Netgear Orbi RBK863 Review: For Big Spenders With Large Homes

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If you want a mesh system able to serving quick Wi-Fi to a big property, Netgear’s Orbi vary ought to be in your record. But the 860 Series is a tri-band mesh system that sits awkwardly in Netgear’s lineup. It lacks the Wi-Fi 6E help you’ll discover within the 960 Series, however it boasts a 10-Gbps Ethernet port—and a value hike over its predecessor. The value isn’t fairly as unpalatable as Netgear’s flagship mesh, however the 860 continues to be a whopping $1,100 for a three-pack. 

After testing the Orbi RBK863B three-pack for 2 weeks, I can verify spectacular vary and dependable efficiency. But I’m struggling to know who this mesh system is for. Most of us can save a big chunk of change and get an identical expertise by choosing a less expensive Orbi system or one other mesh router altogether.

Bewildering Specs

Screenshot: Simon Hill by way of Netgear

The Orbi RBK863 is a tri-band system with a devoted 5-GHz band for backhaul (sending visitors forwards and backwards between the principle router and the 2 factors). That leaves a 2.4-GHz band and a 5-GHz band on your gadgets. The 2.4-GHz band provides speeds as much as 1.2 Gbps, and each 5-GHz bands can hit as much as 2.4 Gbps, although you may sometimes by no means get these most speeds.

Based on the Wi-Fi 6E techniques I’ve examined to date, which usually reserve the short-range 6-GHz band for backhaul, I don’t suppose its absence is essentially unhealthy. It provides important velocity jumps solely at quick vary, most gadgets don’t help it but, and Wi-Fi 7 will likely be rolling out by the point they do. If you might be shopping for now, you’ll probably get higher efficiency from a system just like the Orbi 860. But earlier than we get into the setup and the way this mesh system performs, there are a few complicated issues you must know. 

The solely notable improve over the 850 Series seems to be the 10-Gbps WAN port, which is up from 2.5 Gbps on the predecessor. (Netgear suggests the brand new antenna design additionally boosts vary and velocity by 20 p.c.) Few individuals will be capable to take full benefit of this 10-gigabit port, although. If you don’t have multi-gigabit web coming into your property, there’s no level in paying the premium for this method. And even in the event you do, anybody planning to have a wired backhaul is proscribed by the 4 LAN ports on the router and every mesh level being single-gigabit ports.

Even extra perplexing is the shortage of help for 160-MHz channel width, which limits the velocity of 5-GHz connections. Especially when you think about that the cheaper Orbi 760 Series does help 160-MHz channel width. For a deeper rationalization of bands and channels, learn our information on how one can purchase a router, however basically, this could have helped you get the best velocity out of the Orbi. 

Easy Setup, Solid Performance

The Orbi 860 Series is available in black or white. The black I examined appears good, with a large LED on the entrance you may fortunately flip off by way of the app. These are among the largest routers I’ve examined, measuring 10 inches tall and seven.5 inches throughout. That measurement permits for an antenna design that reaches additional than opponents, however it additionally means these routers don’t mix in simply.

Setting up the Netgear Orbi RBK863 system is straightforward. The Netgear app guides you thru scanning QR codes, plugging in cables, turning on the facility, and beginning your community. I like you can go forward and place your satellites the place you need throughout setup, though it does take a number of minutes so as to add every one.

Screenshot: Simon Hill by way of Netgear

Screenshot: Simon Hill by way of Netgear

Netgear optimistically says this method can cowl as much as 8,000 sq. toes. With partitions and different obstacles, it’s more likely to be much less, however the vary and sign energy have been spectacular, masking my entire backyard and increasing an affordable distance down the road. Truth be informed, the principle router alone is sufficient to serve Wi-Fi all through my residence. That vary and reliability make this a sensible choice for folk with bigger properties.

The Orbi RBK863 was persistently quicker than the final system I examined, Google’s Nest Wifi Pro (7/10, WIRED recommends), and it completed near the TP-Link Deco X4300 Pro. The factor is, each of these techniques are $400 for a three-pack. The RBK863 was additionally quicker than the final Orbi system I examined, the RBK753 (now out there for lower than $500 for a three-pack), however the expertise was broadly related. Beyond speedier downloads, I didn’t see a lot of a distinction.

Judged in isolation, the Netgear Orbi RBK863 is an objectively sturdy mesh system, however once you consider value and efficiency with the remainder of the market, it turns into a murkier suggestion. 

Paying a Premium

The downside is exacerbated by Netgear’s subscription mannequin. You get one yr of Netgear Armor along with your buy, which then prices $100 yearly. It is likely one of the extra complete safety choices, masking anti-phishing, risk scanning, information safety, anti-malware, firewall, VPN service, and extra by way of a partnership with Bitdefender.

But much less pleasing is the $70 annual payment for Smart Parental Controls. Many mesh techniques include free parental controls, enabling you to schedule downtime, filter web entry, and evaluate utilization. Netgear’s parental controls additionally embrace internet visitors historical past and the choice to put in an app for distant management of your child’s gadgets. But these further bills atop an already excessive value are off-putting. 

My time with the Orbi 860 Series has been trouble-free. There hasn’t been any downtime, downloads are speedy, streams are buffer-free, and the Netgear app makes it straightforward to arrange a visitor community, check your web velocity, and evaluate linked gadgets. You may also arrange a separate internet-of-things community on your smart-home gadgets, and you’ll entry extra superior options by way of the net interface. 

But even in case you are flush with money, it makes extra sense to push the boat out and go for the flagship quad-band Orbi RBKE963 ($1,499), which provides Wi-Fi 6E for some future-proofing. Otherwise, save your cash and go along with the Orbi 850 or 760 sequence. You may also simply purchase the Netgear Orbi RBR860S router ($430) alone, and add the nodes later in the event you determine you want them. 

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