Home wireless networks are becoming more popular. Often, in an apartment connected to such networks more than a dozen different devices. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, video players and other devices from the WLAN require increasing bandwidth. And often it is not enough simply to install WLAN router in the center of the apartment or house. For more complex scenarios when you want to extend the range of WLAN action, or cover the entire home network, suitable decision Netgear Orbi, was referred to our test lab.
As we noted above, WLAN with the central router is not an ideal solution for apartments or houses because of overlapping and thick walls degrade the signal propagation. As a result, there are “blind spots” with poor WLAN reception. Of course, it is always possible to build a wired Ethernet network, which will provide a reliable connection devices, but would deprive the wireless convenience. In the market there are also WLAN repeaters, which simply re-emits WLAN signals, but reduce the available bandwidth. Finally, you can use the PowerLine network , which is an alternative to Ethernet.
Netgear Orbi system offers a different approach. It is not new, but in front of us an improved version of the old solution. Netgear has used a wireless connection between a router and a “satellite.” The latter provides another access point, both for the WLAN, and the same cable connection. Netgear Orbi is a WLAN access point or router that is installed behind a router or modem. Below we describe the new system in detail.
Netgear Orbi opted for an unusual design, but the two WLAN access points do not have to hide in a corner, they easily fit into the modern interior. devices housings have an elliptical shape, dimensions – 169,4 x 59,3 x 225,8 mm, weight – 889 g body is made of matt lacquered plastic.
At first glance, the main point of access and satellite are not distinguished. But, if you look closely, you will notice a different color covers. Blue cap installed on the access point, the red – by satellite. In addition to the access point and satellite two power supplies are supplied with a length of 2 m cable and network cable length of 2 m, too. The power unit is combined with a fork.
Let me talk about WLAN technology, which uses a Netgear. Hardware is able to work on tri-band WLAN. The result is a level of performance AC3000 – 1733 + 866 + 400 Mbit / s. At 2.4 GHz Supported standards 802.11b / g / n 256QAM, 5 GHz – 802.11a / n / ac 256QAM. Six WLAN antenna provides the most efficient transmission and reception of the signal. For the 2.4 and 5 GHz support beamforming technology, and MU-MIMU streaming to multiple devices. The WLAN-controller and the operating system running on the device with 512 MB RAM and 4 GB of flash memory.
Between the access point and satellite set separate connection WLAN. It works with the theoretical speed of up to 1.733 Mbits / s for configuration 4×4, selected Netgear (4x 433 Mbit / s). This connection is established automatically. The user does not require any additional steps to synchronize two devices, except to press the corresponding button. The connection between the access point and the satellite is encrypted. On the channel stability will be discussed later. A technical connection details, we plan to consider in a separate article.
Behind the access point and available interfaces of the satellite located. The only difference – from the access point has an Ethernet port with the yellow marking, by which Netgear Orbi system is integrated into an existing network. On the left you can see the Sync button to create a channel between the access point and the satellite. To the right are three or four (for satellite) Gigabit Ethernet port. USB 2.0 port is not giving extra functionality, but in the future it is planned to use it to connect a printer or a USB-USB-drives to the network.
Installation is very simple. On the access point and the satellite should provide power using the provided power supply, and access point – to connect to an existing Ethernet network cable. The channel between the access point and the satellite is automatically set. But if for some reason it will not be installed, simply press the Sync button on the two devices. Top LED indicates the current status. The blue LED indicates the operation of devices with no errors and a successful installation of the channel between the access point and the satellite. Yellow LED – a successful channel installation, but not enough speed, ie the device is recommended to rearrange. If the light is red or purple, the connection can not be established.
Talk about software Netgear Orbi. If you have previously set up the Netgear router, you probably will understand quickly, because there is no special differences. You get a single point of management interface and access the satellite, which resembles a conventional WLAN-router.
Software Netgear Orbi updated automatically during installation, and later through the interface, you can check the availability of latest version of the firmware. Installation is carried out step by step, like many other manufacturers. With it, users have to cope even with little experience installing network devices. After installation is complete, review the current state of the system will be displayed. It’s easy to find the source of problems, except the network settings are displayed WLAN option.
The screenshots in the gallery you can see some features Netgear Orbi. The user can change the usual WLAN features such as SSID and password. Supported encryption WPA-PSK / WPA2-PSK and WPA / WPA2. You can also configure a guest network.
Network clients can assign names to make it easier to work with them. You can prevent selected clients access to any functions. You can also prioritize different devices through the setting Quality of Service. A separate application can add parental controls. Globally for a home network, you can block specific domains or keywords in the domain names / pages.
The main focus is the Netgear Orbi WLAN support, so there is the widest range of settings. However, for quite defaults. But if you want to squeeze the maximum performance of the WLAN, it makes sense to turn to the advanced settings, beamforming, and MU-MIMO are activated separately. We activate both functions in our tests to get a higher rate.
The standard among modern routers have become features such as port forwarding or dynamic DNS service. You can also configure VPN, and static routes. That is Netgear Orbi can act as a router, not just the access point, if the device is located, for example, a simple modem. When you configure a VPN, the user can download the configuration package for Windows, MacOS and smartphone (Android). That part makes it easier to install. Netgear support from Orbi and IPv6. With the DMZ can open access to some sites outside the home network, although the default network is protected by a firewall.
We did not encounter any problems Netgear Orbi system works. All functions work correctly, although some routers, like FRITZ! Box, give great flexibility of settings and features.
Of course, we have evaluated the performance of the WLAN system Netgear Orbi. We installed the router in the center of the house, then the measured bandwidth in different rooms. We were interested in the performance and the connection between the access point and the satellite. For measurement we have connected the computer via Ethernet to the access point, and from the second computer connected to the Ethernet at the satellite. This connection is possible to measure the throughput capacity of the wireless interface.
We took measurements WLAN throughput in the three zones. First, we tested the capacity of the channel between the router and the satellite. The channel uses the 5 GHz band, the bandwidth to the next room with a distance of 4 m was 211 MB / s. On another floor with a distance of 6 m, we got 184 MB / s. In the same satellite positions 5 GHz WLAN transmission rate was 69 or 115 Mb / s. As you can see, bandwidth is much higher than the satellite provides WLAN.
The 2.4 GHz bandwidth is significantly lower. We got only about 26 or 21 MB / s.
Netgear Orbi targets to those users who would like to improve the speed and WLAN coverage in your home. Classic WLAN repeaters perform the same task, but Netgear Orbi system is based on a different approach, as it uses for communication between the access point and satellite separate channel. Well, if the WLAN-router in the center of the apartment or small office covers the whole premises. But usually remain with poor coverage area. To remedy the situation, you can set up multiple access points WLAN or switch to a wired Ethernet connection, while losing wireless freedom. The apartments are already regular users, there are about a dozen devices that require high-speed and stable access to the WLAN (computers, printers, NAS, smartphones, tablets, iPods, etc.)
It is for these scenarios is excellent Netgear Orbi. The router / access point is set next to the DSL-modem, satellite and can be taken in the living room or any other room where you want to receive a stable WLAN. In addition to high-speed WLAN network available four ports the Ethernet, so some devices can be connected to the cable, removing the load from the WLAN. Satellite Orbi copes well with an increase in WLAN coverage through a separate channel to the access point. Recall that the classic WLAN-repeater reduce network bandwidth, because they use the same channel and to connect to the router, and WLAN distribution.
The alternative solutions are PowerLine, and with them have come to terms with some restrictions. Depending on the quality of the wiring, the rate may be much lower than the promised 1,200 Mbit / s. In the case of Netgear Orbi theoretical link speed between the devices is 1.733 Mbit / s, but in practice it all depends on the connection conditions and other factors. In our tests, we got speeds of up to 211 MB / s, which is significantly higher than with PowerLine devices.
A few words should be said about the design. Netgear Orbi system seems relatively simple. But, unlike many WLAN products with external antennas, the system is easy to fit into the modern interior. You do not have to hide the access point, or satellite in the corner, the device can be put in a prominent place. LED let you know the current status at a glance. With the installation and configuration of even inexperienced users will manage the system.
It remains a question of price. Netgear requests for Orbi from 425 euros in Europe, which for the WLAN equipment quite a lot. PowerLine kit, for example, will cost 100 to 150 euros. But it you will not get additional Gigabit Ethernet ports, and the speed will be lower than in the case of Netgear Orbi. However, the choice of a decision still depends on the script. Netgear Orbi provides an easy way to extend WLAN coverage also available Ethernet port for a wired connection.