orbi units do, however, look more appealing in an open home or office setup, so in that regard the value proposition of one of these units is still there, depending on your preference aesthetically. A single unit will of course also still leave you the option of expanding your WiFi reach later, with the purchase of another satellite down the road. 

From a cost standpoint, that expansion option may or may not make sense, however. Currently, a Netgear Orbi two unit kit, with one base and one satellite has an MSRP of $399, which is competitive with other consumer WiFi mesh systems on the market currently. A single base unit costs $249, which is also relatively competitive with standard high-end 802.11ac routers that might not look quite as sleek in a livingroom setup as the Netgear Orbi. However, adding an additional Orbi satellite down the road will also cost an additional $249. That's a $100 kicker on expanding a single Orbi to a two unit mesh down the road. So, it's advisable to weigh your options now, rather than feel the burn later, if you realize you need more WiFi coverage area.

Other small caveates with the Orbi are that its USB ports are only USB 2.0, while most routers offer USB 3.0 these days. We also would have liked one more Gig-E port on the base unit, making a quartet available beyond its dedicated WAN port. There are also another 4 Gig-E ports on the satellite, however, which does nicely open up other connectivity options that you wouldn't get with a single router setup. Regardless, these are really just small trade-offs because the Netgear Orbi, in total, is very much a stand-out product that provides a high performance solution for driving a high-powered WiFi network connection over much longer distances in your home or office. We were thoroughly impressed with Netgear's Orbi dynamic duo and feel its worthy of HotHardware's coveted Editor's Choice award. 
hothardware editors choice
  • High performance AC WiFi
  • Great performance over distance
  • Virtually eliminates dead spots
  • Easy setup and configuration
  • Just one USB 2 port per unit
  • Only 3 available Ethernet ports on base

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