Netgear has an extensive line of premium-priced Orbi mesh networking systems that are well designed, easy to use and perform well, making them a good – albeit pricey – option for both offices and the home.
This is especially true of the latest addition to the range, the Orbi 5G WiFi 6 Mesh System (NBK752), which combines high speed Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) connectivity to 5G mobile broadband to provide a ‘failsafe’ backup in case you lose your main internet connection at a critical moment.
Price & options
The Orbi 5G WiFi 6 is a very high-end option, combining tri-band WiFi 6 with a top speed of 4.2 Gbps and 5G mobile broadband – the speed of which will depend on the 5G coverage provided by the mobile networks in your specific area . You’ll need to provide your own 5G Nano SIM card, and the Orbi 5G WiFi 6 is currently compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile networks in the US, with Verizon listed as “coming soon.” In the UK and other territories, Netgear says it “works with all major service providers”.
Prices start at $1,099.99 for a two-piece mesh system that can cover an area of up to 464 square feet. Netgear’s website indicates that a three-piece kit will also be available, covering up to 697 square feet, but the price had not been disclosed at the time of writing. However, an add-on satellite unit is currently listed for $199.99 (less than a suggested retail price of $249.99), bringing the total for a three-piece system to $1,299.98. If that’s too much for your needs, the sooner LBR20 model is still available with Wi-Fi 5 and 4G LTE mobile broadband for about $400.
The Orbi 5G WiFi 6 sticks to Netgear’s traditional design for range, with its tall, slim mini-towers taking up very little space – although it’s still a good idea to give the Orbi some breathing room when you set it up, to avoid obstacles that may interfere with the Wi-Fi signal.
Netgear’s Orbi systems consist of a primary router and one or more secondary ‘satellites’. In this case, the router is noticeably larger than the satellite, 246mm high, compared to 231mm for the satellite. On the back of the primary router, you’ll find a Gigabit Ethernet WAN port, which you can plug into your existing broadband modem or router to use the Internet connection. The router also has a slot for a 5G Nano SIM to provide the fail-safe option for mobile broadband. The router and satellite both have two additional Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports for wired connections to your network.
The router and satellite each have six internal antennas for the mesh Wi-Fi network, but the router also has two connectors on the back for a pair of antennas that can help improve 5G reception. That’s a good idea, as I’m still getting pretty modest 5G speeds in my central London built-up area. However, these antennas are actually optional extras (prices TBA), which seems a bit stingy considering the premium price of the system.
That also turns out to be a sign of things to come, as the Orbi app for iOS and android never miss a trick to try and sell you extra subscriptions for his Shield security service ($99.99 per year) and Smart Parental Controls ($799 per month, or $69.99 per year). The Orbi 5G WiFi 6 includes a 30-day free trial of both services, but the Parental Controls service proved particularly annoying by regularly popping up subscription reminders on the screen while using the app.
The Orbi 5G WiFi 6 is primarily designed for home users and remote workers, so Netgear’s Orbi app keeps it as simple as possible. You can download the Orbi app and scan the QR code printed on the main router, and the app will automatically detect the router, check your internet connection, then link the router and satellite together to create a new mesh WiFi network to shape.
The Orbi app creates a single network that merges the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, with an option to also create a guest network if needed. That simplicity will certainly appeal to people who work from home, but the Orbi 5G WiFi 6 doesn’t offer the more advanced features of Netgear’s business Orbi Pro models, which allow you to create multiple networks with different access rights for staff, visitors and IT managers. Office-based IT managers may therefore prefer to look at the Orbi Pro, or one of Netgear’s mobile hotspot products for 4G/5G connectivity.
However, the main feature of the Orbi 5G WiFi 6 is the ability to connect to the Internet through both a conventional fixed or fiber broadband connection and a mobile broadband network. The Orbi app takes care of this as well, offering three modes of operation. The ‘Ethernet-Only’ mode relies on the WAN port to use the Internet connection of an existing broadband modem or router. Alternatively, the ‘LTE-Only’ mode relies purely on mobile broadband and lets the WAN port act as an additional LAN port for wired connections. However, business users will likely want to rely on the third mode — “Ethernet+LTE Fallback” — which uses the WAN port whenever possible, but can also switch to 5G/LTE if the broadband goes down at home or in the office. rode.
The Orbi app seems to simply use the term “LTE” to mean “mobile broadband”, which is not quite correct. Our review unit also seemed to default to ‘LTE-Only’, which was a little confusing during setup, as I couldn’t understand why the Orbi couldn’t connect to the internet when plugged into my normal office router. It took me some time to find the submenu in the app that lets you switch modes, so a little more clarity on this important feature wouldn’t hurt.
I started with the Orbi 5G WiFi 6 in Ethernet-only mode, to test the speed of its mesh WiFi network. I plugged the Orbi’s primary router into the normal office router that provides my broadband internet service, while the Orbi satellite was placed further away in a back office that normally suffers from poor Wi-Fi reception. The normal router offers an average speed of 355 Mbps for devices in the same room, but then drops to 71 Mbps in the more distant back office. The new mesh network set up by the Orbi system delivered better performance in both locations: 430 Mbps in the HQ and an impressive 390 Mbps in that tricky back office.
Unplugging the Ethernet cable told the Orbi system it was time to switch to 5G/LTE mode. The download speed of the 5G mobile broadband was relatively modest – averaging around 60 Mbps, but that’s due to the 5G coverage available in this built-up area of London, not a weakness in the Orbi system itself. That speed should still be able to handle routine web browsing and email, and even a few video calls, if you unexpectedly lose your regular broadband connection.
The Orbi 5G WiFi 6 is expensive, and Netgear’s hard sell when it comes to add-on services is annoying, given its premium prices. There are certainly cheaper alternatives available for business users who need mesh WiFi with support for mobile broadband as an emergency backup.
However, the Orbi 5G WiFi 6 also offers a degree of future-proofing, with high-speed Wi-Fi 6 networks that will support large numbers of Wi-Fi 6 devices in larger homes and offices. And with its 5G support, the Orbi 5G WiFi 6 also provides peace of mind for business users who need fast, uninterrupted connectivity at all times.
Netgear Orbi 5G WiFi 6 Mesh System Specifications
|Dimensions||>Router: 246.4mm x 195.6mm x 86.4mm (9.7in x 7.7in x 3.4in) • Satellite: 231.1mm x 182.9mm x 71.1mm (9.1 in x 7.2 in x 2.8 in)|
|Weight||Router: 1.25 kg (2.75 lb) • Satellite: 0.86 kg (1.9 lb)|
|4G LTE bands||B2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 14, 25, 26, 29, 30, 41, 48, 66, 71|
|5G bands||n2, n5, n25, n41, n48, n66, n71, n77|
|SIM slot||nano sim card|
|Radiating||implicit and explicit beamforming for 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, MU-MIMO capable of simultaneous data streaming to multiple devices|
|Processor||quad core 1.4GHz|
|Storage||512MB NAND Flash|
|Ports||Router: 2x Gigabit Ethernet LAN, 1x Gigabit Ethernet LAN/WAN • Satellite: 2x Gigabit Ethernet LAN|
|Safety||Netgear Armor (antivirus and data theft protection), 802.11i and 128-bit AES encryption with PSK (Wi-Fi security)|
|Warranty & Support||1 year hardware warranty, 24/7 basic technical support for 90 days from date of purchase (if purchased from a Netgear authorized reseller)|
|In the box||1x Orbi AX4200 5G WiFi 6 Router (NBR750), 1x Orbi Satellite (RBS750), 1x 12V/3.5A Power Adapter (NBR750), 12V/2.5A Power Adapter (RBS750), 2m Ethernet Cable, Quick Start Guide|
|Price||$1099.99 (router + satellite), $199.99 (satellite add-on)|
Alternatives to consider
If you like the idea of mesh WiFi with mobile broadband backup, but find Netgear’s WiFi 6/5G solution too expensive, the company’s WiFi 5/4G LTE model (LBR20) is a more affordable alternative. If all you want to do is distribute a wired internet connection in your home, we’ve highlighted a few contenders at the opposite ends of the price spectrum. View ZDNet’s mesh wifi collection for more suggestions.
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