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Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini Review: Reliable but Wired Backhaul Is a Must

The Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Wi-Fi 6 Mini AX1800 Mesh System, first announced on  May 11, 2021, is the answer to my lamentations on the SXK80’s expensive cost. (No, I didn’t get that loan.) 

Indeed, the new mesh’s pricing is more sensible, costing $300 for a 2-pack or $400 for a 3-pack. And it doesn’t go cheap on network web-based settings and features — it has more to offer than any non-Pro Orbi version, like the RBK752 or RBK852.

And while this Orbi Pro Mini is not affordable enough for my taste considering its modest specs, it makes the most sense among all existing Orbi sets for a wired home. Among other things, you won’t waste any band with it.

Overall, this entry-level Orbi Pro proved a pleasant experience in my weeks-long trial. So, consider it if you have a sub-Gigabit broadband connection. Just make sure you skip the Insight mobile app.

Dong’s note: I first published this post on May 11, 2021, as a preview of when the SXK30 was first announced and upgraded to a full review on July 7 after extended hands-on testing.

Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini Router Front
Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini Router Front

Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini's Rating

7.9 out of 10
Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini Package Content
Performance
6.5/10
Features
9/10
Ease of Use
8.5/10
Value
7.5/10

Pros

Reliable Wi-Fi at comparatively affordable pricing

Lots of Wi-Fi settings, responsive web user interface

Esthetically pleasing

Mounting accessories included

Wired backhaul support

Cons

No 160MHz bandwidth, modest specs

Slow throughput speeds on the Satellite unit

Insight trial starts without user consent

Could be more affordable

No USB port

Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini: Modest specs meet a ton of options

The SXK30 is the second dual-band Orbi I’ve tested. (The other is the RBK13.) But its satellite comes with LAN ports and, therefore, supports wired backhaul — you can use a network cable to link the hardware units.

And the wired backhaul might be the decisive selling point. The mesh’s intended use is fully wireless, and I also tested it that way, but, in this case, its performance is just a bit too slow for my taste.

That’s because the hardware is modest.

Hardware options

Like all Orbi sets, the SXK30 includes two types of hardware. There’s a router (model SXR30) and a satellite (SXS30). You use the former with up to five of the latter to create a mesh.

By the way, you can use the SXK30’s hardware unit with that of the SXK80 — though not ideal. However, you can not mix Pro and non-Pro hardware at all.

The SXR30 and SXS30 are identical-looking and share the same entry-level dual-band Wi-Fi 6 specs.

Specifically, both feature 2×2 Wi-Fi without the support for the 160MHz channel width, a common practice in business broadcasters. As a result, each has a top speed of 1200Mbps on the 5GHz band and almost 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band.

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In a fully wireless setup, you’ll get at best 600Mbps of the ceiling speed out of the satellite’s 5GHz band due to signal loss. After overheads, the real-world speeds will be much lower.

It’s also worth noting that the SXK30 will cap at 1Gbps since it has no Multi-Gig port. So, in all, this SXK30 is a bit too low-key for my money. Hence, the support for wired backhaul is its real salvation in terms of throughputs.

Netgear SXK30 vs SXK80: Hardware specifications and pricing

In many ways, the Netgear SXK30 is more of a wired Orbi Pro (though it’ll work fine in a fully wireless setup), while the SXK80 is intended for fully wireless use (though it also supports wired backhaul.)

In terms of performance, a wired SXK30 will deliver the same if not better performance than the SXK80. In a wireless setup, though, the former will have just half the bandwidth.

Full NameNetgear SXK30
Orbi Pro Wi-Fi 6 Mini
AX1800 Mesh System
(model SXK30)
Orbi Pro Wi-Fi 6 
Tri-and Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System 
(model SXK80)
Hardware ModelRouter: SXR30
Satellite: SXS30
Router: SXR80)  
Satellite: SXS80
Dimensions
(each unit)
5.8 x 2.7 x 7.4in
(148 x 68 x 189mm)
6.8 x 3.3 x 9.7 in 
(17.27 x 8.38 x 24.63 cm)
Weight (each unit)1.06lb (0.48kg)2.06 lbs (934.4 gram)
Wi-Fi SpecsDual-band AX1800Tri-band 4×4 AX6000
1st Band (5GHz)2×2 AX: Up to 1200Mbps
(20/40/80MHz)
4×4 AX: Up to 2400Mbps
(20/40/80MHz)
2nd Band (5GHz)None4×4 AX: Up to 2400Mbps
(20/40/80MHz)
3rd Band (2.4GHZ)2×2 AX: Up to 600Mbps
(20/40MHz)
4×4 AX: Up to 1200Mbps
(20/40MHz)
Number of SSIDs44
ManagementWeb interface
Insight App
Web interface
Insight App
SecurityWPA/WPA2/WPA3WPA/WPA2/WPA3
Target Wake TimeYesYes
OFDMAYesYes
MU-MIMO SupportYesYes
AP (bridge mode) SupportYesYes
Dedicated Wireless BackhaulNoYes
Wired Backhaul SupportYesYes
(5GHz-2 band not available to clients.)
Gigabit PortRouter: 4x LAN, 1x WAN
Satellite: 4x LAN
Router: 4x LAN 
Satellite: 4x LAN
Multi-Gig PortNoneRouter: 1x 2.5Gbps LAN/WAN
Satellite: 1x 2.5Gbps LAN 
Link AggregationNoneYes (2nd and 3rd LAN ports)
Max Mesh Hardware Units1x Router, 6x Satellites1x Router, 6x Satellites
Release Date May 11, 2021September 3, 2020
Available Configurations2-pack, 3-pack,
Add-on satellite,
Router only
2-pack, 3-pack, 4-pack, 
Add-on satellite
Suggested Retail Price
(at launch)
$300 (2-pack)
$400 (3-pack)
$160 (satellite)
$769.99 (2-pack)
$1099.99 (3-pack)
$1489.99 (4-pack)
$419.99 (satellite)
Netgear SXK30 vs SXK80: Hardware specifications

The new Orbi Mini mesh is available on the other side of the pond, too.

It goes for £259.99 (2-pack) or £349.99 (3-pack) in the UK. You can also find the add-on satellite for £139.99. Those living in the EU will only find the 3-pack and add-on satellite for €399.99 and €159.99, respectively.

Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini: Detail photos

Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini Box
The Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini’s retail box.

Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini Box Content
You’ll note the two hardware units and their mounting accessories and power adapters out of the box.

Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini Front
They are two identical-looking units, but one is the router (model SXR30), and the other is the Satellite (SXS30). Without the label on the router, you can’t tell them apart from the front.

Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini Ports
On the back, though, you’ll note that the router (left) has a WAN port, and the Satellite only has LAN ports.

Before Image After Image
The underside of the SXK30's hardware units

Before Image After Image
The SXK30 hardware units' ports

Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini Mount
Each SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini unit comes with mounting accessories.

Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini Side
Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini hardware from the side.

Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini Top
The SXK30’s hardware from the top.

Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini Router on Hand
Each SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini unit, be it the router (SXR30) or the satellite (SXS30), is relatively compact and light.

Optional subscription-based Cloud-managed

Despite the distinct hardware on the inside, the Netgear SXK30 is very similar to SXK80 in management and features.

The two share the same Insight mobile app with the “cloud-managed” approach in management via the Insight mobile app. In a nutshell, you need to link the system to a Netgear account and then manage your network via a remote server.

Consequently, you get the ease of use — you can manage your network from anywhere in the world — and certain business-oriented features, such as multiple SSIDs with VLANs and client isolation, and so on. In return, though, you might need to be concerned about privacy.

The tricky Insight app

I tried the Insight app out briefly and immediately became annoyed by it. No, the app wasn’t bad — it’s similar to the Orbi app but with more functionality and features.

This app shares the same account with Netgear’s other services, including the Orbi app (for non-Pro Orbi sets) and the Meural.

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What irked me about this app is this: The first time I logged in, it immediately started my 30-day free Insight subscription without me ever agreeing to that. And that happened before I even added the SXK30.

In other words, the subscription will start even you have no use for it at all. Sure, you won’t be charged if you have no Insight-capable hardware in the account, but it makes no sense to start a trial when there’s nothing to try.

After the trial period, you’ll be charged per device, up to $10 per one per month, depending on the “tiers” of features ad functions.

I decided to opt out of this option and stayed with the web interface instead. And so should you.

Excellent web user interface and feature set

The SXK30’s web interface is excellent — you actually use the router (SXR30) unit.

It’s like that of the non-Pro Orbi but now with a ton of extras in Wi-Fi settings.

Specifically, the system comes with a default Wi-Fi network, of which — like any non-Pro Orbi set — you can’t separate the two bands. However, it now includes three more virtual SSIDs where you can make all the changes you want.

Before Image After Image
The Netgear SXK30 has comprehensive Wi-Fi settings and a Guest Portal

On top of that, it has a Guest network that features a login portal, allowing you to make guests agree to terms before using the Wi-Fi network and redirect them to a web page of your choosing.

But for the most part, though, the interface is like that of any Netgear Orbi and router. It’s familiar and easy to use. It also has everything you’d look for in a standard web interface, including Dynamic DNS, Port forwarding, OpenVPN, and so on.

Before Image After Image
The Netgear SXK30 comes with the support for Virtual LAN and can work as an access point.

There’s also the remote management feature, which means you won’t need to use an account with Netgear to manage your network remotely when coupled with the Dynamic DNS feature.

The SXK30 doesn’t have a Parental Controls feature per see, but it has a ton of web filtering options in the security section, enough for any parent to keep their kids safe online.

And finally, as a business solution, the SXK30 features VLAN for its network ports and Wi-Fi SSIDs. This allows users to segment and controls their network according to specifics needs.

In all, the SXK30 has more features and settings than any home would need, but it’s always nice to have more than less on this front.

Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini’s: Slow but reliable performance

I tested the Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini for almost two weeks and was happy with it for the most part. That was mostly because I used it in the wired backhaul setup.

Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini Router Performance
AC tests: 4×4 client used for the Close range and 3×3 client for the Long range.

In this case, you can expect the mesh system to consistently deliver the performance of the router unit (SXR30) throughout, no matter if you connect to the main router itself or the Satellite (SXS30).

However, in the wireless setup, I tested for the Satellite Performance Chart below, you’ll note that the SXS30 had comparatively mediocre real-world speeds.

It wasn’t really terrible but definitely not fast enough to deliver a decent broadband connection in full. In fact, it’s one of the slowest among all Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems I’ve tested.

Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini Satellite Performance
AC tests: 3×3 client used for both the Close and Long ranges.

The Netgear SXK30 proved reliable in my testing — I tested it with the latest firmware version 3.2.32.100. I had no connection issue during the entire testing period.

The system’s coverage was also decent for such compact hardware. Specifically, you can expect about 1800 ft2 (167 m2) out of a single unit. So a 2-pack can handle about 3500 ft2 (325 m2) depending on your environment.

If you run network cable, though, you can easily increase the coverage greatly since there’s no need to place the hardware where their ranges overlap.

Conclusion

The Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro WiFi 6 Mini AX1800 Mesh System can be a mediocre Wi-Fi solution or a great one depending on whether or not you have gotten your home wired.

In either case, you won’t be able to get Gigabit-class performance out of it. What you sure will get, however, is an excellent set of Wi-Fi and network settings.

That said, if you intend to use the wired setup and have sub-Gigabit Internet, this little Orbi Pro Wi-Fi 6 Mini is definitely worth the consideration. Its good look and included mounting accessories can also be sizable bonuses.

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4 thoughts on “Netgear SXK30 Orbi Pro Mini Review: Reliable but Wired Backhaul Is a Must”

  1. In your router chart, you list performance for the SXR30, the SXR30 (5GHz-AC) and the SXR30 (2.4GHz). The 5GHz and 2.4GHz labels are obvious, but what is the meaning of the measurement on the “SXR30” (no suffix) line? I have the same question regarding the satellite chart.

    I, and many others I’m sure, would also appreciate an estimate of the raw performance of the internal router guts. When you start attaching 20 or so IoT devices plus multiple users streaming videos and Zoom conferences simultaneously, single client Wi-Fi speed tests become meaningless if the router’s CPU and motherboard can’t keep up. Ethernet wired throughput measurement or a similar metric would help determine whether the reviewed routers can keep up with a busy work-at-home household or a small business. If the router is overwhelmed with routing tasks so that it can’t pass data efficiently, nothing else matters.

    Reply
    • Read the title of the chart, Bruce. Part of it is in red for a reason. More on my testing in this post. As for “internal guts,” I’ll see what I can do, but there’s no way to measure it consistently between routers, especially of different brands, and I only have so much time for each of them. I’m not curing cancer here. 🙂 But generally, it’s more a matter of bandwidth than processing power. More in this post.

      Reply
  2. Another great review as always.

    I do have a question on mesh networks and dual bands that I was hoping you could clear up for me.

    I’ve been looking at the AX86U as my new base router, which as you know is dual band. I understand that there is a minimum 50% speed hit when using it in tandem with, for example, a second AX86U as the node when connecting to the node when using them with a wireless backhaul.

    However my question is, is that a 50% hit to the theoretical maximum speed the node can provide? Or 50% of the speed I get from my ISP?

    I only have 200Mb internet, so would I get 100Mb maximum from the mesh node? Or would I still be able to get the full 200Mb theoretically since the AX86U is capable of far more than that even when halved?

    Reply

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