Netgear Orbi RBK863S

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SPECIFICATIONS: Tri-band 2.4GHz/5GHz/5GHz Wi-Fi 6 router, 4×4 MU-MIMO 6 internal antennas (each station), 4 x gigabit Ethernet ports (each station), 10GbE WAN port 191 x 71 x 254mm (WDH), 1yr warranty

Netgear’s Orbi mesh network systems offer strong performance and features, although they come at a high cost. The latest model, the RBK863S, is an update to the Orbi RBK852, Netgear’s first flagship Wi-Fi 6 mesh.

Netgear Orbi RBK863S

However, despite its flagship price, it offers only modest improvements over the original design, including a new antenna design with 20% better coverage, and a boosted WAN connector from 2.5Gbits/sec to 10GbE.

Notably, the Wi-Fi hardware remains unchanged and has not been upgraded to Wi-Fi 6E, like many high-end mesh systems. The RBK863S is a powerful tri-band system with 2.4GHz and 5GHz connections for clients, and an additional 5GHz network for mesh communication, both supporting 4×4 MIMO for a maximum speed of 2.4Gbits/sec.

Netgear claims the three units can cover an area of 740m2. The 10GbE WAN upgrade is not a significant selling point, as the number of UK users with internet speeds faster than 2.5Gbits/sec is likely small.

In simpler terms, even if you have a fast broadband connection, the Orbi RBK863S may not reach its full potential speed due to its limited LAN ports which are limited to single-gigabit speeds, while the wireless hardware is limited to 2.4Gbits/sec.

It would have been a better design to leave the WAN port as is and add multi-gig Ethernet to the LAN ports.

The guy tested the performance of the Orbi RBK863S by setting up the system in their home with the primary unit in the study, the second in the adjoining bedroom, and the third in the downstairs living room. They measured the average download speeds over the 5GHz network by carrying a standard test laptop to various rooms in the house.

The results showed that the average download speed was 84MB/sec in the same room as the primary Orbi station, 72MB/sec in the living room, and a minimum of 41MB/sec in the kitchen. Although the speed was fast enough to meet most people’s needs, it was not special enough to justify the price.

The RBK863S struggled to keep up with the cheaper Orbi RBK763S, which gave download speeds ranging from 97MB/sec in the study to 47MB/sec in the kitchen and was fully £500 cheaper. The reason for this is that the radio hardware in the Orbi RBK863S is limited to a maximum channel width of 80MHz, while modern meshes support the fatter 160MHz option. Although the RBK863S has the benefit of 4×4 MIMO, most devices are limited to 2×2 multiplexing.

the only advantage of the RBK863S’s 4×4 provision is if you’re connecting from two devices at once, but the software features are good as usual.

To set up the system, you simply scan the QR code into the Orbi mobile app, choose a network name and security settings, and manage your network through the app or a web portal with the same interface and features as other Orbi meshes, including a VPN server.

The “S” in the model name means it comes with a bundled year of Netgear’s Armor network security service, which costs £85 a year after the 12 months are up, with an additional £50 for parental controls. The speaker feels this is taking advantage of customers who have already paid so much for the mesh.

They also mentioned that the RBK863S cannot compete with the performance of Wi-Fi 6E meshes like TP-Link Deco XE75 or Netgear’s own Orbi RBKE963, and with the arrival of Wi-Fi 7 systems, the performance gap will only widen. there are cheaper alternatives like the Orbi RBK763S and Mercusys Halo H80X for those looking for value. Lastly, paying £1,099 for the RBK863S to be absurd.

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