You cannot copy content of this page

Netgear Orbi AX6000 Review: Great Wi-Fi for a Hefty Price

The Orbi WiFi 6 AX6000 includes two identical-looking hardware units. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

Even at a reduced street price of $650, Netgear’s new Orbi WiFi 6 System AX6000 (model RBK852) is crazy-expensive. It’s an excellent Wi-Fi system but, for my money, not hundreds-of-dollars better than the recently released budget-minded Orbi RBK13.

But among its peers, the new Wi-Fi 6 Orbi is a better deal. It has a lot to offer, despite the fact some of its features are not available till mid next year.

So, if you’re looking for a Wi-Fi 6 mesh system that delivers, though not necessarily as much as you’d like considering the financial pain, the Orbi RBK852 is worth considering now. 

Orbi WiFi 6 System AX6000 (RBK852)

8

Performance

8.5/10

Features

7.5/10

Design and Setup

8.5/10

Value

7.5/10

Pros

  • Fast, reliable Wi-Fi with large coverage
  • Full web interface with all common settings and features
  • Useful, well designed mobile app
  • 2.5Gbps multi-gig WAN ports
  • Support WAN 2Gbps Link Aggregation

Cons

  • High cost
  • No 160MHz channel support, limited Wi-Fi customization
  • Online protection and parental control not yet available
  • No multi-gig LAN port
  • Bulky design

Orbi WiFi 6 System AX6000: A new but familiar design

I remember being shocked to learn about the Orbi AX6000 WiFi 6 Mesh System’s suggested retail price back in September. At the time, Netgear priced it at $700 to be the most expensive home mesh system on Earth. “This thing must be very different!” I thought.

Beautiful but mildly unstable shape

Well, out of the box, hardware does have a bit of design change — it’s quite nice-looking — but it largely remains the same. The Orbi WiFi 6 AX6000  shares the same ideas as most previous Wi-Fi 5 Orbi systems, such as the Orbi Voice or the CBK40. It includes two seemingly identical units; each takes the shape of a standing vase.

The Orbi RBK852’s hardware has a relatively thin base for its massive body. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

One is a router (model RBR850), and the other is a satellite (RBS850). Each weighs 2.86 lbs (1.29 kg) — not exactly light — and stands 10-inch (24 cm) tall with a body tapering toward the egg-shape base that’s just 2.8-inch (7.11 cm) wide in the middle.

The whole thing looks elegant, but the small footprint means it might topple more frequently than you’d like. Out of the box, you can’t mount it, but there are two threaded holes on the underside likely for some mounting accessories.

Simple setup

As for how the mesh works, you connect the RBR850 router to an Internet source (like a modem), and the RBS850 satellite will automatically extend the router’s Wi-Fi while sharing the same network settings. You only work with the router unit in terms of setup and management.

The Orbi AX6000 has the same setup process as that of previous Orbi, and it’s simple. The router unit has a full web interface, just like any standalone Netgear routers, like the RAX200 or RAX120. So you can apply the standard method to put it to work. Here’s how that is, in brief:

  1. Hook the RBR850 router to the Internet using its WAN port.
  2. Connect a computer to one of its LAN ports, or its default Wi-Fi network printed on its label.
  3. From the connected computer, open a browser and navigate to routerlogin.com or the router’s default IP, which is 192.168.1.1. Follow the onscreen instruction to create an admin password and a Wi-Fi network.

And that’s it. Out of the box, the two hardware units are pre-synced. Place the satellite unit at a distance, and the two will create a mesh system.

READ MORE:  This Is How Your Home Wi-Fi System Is a Mesh

Well-designed mobile app

Alternatively, you can also use the Netgear Orbi mobile app for the setup process. With this app, used in all Orbi systems, you have the option of creating an account and sign in with Netgear. In this case, you can use the app to manage the system when you’re away from home.

The Orbi RBK852 shares the same Netgear Orbi app with other Orbi sets. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

The app allows for an overview look of your home network with network maps of the connected clients. There are also a couple of handy tools, including a speedtest.net-based internet speed test and a WiFi Analytics that shows the signal strength in real-time.

Fast WAN with Link Aggregation but no multi-gig LAN port

Each of the new Orbi’s hardware units has four Gigabit LAN ports. The router also has a 2.5Gbps port that works solely as its WAN (Internet) port. There’s no way to turn it into a LAN port.

As a result, in your local network, the best speed you get caps at 1Gbps. The only time you can ever experience a faster rate is when you have a multi-gig broadband connection.

The Orbi WiFi 6 System AX6000’s router unit has a 2.5Gbps WAN port, which can also work with another LAN port to create a 2Gbps WAN connection. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

And the Orbi RBK852 is all about delivering super-fast Internet. Despite the fact its WAN port can do 2.5Gbps, the router can aggregate that port and the first LAN port into a single 2Gbps broadband link.

This port design reminds me of the RAX200‘s and is to work with a modem that doesn’t have a 2.5 Gbps port but two 1Gbps ports with Link Aggregation. It’ll be a while, if ever, before I need such a modem.

Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 but no support for 160MHz channel width

Like most other Orbi sets, the new RBK852 is a tri-band system. Each of its two hardware units is has a 2.4GHz band and two identical 5GHz bands, one of which works exclusively as the link between them as the dedicated backhaul.

As a result, even in a wireless setup, the system can deliver fast speed in a large area, with no, or low, signal degradation. In other words, you can expect clients connecting to the satellite to have similar speeds as when they do the router. By the way, the system also supports wired backhaul — you can use a network cable to link the hardware units.

Unlike other Wi-Fi 6 routers from Netgear, the new Orbi WiFi 6 system doesn’t support 160MHz channel width. So, as a 4×4 system, its top speeds will caps at just 2.4Gbps, or 1.2 Gbps when working with existing 2×2 clients.

The Orbi RBK852 has a standard web user interface with limited Wi-Fi settings. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

Orbi WiFi 6 System AX6000’s hardware specifications

Like all Orbi hardware, you can’t use the RBR850 router in the place of the RBS850 satellite and vice versa. But each unit, as their specific role, is compatible with previous Orbi systems’ hardware. 

Orbi WiFi 6 System AX6000: Standard feature set

Thanks to the full web interface, the RBK852 has all the network settings and common features found in most routers. So you’ll find all the usual suspects, including QoS, Dynamic DNS, fixed IP address reservation, port-forwarding, and so on.

There’s also a Traffic Meter feature that helps with monitoring and controlling the Internet bandwidth. The router can also work as an OpenVPN server.

If you have a modem, the Orbi RBK852 can work as its default router mode. If you want to use it with an existing router or gateway, there’s an option to make it work in the access point mode. In this case, though, you can’t use any of its features.

Overall, the Orbi WiFi 6 AX6000 has a standard set of features, which is more than most other purpose-built mesh systems.

Limited Wi-Fi settings

Similar to other Netgear routers, the Orbi RBK852 is rather thin on Wi-Fi settings. For example, you can’t use the 5GHz and 2.4GHz band as two separate networks. Nor can you pick their channel width. But you do have an option to turn off Wi-Fi 6 for some reason.

In short, generally, you want to leave most of Orbi RBK852’s Wi-Fi settings at default. Home users will see that as ease-of-use while savvy users might find it lacking.

You can only tell the Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 System AX6000’s hardware units apart by looking at them from the back. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

Netgear Armor and Circle by Disney parental control delayed till next year

Like some other Orbi systems, including the RBK13, the RBK852 includes have the Netgear Armor online protection and Circle by Disney parent control features. However, at this time, both are not yet available.

Netgear told me that due to the all-new Wi-Fi 6 chipset, it needs a bit more time to work in the two features. The company plans to release them via firmware update in the first and second quarter of 2020, respectively.

So for now, as far as features are concerned, the all-new and all-expensive Orbi RBK852 Wi-Fi 6 AX6000 is behind its older and much cheaper cousin, the RBK13.

Orbi WiFi 6 System AX6000: Excellent mesh performance

The good news is the Orbi RBK852 sure beats all other Orbi sets, and many mesh systems on the market, where it matters the most: Performance. It did well in my testing.

As a single router, the Orbi RBR850 almost topped the chart of mesh routers with the sustained speed of some 835 Mbps for close range and nearly 780 Mbps at 40 feet (12m) away.

The router also had an excellent range. I was able to get a decent connection to it from some 80 feet away with one wall in between. So when placed in the middle, it can likely handle a home of 2000ft² (186m²). 

When compared with standalone Wi-Fi 6 routers, the Orbi RBR850’s lack of a multi-gig LAN port and 160MHz channel hampered its standing. It was below the average. It’s important to note that I tested it, as well as all Wi-Fi 6 routers, using 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients since faster clients didn’t exist yet.

But the Wi-Fi 6 Orbi made up for that when working as a mesh. Thanks to the dedicated backhaul, its Orbi RBS850 satellite unit topped the mesh satellite charts with some 820 Mbps at close range and almost 800 Mbps at a long-range. Both were faster than the Arris SURFboard mAX Pro by small margins.

The system also had excellent coverage. With the two units, I was able to get a decent signal in a large area. It’s safe to say it can easily cover roughly 5000ft² (465m²). But this changes depending on the environment.

Delay in reporting connected clients

The seamless handoff worked quite well, too. I did note, though, that my test Wi-Fi client hardly jumped when I was in between the two hardware units, likely due to their long-range. But when I walked past one, the device would switch to the closest unit, automatically.

It’s worth noting that I figured out the jump mostly by testing. Why you can view the currently connected clients using the web interface or the mobile app, there’s a significant delay in reporting to which hardware unit they belong. At times, a connected client didn’t even show on the list of either the satellite or the router.

Conclusion

The Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 AX6000 System RBK852 is a sure and easy way to cover a large property with fast Wi-Fi. It’s also proof that upgrading to Wi-Fi 6 now will cost you. So, maybe you should wait a while, at least till all of its features are available.

READ MORE:  Best Wi-Fi 6 Routers and Mesh Systems of 2020
 

But if you’ve already made up your mind on getting a Wi-Fi 6 mesh, compared with the similarly-priced and comparably-specced Arris SURFboard mAX Pro, the Orbi WiFi 6 AX6000 is a better choice thanks to the number of features and settings it offers.

Ω Found a typo? Please report it by selecting the text and pressing Ctrl + Enter. Thank you! ❤️

You May Also Like

About the Author: Dong Ngo

Before Dong Knows Tech, I spent some 18 years testing and reviewing gadgets at CNET.com. Technology is my passion and I do know it. | Follow me on Twitter, or Facebook!

15 Comments

  1. Hi, just curious why on the mesh charts, you haven’t tested against the AmpliFi Alien (in either wireless or wired backhaul mode); while it’s in the charts on the ‘single router’ comparison?

  2. Hey Dong,
    Great review… thank you! Any chance you will review the new Linksys Velop MX10 WiFi 6 Mesh system and compare it to the Orbi RBK852? Seems these are the top two contenders for WiFi 6 Mesh systems, but unfortunately there is very little content online comparing them. Want to pull the trigger on one, but was hoping for a proper evaluation of them to each other.
    Thanks!

  3. Hi Dong! Hope you had a very Merry Christmas! I really need your expert opinion in making a decision here. I am trying to decide between the Orbi RBK 852, RAX 200, and RAX 120.

    Our home is 2,600 square feet and is a 2 story. We have no wi-if 6 clients in our home and probably won’t for some time. But, the wi-fi 6 routers seem to be more powerful due to their superior internal hardware, even when connected to wi-fi 5 clients which are what we have in our home.

    With that said, which of these 3 routers would you suggest, bearing in mind that they will be connecting to wi-if 5 clients? Thank you!

    1. Since you have a two-story home, Kyle, the Orbi RBK852 is the best fit out of the three. Place one hardware unit on each floor and you’re game. Your home is not huge in square footage but the only situation where you should get a single router is if you can place it right in the middle of the 2nd floor, which is quite hard. So a mesh is a much better idea. Alternatively, you can also get two Synology MR2200ac units. Happy holidays!

  4. Are you using the Orbi App on an android device? Seems helpful but isn’t available on the iOS Orbi app. Thanks for the great review as always! Bummed 160 channel width isn’t supported for backhaul at least!

    1. Meant to say the Wi-Fi Analytics option isn’t available on the iOS Orbi app. Otherwise the iOS Orbi app works well. Must be related to iOS devices being locked down for Wi-Fi analyzer apps.

Leave a comment (no spam or profanity, please!)

Get Dong Know Tech's Updates:

Spamming is NEVER included!

Thank You For Subscribing!

Don't forget to wash your hands regularly with soap! Stay Safe! ❤️

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: