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Netgear Orbi RBK860 Review (vs RBK850): Much Hype, Little Wi-Fi Substance

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The Orbi RBK860 series -- first unveiled on October 11, 2022, as a 3-pack model RBK863S -- is the latest member of Netgear's popular Orbi family of purpose-built mesh Wi-Fi systems.

With Wi-Fi 6E on the rise and Wi-Fi 7 around the corner, I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be the company's last major Wi-Fi 6 Orbi variant.

The new hardware ups the WAN connection to 10Gbps from 2.5Gbps in the previous Orbi RBK850 series, and that's where the buzz is all about.

Netgear claims this port qualifies the new mesh to be its "fastest Wi-Fi 6 system yet" with an "ultimate" router unit that "future-proofs home networks for Internet speed upgrade up to 10Gbps". Unfortunately, all that turned out to be pure marketing bluff in my testing. More on that in a second.

At the core, the Orbi RBK860 series is essentially the same as the previous model in Wi-Fi specs, firmware, and even real-world performance. And no, it can't do 10Gbps Internet, not even close.

Netgear has used "ultimate" to describe many of its broadcasters, as new as the Orbi RBRE960 and old as the RAX120.

Here's the bottom line: At the of $1,099.99 for a 3-pack -- the router itself (model RBR860) goes solo for $429.99, and the satellite (RBS860) costs $429.99 -- the new mesh has nothing to justify its "upgraded" price over the previous model.

While the RBK860 series works well for those with Gigabit or slower broadband, many other options will give you the same experience for (much) less, including Netgear's previous Wi-Fi 6 Orbis.

Dong's note: I first published this piece on October 11, 2022, as a preview and updated it on December 9 to an in-depth review after thorough hands-on testing and real-world usage.

Netgear Orbi RBK860 Series Out of Box
The Netgear Orbi RBK860 series is available in a 3-pack mesh -- model RBK860S (white) or RBK860SB (black) -- that includes a router (RBR860) unit and two satellites (RBS860). All three look identical from most angles.

Netgear Orbi RBK860 series: That lonely hyped-up 10Gbps WAN port

A fast WAN port only helps.

I explained that in this post on Gigabit broadband. If you want to see true 1Gbps, your hardware must support a Multi-Gig.

The 2.5Gbps Multi-Gig WAN approach is popular since it can fully handle a Gigabit or Gig+ WAN connection after overhead. For this reason, many Wi-Fi broadcasters have included this WAN port.

So a 10Gbps WAN port, the top Multi-Gig grade with 4x the speed of 2.5Gbps, will make things that much better, right? Well, that depends.

Things will only be better -- the best, in fact -- if the hardware also has a 10GbE LAN port. In this case, you get one real 10Gbps wired connection and the option of adding a switch to have a true Multi-Gig network.

So far, there are just a handful of home routers with two 10Gbps ports, including the Asus GT-AXE16000, Asus RT-AX89X, and the QNAP Qhora 301W. If you include those with 2.5Gbps and 5Gbps ports, there are over half a dozen with two Multi-Gig ports.

But that's not the case with the Orbi RBK860 series. Its router unit, the RBR860, has a single 10Gbps WAN port. And the satellite unit, the RBS860, has no Multi-Gig port -- there's no chance you can get a network with Multi-Gig wired backhauling out of this set.

Fronthaul vs backhaul

When you use multiple Wi-Fi broadcasters -- in a mesh network or a combo of a router and an extender -- there are two types of connections: fronthaul and backhaul.

Fronthaul is the Wi-Fi signals broadcast outward for clients or the network ports for wired devices. It's what we generally expect from a Wi-Fi broadcaster.

Backhaul (a.k.a backbone,) on the other hand, is the link between one satellite Wi-Fi broadcaster and another, which can be the network's primary router, a switch, or another satellite unit.

This link works behind the scenes to keep the hardware units together as a system. It also determines the ceiling bandwidth (and speed) of all devices connected to the particular broadcaster.

The connection type, a Wi-Fi band or a network port, used for the backhaul is often called the uplink. A Wi-Fi broadcaster might use one of its bands (2.4GHz, 5GHz, or 6GHz) or a network port for the uplink.

Dual-WAN: Where the distinction between bandwidth vs speed is clear

When a Wi-Fi band handles backhaul and fronthaul simultaneously, only half its bandwidth is available to either end. From the perspective of a connected client, that phenomenon is called signal loss.

A Wi-Fi connection between two direct parties occurs in a single band, using one fixed channel, at any given time. This principle applies to all existing Wi-Fi standards, up to Wi-Fi 6E.

When a Wi-Fi band functions solely for backhauling, it's called the dedicated backhaul.

In a mesh system, only traditional Tri-band hardware -- those with an additional 5GHz band -- can have a dedicated backhaul band without ostracizing clients of the same band.

Generally, it's best to use network cables for backhauling -- wired backhauling. And that's an advantage of mesh hardware with network ports. In this case, a satellite broadcaster can use its entire Wi-Fi bandwidth for front-hauling.

In networking, network cables are always much better than wireless in speed and reliability.

And most importantly, there's no to have a real-world faster-than-Gigabit experience out of the RBK860 series. In fact, the RBK860 has nothing to make it faster than the older sibling, the RBK850 series.

With that, let's their hardware specs.

Netgear Orbi RBK860 vs Orbi RBK850: A gentle fight between similar siblings

Netgear often uses the phrase "best Wi-Fi performance" to describe its Orbi variants, and both the RBK860 and RBK850 have their fair share of superlatives.

But the two are very much the same.

Netgear Orbi RBK860 Series Routers Ports Close Up Netgear Orbi RBK850 Series Routers Ports Close Up
Orb RBR860 vs RBR850 (right): Their Multi-Gig WAN ports (10GbE vs 2.5GbE) are the only thing that sets the RBK860 series and RBK850 series apart.
By the way, both of these routers can combine the Multi-Gig WAN port with the first LAN port to create a 2Gbps Link Aggregation WAN, which is entirely useless considering the speed of the default WAN port itself.

As a matter of fact, the 10GbE WAN port of the RBR860 is the only thing that separates the new mesh from the RBK850. The table below will show you how similar they are. For comparison, I also add the RBK960 series to the mix.

Hardware specifications: Netgear Orbi RB960 vs RBK860 vs Orbi RBK850

HardwareNetgear Orbi RBK960 SeriesNetgear Orbi RBK860 Series Netgear Orbi RBK850 Series
ModelRBKE963: 3-pack (white)
RBKE963B: 3-pack (black)
Router: RBRE960
Satellite: RBSE960
RBKE863S (*): 3-pack (white)
RBK863SB: 3-pack (black)
Router: RBR860S
Satellite: RBS860
RBK853: 3-pack
RBK852: 2-pack
Router: RBR850
Satellite: RBS850
Dimensions
(each unit)
11 x 7.5 x 3.3 in
(27.94 x 19.05 x 8.38 cm)
10 x 7.5 x 2.8 in
(24.5 x 19.05 x 7.11 cm)
10 x 7.5 x 2.8 in
(24.5 x 19.05 x 7.11 cm)
Weight 
(each unit)
3 lbs (1.36 kg)2.86 lbs (1.3kg)2.86 lbs (1.3kg)
Wi-Fi SpecsQuad-band AXE11000Tri-band AX6000Tri-band AX6000
1st Band
(channel width)
5GHz-1 4x4 AX: Up to 2.4Gbps
(20/40/80MHz)
5GHz-1 4x4 AX: Up to 2.4Gbps
(20/40/80MHz)
5GHz-1 4x4 AX: Up to 2.4Gbps
(20/40/80MHz)
2rd Band
(channel width)
5GHz-2 4x4 AX: Up to 2.4Gbps
(20/40/80MHz)
5GHz-2 4x4 AX: Up to 2.4Gbps
(20/40/80MHz)
5GHz-2 4x4 AX: Up to 2.4Gbps
(20/40/80MHz)
3rd Band
(channel width)
2.4GHz 4x4 AX: Up to 1200Mbps
(20/40MHz)
2.4GHz 4x4 AX: Up to 1200Mbps
(20/40MHz)
2.4GHz 4x4 AX: Up to 1200Mbps
(20/40MHz)
4th Band
(channel width)
6GHz AXE: Up to 4.8Gbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
NoneNone
Processing Power
(router unit)
Quad-core 2.2GHz CPU,
512MB Flash, 1GB RAM
Quad-core 2.2GHz CPU,
512MB Flash, 1GB RAM
Quad-core 2.2GHz CPU,
512MB Flash, 1GB RAM
MU-MIMO SupportYesYesYes
MIMOYesYesYes
AP (bridge mode) SupportYesYesYes
Dedicated Wireless Backhaul5GHz-2
(permanent)
5GHz-2
(permanent)
5GHz-2
(permanent)
Network Ports
(router)
1x 10Gbps Multi-Gig WAN,
1x 2.5Gbps LAN,
3x Gigabit LAN
1x 10Gbps Multi-Gig WAN,
4x Gigabit LAN
1x 2.5Gbps WAN,
4x Gigabit LAN
Network Ports
(satellite)
1x 2.5Gbps LAN, 3x Gigabit LAN4x Gigabit LAN4x Gigabit LAN
Link AggregationWAN-onlyWAN-onlyWAN-only
Dual-WANNoNoNo
Wired Backhaul2.5GbE/Gigabit
(5GHz backhaul band still unavailable to clients)
Gigabit
(5GHz backhaul band still unavailable to clients)
Gigabit
(5GHz backhaul band still unavailable to clients)
USB PortNoneNoneNone
Firmware Version
(at review)
V6.0.3.68_3.1.9V7.2.4.5V3.2.8.5_1.2.3
Power AdapterInput: 100 - 120V ~50/60Hz
Output: 19V 3.16A
Input: 100 - 120V ~50/60Hz
Output: 12V 3.5A
Input: 100 - 240V ~50/60Hz
Output: 12V 3.5A
Power Consumption
(per 24 hours)
β‰ˆ 420 Wh
(measured at the router unit)
β‰ˆ 300 Wh
(measured at the router unit)
Not measured
Release DateOctober 12, 2021October 11, 2022December 12, 2019
US Price 
(at launch)
$1,499.99 (3-pack)
$699 (router only)
$599 (add-on Satellite)
$1,099.99 (3-pack)
$599 (add-on Satellite)
$699.99
(2-pack)
Netgear Orbi RB960 vs RBK860 vs Orbi RBK850: Hardware specifications

(*) Per Netgear, the "S" on the model names is for "security". It's meant to show off the fact the new Orbi RBK860 series includes a one-year subscription to the Netgear Armor online protection add-on. Previously, Orbi hardware only got a 30-day trial.

This "S" approach will likely be extended to existing Orbi sets, such as the RBKE960, and seems to be Netgear's new way to entice consumers by giving them what they should (or used to) get for free, plus some extras.

Netgear Orbi's model names

Generally, though not always, a Netgear Orbi set's model number starts with RBK -- RBK50, RBK13, RBK752, RBK852, and so on. Those supporting Wi-Fi 6E have an additional E, like the case of the RBKE960.

Dissecting the Orbi’s model name

There are three telling things in an Orbi model name: The first letter, the third (and 4th) letter, and the last digit. The 2nd letter is always the same -- B is for Orbi.

  • The first letter (often R, C, or N, but there might be more) means the hardware's character.
    • R: It's a regular (standard) setup, be it a single router or a mesh system. So, for example, RBK852 means this one is a standard mesh system.
    • C: There's a cable modem involved. For example, CBK752 is a mesh system in which the router unit has a built-in cable modem.
    • N: This is when the router unit is cellular-capable. N here is short for NR, or "new radio," a fancy name for cellular Internet.
  • The 3rd letter (often K, R, or S) means the hardware unit's exclusive role.
    • K = Kit. This means you're looking at a multi-unit package that includes one router and at least one satellite. So RBK752 refers to a kit of more than one hardware unit. How many? See the last digit below.
    • R = Router unit. For example, RBR750 is the router unit of the RBK750 series.
    • S = Satellite unit. For example, RBS750 is the satellite unit of the RBK752.
    • The 4th letter (if any): That'd be the letter E which stands for Wi-Fi 6E, like the case of the recently announced RBKE960 series.
  • The last digit (often 0, 2, 3, etc.) shows the package's total hardware units.
    • 0 = Single hardware unit (either a router or a satellite.) Generally, it signifies a series of hardware releases.
    • 2 = A 2-pack (router + one satellite). For example, RBK752 is a 2-pack cable-ready mesh that includes a CBR750 gateway and an RBS750 satellite.
    • 3 = A 3-pack (router + two satellites). The RBK853 is a 3-pack mesh system with one RBR850 router and two RBS850 satellite units.
  • The last letter or letters (if any): Most Orbi hardware doesn't have this last letter. For those that do, it's intended to add some extra, such as:
    • B: This letter means the hardware is black, like the case of the RBKE960B.
    • S: It's for "security," like the case of the RBR860S, where the unit includes a one-year subscription to Netgear Armor (instead of a 30-day trial.)
  • The middle digits (often 5, 75, 85, 96, etc.) are Netgear's in-house designations to show the hardware's Wi-Fi specs. They are a bit arbitrary. Specifically:
    • 5: This is for Wi-Fi 5. For example, the original RBK50 is a Wi-Fi 5 Orbi.
    • 75: This is for a tri-band Wi-Fi 6 with two 2x2 bands and one 4x4 band. Example: the RBK752.
    • 85: Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 hardware with all 4x4 bands. Example: the RBK850 series.
    • 86: The same as the RBK850 series with the router unit having a 10GbE Mult-Gig port (instead of 2.5GbE) -- the case of the RBK860 series.
    • 96: Quad-band Wi-Fi 6E with all 4x4 bands. Example: the RBKE960 series.

If you're still confused, you're not alone, but generally, you get the idea. For example, the RBRE960 is the standard high-end Wi-Fi 6E router unit of the Orbi RBKE960 series.

Netgear Orbi RBR860 vs RBRE960Netgear Orbi RBR860 vs RBRE960 1 1
The front and back of the RBR860 and RBRE960, the only two Orbi routers with 10Gbps LAN ports
Note the second Multi-Gig port of the latter.

Netgear Orbi RBK860 vs Orbi RBK850: There’s no room for better Wi-Fi throughputs

As you might have noted in the table above, other than the 10Gbps WAN port (as opposed to 2.5Gbps), the Orbi RBK860 series is virtually the same as the Orbi RBK850 in hardware specs.

Netgear claims that the new mesh has a 20% better performance, but in reality, that was simply a lie, as you'll note in the performance section below.

But, judging from the specs alone, there's no scenario in which the Orbi RBK860 series can be faster than the Orbi RBK850. And most importantly, its 10Gbps WAN port plays no practical role.

Here's why:

  • Like all previous Orbi, the RBK860's second 5GHz band (the 5GHz-2) is its permanent backhaul band -- this band never works for clients. Consequently, you can never get two concurrent Wi-Fi connections without splitting the bandwidth of its fronthaul 5GHz band.
  • Both of its 5GHz bands do not support 160MHz channel width (*). As a result, the fronthaul band (5GHz-1) has, at best, 1.2Gbps (1200Mbps) of ceiling Wi-Fi bandwidth to a 2x2 Wi-Fi 6 client -- there's no faster client. Real-world bandwidth will be much lower than 1.2Gbps.
  • All wired clients will connect at 1Gbps at best -- the hardware has no Multi-Gig LAN port, nor does it feature LAN Link Aggregation.

(*) For stability, Netgear has so far opted the Orbi family out of the support for DFS channels. That, plus the splitting of the 5GHz spectrum to support an additional 5GHz band (5GHz-2), leaves the front-haul 5GHz band (5GHz-1) with only four 20MHz channels to work with. Combining them, we get a single 80MHz channel out of the band.

So, 2x2 5GHz Wi-Fi 6 clients can never connect at more than 80MHz in terms of bandwidth (or 1200Mbps). Often, due to compatibility reasons, a narrower channel will be used, further cutting down the connection speeds.

Netgear Orbi and the permanent backhaul concept

To understand the Orbi's permanent backhaul concept, which Netgear calls "patented dedicated backhaul," you can liken the mesh system's router unit to a special 4WD pickup truck with a separate engine for the rear wheels dedicated solely to the job of pulling a trailer.

This engine makes sense and is great when the truck has a trailer attached (a mesh system) but becomes dead weight when it works just by itself (standalone router) -- it's now a full-time front-wheel-drive vehicle.

It's probably not a good idea to consider such a truck unless you intend to use it to pull a trailer most, if not all, of the time.

The point is Netgear's Orbi only makes sense when you need a fully wireless mesh Wi-Fi system and never when you need a standalone router, where the second 5GHz band is a big waste in terms of hardware cost and energy consumption.

Now, let's talk about the 10Gbps WAN port of the RBR860 router unit.

The only way to see how this port plays out is when you have super-fast broadband -- this port can never work as a LAN port. There are two scenarios. In one, you don't have super-fast Internet; in the other, you do.

If you don’t have super-fast broadband

If your Internet speed maxes out at Gigabit (1000Mbps) or slower -- the case of home users -- any router supporting the lowest grade of Multi-Gig (2.5Gbps) on the WAN side will be able to give you all the bandwidth you'd need.

Data transmission speeds in a nutshell

As you read this page, keep in mind that each character on the screen, including a space between two words, generally requires one byte of data.

The phrase "Dong Knows Tech," with no quotes, requires at least 15 bytes, and likely more since the formatting -- such as capitalization and font -- also needs extra storage space.

Byte -- often in kilobytes (kB), megabytes (MB), or gigabytes (GB) -- is generally used to convey storage space. For data transmission, we use bits.

One byte equals eight bits.

One million (1,000,000) bits = 1 Megabit (Mb).

Megabits per second (Mbps) -- the number of megabits being manipulated in one second -- is the common unit for data transmission nowadays. Based on that, the following are common terms:

  • Fast Ethernet: A connection standard that can deliver up to 100Mbps.
  • Gigabit: That's short for Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) and generally means transmission speeds in Gigabit per second (Gbps). This is currently the most popular wired connection standard. 1Gbps = 1000Mbps.
  • Gig+: A connection that's faster than 1Gbps but slower than 2Gbps. It often applies to 2x2 Wi-Fi 6/6E or Internet speeds.
  • Multi-Gigabit: That's multiple Gigabits -- a link that's 2Gbps or faster.
  • Multi-Gig: A new BASE-T wired connection standard that delivers 2.5GbE, 5Gbe, or 10GbE over CAT5e (or a higher grade) network cables, depending on the devices involved, and is also backward compatible with Fast Ethernet and Gigabit.

Multi-Gig explained: Faster-than-Gigabit and beyond

A 2.5Gbps port has more than double the bandwidth of a Gigabit and can easily handle a 1000Mbps connection in full after overhead.

As a result, using any higher Multi-Gig grades -- that's 5Gbps or 10Gbps in the case of the Orbi 860 series -- will offer zero return on investment. It's like buying a sledgehammer to drive a small nail.

Netgear Orbi RBR860 vs RBS860 Ports
In an Orbi RBK860 system, only the router unit (RBR860) has a 10GbE port. The satellite only has Gigabit LAN ports.

In other words, when you have Gigabit or slower broadband, the less expensive RBK850 series (2.5Gbps WAN) or even the RBK750 series (Gigabit WAN) makes more sense.

If you do have super-fast Multi-Gig broadband

For the sake of argument and to match what the new Orbi's supposed to offer, let's say we indeed have a 10Gbps broadband connection that truly delivers 10GbE of bandwidth -- most don't, in my experience.

In this case, the broadband speed will presumably enter the Orbi RBR860 router unit at 10Gbps. And that's great.

However, you'll get 1Gbps at best on a wired client on the way out. So you'll need ten wired clients downloading at top speed simultaneously to appreciate this WAN connection fully. But the RBR860 has just four LAN ports.

On the Wi-Fi front, its 5GHz-1 band (the only one available to clients) has the maximum theoretical bandwidth of 2400Mbps. Since we only have 2x2 Wi-Fi 6 clients, this number is cut in half (1200Mbp) in reality. Consequently, it can handle, at best, a single Wi-Fi client with Gig+ theoretical speed.

What is Gig+

Gig+, or Gig Plus, conveys a speed grade faster than 1Gbps but slower than 2Gbps. So, it's 1.5Gbps, give or take, and it's not fast enough to be qualified as Multi-Gig or multi-Gigabit.

Gig+ generally applies to the sustained speeds of Wi-Fi 6 or 6E -- via a 2x2 at 160MHz connection which has the 2400Mbps theoretical ceiling speed -- or Internet speed and is not used to describe wired network connections.

The real-world sustained speeds proved to be consistently well below 1Gbps in my testing -- more below.

The point is this: by itself, the router unit can handle at most six top-performing clients or the maximum output of around 6Gbps, which is also the number that Netgear claims. As a result, there's no way you can know for sure that you get 10Gbps WAN speed.

If you add an RBS860 satellite unit, its speed will be limited by the backhaul, which is either 1Gbps via a wired connection or 2.4Gbps via the 5GHz-2 backhaul band. As a result, a satellite's connected clients will be even further removed from the 10Gbps WAN input.

So, in the end, the 10Gbps WAN port doesn't have much to offer because there's no way users can appreciate it. They can't even know if this port functions at 10GbE speed grade -- it could be a 5Gbps port, and that'd make no difference.

And that proved to be the case in my trial. The RBR860 failed to deliver even a third of my 10Gbps Fiber-optic line.

Here's the real deal: If you have 10GbE or any Multi-Gig broadband, you'd want to experience it -- trust me! And for now, a router with two Multi-Gig ports or a mesh with Multi-Gig wired backhauling is the only way to go.

The same (now-draggy) Orbi experience

Besides the 10Gbps port, the Orbi RBK860 has the same firmware as the previous Orbis, including the RBKE960.

Netgear Orbi RBK860 Web user Interface
The Netgear Orbi RBK860 has scant Wi-Fi customaation. Note how its front-haul 5GHz band has only four channels to work with.

To avoid repeating myself, here are a few bullet points:

  • The hardware of the 3-pack RBK863S is pre-synced. All you have to do is set up the router unit and plug in the satellites.
  • You must use the Orbi mobile app via a Netgear login account to set up the router. This app is also required for remote management -- you can no longer do that via Dynamic DNS. Hint: Privacy risks.
  • The router comes with one year of Netgear Armor, an online protection feature that requires the Orbi app to work. Subsequently, it costs $99/year. You must subscribe to use other once-free features, such as QoS or Parental Controls.
  • The Wi-Fi customization is minimal. In fact, there's not much you can do other than change the sole main SSID and turn on or off the support for Wi-Fi 6 on each band, the Guest network, and the IoT network, which is a second Guest network.
  • A local web interface is available after the initial setup process.
  • There's a web interface for advanced settings with limited Wi-Fi customization and a mobile app for remote access, ease of use, and premium add-ons.

Other than that, I'd also add a personal note that the setup process of the Orbi app, and the app itself, have gotten more and more unpleasant over the years.

With each app update, it seems Netgear has added more add-on nags and marketing materials. All the while, there's no improvement or added access to in-depth settings.

Orbi Mobile App RBK860 Series Nags Orbi Mobile App RBK860 Series Settings
Lacking in substance, the Orbi Mobile app comes with lots of annoying shenanigans. Remember that you're subject to this after having already paid for the product itself, which is not cheap.

For example, there was a part where I needed to connect my phone to Orbi's default Wi-Fi network, a process that should generally take no more than a few seconds. The app showed "Connecting to Orbi" and said that would take a few minutes and it indeed took more than five minutes. During that time, the screen kept flashing sale pitches of other paid add-ons.

In the end, the setup seemed to require much more time than necessary.

If you've never used an Orbi before or have time, you might be able to ignore this practice. But those wanting to get their Wi-Fi up and running asap would get annoyed fast.

I did.

The entire time, I wished the networking vendor had spent more resources on making its products better instead of figuring out sneaky ways to nickel-and-dime their users.

Netgear Orbi RBK860: Detail photos

Netgear Orbi RBK850 Series RBK863S Retail Box
The Netgear Orbi RBK850 series' retail box for the 3-pack set (RBK863S).

Netgear Orbi RBK850 SeriesNetgear Orbi RBK860 Series Underside
The top and the underside of the Netgear Orbi RBK860 series (3-pack RBK863S)
Each hardware unit is not wall-mountable but comes with holes to work with special mounting accessories (not included.)

Netgear Orbi RBK860 Series is relatively largeNetgear Orbi RBK860 Series Router Ports 10Gbps
Each hardware unit is quite large. Here's my hand holding the router unit.

Netgear Orbi RBR860 vs RBS860 Ports
On the back, though, the router is the only unit that has a 10GbE WAN port.

Netgear Orbi RBK860 Series Router PortsNetgear Orbi RBK860 Series Satellite Ports
The back of the RBR860 router and RBS860 satellite

Netgear Orbi RBK860 Series Power Adapter
Each hardware unit of the Netgear Orbi RBK860 series comes with a 100-120V power adapter.

Netgear Orbi RBK860: Reliable but unimpressive performance

I tested the 3-pack RBK860 series for over a week, and the system proved reliable. It was fast enough for us to get things done around the house with no issues.

RBR860 Internet speed
The best-case-scenario Internet speed out of the Orbi RBK860 when hosting a 10Gbps Fiber-optic line. Generally, the system taps out at slightly slower than 900Mbps of total Wi-Fi bandwidth.

However, we never were able to get connection speeds faster than 900Mbps from it, out of our 10Gbps Fiber-optic plan, via a Wi-Fi connection.

To check the RBR860's 10Gbp WAN port, I used a few wired computers to test simultaneously and was never gotten a combined sustained bandwidth of more than 2.2Gbps.

Considering the cost and the 10Gbps promise, it was pretty underwhelming.

Orbi RBK860 vs Orbi RBK850: Similar performance

Most importantly, the new mesh was not decidedly faster than the RBK850 series. It was the same experience.

On the charts below, you'll note how the two Wi-Fi 6 Orbi variants were on par in sustained Wi-Fi rates. Keep in mind that the RBK860 uses a much newer (and likely improved) firmware compared to the RBK850's (at the time I tested it.)

Orbi RBR860 Router Performance vs other Orbi Routers
Orbi RBR860 router's performance against other Wi-Fi 6 and 6E Orbi routers.
AC 5GHz: 4x4 client is used for the close range and 3x3 for the long range.
(β˜†): Tests done via the RBR860 router's 10Gbps WAN port.
(β˜…): Tests done via the RBR860 router's Gigabit LAN port.

Per the way I test Wi-Fi routers, the RBR860 router's 10GbE WAN port would play no role since I generally connect the test server to the router's LAN port.

However, I decided to go out of my way to make use of this ultra-fast port for my testing via a double NAT:

  • I connect my 10Gbps test server to a 10GbE switch which connects to a 10Gbps router.
  • Then, I connect the RBR860 router's WAN port to the switch.
  • Now we have a 10Gbps wired connection between the test server and the RBR860 router.

But even then, the router didn't do much better with Wi-Fi 6 clients.

In fact, only Wi-Fi 5 clients benefited from the extra bandwidth. Per all Wi-Fi 6 Orbis' specs, 2x2 Wi-Fi clients max out at 1200Mbps ceiling speed, but 4x4 and 3x3 Wi-Fi 5 clients can connect at faster rates.

Orbi RBS860 Satellite Performance against other Orbi Satellite
Orbi RBS860 satellite's performance against other Wi-Fi 6 and 6E Orbi satellites. All tests were done via a 5GHz dedicated backhaul.

An average mesh among its peers

Compared with other Wi-Fi 6 canned mesh systems on the market, the RBK860 series proved to be average, just like the case of other Orbis. And that means if you factor in the cost, it'd be below average.

Netgear Orbi RBR860 Router Mesh Performance Long Range Netgear Orbi RBR860 Router Mesh Performance Short Range
The Netgear Orbi RBR860 router's performance against other Wi-Fi 6 mesh routers.
(β˜†): Tests done via the RBR860 router's 10Gbps WAN port.
(β˜…): Tests done via the RBR860 router's Gigabit LAN port.

In any case, you'll note in the charts there were scenarios where you could get a sustained Gigabit connection out of the new mesh via Wi-Fi.

Regarding Wi-Fi coverage, the RBK860 was quite extensive, but not more extensive than the previous model.

It's always hard to gauge the Wi-Fi range correctly, and it's generally more complicated with any Orbi since you can't name its band as a separate SSID -- the 2.4GHz band has a much farther range than the 5GHz, and you don't know to which band a client connects to by looking at the bars.

Netgear Orbi RBS860 Satellite Mesh Performance Long Range Netgear Orbi RBS860 Satellite Mesh Performance Short Range
The Netgear Orbi RBS860 satellite's performance against other Wi-Fi 6 mesh satellites.
All tests were done via wireless backhauling.

However, generally, you can expect each unit to cover some 2000ftΒ² (186mΒ²), and your mileage will vary depending on the layout of your home and how you arrange the units.

In any case, take Netgear's claim -- 2650ftΒ² per hardware unit -- with a big grain of salt.

Netgear Orbi 860 Series (RBK863S)'s Rating

6.8 out of 10
Netgear Orbi RBK860 Series 1
Performance
8 out of 10
Features
6 out of 10
Ease of Use
8 out of 10
Value
5 out of 10

Pros

Reliable Wi-Fi with extensive coverage; 10GbE WAN port on the router

Responsive local web interface with several standard network settings

A year of online protection included (mobile app required)

Cons

High cost; single WAN-only 10GbE port, no Multi-Gig port on satellites; useless WAN Link Aggregation

No 160MHz channel support, 2nd 5GHz band is never available to the client; limited Wi-Fi customization; neutered web user interface

Mobile app (and login account) required for remote management; many features require paid subscriptions

No Wi-Fi 6E, bulky design

Conclusion

The Netgear Orbi RBK860 series -- as a 3-pack RBK860S or any other configurations -- is not a terrible Wi-Fi solution. But it's definitely a disappointing one.

The new hardware's pointless 10GbE WAN port carries a lot of hype only to show little or no impact on real-life usage. It's like investing in a 10-lane entry ramp that connects to a 2-lane freeway.

The new mesh feels like that time I wanted to add a gold-plated scroll wheel to a computer mouse to call it the "ultimate" pointing device. Why would anyone want to do that? My point exactly!

While it doesn't hurt to pick the Orbi RBK860 series over the RBK850 series (which is already overpriced,) the real question here is when should you consider either of them? And the answer is only if you have sub-Gigabit networking needs and can't run network cables.

For a supposedly "ultimate" Wi-Fi solution, unlike the RBK850 that came out more than three years ago, the RBK860 is dated at launch -- we've had Wi-Fi 6E for a while. And the truth is, even if it was not, it's still a wrong choice for those with Gigabit, Gig+, or multi-Gigabit broadband.

But that's the case for all existing Orbis due to their lack of bandwidth on the much-needed 5GHz band. Maybe Wi-Fi 7 will change that. Or not. We'll have to wait and see.

For other Wi-Fi options, including those capable of delivering ultra-fast broadband, check out this frequently updated roundup on Wi-Fi hardware with Multi-Gig support.

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25 thoughts on “Netgear Orbi RBK860 Review (vs RBK850): Much Hype, Little Wi-Fi Substance”

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  1. I am using a wired backhaul between an RBR860S and RBS860. In the mobile app it shows that I have clients connecting to 5GHz-1 and 5GHz-2. I am currently using firmware V7.2.4.5_4.2.2.

    Reply
      • I am looking at the devices online screen and it splits them into 4 sections. 2.4Ghz, 5Ghz, 5Ghz-2 and wired. I see connected devices on all of them. Laptops, Cameras etc… The 5Ghz-2 has around 8 devices that I recognize on my network in that section. All of the devices use the same SSID. Maybe the mobile app is showing things incorrectly but there are definitely devices listed under 5Ghz-2.

        In the router UI it shows 5Ghz-2 as using channels 149 + 153 + 157(P) + 161. The Orbis are in AP mode.

        Reply
        • That means those devices are connected to the satellite (RBS) and not directly to the router (RBR). From the router’s perspective, that’s how they are.

          Turn the satellite(s) off and you’ll see, there’d be no device connected to the 5GHz-2.

          That also means chances are your wired backhauling is not working properly, either. But even if it is, there’s still a wireless connection between the two broadcasters if they are placed close enough.

          If you use wired backhauling, it’s a waste of money to get any Orbi.

          Reply
          • I did run an experiment later and unplugged the backhaul and waited for the wireless backhaul to sync up. The result was that all devices moved off of 5Ghz-2 to either to 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz. I later plugged the wired backhaul in and devices slowly moved back into 5Ghz-2.

            I do understand the perspective on Orbi with wired backhaul that it might be a waste of money. I also run dual WAN and I probably don’t need that either. I just feel the Orbi is generally consistently stable/reliable. It is just my preference.

          • The Orbi’s sole main SSID includes only the 2.4GHz and 5GHz-1 bands, Matt. Keep that in mind.

            I talked with Netgear long and hard on the issue. It seems this might change with Wi-Fi 7, but that’s TBD. Until then, in all existing orbi, the 5Ghz-2 is not avaible for clients, likely because it uses a proprietary configuration incompatible with standard clients.

            In most cases this particular set works fine — 1/2 of 5GHz spectrum and 80MHz are enough for most cases. It’s just a matter of preference. As long as you’re aware of the facts and still happy with it, then it’s good. But for the cost and especially the “up to 10Gbps” hype, it’s definitely slow, very slow. For a a bit more, you can get much better Wi-Fi 7 Deco. Or the ZenWiFi XT12 is much cheaper.

  2. Hi Dong,
    Great stuff here! I only wish I read this before I bought this RBR860 system. I have had nothing but issues with this crap, I cant keep a device connected to save my life! I have to flip wifi off/on for all my devices to connect back to this garbage. Firesticks are a nightmare trying to get them connected again!
    I will be returning this crap and picking up the ASUS XT12 system. Not sure why I ever strayed from ASUS, but Netgear for sure has lost me as customer after this nightmare!

    Reply
  3. Dear Dong,

    I’m a new reader, and I find your website an excellent and honest source of information. Reading the comments above, I didn’t know what “URL” was at first… Then my son told me. Thank you for what you do. You deserve better.

    Oh, I will never purchase a Netgear product in the future again, Orbi or not.

    Reply
  4. Hi Dong!

    Long time fan! Following your advice in another article, we put our Wi-Fi system together — a router and a few access points — at our practice for a fraction of the bid. And it’s been working well for years. I’ve learned so much from your website… more than just Wi-Fi tech.

    I just wanted to say that you did nothing wrong using the word “review” in the URL of this post. First, it’s nobody’s business, you can put whatever you want to put there. Most importantly, this article is, in fact, a review to an extent, though it’s not like your other “review” reviews. A review doesn’t always have to be done on actual hardware. We do that a lot in science by analyzing presented known facts.

    Thank you for taking the consumers’ side and not being another shill for the hardware vendors like most tech “journalists” out there.

    And Mr. Gill, either you’re a lunatic, you work for Netgear, or both.

    Reply
    • Thank you! Appreciate our kind words. This is not a review. With hindsight, I wish I had checked the permanent link… But it is what it is.

      Reply
  5. Pointing out the Google search result was simply to explain that I didn’t need sharp eyes to see the review in the URL.

    As for real data, I’m not talking about specs and screen shots. I’m talking about performance, like you do in your real reviews. I’ve read the article and see nothing even close to test results. I’m sure things would be a lot easier for you if you could just give your educated guesses on every new product.

    And finally, I guess in your long conversation with Netgear about the product, you didn’t mention that you were going to claim it doesn’t have Link Aggregation or they would have set you straight. It does, you can see the label on the pictures Netgear provided. I supposed this was just another one of your “educated guesses”.

    Reply
    • Kudos for having finally read the post, Jim. But you didn’t pay enough attention. Like the previous model, this Orbi has no *LAN* Link Aggregation — that’s the whole point — it has no multi-Gigabit on the way out. What’s the point of WAN LG when it already has a 10Gbps WAN port? In case you don’t know the difference, LAN is the side for clients, like your desktop computer, game console, etc., and WAN is the side for the Internet where your modem or Fiber-optic ONT is.

      It seems you’re just unhappy because you didn’t find what you wanted, which is understandable. (Still, it’s a bit strange that you’ve clung to a single word, basically a typo, and whined so much about all this, really, it’s not like you had to pay for the privilege of reading the post or somebody forced it on you against your will.)

      But as I said, you can get a set and try it yourself. (And you’ll likely see that this Orbi RBK860 has great discrepancies when compared to the marketing hype and the cost, possibly enough for you to lament for the rest of your life judging from how much a single word has caused.) Do it! I’m open to being proven wrong. I have other priorities.

      Take care!

      Reply
    • @Jim I read your complaint below and this one. You’ve got to be STUPID to judge an article by the web address. Seriously. It’s not even a book’s cover. I can’t believe Dong has the patience to even address your nonsensical concern. And guess what? YOU’RE WRONG!

      What the hell is wrong with you? So you clicked on the wrong search result? Just close the damn page! Or suck on it. And move the ef on! Are you web address police? Get an efing life!

      Also, Netgear Orbi sucks!

      Reply
  6. So is reading a press release now the basis for a “review” on a new product? You make presumptions about performance without actually having the product in hand?

    Reply
    • This is not a review, Jim. Just because you think it is doesn’t make it so.

      If you want to know the differences, read an actual review on this site. There are a lot of them. And yes, those presumptions are based on my educated guess from previous real-world, hands-on experiences and the general physics of the hardware — you can predict pretty well how a new car performs from its engine and the performances of similar or previous models, so to speak.

      Also, what you’ve read here, if you actually did read the entire post, is hardly the Orbi 860’s press release — I have a copy.

      Reply
        • Good catch there, Jim! The URL was automatically generated by the system and I overlooked it before publishing. Generally, I don’t want to change it after the fact which will cause 404 errors or redirection, etc. And I might indeed review this one later. I explicitly put “Review” in the headline of a real review.

          The URL is not part of any post’s content, by the way. It’s like an SKU of a product. It’s mostly hidden or obscure.

          In other words, if the URL contains a particular word or number, that doesn’t necessarily have something to do with the actual content of an article. That’s just how online publishing works.

          Also, this piece is not entirely a news piece either, which is why I categorize it differently.

          Take it from me that this post is not a review, at least not yet, and I had no intention to misrepresent it as one. Considering your sharp eyes, you’ll note that if you read the post.

          Reply
          • Not obscure enough. I saw the press release and Googled “orbi rbk860 review” thinking someone would have gotten a preview unit and was now free to talk about it.

            Guess what the top search result was?

            Guess how disappointed I was that it seemed like you had already written it off based on “educated guesses” instead of actually testing it.

            Whether your guesses turn out right or wrong doesn’t matter to me. Show me real data and then I’ll decide if a product is something I should consider or pass on.

          • That’s the REAL data, Jim. It’s my personal analysis without hands-on testing. I had a long conversation with Netgear about the product. You can take my word for it or get one and try it yourself. I’m not sure I want to test it because it’s so similar to the RBK850, which I already reviewed, and from my experience with the RBKE960 which has a similar 10Gbps port, I’m pretty sure the 860 makes little difference if at all compared with the previous model.

            As for the URL, stuff happens. (A bit of extra info: My default post type, and you have to pick one, is “review” and as soon as a post is created “review” is already part of the URL and I often forget to check.) I don’t think that word in the URL plays much in the google search result, if at all since it’s not part of the result. If you don’t believe me, try Googling “Asus zenwifi xt9 review”, “tp-link deco xe75 pro review”, or “Asus RT-AX86S review”, and you’ll find similar results — none of those are reviews and they don’t have “review” in the URLs.

            Now quit whining and give this post a REAL read. It deserves at least that and you’ll feel better. After all, Google did deliver an excellent search result though you might not realize that yet. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, Peter. And fixed. Next time you can also highlight the typo and hit the red box that jumps out from the top right corner. 😳

      Reply

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