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It's hardly surprising that sales of Wi-Fi equipment -- and particularly mesh networking systems -- have soared in recent months. With more and more people now working from home, Wi-Fi connectivity is required not only for video calls, business email and web browsing, but also to cope with increased demand for online entertainment.
Price & options
Most mesh systems are designed for home users, but Netgear's Orbi Pro is one of the few that specifically caters to the security requirements of business users. The original Orbi Pro was launched back in 2017, so it was certainly due for an update -- not least to provide support for the latest Wi-Fi 6 technology (a.k.a. 802.11ax). So, as the name suggests, the new Orbi Pro WiFi 6 brings everything up to date, offering top-of-the-range tri-band Wi-Fi 6 performance with a maximum speed of 6Gbps -- 100% faster than the 3Gbps and Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) of its predecessor.
Prices for the Orbi Pro WiFi 6 start at £677.49 (ex. VAT; £812.99 inc. VAT) or $769.99 for the SXK80 model, which is a two-piece system consisting of a primary router and secondary 'satellite' unit. This system can cover areas of up to 6000 sq. ft (557 sq. m), with three-piece and four-piece systems also available for larger premises. The original Orbi Pro with 802.11ac wi-fi also remains available, with a price cut to £341.67 (ex. VAT; £409.99 inc. VAT) or $499.99 for businesses with more modest requirements. It's worth noting, though, that the Orbi Pro WiFi 6 is not compatible with older Orbi products that use 802.11ac.
Design & features
The original Orbi Pro included several features that set it apart from its more consumer-oriented rivals, including the ability to create three separate networks (SSIDs), each with its own password, for admin staff, employees, and for guests or customers in public locations such as hotels or restaurants.
To accommodate the trend for working from home, the Orbi Pro WiFi 6 model now adds a fourth network -- called 'IoT' (Internet of Things) by default -- which is specifically designed for small businesses or people working from home. Devices that connect to the IoT network can still use your internet connection, but cannot connect to the wider LAN, effectively creating a barrier to separate your 'home' devices from work devices. This ability to isolate groups of devices or users -- known as a VLAN (virtual LAN) -- is available on all four of the Orbi Pro's networks, making it possible to create multiple VLAN configurations for different teams or departments within an organisation.
Like most mesh systems, the Orbi Pro's main router needs to be connected to an existing broadband modem or router, which it does via a 2.5Gbps Ethernet WAN port. This port can also be used to support high-speed office networks, and there are four additional Gigabit Ethernet ports for devices that need a wired connection. The satellite unit has one 2.5Gbps and four Gigabit Ethernet ports.
So, while the Orbi Pro WiFi 6 is clearly an expensive, top-of-the-range solution, its speed and ability to configure multiple networks for different groups of users makes it a good option for many organisations, as well as for business users who are now working from home.