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

The Orbi WiFi 6 AX6000 includes two identical-looking hardware units.

Even at a reduced street price of some $700, Netgear’s new Orbi WiFi 6 System AX6000 (model RBK852 for a 2-pack or RBK853 for a 3-pack) is still crazy-expensive. For the most part, 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
  • Not compatible with Wi-Fi Orbi hardware
  • No multi-gig LAN port, intermittent lags
  • 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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

No support for previous Orbi hardware

Like all Orbi hardware, you can’t use the RBR850 router in the place of the RBS850 satellite and vice versa. That’s to be expected. What’s is disappointing is the fact, each unit, as their specific role, is incompatible with previous Orbi systems’ hardware.

Specifically, if you’re using an RBK50 or any other ORbi system and want to upgrade to this Orbi Wi-Fi 6, you can’t reuse any of the satellite units.

Initially, Netgear intended to make them all work together, but the differences between the Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 members of the Orbi family proved to be too great to overcome. And that’s quite sad news for existing Orbi users.

Orbi WiFi 6 System AX6000’s hardware specifications

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.

Netgear Orbi RBK852’s detail photos

The Orbi WiFi 6 System AX6000 comes in a fancy box.

Netgear Orbi AX6000
Out of the box, each unit of the Orbi WiFi 6 RBK852 system has a label on its.

The RBR850 router is almost the same as the satellite unit

The RBR850 router’s back. Note its 2.5 Gbps WAN port.

You can only tell the Orbi WiFi 6 System AX6000’s units part by looking at their ports.

Netgear Armor and Circle by Disney parental control delayed till mid-2020

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.

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.

Intermittent lag spikes, delay in reporting connected clients,

One thing to note, though, that I experienced intermittent lag when connected to the satellite unit. High latency in a wireless mesh setup is relatively common, however.

That said, if you intend to use the RBK852 in a home with a lot of real-time communication, like video conferencing, it’s a good idea to link the two units via a network cable.

By the way, 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.

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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.

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54 thoughts on “Netgear Orbi AX6000 Review: Great Wi-Fi for a Hefty Price”

  1. Hi Dong! I bought the Orbi RBK852. I live in an apartment (1000sqft) and am planning to move to larger home next year, perhaps 4000sqft. That’s why I wanted the Orbi RBK852 so when I won’t have to buy another router for my large home. The Orbi RBK852 runs amazingly great. Very fast and I have the satellite connected to my older iMac via ethernet. Here’s my problem, For the price I just feel like I’m missing out by the Orbi not offering 160Mhz channel bandwidth. I have an iPhone 11 which achieves wireless speeds at 950Mbps on my 1Gbps Xfinity plan, so speeds aren’t a problem. Netgear offers 160Mhz channel bandwidth on all of their Nighthawk Wifi6 standard routers like the RAX200. I’m debating returning my Orbi because I want to get the most out of my money. I heard that when in 160Mhz mode (RAX200) Wifi5 clients and lower will not receive internet from the router? Is this true? I realize that the RAX200 and the Netgear mesh extender won’t offer the same “mesh” experience as the Orbi but do you think it’s better to keep the Orbi or should I go for the RAX200? Also, just like the Orbi RBK852 I see that the Linksys Velop MX10 and the Ubiquity Amplify Alien also don’t offer the 160Mhz channel bandwidth. It appears that all the Wifi6 mesh systems don’t offer 160Mhz. Is there a technical reason why?

    Reply
  2. Dong,

    Could I add an older Unifi ac AP LR to a new Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 mesh system?
    I have a big yard and the Unifi AP LR has helped provide WiFi to it for years, but if I switch to new WiFi 6 AX system such as the Netgear Orbi 852 will the older AC access point still work? I’d like to connect the Unifi AP with a powerline adaptor

    Reply
  3. I’m starting over, getting rid of isp gateway modem/router combo… what is best modem to get and use with Orbi WiFi 6 System (RBK852) AX6000? Thanks…

    Reply
  4. Hi Dong, I have a RBK852 and need to extend it out to a metal pole barn 100’ from my house. What would be the best way to extend my existing AX Mesh?

    Reply
  5. Reading your post more carefully I realized you are talking about the stripped back Mini.

    Sounds like waiting a few months for the guest network changes to be confirmed on the “full” model would be a good idea.

    Thanks again.

    Reply
  6. Thanks for the rapid feedback Dong.

    Yes, good point about Merlin. I’ve been using it pretty much from the beginning and it’s great. Sadly, he has said the AC87 version he released at the end of last month is likely to be the last as he is no longer getting updates from Asus. Hence the search for a replacement.

    So it sounds like you don’t see a problem with Asus’ firmware quality on the new models, which is great. It also sounds like you are saying the ZenWifi definitely supports an isolated guest network even for clients connected to a hard-wired AP, but you are not sure about the Orbi 6. All that being true, it sounds like ZenWifi is the one for me!

    Reply
  7. Hi Dong!

    I’m about to upgrade a 2 x RT-AC87U network with wired backhaul, because firmware updates have most likely stopped for the AC87U but also for Wifi 6.

    I am tempted to stay with Asus (ZenWifi AX) as I like their firmware and advanced feature set. However, I experienced quite a bit of unreliability with several firmware releases when I bought my 87Us back in 2015 and am not sure I can face that again, especially as home working is now pretty critical and reliability is a must! So I’m leaning towards the Orbi 6. The price is OK for me, but obviously it is far more limited in how it can be set up.

    I would really appreciate your view on the Asus reliability issue, which seems from comments here still on-going, and also on your feelings about the pros and cons of the two products if price is not really a consideration. I know it’s not quite that simple, but if I take the “value for money” column out of your rating, it seems the Orbi 6 scores slightly higher. Does that reflect your feelings?

    Lastly, could you tell me how the guest networks differ between the two. I currently have an isolated guest network that works only from the main router and definitely want to fix this with my new setup. If I am reading your reviews and comments correctly it seems the Asus ZenWifi still does not support an isolated guest network from a satellite or wired AP, but this may be coming “later”. Am I right? Does the Orbi offer a proper, isolated guest network work from both the main router and satellites (even if hard-wired)? My experience to-date with this is “never assume”! Information, even in spec sheets and manuals is often pretty sketchy and you only find out what you want is not possible well into setup!

    Thanks for any insight you can provide.

    Jon

    Reply
    • I’d recommend you upgrade your RT-AC87U to Merlin firmware, Jon. It’s more reliable. It’s the same upgrade process as Asus official firmware and supports AiMesh, too. The only system that for sure support the Guest network is the ZenWiFi AX Mini. I can vow for most Asus routers when working as a standalone solution. In an AiMesh, it’s been hit or miss, firmware upgrades sometimes help, sometimes break things. But generally, things are better when you use wired backhaul. In that case, it’s best to use dual-band routers.

      Reply
  8. Thank you very much for your prompt reply Dong!
    So shall I assume that you are recommending the Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini not only because of the price and the extra satellite, but also because if I’m going to wire the backhaul, I will get comparable speeds to the high-end Orbi mesh?

    Reply
  9. Hi Dong,

    Thanks again for all your great advice based on real world experience.

    I am thinking the Orbi Wifi6 mesh system will be my choice for my new home I’m moving in to. 3200 sf, 2-story. A few questions if you don’t mind….
    1) I am thinking I will do my best to hard wire the cables to each satellite from the router for an ethernet backhaul, since I believe you mentioned that will provide me the best speeds, even though I know it has a dedicated wireless backhaul.
    2) Knowing I hope to have a hardwired ethernet backhaul, does that mean there could be a better mesh system for me than the Orbi?
    3) Do you know if Orbi will have a Wifi6E mesh system soon, and if so, I wonder if it would be wise to wait for that?
    Thanks,
    Sean

    Reply
  10. I live in a two story 1800 sq ft Sears Bungalow with raised roofs. I have Spectrum Internet with 400 Mbps Down 20 Mbps Up. My modem is a Netgear CM 1000 and my Mesh Wifi is 3 unit Orbi mesh RBR 50. There are four of us at home right now, with two students who stream on chrome books, laptops and iPad minis for school, games and video, I do light internet Google Suite, Browser, email and my wife uses Zoom for her classroom and one on one work.

    When she uses Zoom, there is lag and we have to keep everyone off the internet when she is using Zoom on her Surface Pro 4. Right next to my router I can get download speeds of 400+ Mbps. Her office is a floor above and one room over and speeds are about 225 Mpbs, but I can’t measure her room while she is teaching.

    My questions is will the newer Orbi wifi 6 help make Zoom less laggy, glitchy and we can all use the internet?

    If I missed anything let me know.

    Reply
  11. Hi Dong, Excellent web site! I was wondering what we are giving up by going with the ORBI RBK752 instead? It is the same price as the ASUS ZenWifi AX but at least I can find one to buy right now!

    Reply
    • Thanks, ADB. I’m in the process of getting the RBK752 for a review but it’s very similar to the RBK852 but with less hardware. It’s probably similar to the ZenWiFi AX in terms of performance but has fewer features.

      Reply
  12. Dong, thank you for the immediate response! No, I’m not necessarily looking for simple, I’m fairly competent with configs, etc. I am more looking to maximize functionality, speed, and stability; I am willing to sacrifice ease of use. Price was the same, so that’s not a factor either.

    Reply
  13. Greetings, Dong. Have you done any testing with the Orbi AX4200? I have the Orbi AX4200 and the Asus XT8 sitting in front of me in their orignial packages and struggling with which I should open and which I should send back. Through my research, it looks like the XT8 has a slightly more powerful processor than the AX4200, but the AX4200 has more memory. Also, I know this is subjective, but it seems like most people claim the UI on the Orbi is simpler to use with less functionality; while the UI on the Asus is more robust, yet not as stable. If you could provide any insight, I would appreciate it. Thanks for what you do!

    Reply
    • No, Aaron, but it’ll be very similar to the Orbi AX6000 but slower. XT8 will need some tweaking, but that’s always the case with Asus router. If you just want something that works OK enough with minimum effort, go with the Netgear.

      Reply
  14. I guess what i am getting at is that I am confused as to which modem i need to buy. Just picked up my standard cox gigablast panoramic wifi modem and need to buy a modem to connect to Orbi 6. Do i get the CM1200? CM100? Arris docsis 3.1 varieties? Does it make a difference?

    Reply
  15. Hey Dong,
    Just wondering what modem you were using while testing the orbi 6. I just bought the rbk853 for 6000sqft home. Wanting to know what modem would be most efficient for maximum speeds.

    Reply
  16. You mentioned in naneaelier reply that that orbi RBK852 is compatible with the RBS50. That is great for me since I have the system currently. However, how certain are you that the old satellite can be used with the new Orbi 6? There seems to be most information online saying they are NOT compatible. Thank you!

    Reply
    • I haven’t tried myself, Sean, but that’s what Netgear told me. Within Orbi family, you can use a Wi-Fi 6 satellite with a Wi-Fi router and a Wi-Fi 5 satellite with a Wi-Fi 6 router. Make sure that you update the satellite to the latest firmware, first, which might require its original router. Also, some might not work via wireless (yet) but wired backhaul will always work.

      Reply
  17. Finding your articles very insightful and helpful to me. I am stuck between the Orbi AX6000 and the Asus Zenwifi AX 6600. I currently have an Orbi RBK50 and I have liked the the seamless connection between the router and the satellite but i am also intrigued by AImesh from Asus. If my ultimate interest is the best speed, which one do you recommend?

    Reply
    • Since you already have RBK50, I’d recommend the RBK852, E. It makes more sense. You can re-use your RBS50 (the RBK50’s satellite) with it and have a system of three hardware units.

      Reply
  18. Hi Dong.

    First, I was pleasantly surprised that you have your own site now for tech reviews. Always appreciated your insight, so glad you’re still doing reviews.

    Second, I’m currently a Verizon FiOS subscriber so we’re forced to use the telecom provider’s modem, but built-in wireless can be disabled, and I use another router as a simple WAP. I’m intrigued by the Orbi RBK850, but if I use the Orbi router and satellite as simple WAPs, does that warrant the cost? Is there a value in the product as a WAP only?

    Reply
  19. Do you have a scanner that can check the number of streams? Not 100% sure on the 2017 (is this the ‘mid-2017’ model, and what size is it?). Current iMacs are in fact all 3×3, but, as Dong Ngo states, the 2017 may not have been (though I am positive the 27″ 5K mid-2017 models were, too)

    Reply
  20. Hi Dong,

    What clients did you use to test the Orbi? I am only able to get about 350Mbps on a 1GB connection with complete isolation of my client to the wireless router and 99% signal strength 6 feet away. Netgear says it’s because my 2017 iMac with 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac has a Link Speed of 304 Mbps. Any thoughts?

    Reply
  21. 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?

    Reply
  22. 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!

    Reply
  23. 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!

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
    • Get the Orbi, Chris. It has a lot more to offer and is more reliable. You can read the full review of both and find the answer yourself, by the way. 🙂

      Reply
  24. 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!

    Reply
    • Yes, I used the Android app, Reid. Interesting that the iOS version is not the same. And thanks for the Ko-Fis! Appreciate it! 🙂

      Reply
    • 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.

      Reply

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