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Netgear Orbi RBK860 Series (vs RBK850): That Awfully Lonely 10GbE WAN Port

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Netgear today unveiled the latest member in its popular Orbi family of purpose-built mesh Wi-Fi systems, the Orbi RBK860 series.

The new hardware ups the WAN connection to 10Gbps (a.k.a 10GbE or 10 Gigabit Ethernet) from 2.5Gbps of the previous Orbi RBK850 series, the company’s first Wi-Fi 6 Orbi set debuted in late 2019. And this new 10GbE port is where the buzz is all about.

Indeed, the networking vendor claims this port qualifies the new mesh as “our fastest Wi-Fi 6 system yet” with an “ultimate” router all because it “future-proofs home networks for Internet speed upgrades up to 10Gbps”.

For reference, Netgear has used “ultimate” to describe many of its routers, as new as the Orbi RBRE960, which has a 10Gbps WAN port and a 2.5Gbps LAN port, and as old as the RAX120, which has a 5Gbps LAN/WAN port.

But besides this glorified new WAN port, the Orbi RBK860 series is essentially the same as the previous model in Wi-Fi specs, firmware, and mobile apps.

Still, it comes with an “upgraded” cost, carrying the suggested retail price of $1,099.99 for a 3-pack (model Orbi RBK863S) — or you can get the satellite (model RBS860) for $429.99 and the router (model RBR860S) for $429.99.

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 gets 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.

Naturally, the question is whether this new Wi-Fi 6 mesh option is what it’s cracked up to be and is worth the extra cost. Let’s dig in a bit more and find out.

Netgear Orbi RBK863
The Netgear Orbi RBK860 series is available as a 3-pack (RBK860S) for $1099.99, and you can also buy the satellite unit, model RBS860 ($429.99), to add more coverage.

Netgear Orbi RBK860 series: That 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 faster standard, and 2.5Gbps is the next step.

For this reason, many Wi-Fi routers and mesh systems come with a (2.5Gbps) Multi-Gig WAN port.

Recently, TP-Link added the “Pro” notion to its Deco XE75 by adding the same port to the hardware.

So using a 10Gbps WAN port — that’s 4x the speed of a 2.5Gbps port — 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.

Currently, 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.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case with the Orbi RBK860 series. Specifically, its router unit, the RBR860, has a single 10Gbps WAN port that can’t be programmed to work as a LAN port. And satellite unit, the RBS860, has no Multi-Gig port at all.

Consequently, there’s no chance you can get a network with Multi-Gig wired backhauling out of this set. And most importantly, there’s no way you can experience faster-than-Gigabit out of this hardware.

But first, let’s check out the new mesh’s other specs.

Netgear Orbi RBK863 SeriesNetgear Orbi RBK863B Series
The Orbi RBK860 series is available in white and black.

Hardware specifications: Orbi RBK860 vs Orbi RBK850

Netgear often uses the phrase “best Wi-Fi performance” to describe its Orbi variants.

In reality, the Orbi family generally has modest Wi-Fi specs on the 5GHz — the most important band due to clients’ popularity — due to the lack of support for the 160MHz channel width and, most importantly, the fact that half of the spectrum is permanently unavailable to clients.

HardwareNetgear Orbi RBK860 Series Netgear Orbi RBK850 Series
ModelRBKE863: 3-pack (white)
RBK863B: 3-pack (black)
Router: RBR860
Satellite: RBS860
RBK853: 3-pack
RBK852: 2-pack
Router: RBR850
Satellite: RBS850
(each unit)
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)
(each unit)
2.86 lbs (1.3kg)2.86 lbs (1.3kg)
Wi-Fi SpecsTri-band AX6000Tri-band AX6000
1st Band
(Channel Width)
5GHz-1 4×4 AX: Up to 2.4Gbps
5GHz-1 4×4 AX: Up to 2.4Gbps
2nd Band
(Channel Width)
5GHz-2 4×4 AX: Up to 2.4Gbps
5GHz-2 4×4 AX: Up to 2.4Gbps
3rd Band
(Channel Width)
2.4GHz 4×4 AX: Up to 1200Mbps
2.4GHz 4×4 AX: Up to 1200Mbps
Processing Power
(router unit)
Quad-core 2.2GHz CPU,
512MB Flash, 1GB RAM
Quad-core 2.2GHz CPU,
512MB Flash, 1GB RAM
MU-MIMO SupportYesYes
AP (bridge mode) SupportYesYes
Dedicated Wireless Backhaul5GHz-2
Network Ports
1x 10Gbps WAN,
4x Gigabit LAN
1x 2.5Gbps WAN,
4x Gigabit LAN
Network Ports
4x Gigabit LAN4x Gigabit LAN
Link AggregationWAN-onlyWAN-only
Wired BackhaulGigabit
(5GHz backhaul band unavailable to clients)
(5GHz backhaul band unavailable to clients)
USB PortNoneNone
Release DateOctober 11, 2022December 12, 2019
US Price 
(at launch)
$1,099.99 (3-pack)
$599 (add-on Satellite)
Netgear Orbi RBK860 vs Orbi RBK850: Hardware specifications
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,” which is 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 in 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.)
  • Extra: 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 2×2 bands and one 4×4 band. Example: the RBK752.
    • 85: Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 hardware with all 4×4 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 4×4 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.

Orbi RBK860 vs Orbi RBK850: Expect the same Wi-Fi throughputs

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

Netgear does claim that the new mesh has a “20% Wi-Fi boost” via “unique Wi-Fi optimization and a new, improved antenna array” over the previous model. But the range is tough to quantify, and this improvement remains to be seen.

One thing is clear, there’s no way the Orbi RBK860 series will be (noticeably) faster than the Orbi RBK850. Most importantly, its 10Gbps WAN port will play no practical role, if at all.

To understand the reason, first, keep the following facts in mind:

  • Like all previous Orbi, the RBK860’s second 5GHz band (the 5GHz-2) is its permanent backhaul band — this band never works for clients.
  • Both of its 5GHz bands do not support 160MHz channel width. Consequently, the fronthaul band (5GHz-1) has, at best, 1.2Gbps (1200Mbps) of ceiling Wi-Fi bandwidth to a 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 client — there’s no faster client. Real-world speed 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 Link Aggregation.

Orbi and the dedicated backhaul dilemma

To understand the Orbi’s permanent backhaul concept, which Netgear often refers to as “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 the truck 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. Clearly, 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.

So there are two applicable scenarios. In one, you don’t have super-fast Internet and in the other, you do.

If you don’t have super-fast broadband (but only Gigabit or slower)

In this popular case where your Internet speed is at Gigabit (1Gbps) or slower, any router supporting the lowest grade of Multi-Gig (2.5Gbps) on the WAN side will be able to give you all that you’d need in terms of Internet bandwidth.

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.

One byte equals eight bits.

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

Megabits per second (Mbps) — the number of megabits that are 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 2×2 Wi-Fi 6/E 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, depending on the devices involved, and is also backward compatible with Fast Ethernet and Gigabit.

Multi-Gig explained: It’s more than faster-than-Gigabit speeds

Indeed, a 2.5Gbps port has more than double the bandwidth of a Gigabit and can easily handle a 1Gbps connection in full. As a result, using any higher Multi-Gig grades, namely 5Gbps or 10Gbps in the case of the Orbi 860 series, will offer zero return on investment. It’s like using a sledgehammer to drive a small nail.

Netgear Orbi RBK860 Series 10Gbps Port
The 10Gbps WAN port is where Netgear hypes up its new Orbi RBK860 series. There’s not much return in real-world usage.

In other words, when you have Gigabit or slower broadband, the RBK850 series (with 2.5Gbps WAN) or even the RBK750 series (Gigabit WAN) makes more sense and is a much better deal.

If you do have super-fast Multi-Gig broadband

For the sake of argument and to match what the new Orbi offers, let’s say we indeed have a 10Gbps broadband connection that truly delivers. (Most don’t — and I speak from experience.)

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

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

On the Wi-Fi front, its 5GHz-1 band (the only band that’s available to clients) has the top bandwidth of 2400Mbps, so it can handle at best two Wi-Fi clients with Gig+ theoretical speed. Real-world sustained speeds will be around Gigabit or likely lower.

So by itself, the router unit can handle at most six top-performing clients or the maximum output of around 6Gbps. As a result, there’s no way you can know for sure that you actually 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. Consequently, this satellite’s connected clients will be even further removed from the 10Gbps WAN input.

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

And here’s the real deal: If you actually 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 bottom line is this: If you indeed have Multi-Gig broadband, the Orbi RBK860 series — any current Orbi, for that matter — will be a bad choice. The new mesh’s hardware just doesn’t make sense, especially considering the cost. It’s like investing in a 10-lane entry ramp that connects to a 2-lane freeway.

Netgear Orbi RBK860 Series Mobile App
The Netgear Orbi RBK860 series share the same Orbi mobile app as the other Orbi sets.

The same Orbi experience

Other than the 10Gbps port, you can expect to deliver the same experience as the previous Orbi.

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.

As mentioned above, Netgear says the new RBK860 series includes one year of Netgear Armor, an online protection feature that requires the mobile app to work and costs $99.00/year after.

The takeaway

Hardware-wise, the new Orbi RBK860 series is definitely “better” than the RBK850 series — its 10Gbps WAN port doesn’t hurt. However, the real-world experience of the two will likely be identical.

That said, you should only pick the RBK860 over the RBK850 if you believe Netgear’s claimed 20% improved Wi-Fi coverage.

Considering the company adds the 10Gbps WAN “highway-to-nowhere” port and calls the hardware “ultimate”, I’d take what it says about the range with a grain of salt — after all, the Wi-Fi range is a matter of physics that’s limited by the standard and broadcasting power. But even if the range turned out to be accurate, I’m not sure if that’s worth the extra cost.

In any case, this new mesh — or any Orbi including the top-tier Quad-band RBKE960 series — only makes sense when you have Gigabit or slower broadband and live in a large area with no possibility of getting it wired.

I’m contemplating an in-depth review of the Orbi RBK860 via the usual hands-on real-world testing. It’s a maybe, considering its similarities to existing Orbi hardware.

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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17 thoughts on “Netgear Orbi RBK860 Series (vs RBK850): That Awfully Lonely 10GbE WAN Port”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    • 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.

  3. 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”.

    • 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!

    • @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!

  4. 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?

    • 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.

        • Good catch there, Jim! The URL is unique and I generally 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. It’s very technical and stuff has happened — I haven’t found a good solution yet. Generally, 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, which is generated by the system when you hit “Publish” — you can change it beforehand but I often forget — 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 mispresent it as one. Considering your sharp eyes, you’ll note that if you read the post.

          • 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. 😳


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