Review: Netgear’s New Orbi Is Slimmer, Cheaper, Better

Review: Netgear's New Orbi Is Slimmer, Cheaper, Better
8Overall Score
Design8.5
Performance8
Value7.4

Following on from its most-recent attempt at selling customers on ‘lifestyle router’ earlier this year, Netgear have returned the Orbi brand to the market once again with the slimmer, albeit less comprehensive, RBK30 Tri-Band Wi-Fi System.

Basically, the RBK30 is a more affordable version of the RBK50 previously offered. Between those two and the RBK40, there’s now three solid options available – with customers able to choose the package that best suits their home.

At a price-point of $499, the package pairs up an AC2200 router and wall-plug-powered satellite unit.

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Netgear say the pair come capable of delivering fast, reliable Wi-Fi to an area of up to 200 square meters. The pitch here is that this new offering will make the Orbi a better fit for those with smaller homes and act as a more affordable starting point for the range (which can be expanded later down the line).

If you’re willing to buy into this idea,and have the cash to do so, the Orbi RBK40 seems like a good solution to the question of home Wi-Fi. Netgear’s website even indicates it’ll be getting Alexa support later down the line. We found it provided a connection a little slower than our X10 router did but lived up to its reputation when it change to reliability and range for the most part.

The main Orbi unit boards four high-performance antennas, each with their own amplifier and ‘dedicated backhaul technology’. It also boasts MU-MIMO capabilities across both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands. Netgear say it’s equipped to offer max speeds up to up to 800mbs or so, dependent on your connection.

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In terms of aesthetics and design, there’s little separating the RBK30 from its larger cousin. Both the router and its satellite carry the same curved, appealing sensibilities. Those looking for them are likely to find plenty of echoes from the Apple school of design here.

Where other networking brands have simply settled for making ugly routers smaller, Netgear have really taken the time to craft that looks nice on its own merits without drawing too much attention to itself. Once setup, the Orbi has a rare ability to blend into almost any environment.

What’s more, Netgear have been able to successfully marry this sense of style to the practicalities of networking your home. If you ever need to check the connection strength between the Orbi and its satellite, you need only tap the ‘sync’ button on the former and look for the ring LED on the latter. A bright blue means your connection is good, a faded amber means it’s OK and a mellow magenta the two units fail to connect.

Thinking back on it, the Orbi is actually kind of relaxing to deal with in a way that routers often aren’t – not to mention a refreshing change of pace when compared to the militaristic and confrontational aesthetics of Netgear’s gaming gear.

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The Orbi does require an existing modem or gateway, as it’s not a router-modem – just a router. Although it’s by no means claiming or pretending to be the former, this reality does run a little against the grain of the product’s positioning as a comprehensive home Wi-Fi solution. While I don’t want to suggest that the fact that the Orbi isn’t a router-modem should be held against it, it’s reliance on a modem or gateway means that it’s a product that the customer has to buy or own a seperate second product in order to actually use.

Conclusion

Taken as a whole, the Orbi RBK30 is a really easy product to recommend even if there are plenty of cheaper Wi-Fi routers out there. If you want to bring your home online in style and (or have been holding off on the Orbi due to the price) are happy to work with the limitations that satellite unit has it’s a solid choice.

The Orbi RBK30 is available through JB Hi-Fi and Harvey-Norman at an RRP of $499.

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