At a glance
One of the most common problems that plague relatively large homes when it comes to Wi-Fi experience and performance is a weak and unstable connection.
In most cases, this is due to the router not being able to provide an adequate range in regards to their wireless signal.
In some cases, the router's signal has difficulty passing through walls and large furniture or appliances.
There are three solutions available to solve this particular problem. First is using Ethernet cables which you will need to run throughout your home.
This can be quite a task that will take a considerable chunk of time and money. The other solution is to use Wi-Fi extenders, but this is not ideal for beginners as it is a rather complicated process.
The ultimate solution is, quite possibly, the most user-friendly and quickest route – the use of Wi-Fi Mesh Systems.
This is where Netgear's Orbi Wi-Fi Mesh System comes into play. Mesh Wi-Fi incorporates a system that utilizes one router, which you will plug to your broadband, and a satellite or node router that you place in a different location in your home to extend the Wi-Fi signal.
The Netgear Orbi AC3000 RBK50 utilizes this system. It comes in different packages from the 2-pack (x1 router, 1x node) and 3-pack (1x router, 2x nodes).
You can also purchase Orbi satellites separately if you wish to expand your Wi-Fi signal's coverage further.
High-performance Wi-Fi Mesh System that can provide wireless internet for up to 5,000 sq. ft.
Up to 3Gbps combined Wi-Fi speeds.
Compatible with all major Internet service providers.
Additional advanced features to enhance the online experience such as the Netgear Armor security protocol, Circle Smart Parental Control, and Guest Network.
Compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant voice control.
Signature Orbi Design
As we have noted earlier, the Netgear Orbi RBK50 is available in several variations. From 2-pack to 3-pack versions to ones that have extra features.
If you are familiar with the Netgear Orbi series, then you know the gist of it when it comes to the design.
The best way to describe Orbi's design is as a quasi-futuristic device that you will likely see in one of those fictional science-fiction utopia settings. Smooth and pristine with an almost clinical vibe to it.
Both the router and satellite of the Orbi model are virtually identical in appearance.
Both router and node also measure in at 8.8 x 6.7 x 3.1 inches (H x W x D) which makes them somewhat more extensive than other mesh Wi-Fi systems in the market.
This larger dimension does give the Orbi RBK50 a rather cumbersome appearance compared to some of its sleeker competition. While not a deal-breaker, this is still something you should take into account.
The Orbi router can be purchased as a standalone device. On its own, it can quickly provide wireless internet coverage for up to 2,000 sq. ft.
If you add in the node, you can boost the signal range by double to reach up to 4,000 sq. ft. The Orbi utilizes a flattened cylindrical design compared to the fashionable angular look of most modern routers.
Then again, this is not your typical router since the Orbi features a smooth tubular design, the antennas, all six of them, installed within the soft-shell case.
One Unique Element
The Orbi RBK50 is equipped with tri-band AC3000 wireless technology which gives its theoretical throughput speeds of up to 1,266Mbps (400Mbps for 2.4GHz and 866Mbps with the 5GHz band).
However, it approaches the implementation of the third band differently in comparison with other mesh Wi-Fi systems.
The Orbi RBK50 utilizes the third band as a dedicated backhaul band since it is exclusively used as the primary communication between the router and the satellite nodes.
This backhaul band uses 5Ghz wireless frequency and has clocked max speeds of over 1,700Mbps, which helps streamline the connection between the router and nodes.
Clear and Comprehensive LED Status Indicators
The Orbi RBK50 takes a vastly different approach with the implementation of its LED status indicators.
Rather than the usual multiple LED blinking lights, the Orbi uses different colors to indicate the status of the device and stability of the connection.
For example, the LED ring will show a solid white color when booting up and turn off if everything is in order.
You will also see the LED ring blink blue and amber alternately if the router is experiencing bandwidth traffic limits.
The satellites also feature a similar LED ring design implements similar LED color status meanings:
White = Booting Up
Blue = Good connection
Amber = Fair connection
Magenta = Connection lost
You can also use the node's LED ring status to figure out the best placement for the satellite in your home.
Ideally, it is recommended to place the Orbi satellite in the middle of your residence, away from walls and corners.
Simple and Practical Design
As for other exterior features, the router comes equipped with Gigabit LAN ports (x3), a single WAN port, and a 2.0 USB port.
You will also see the power button, reset, and sync button on the base of the router. The 2.0 USB port is undoubtedly the weak link here as its transfer speed is considerably lower than the 3.0 USB.
That said, if you don't plan on transferring or sharing excessively large files with other devices in your network, then this won't be a factor.
Quick and Easy Installation
One thing you can always expect with the Orbi mesh router is its exemplary user-friendly design and features.
As such, you can expect to breeze through the installation and setup process. Our experience with setting up the Orbi RBK50 was a piece of cake.
After plugging in the router to the modem and PC and waiting for it to boot up, you can then head on over to the Netgear Orbi web portal to start the initial setup. To do so, type in http://orbilogin.com to the browser address bar.
Once you are at the Orbi official web portal, you will be asked permission to launch the setup wizard.
Click, yes, and this will let the router handle everything. You will also be asked to set up the satellite nodes, but you can skip this for now.
Once the setup wizard has done its thing, you will then be required to change the SSID and password which you should comply with ASAP.
Also, the chances are that the Orbi will need to update its firmware, let it do so as this is mandatory to ensure the optimum performance of the router.
Don't worry as the firmware download and installation will usually take less than 2 minutes max.
You don't need to worry about going through the installation process for each node that you add to your mesh system as the settings are all synchronized between the router and connected satellites.
This is one of the many reasons why mesh Wi-Fi systems are far more convenient than installing a Wi-Fi extender as you don't need to jump through any extra hoops when setting up your Wi-Fi network.
Simplified Interface for Beginners
At first glance, the Orbi web interface seems virtually the same as previous versions. However, to those who are familiar with the standard Netgear Orbi web portal interface, you might notice a slight difference.
You are not mistaken here as the Netgear Orbi RBK50 web interface does have fewer settings to tinker with this time around. Primarily, the ability to manually split between the use of 2.4GHz and 5GHz band has been removed.
This time around, the Orbi RBK50 automatically decides which wireless band is best suited for the specific situation.
Functionalities and Features
Basic and Advanced Configuration
When it comes to the Netgear Orbi's features, it comes with all the basics that you would expect in a modern router.
Of course, these features now have the backing of Netgear's impressive repertoire as well. The Orbi RBK50 comes with the standard router settings such as dynamic DNS setting, top-tier web-filtering, and port forwarding.
Another Netgear Orbi signature is its Gigabit Ethernet ports that are both available in the router and satellite nodes.
The router comes with three Gigabit Ethernet ports while the satellite node comes with an additional four ports.
This makes wired connections throughout the household a possibility without resorting to a tangle of cables running through your home.
Going through the router configuration's Advanced Tab, you will find settings that relate to security such as Parental Controls which is located in the Advanced Security tab.
With the Netgear Armor security protocol, users can block specific websites and restrict a particular user's access to the internet.
You can also turn on a feature that will notify the admin user if any device is trying to access a blocked website.
Go on over to the Advanced Wireless setting, and you will find some highly essential features such as enabling MU-MIMO technology and tweaking the beamforming feature to help optimize your Wi-Fi signal.
Another notable feature found in the Advanced Tab is the Traffic Meter that allows you to control specifics about your internet use, such as putting a monthly limit on upload and download.
Reliable and Stable Connection
To properly test Netgear Orbi's performance, we need to do so with both the router and satellite.
Since the Orbi RBK50 utilizes automated band steering technology, we can't individually test the performance of the 2.4GHz and 5GHz band.
So, the results here are from a combination of the two wireless band's throughput speeds.
The good news is that the Orbi RBK50 features a dedicated backhaul band which means that the performance of the router and nodes are virtually identical – this makes testing the Orbi RBK50's throughput speeds faster compared to other Wi-Fi mesh system routers.
Connecting my device to the router within the same room (about 5-feet) yielded excellent results. Using a speed test program, the Orbi router managed to clock in a substantial 480Mbps.
Switching to the Orbi satellite node, the numbers are pretty much identical at 470Mbps.
Moving away from both router and node for about 40-feet, we are happy to note that Orbi still delivered high numbers with an average of 220Mbps for both router and node.
Overall, our experience with using the Netgear Orbi RBK50 was a pleasant one. Both router and satellite managed to deliver identical throughput speeds.
We highly recommend the Netgear Orbi RBK50 for large homes, and with its relatively reasonable price, that recommendation is further emphasized. Speaking of the Netgear Orbi RBK50's price tag -
The Netgear Orbi RBK50 is currently priced at around $300. While it is not something to balk at, you have to consider the performance and convenience this router mesh system can deliver.
Take that all into account, and you can argue that the Orbi RBK50's price tag is justifiable.
For a Wi-Fi mesh system, the Netgear Orbi RBK50 is undoubtedly expensive. That said, it delivers excellent performance in both throughput speed, stability, and range.
If you have issues with the Wi-Fi signal in your home and is long overdue for a router upgrade, you owe it to yourself to check out what the Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi Mesh System has to offer.
It is undoubtedly a better solution to running Ethernet cables all-around your house or installing Wi-Fi extenders which are complicated to set up.
The Netgear Orbi RBK50 Wi-Fi Mesh System has its drawbacks, but these downsides are quickly overtaken with the advantages that it can offer.
All in all, the Netgear Orbi RBK50 is worth a look for those who have the extra cash and are searching for a rock-solid Wi-Fi mesh system.