Netgear Orbi RBK852 Review: Wi-Fi 6 Router and Satellite, Impressive Performance

Netgear Orbi RBK852 Review – A pioneer in the field of consumer mesh networks, Netgear has naturally positioned itself quickly vis-à-vis the Wi-Fi 6 standard. Fruit of this work, this new Orbi system that we are testing today, and which is intended to be simpler and more efficient.

Presentation

Respecting the famous adage “you do not change a winning team”, Netgear has not really shaken up the basic concept that has guided the Orbi range so far. Our Netgear Orbi RBK852 kit always includes two modules, a router, and a satellite, which do not differ very much from the previous kits: a small midnight blue border and a few metallic reliefs are there to materialize an evolution.

But we remain on shapes and volumes very similar (two beautiful babies of 15.2 x 7.6 x 20.32 cm). Wi-Fi 6 requires, it is especially inside that the changes are noticeable. Compared Netgear Orbi RBK852 to the Orbi RBK50 in Wi-Fi 5, we go from 6 to 8 antennas with support for Beamforming and MU-MIMO technologies. The cumulative theoretical flows are also on the rise.

In this regard, let us briefly recall the principle of Orbi products. They make it possible to ensure the Wi-Fi coverage of a house or an apartment by using one or more boxes, which will then form a mesh network, or mesh: everything starts from the router, which can also be used alone. , and who will be responsible for retrieving the Internet connection in order to distribute it over Wi-Fi on a first zone.

The user can then couple the router to one or more satellites, via Wi-Fi or wired. It is up to the latter to broadcast the signal to other areas. In the end, the user will have at his disposal a unique wireless network, which will be responsible for connecting his devices to the nearest terminal in order to have the best speeds.

Netgear Orbi RBK852

Image Source: amazon.com

On this basis, the Orbi system has some specificities. Where many mesh systems use two 2.4 and 5 GHz bands to manage all communications between connected devices and the modules forming the network, the Orbi system uses three, the third being dedicated exclusively to exchanges between satellites and routers. Another advantage: Orbi is not limited to Wi-Fi. If the user wants to favor wired connections, he has the possibility, since the router and satellite offer 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports each.

Finally, note that the entire management part is also gaining muscle, whether on the side of the processor (quad Core at 2.2 GHz), memory (1 GB), or storage (512 MB on NAND Flash). Only hindsight, which is not really one in truth: the previous Orbi model that we tested (RBK50) had a USB port. This port disappeared on the Netgear Orbi RBK852, and the reason this isn’t really a step back is that this connector was already gone soon after the RBK50s launched. No doubt Netgear had realized that the relevance of a USB 2.0 port was not obvious, given the speeds displayed by its wireless system.

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Ergonomics

Commissioning could not be simpler. A power supply to the plugin, an Ethernet cable to connect between the router and your box OR between the router and the fiber box for the lucky ones – we’ll come back to that -, and let’s go.

Once the terminal has been started, a smartphone application will guide you step by step through the few preparatory steps: creating a Netgear account, setting up your passwords, configuring the router and the satellites… The whole thing takes about ten minutes (three-quarters of which is waiting), after which you can take advantage of your new wireless network.

The satellites have a led system that helps to position them by optimizing the backhaul link (5 GHz link between the router and the satellites): the base changes from magenta to blue depending on the quality of the connection. Small regret in this regard: we would have liked this color code to be accessible on request, via the application, or by means of a physical command. As it is, it is triggered only during the terminal start-up phase.

Still, on the question of installation, it is worth mentioning an interesting possibility which remains for the moment specific to certain Netgear systems: that of completely substituting Orbi for the equipment supplied by your ISP, if and only if it is it is Orange and your connection goes through an ONT box.

This requires some additional operations, but it can simplify the installation of those who have little use of FAI boxes (this is our case, for example). Moreover, if each terminal can provide up to 4 wired connections, we regret that the Orbi router module does not go to the end of the thing, by offering at least one USB 3.0 port, which could receive a shared storage system.

If the application is your gateway for the daily management of your network, it is also possible to connect to a configuration interface using an internet browser. Very useful, the latter offers some advanced settings that are not integrated into the smartphone application.

Finally, in addition to their simplicity, Orbi modules benefit from the fully passive operation, an element that can also be verified by removing the back cover of the router.

Software management

As we mentioned above, the management of the Orbi mesh network can be done through two distinct interfaces: on a mobile application or via a web browser. The first is used more on a daily basis, in order to monitor traffic or check the quality of the network, the number of connected devices, and the access authorizations of each of them. It is also through this that we can modify on the fly some basic elements (SSID, password, sharing option), for the personal or guest network, since the Orbi system makes it possible to distinguish these two uses.

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For more advanced management, more punctual in the spirit, it is on the other hand necessary to go through the web interface www.routerlogin.net which allows local access to your router. This interface takes the functions of the mobile application to enrich them, and brings new ones, via an Advanced tab.

It is, therefore, possible to finely configure the access conditions for each device, site, or service, open an e-mail notification service in the event of a security problem, create backup files of the router configuration, configure a VPN service, use Orbi as an access point rather than a router, and we forget about it.

The set is rather complete. However, in the context of family use, we regret that the filtering options of the devices are not more extensive. We can thus cut off access to the network for the smartphone of his rebellious teenager (at random), but it’s all or nothing. Cannot set up authorized time slots for a specific device.

Of course, there are many other ways to manage your children’s internet access, but management at the source would have been appreciable. Contacted on this subject, the representatives of Netgear told us that the Circle suite, integrated into the previous Orbi range and dedicated to parental control functions, should arrive within a few weeks on these new models, through a firmware update.

Debits

On a kit at this price point, it is clear that one expects top-notch performance. It should be remembered in this regard that while a solid Internet connection (1 Gbit / s fiber type) is appreciable to be able to take full advantage of an Orbi system, this is in no way a prerequisite. A mesh network capable of delivering high speed locally can be equally valuable, to operate a NAS, a local game server, etc. That being said, what performance for this Orbi with Wi-Fi 6 sauce?

We first measured the performance of a single module, after which we looked at the performance of the whole, ie the router and its satellite. Unsurprisingly, the speeds achieved are excellent: between 1 and 5 m, the router provides a PC-to-PC transfer speed of 300 to 310 Mbits / s. By way of comparison, the Orbi RBK50 module, which was already among the best if not the best mesh system in Wi-Fi 5, offered average speeds of around 250 Mbits / s.

We see the same differences when we take a solid Wi-Fi router, like the XR500, as a point of comparison. At peak times, on very large files, the throughput of the Netgear Orbi RBK852 router can go up to 450 Mbits / s. It seems obvious, but it gets better by writing it: quite logically.

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Beyond 5 m, the Orbi Netgear Orbi RBK852 router naturally sees its average speeds drop: 104 Mbits / s at a distance of 10 m, and 52 Mbits / s, still at 10 m, but with two partitions to cross. Substantial reductions, but which should be compared to the results of the market leaders. A RAX 120 router, therefore, does not do much better.

It is also in these cases that the Orbi system deploys its most effective weapon: its backhaul, which will create a solid dedicated 5 GHz bridge between the router and its satellite. Therefore, with a first PC 2 m from the router, a satellite 12 m away and with 2 partitions, and a second PC also 5 m further away, behind a partition (see diagram), the exchange speed between the two machines remain at 273 Mbps on average, with peaks at 386 Mbits / s. There is a loss compared to the optimal values.

Two tests confirm the good overall performance of the network despite difficult conditions (large apartments, many partitions): the average of internet speed tests to PC is 820 Mbits / s near the router, and 735 Mbits / s near the satellite. These speeds allowed us to ensure solid gaming sessions under Assassin’s Creed Odyssey via the GeForce Now service, or thanks to a local game server, despite a dozen connected devices, more or less active (tests qualitative results carried out over a week).

Let us finish by specifying that the consumption of the modules is in the norm. During our transfer tests, router and satellite consumed 11 watts, while at rest (no device connected), consumption fell to 7 watts.

Strong Points of Netgear Orbi RBK852

  • Successful design without being flashy.
  • Easy to install/configure.
  • Complete administration interface.
  • 4-port network switch on each module.
  • Very high flow rates.
  • Strong backhaul link.

Weak Points of Netgear Orbi RBK852

  • A USB 3.0 port on the router would have been a plus.
  • Very limited parental control options (pending Circle).

Conclusion

Based on its experience on previous Orbi products, Netgear offers here a new kit meeting the Wi-Fi 6 standard that is particularly efficient. And thanks to the dedicated backhaul link, its performance can extend over a large area, with little loss. Add to that the wired connection possibilities, the simple yet comprehensive management interface, and you have one of the best mesh solutions around. It lacks a real parental control system – expected in a few weeks via a free update – and a USB port for shared storage. Not enough to spoil our enthusiasm in front of this armed kit to cope with all uses, even the most demanding ( cloud gaming included).

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