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Netgear hit the ground running with its new range of Nighthawk routers last year, making it one of the first manufacturers to adopt the new WiFi 6 standard (a.k.a. 802.11ax).
The company has now extended WiFi 6 support to its Orbi range of mesh networking systems. Like most of the Orbi range, the new Orbi WiFi 6 System AX6000 is primarily designed for home users who want to extend the range and reliability of their wi-fi network. However, the improved speed and capacity offered by WiFi 6 mean that the Orbi WiFi 6 could prove useful for many businesses in larger offices, or in public locations such as hotels and restaurants.
Pricing & options
As you might expect, the Orbi WiFi 6 sits right at the top of the Orbi range, offering tri-band 802.11ax wireless networking with a maximum speed of 6Gbps that far outstrips existing 802.11ac routers and mesh systems. The WiFi 6 standard also supports features such as OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access) that increase capacity by improving the router's ability to simultaneously transmit data to multiple devices on crowded networks.
But high-end performance means high-end pricing too, with a two-pack system capable of covering up to 5,000 square feet (465 square metres) costing £709.99 (inc. VAT; £591.66 ex. VAT, or $699.99). There's also a three-pack option that increases coverage to 7,500 square feet (697 square metres), albeit with a hefty price tag of £969.99 (inc. VAT; £808.33 ex. VAT, or $999.99) that even many businesses might balk at.
Design & features
Like previous Orbi models, this new WiFi 6 mesh system consists of a primary router, and one or more secondary 'satellites' that can be placed in other rooms or locations in order to provide greater range and reliability than a single standalone router (with one of the 5GHz bands acting as a dedicated 'backhaul' that connects the satellites to the main router).
Along with support for WiFi 6, the primary router includes a 2.5Gbps WAN port for high-speed internet connectivity via your existing broadband modem or router, along with four additional RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired network connections. The latter option will be useful for many offices that prefer the reliability and security of wired networks, as will the ability to use 'link aggregation' to further enhance performance by combining the 2.5Gbps WAN port with one of the 1Gbps LAN ports.
There's no WAN port on the satellite units, but each satellite does include four Ethernet ports for additional wired connections. It's odd, though -- especially given the premium pricing for this model -- that there are no USB ports provided that might allow you to connect a printer or storage device that could be shared on the network.
Netgear's Orbi app is also rather basic. It does include the ability to create a separate guest network, but lacks many quite basic features, including parental controls for home users, and the ability to specify different levels of network access that's found in Netgear's existing 802.11ac-based Orbi Pro.
It's still early days for this new wi-fi standard, so the Orbi WiFi 6 isn't an essential upgrade at the moment. However, the sheer performance and capacity of this new mesh system can provide a useful 'future-proofing' option for businesses that need to support ever-increasing numbers of wi-fi devices on their crowded networks.