Tech

Netgear Orbi AX11000 (RBKE963) review: The most complete 6E mesh WiFi system

The modules that make up the Orbi RBKE963 kit are particularly long.  © The digital

The modules that make up the Orbi RBKE963 kit are particularly long. © The digital

The Netgear Orbi AX11000 (RBKE963) is the very first 6E mesh Wi-Fi system to land in our territory. As usual, the manufacturer attacks the market with the top of the range and the features of this RBKE963 bring together what is currently the best in the consumer network sector. The RBKE963 is therefore a 6E mesh WiFi system with four WiFi bands with a cumulative speed of 11 Gb/s, of which 4.8 Gb/s is dedicated to the brand new 6 GHz band. 10G and 2.5G RJ45 ports complete this high quality tech sheet. The launch price of this state-of-the-art mesh system is also skyrocketing: currently counting at €1699.

© The digital

Netgear provides in its mesh system a module that acts as a router and others that relay the Wi-Fi signal, called satellite modules. The Orbi RBKE963 therefore consists of three parts, but a version with two modules, called RBKE962 is also planned. The distinction between the modules is made by the presence of a yellow RJ45 port on the router, called WAN. The latter connects directly to your operator box or to the ONT box if your ISP allows you to do without its box (this is the case with Orange in France). The satellites are physically identical, but without WAN connections.



satellite module


router module

The WiFi properties of this mesh kit are in line with the current state of the art. The RBKE963 is a 6E Wi-Fi model equipped with three usable frequency bands: 2.4 GHz at 1200 Mb/s, 5 GHz at 2400 Mb/s and 6 GHz at 4800 Mb/s A fourth frequency band of 5 GHz at 2400 Mb/s is reserved exclusively for communication between the modules that make up the Netgear Orbi AX11000.

For the wired part, Netgear has also seen very big. Each module has a 2.5G standard RJ45 connection and three Gigabit ports – only the router module has a 10G standard WAN connection. If your home is fully wired, you can connect your modules via the 2.5G Ethernet jack and Enable Ethernet Backhaul

© The digital

Each module has a sync button, a reset button and its own power connection that the manufacturer also uses on some of its routers. At the front, there is an indicator light between the bronze-colored bottom part and the white top part. A second very discreet indicator light, mounted above the socket, lets you know the status of the module during a reset.

© The digital

In terms of design, Netgear has adopted the characteristic shapes of its Orbi. The dimensions are impressive with 28 cm high for 19 cm wide and a depth of 8.3 cm. Weight is just as important: we measured 1.4 kg per module. That is why it is necessary to properly fix your shelves if you want to integrate them into your decoration.

Editor's rating: 5 out of 5

Ergonomics

Since the Orbi’s setup is identical from one model to another, you won’t be out of place if you know the ecosystem. The easiest way is to install the application of the same name and let it guide you. The app explains the connection, installation of the modules and their update in many steps. You can also choose the name of your Wi-Fi network (SSID) as well as the password.

© The digital

© The digital

After the mesh system is configured, two SSIDs are created: the first includes the three frequency bands with an ORBIxx type name; the second SSID, called ORBI-IoT, is for connected objects. Some of the latter have problems with the SSIDs that group all the frequency bands together. Netgear got around the problem by creating a special SSID on the 2.4 GHz frequency band. It is also possible to deactivate it in the application interface. Note that it is also possible to create an SSID only for the 6 GHz band specific to Wi-Fi 6E, which makes it possible to avoid roaming on the frequency bands, take advantage of the best possible speeds and above all avoid the congestion of the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands, especially in cities.

© The digital

© The digital

The Orbi app is not much different, although we are dealing with a high-end system. The options offered are the same as those of theOrbi RBK352† The settings are therefore simple, limited to the Wi-Fi network name, password and access to statistics. It is possible to activate the guest Wi-Fi or IoT network, but for advanced settings it will be necessary to go through the web interface. Netgear still hasn’t decided to include free parental controls, even with simple features like time slots by user type, such as offered by TP-Link or Amazon Eero. It will therefore be necessary to subscribe to Netgear Armor, billed at €99/year, regardless of the cost of this Orbi RBKE963 mesh system…

© The digital

© The digital

If you need to make settings that are not present in the Orbi application, you will need to access the system’s web interface by typing the router’s IP address (10.0.0.1) into a browser or going to orbilogin-address.com to go. Netgear router users will recognize the interface and set of editable settings. So it is possible to change all DHCP rules, the DNS or even practice port forwarding. On the other hand, it is a shame to have to connect to the “webmin” to configure your VPN or activate the SSID assigned to the 6 GHz frequency band.

Editor's rating: 5 out of 5

depreciation

To evaluate the performance of the Netgear Orbi AX11000 RBKE963 mesh system, we connected the router module to our operator box where we connected a laptop via an adapter to the 2.5 Gb/s socket. We transfer a file (a disk image) of 4.73 GB from the first laptop PC to a second equipped with an Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6 chip, but also to a fixed desktop PC located above and connected on a Gigabyte GC-WBAX200 PCIe card with outdoor antenna and updated with Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210 chip that supports Wi-Fi 6E.

Rates included during a 4.73 GB file transfer on the 6 GHz band.  © The digital

Rates included during a 4.73 GB file transfer on the 6 GHz band. © The digital

Connected to the 6 GHz frequency band, we obtain average speeds of almost 1.3 Gb/s, regardless of whether they are connected to the router (point 1) or to the satellite (point 2). Also note that the speed does not vary once connected to the satellite thanks to the frequency band intended for communication between the modules.

Once away from the modules and with a few more obstacles (points 3 to 5), the speeds stabilize at about 670 Mb/s. Thanks to its three modules, the RBKE963 largely covers our home, and even point 5 usually uses high throughput.

Rates included during a 4.73 GB file transfer on the 5 GHz band.  © The digital

Rates included during a 4.73 GB file transfer on the 5 GHz band. © The digital

On the 5 GHz frequency band, near-end speeds are lower, around 800 Mb/s for upload and just under 700 Mb/s for download. We also note that on this kit, with a few exceptions, the speeds are always faster for uploading than for downloading. Outside the modules, the speeds decrease less sharply than on the 6 GHz frequency, which is normal, because the higher the frequency band, the more crossing obstacles reduces the speeds.

Rates included when transferring a 4.73 GB file on the 2.4 GHz band.  © The digital

Rates included when transferring a 4.73 GB file on the 2.4 GHz band. © The digital

The Netgear Orbi RBKE963’s 2.4 GHz frequency band offers the best speeds we’ve seen, at nearly 300 Mb/s. At our test points 4 and 5, our test PC doesn’t even bother connecting to the nearest module, explaining slower speeds than they should normally be.

Given the results, if you’re looking for the fastest speeds, make sure you’re equipped with 6E Wi-Fi enabled devices and able to capture the 6GHz band. Otherwise, it is more reasonable to go for a model that is happy with Wi-Fi 6 on the 5 GHz frequency band, such as theOrbi RBK852 value TP Link Deco X90