For a few weeks, I was able to try the Netgear Orbi RBK20 Wi-Fi system. My home connection was suffering from a blanket and was a source of frustration. This solution solved this concern and I wanted to explain how. Little feedback. Who has never complained about the quality of his Wi-Fi? Operators offer more or less tempting offers on their boxes, of course, but it must be admitted that it is common to complain either the limited flow or the insufficient coverage of the network in the house. When it is not the two at a time. It is to remedy this concern that Netgear has launched its Wi-Fi Orbi system.
I was able to try the Orbi RBK20 model at home for a few weeks and I will share my experience here. The Netgear RBK20 Orbi system boasts a surface area of up to 250 m². Alas, I do not have such a large apartment. I live near Paris, in a modest accommodation which I invite you to remember something essential to the smooth running of this article: it consists of two rooms separated by a corridor of about four meters for a total of a little more than 27 m². To this information, also note that I have a classic Livebox Play in the main room connected to the fiber optic.
Operation and installation
The Orbi RBK20 system has a fairly simple operation to understand. It is composed of two modules. The first is a tri-band router that boosts your Wi-Fi connection with four active antennas hidden inside the case. It is based on Wi-Fi 802.11n (2.4 GHz) and 802.11ac (5 GHz), with no surprise beamforming (which concentrates the signal in one place for better performance).
Coupled with the router, there is another case with the identical appearance, but with a different role. This is the satellite (RBS20). Installed in another room of your home, it allows to extend the coverage Wi-Fi without losing flow, in theory at least. The Netgear Orbi application is used to control your Wi-Fi Orbi system. The interface is extremely simple and accompanies you.
The installation is extremely easy to handle thanks to the dedicated Orbi application. Connect your router to the mains and your box and do the same with your satellite (which only needs a power supply to operate). After opening the application, simply create an account, wait for the network to be detected and follow the instructions on the screen. Quite simply. For each step, the interface provides a concise explanation of what is happening via a white text on a blue background of extreme sobriety. Netgear's desire to offer a service adapted to neophytes and, more generally, to all those who are not as tech savvy as the brand's historic consumers, is clearly felt here. There is a reassuring side to that.
During installation, the top of both modules will flash blue. When pairing is complete, the blinking stops to indicate that the system is operational. If the light circle is orange, it means that you will have to slightly bring your satellite closer to your router for proper operation. The color red obviously indicates that the two boxes are too far apart.
Do not panic, the blue light eventually fade out after a while and will not disturb your sleep. Also note that you can opt for a single router RBR20 without the satellite. This solution is more suitable for studios with modest areas and is also less expensive.
We spoke about the reassuring interface of the application, but the Orbi boxes are just as much. Netgear has rid them of all aesthetic aggressiveness and, as a result, no antenna is visible. The RBK20 system adopts an aesthetic approaching, to a certain extent, that of a Google Home. Without going so far as to say that there is a resemblance between the two products, we feel a close enough inspiration.
As already mentioned, the router and the satellite are identical. The two modules are quite impressive with dimensions of 12.7 x 5.08 x 15.24 cm. In the house, they do not go unnoticed, but this aspect is counterbalanced by the mat design, white and curvaceous. Unless you have an extremely unusual interior design, this should not be a problem. On the other hand, even though each of the two devices weighs about 450 grams, I found they were light enough for their size.
Improved Wi-Fi network
By installing an Orbi system, you create a new Wi-Fi network that the application prompts you to rename before setting the password. So I named my network "Welcome citizens" for some reason. And it became my home network for several weeks. Race Results: I will not lie to you that this has revolutionized my life, but I can not deny that my Internet consumption has become considerably more comfortable at different levels.
To summarize very briefly, my Internet speed has been improved significantly, without being stunning. But it's mostly my network coverage that has been very pleasantly boosted. Explanations in a few steps.
For several weeks, I noticed a noticeable improvement in my flow by being near my box. At about one meter from my Livebox alone, I observed downstream speeds running around 170 Mb / s on average on my Samsung Galaxy Note 9. After installing the Orbi router, and at the same distance, I flirted with the 300 Mb / s. As for the upward flow, my average has gone from 230 to 320 Mb / s.
Not spitting on this progression, I was satisfied with this finding, but it was not very tangible everyday. In the main room of my apartment, reducing the loading time of my Netflix series or downloading my Nintendo Switch games was not quite noticeable to be honest. Only Ookla's encrypted speedtests allowed me to know with certainty that my Wi-Fi was enjoying better throughput. Note that on my Dell XPS 13 2018 computer, the differences were significantly more negligible on the average downstream flow:
- Downstream / upstream rate with the Livebox: 200/180 Mb / s
- Up / down flow with the Orbi system: 225/300 Mb / s
However, where the Orbi RBK20 system has been quite relevant, it is in my secondary room. The waves emitted by my Livebox were hard to reach this place because, no doubt, the three thick walls on the way (and IKEA generic furniture, but it's anecdotal).
On my smartphone, I shot at 70 Mb / s big maximum down, the average being rather 50 Mb / s. A drastic drop compared to the main room. On my computer, the finding was even worse with an average rate observed at only 10 Mb / s.
Thanks to the RBS20 satellite installed in my second room, I was finally able to enjoy very similar connection performance to that offered by the RBR20 router in my larger room. The signal restitution was not quite lossless, but overall I could finally have access to high quality video content without asking if the stream was going to cut every 2 minutes.
I mentioned earlier that it was possible to only opt for an RBR20 router alone. I have also tried this configuration since the size of my apartment lends itself well. In my secondary room, I was able to enjoy a bitrate of about 155 Mb / s downhill - 90 Mb / s on my computer. Even in this case, the performance remains higher than those offered by default by my Livebox alone.
In other words, with the Orbi router alone, we already get better coverage than that offered by the Livebox alone. However, as can be seen in the table above, the interest of this configuration is sometimes limited according to the situations. My upstream speed on my computer was only slightly improved in the secondary room when I was only connected to the Wi-Fi router.
One of the main features highlighted by the Orbi system is the parental control that can be set from its smartphone. For this, Netgear has joined the platform Disney Circle. In my case, it did not help much since I was the only one to benefit from my network "Welcome citizens". I still took a tour and, in its free version, Circle offers to filter the content that can be accessed by people connected according to their age. You can create several profiles (Kindergarten, Child, Teenager) with different filter levels. A button is also available to cut off Internet access. For more options, you have to pay $ 5 a month.
Let's go back to the Orbi application. The management of your network is a little less fine than on the web interface Netgear Router Orbi (routerlogin.com), but it still allows to test the connection rates of the Wi-Fi system and to activate the control to distance from your modules (remember to connect to Wi-Fi Orbi when you activate this option, otherwise it will not work).
It is possible to configure a guest network (especially relevant in the context of a company) and generate a QR Code via the application to share with your friends to give them access to your network. I would have appreciated having better control over the switchover between the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks, but Orbi forces the automatic mode here.
Conclusion, price and availability
In practice, the Orbi RBK20 system has proved very relevant in my case. The flow a little limited which I took advantage in the room at the end of my corridor were entitled to a nice leap in performance. The user experience is neat from the interface of the mobile application to the effectiveness of the product through its design.
So I want to recommend the Orbi system. However, the solution proposed by Netgear is quite expensive. Orbi RBK20 system (1 router + 1 satellite) is available at the recommended price of 249 euros, but it regularly takes advantage of promotion that I invite you to monitor closely. If you live in a simple studio, you can always opt for the RBR20 router alone which costs 139 euros.***