Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 AX4200, hands-on: Affordable WiFi 6 coverage for homes and businesses

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Mesh Wi-Fi systems were almost tailor-made for the remote-working era. There are millions of people now working from home and making daily video calls, while also competing for a slice of wireless bandwidth with a variety of smartphones, tablets and games consoles. Increased Wi-Fi use can put a strain on even the fastest routers -- let alone the low-cost units often provided by broadband suppliers. Mesh networking systems are the ideal Wi-Fi upgrade for many homes and offices, as well as public venues such as restaurants and hotels. Mesh systems typically use a main router with a wired connection to a broadband modem, plus two or more wireless nodes or satellites that can be placed in different rooms or locations. These link together to provide greater range and reliability than a single conventional Wi-Fi modem/router.

Pricing & options

Netgear was one of the first companies to combine mesh networking and WiFi 6, with its Orbi Wifi 6 AX6000. That first model was a high-end system, providing tri-band WiFi 6 performance with a combined top speed of 6Gbps. Its price was also top-of-the-range: £709.99 (inc. VAT; £591.66 ex. VAT)/$699.99 for a two-piece system, or £969.99 (inc. VAT; £808.33 ex. VAT)/$999.99 for the three-piece option.

That sort of pricing can make even larger organisations think twice, so Netgear has recently released a new version called the Orbi WiFi 6 AX4200 that is still suitable for larger homes and offices, but with a more competitive price. Admittedly, it's still fairly expensive, costing £449.99 (inc. VAT; £375 ex. VAT)/$449.99 for the two-piece kit shown here, although it's designed to provide extensive Wi-Fi coverage for larger homes, offices or other locations up to 5,000 square feet in size. There's also a three-piece kit available that can cover 7,500sq.ft, priced at £629.99 (inc. VAT; £525 ex. VAT)/$599.99.

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The 'router' unit plugs into your broadband modem via the WAN port ('Internet', above); it has additional Gigabit Ethernet ports, as do 'satellite' units. A two-piece kit should cover up to 5,000 square feet, according to Netgear.

Images: Netgear

Design & features

As the name suggests, the Orbi WiFi 6 AX4200 supports tri-band WiFi 6 (a.k.a. IEEE 802.11ax) with a combined top speed of 4.2Gbps. That's slower than the 6Gbps of the AX6000 model, but still far faster than most current-generation 802.11ac routers. And, as well as providing greater performance, WiFi 6 is also designed to transmit data more efficiently to large numbers of devices all at once, with Netgear claiming that the Orbi WiFi 6 AX4200 is suitable for use with 40-60 devices. That sort of capacity should be enough to cope with even the most gadget-crazy households, as well as many busy offices and public locations. 

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The Orbi systems don't include a modem, so the first Orbi unit, known as the 'router', includes a Gigabit WAN port for connecting to your existing broadband modem or router, along with three additional Gigabit Ethernet ports for devices requiring a wired network connection. The second 'satellite' unit includes two Gigabit Ethernet ports as well.

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The only disappointment is that Netgear's Orbi app tends to treat certain features, such as its Armor security system (which is based on the popular BitDefender), as an additional revenue stream. This is provided with a 30-day free trial, but then requires a monthly subscription fee for continued use.

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Image: Netgear

Conclusions

As we remarked with the original Orbi Wifi 6 earlier this year, the WiFi 6/802.11ax standard is still in its 'early adopter' phase, and many homes and businesses may find that more affordable mesh systems based on WiFi 5/802.11ac will meet their current needs perfectly well. However, the ability to support ever larger numbers of devices means that WiFi 6 is very much designed with future IoT environments in mind, so a Wifi 6 mesh system such as this is still a sensible investment if you want to future-proof your home or office network.

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Specifications

General
Frequency Band 2.4 GHz (1 band) / 5 GHz (2 bands) / 5 GHz (3 bands)
Encryption Algorithm 128-bit AES
Networking
Form Factor desktop
Type Wi-Fi system
Connectivity Technology wired, wireless
Data Link Protocol Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11ax, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n
Features Circle with Disney, Explicit Beamforming, MU-MIMO technology, beamforming technology, gateway mode, sync button
Compliant Standards IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11ax, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11i, IEEE 802.11n
Wi-Fi System Components extender, router
Wi-Fi System Coverage up to 5,000 sq.ft
WAN Ports Qty 1
Mesh Networking Yes
Power Device
Type external power adapter
Modem
Antenna Qty 6
Camera
Installed Size 512 MB
Interface Provided
Interface Ethernet 1000Base-T
Qty 1, 2, 3
Connector Type RJ-45
Type LAN, WAN
Comments on extender
Processor
Clock Speed 1.4 GHz
Miscellaneous
Encryption Algorithm 128-bit AES
Color Category white
Antenna
Antenna Qty 6
Antenna Form Factor internal
Header
Brand NETGEAR
Product Line NETGEAR Orbi
Country Kits North America
Packaged Quantity 1
Cable Details
Type network cable
Included Qty 1
Length 6.6 ft
Dimensions & Weight
Width 7.2 in
Depth 2.8 in
Height 9.1 in
Internet of Things (IoT)
Intelligent Assistant Compatible Alexa, Google Assistant
Service & Support
Type 1 year warranty
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty
Full Contract Period 1 year

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Where To Buy

Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 System AX4200

Part Number: RBK752-100NAS