July 6, 2022

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Netgear Orbi RBKE963 WiFi 6E Mesh System Overview

When you’re out there for a Wi-Fi mesh system that makes use of the newest wi-fi expertise to ship blazing Wi-Fi all through your private home, look no additional than Netgear’s Orbi RBKE963 AXE11000. Designed for very massive houses, this three-piece mesh system is loaded with top-shelf {hardware}, together with Wi-Fi 6E circuitry that permits it to function on the uncrowded 6GHz band. You may additionally discover uncommon 10Gbps WAN and a couple of.5Gbps LAN ports, and 12 high-performance inner antennas. It is simply the quickest mesh system we’ve reviewed to this point, and its sky-high $1,499.99 value makes it the costliest, too. Nonetheless, you may justify the fee if you happen to want the Orbi RBKE963’s high-end specs, excessive protection space, and speedy efficiency, which makes it an apparent choose for an Editors’ Alternative award.


Wi-Fi for Your Chateau

The Orbi RBKE963 system comes with a router node and two satellite tv for pc nodes, and it is rated to offer protection for houses of as much as 9,000 sq. toes. If your own home is even bigger than that, you should buy extra nodes for $599.99 every.

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The nodes share the identical primary form and elegance because the Orbi RBK852 system that we reviewed in 2020, however at 11 by 7.5 by 3.3 inches (HWD) every, they’re a bit larger. Every node accommodates 12 inner high-performance antennas. They sport a white end with chrome trim, but when your private home decor requires it, you may order a Black Version system as a substitute. At greater than the price of every telephone or laptop computer you may doubtless be connecting to it, we anticipate the Orbi system to be not less than as stylish-looking as these units, and the colour choices assist.

Living room with Netgear Orbi RBKE963 Wi-Fi Mesh System

The nodes might look equivalent, however they’re not. The router node is provided with a 10Gbps WAN port, a 2.5Gbps LAN port, three 1Gbps LAN ports, and a Reset button. As with earlier Orbi elements, USB ports are nowhere to be discovered. There’s a Sync button round again for pairing the router to the satellite tv for pc nodes. The entrance of the router has an LED indicator that glows strong inexperienced when the router is powered up and linked, strong amber when the router is restarting, and blinking pink if the firmware has been corrupted.

The satellite tv for pc nodes don’t have (or want) a 10Gbps WAN port, however they do have a 2.5Gbps LAN port, three 1Gbps LAN ports, a Reset button, and a Sync button. The LED indicator on every glows strong blue when the node is on-line and has an excellent connection to the router, strong amber when the connection is truthful, and strong magenta when the node just isn’t paired with the router. The satellites use one of many 5GHz bands for devoted wi-fi backhaul, however you need to use the two.5Gbps port for a wired backhaul configuration to extend reliability as a substitute.

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Netgear Orbi RBKE963 back ports on 2 routers

The RBKE963 is powered by a 2.2GHz quad-core CPU, 1GB of RAM, and 512MB of flash reminiscence. It’s a quad-band AX11000 system able to information charges of as much as 1,200Mbps on the two.4GHz band, 2,400Mbps on every of the 2 5GHz bands, and 4,800Mbps on the 6GHz band. It helps the entire newest Wi-Fi 6 tech together with Orthogonal Frequency-Division A number of-Entry (OFDMA), 1024-QAM for sign modulation, 160MHz channel bandwidth, WPA3 encryption, direct-to-client sign transmissions (also called beamforming), and MU-MIMO simultaneous information streaming.

Moreover, it employs Wi-Fi 6E expertise to hook up with shoppers utilizing the 6GHz band. It’s essential to notice that though you may join older units to this mesh system, your shopper units should assist 6E to make use of the 6GHz band.


Software program and Setup Features

This Orbi system comes with Netgear’s Good Parental controls, which allow you to create profiles for relations, handle on-line time for every member, and pause web entry. Extra sturdy controls that embody age-based content material filtering, web time rewards, web closing dates, and detailed browse-history experiences require a Premium subscription, which fits for $7.99 per 30 days or $69.99 per yr. (The system comes with a free 30-day trial interval.) The Premium subscription additionally will get you the My Time app, which applies parental controls even when your little one is on one other community or utilizing mobile information.

Additionally included is a 30-day trial for Netgear’s Armor community safety software program powered by Bitdefender. This service scans for safety threats and protects each machine in your community from malware intrusions. As soon as the trial interval has expired, it should value you $99.99 per yr to proceed utilizing the Armor software program. 

You possibly can management the RBKE963 system out of your telephone utilizing the Orbi cell app or from a PC utilizing the web-based administration console. The online console affords a handful of superior settings that you simply don’t get with the app, together with the power to handle entry management lists, configure a separate IoT community for all your sensible units, and configure VPN settings.

That mentioned, the cell app affords numerous settings and is way simpler to make use of. It opens to a dashboard display that reveals the variety of satellites and accommodates panels labeled System Supervisor, Safety, Web Velocity, Parental Controls, Community Map, WiFi Settings, Visitor WiFi, and Site visitors Meter.

Orbi app screens showing dashboard, connected device profile, and security settings


Three views, left to proper, of the Orbi’s cell app

In System Supervisor, you’ll see a listing of all linked units. Faucet any machine to create a profile for parental controls, configure safety safety settings, set up My Time parameters, and look at present connection data. The Safety panel opens a display that shows your total community safety standing, the variety of threats detected, and what number of vulnerabilities had been discovered. Right here you too can view suggestions for enhancing safety.

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Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi 6E Mesh System

The Web Velocity panel accommodates an Ookla SpeedTest button for measuring add and obtain speeds, and the Parental Management panel is the place you go to create profiles and assign parental controls to particular person units. (Notice: Ookla is owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag’s mum or dad firm.) The Community Map shows the router and the nodes: Faucet any node to see which shoppers are at present linked to it. Wi-Fi settings allow you to edit your SSID and password, in addition to change safety settings, and Visitor Wi-Fi is used to allow and configure a visitor community. Lastly, the Site visitors Meter is the place you go to view each day and complete information switch statistics (add and obtain). 


Testing the Orbi RBKE963: Class-Main Efficiency

Wi-Fi mesh programs are recognized for his or her ease of use, and the RBKE963 is not any totally different. To put in the system, begin by downloading the Orbi cell app and creating an account. Faucet “Arrange an Orbi” when prompted, and use your telephone to scan the QR code on the router node. Comply with the directions to unplug your modem and plug it again in, after which use the included LAN cable to attach the Orbi router to the modem. Energy up the router, faucet Subsequent, place your satellite tv for pc nodes the place you need them, and energy them up. Faucet Subsequent once more, and wait a minute or so for the satellite tv for pc to energy up, then be part of the community out of your telephone when prompted.

After one other minute or so, the satellites will likely be added to the community and also you’ll be prompted to offer the community a reputation and a password. Or, you need to use the default title and password, which might be discovered on a sticker on the entrance of the router. Subsequent, create an Admin title and password, arrange Face ID if you happen to’re on iOS, and reply two safety questions. After a test to see if the firmware is updated, the set up will likely be full.

The Orbi RBKE963 delivered a number of the highest scores we’ve seen from any mesh system. We use a Samsung Galaxy S21 Extremely telephone geared up with a Wi-Fi 6E radio to check throughput speeds on the mixed 2.4GHz/5GHz radio band and the 6GHz radio band. On our mixed band close-proximity (same-room) check, the Orbi router’s rating of 920Mbps was considerably increased than what we noticed with the Asus ZenWiFi ET8 router (869Mbps) and the Linksys Atlas Max 6E router (806Mbps). Its rating of 362Mbps on the 30-foot check additionally led the pack.

The Orbi satellite tv for pc node managed 853Mbps on the close-proximity check, beating the Asus ZenWiFi ET8 satellite tv for pc (787Mbps) and the Linksys Atlas Max 6E satellite tv for pc (792Mbps) handily. Its rating of 531Mbps on the 30-foot check matched the Asus ZenWiFi ET8 and was a bit sooner than the Linksys Atlas Max 6E satellite tv for pc (515Mbps). 

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The Orbi system’s efficiency on our 6GHz checks was stellar. The router scored 943Mbps on the close-proximity check, outlasting the Asus ZenWiFi ET8 router (918Mbps) and the Linksys Atlas Max 6E router (929Mbps). Equally, its rating of 389Mbps on the 30-foot check topped the the Asus ZenWiFi ET8 router (371Mbps) and the Linksys Atlas Max 6E router (258Mbps).

The Orbi satellite tv for pc node returned spectacular scores of 842Mbps on the close-proximity check, and 685Mbps on the 30-foot check. The Asus ZenWiFi ET8 node managed 580Mbps on the close-proximity check and 333Mbps on the 30-foot check, and the Linksys Atlas Max 6E node turned in scores of 598Mbps and 218Mbps, respectively. 

We use an Ekahau Sidekick Wi-Fi diagnostic machine and Ekahau’s Survey cell app to check wi-fi sign power. (Notice: Ekahau is owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag’s mum or dad firm.) This generates a warmth map that shows the router and satellite tv for pc node’s sign power all through our check house. The circles on the maps characterize the situation of the router and the node, and the colours characterize sign power.

Netgear Orbi RBKE963 signal strength map

Darkish inexperienced signifies the strongest sign, yellow is weaker, and grey signifies no measurable sign reception. As proven on the map, the 2 Orbi nodes delivered robust mixed (2.4GHz and 5GHz) wi-fi alerts to all corners of the home. The Ekahau Sidekick doesn’t at present measure 6GHz alerts.


Empty Your Pockets for Stellar Wi-Fi

Given its asking value of $1,499.99, you’ll need to dig deep to afford the Netgear Orbi RBKE963 AXE11000 WiFi Mesh System, however in return you get essentially the most superior mesh system round. It’s a quad-band Wi-Fi 6E setup that may function on the 6GHz radio band, and it makes use of the newest 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) expertise to ship speedy throughput and wonderful sign vary.

Granted, most customers don’t want a system with this sort of energy and protection space, and its value is actually prohibitive for most folk with a typical-size house. At roughly one-third the value of the Orbi, the Asus ZenWiFi ET8 is a extra palatable choice for many consumers’ budgets, and likewise an Editors’ Alternative choose. However if you happen to demand the easiest, and cash is not any object, the Orbi RBKE963 is pretty much as good as mesh kits come. It is our latest Editors’ Alternative winner for Wi-Fi mesh programs. 

Netgear Orbi RBKE963 WiFi 6E Mesh System

The Backside Line

The Netgear Orbi RBKE963 is a stellar (albeit fairly costly) three-piece Wi-Fi 6E mesh system that harnesses the 6GHz band to supply a number of the quickest throughput speeds we’ve ever seen.

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