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 listing. But the 860 Series is a tri-band mesh system that sits awkwardly in Netgear’s lineup. It lacks the Wi-Fi 6E assist you’ll discover within the 960 Series, nevertheless it boasts a 10-Gbps Ethernet port—and a worth 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.
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 units. The 2.4-GHz band presents speeds as much as 1.2 Gbps, and each 5-GHz bands can hit as much as 2.4 Gbps, although you will sometimes by no means get these most speeds.
Based on the Wi-Fi 6E techniques I’ve examined to date, which typically reserve the short-range 6-GHz band for backhaul, I don’t assume its absence is essentially dangerous. It presents vital pace jumps solely at quick vary, most units don’t assist 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 it is advisable 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 pace by 20 p.c.) Few folks will be capable of take full benefit of this 10-gigabit port, although. If you don’t have multi-gigabit web coming into your house, there’s no level in paying the premium for this method. And even in case 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 dearth of assist for 160-MHz channel width, which limits the pace of 5-GHz connections. Especially when you think about that the cheaper Orbi 760 Series does assist 160-MHz channel width. For a deeper clarification of bands and channels, learn our information on how to buy a router, however basically, this may have helped you get the very best pace out of the Orbi.
Easy Setup, Solid Performance
The Orbi 860 Series is available in black or white. The black I examined appears to be like good, with a large LED on the entrance you may fortunately flip off through the app. These are a few of the largest routers I’ve examined, measuring 10 inches tall and seven.5 inches throughout. That dimension permits for an antenna design that reaches additional than rivals, nevertheless it additionally means these routers don’t mix in simply.
Setting up the Netgear Orbi RBK863 system is easy. The Netgear app guides you thru scanning QR codes, plugging in cables, turning on the ability, and beginning your community. I like that you would be able to go forward and place your satellites the place you need throughout setup, though it does take a number of minutes so as to add each.
Netgear optimistically says this method can cowl as much as 8,000 sq. ft. 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 instructed, the principle router alone is sufficient to serve Wi-Fi all through my house. That vary and reliability make this a sensible choice for people with bigger properties.
The Orbi RBK863 was constantly sooner 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 sooner 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 comparable. Beyond speedier downloads, I didn’t see a lot of a distinction.
Judged in isolation, the Netgear Orbi RBK863 is an objectively robust mesh system, however if you think about worth and efficiency with the remainder of the market, it turns into a murkier advice.
Paying a Premium
The drawback is exacerbated by Netgear’s subscription mannequin. You get one yr of Netgear Armor together with your buy, which then prices $100 yearly. It is likely one of the extra complete safety choices, masking anti-phishing, menace 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 charge for Smart Parental Controls. Many mesh techniques include free parental controls, enabling you to schedule downtime, filter web entry, and overview utilization. Netgear’s parental controls additionally embody internet visitors historical past and the choice to put in an app for distant management of your child’s units. But these additional bills atop an already excessive worth 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, take a look at your web pace, and overview related units. You can even arrange a separate internet-of-things community for your smart-home devices, and you’ll entry extra superior options by way of the online interface.
But even if you’re 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 together with the Orbi 850 or 760 sequence. You can even simply purchase the Netgear Orbi RBR860S router ($430) alone, and add the nodes later in case you determine you want them.