Over the past few weeks I’ve written about Wi-Fi startups eero and Luma and how their new wireless mesh systems are changing the home network wireless market with easier setup and larger coverage than compared with traditional Wi-Fi routers and range extenders.
One of the market leaders in that space, Netgear, is now on board with their own system, which not only validates the concept provided by eero and Luma, but now provides some big-time competition for those two companies.
Netgear yesterday announced its Orbi WiFi System ($399.99, available in September), a two-device system consisting of a “router” and “satellite” that customers can connect to their broadband modem (cable, DSL or other connection). The devices come pre-paired together, so there’s no need to go through a setup process indicating which one is used for which scenario (the ‘router’ label connects to the broadband device, and the ‘satellite’ unit goes in the other part of the house - Netgear recommends putting it as close to the ‘center’ of the house as possible).
The Orbi system utilizes so-called “Tri-band Wi-Fi”, taking one of the bands within the 5 GHz frequency to provide a dedicated channel between the router device and the satellite. Netgear officials say this method provides for higher bandwidth (it uses about 1.7Gbps of that frequency band) than other wireless mesh systems, especially when more client devices (tablets, phones, TVs, etc.) are all competing for wireless network access.
Other technical details of the Orbi system include:
* Coverage up to 4,000 square feet
* A single Wi-Fi network name (SSID) for the entire network - 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands (other routers include separate names for those bands)
* Four Gigabit Ethernet ports and a single USB 2.0 port on the back of the ‘router’ and ‘satellite’ units.
* Advanced router features, including IPv6 support, dynamic DNS, port forwarding and parental controls.
* Security support for 64/128-bit WEP, WPA/WPA-2 PSK and WPA/WPA-2 Enterprise.
Once I get my hands on a couple of the Orbi devices I’ll let you know how it compares with the eero and Luma. When I talked with Netgear about the system, I was encouraged that setup can be done via a browser in addition to the smartphone/tablet app, as old fogies like me still prefer doing setup via their notebook. In addition, the ability to tweak advanced settings is something that older guys like me (or network pros) would appreciate.
Full review coming soon!