This past weekend I had the opportunity to take the NetGear Orbi Home WiFi System for a spin and had both a positive and a negative experience. Before I dive too deep in to the review, I want to let you know that if you plan to purchase this setup to go check out Costco (no I am not being paid to say this, it’s just that Costco had one of the best deals that I have seen for the three unit kit). Anyway back to the review, let me start off by saying that this system does exactly what it says it will, cover your house with WiFi and will give you maintained speeds throughout because of the three units. I set up the main router in one part of the house and then the two satellites on opposite ends of the house and I have to say that there were simply no dead spots, this includes my entire front and back yard, as well as my garage. Just like advertised the kit covered my entire house and after doing speed tests, my furthest away point and closest point to the routers had the same internet speed. So honestly from that perspective I could not complain at all, the Orbi did just like it said it would. From this perspective, it was a great kit, and one that I would recommend to someone who has a large house and has difficulty covering the entire area. Speaking of things that worked well, the setup app was easy to follow and setting up the main router, and the two satellites was quite easy, the entire process took maybe ten to fifteen minutes.
So far so good in the Orbi test, and before I go any further I want to say that if you are a person that has a large house that struggles to get coverage from regular routers and likes a simple app based setup that this system is for you, go out and buy it and you will be happy. Unfortunately, I am not one of these people. Here is where the review turns for the negative. Unlike an average user, I have a few extra needs or requirements that though not high end or demanding by any means, were necessary for me and the lack of their support was a deal breaker. First, the main router and all of the satellites have a USB 2.0 port on them which is amazing since most newer routers, especially the “mesh system” ones are going away from including these. The problem however is that the USB ports are essentially completely useless. My first test was to get my printer working, an older laser printer that lacked wireless ability, and unlike my previous Apple AirPort Extreme Time Capsule that was simply plug in and print, the Orbi was not. Previously all I had to do was plug the printer in the USB port, connect to the WiFi and then I would see the printer in my settings and would then be able to print. With the Orbi after spending multiple hours trying to get everything going I had not luck and every different setup type failed. Finally, the only way to use the USB port and print with my old printer was to download a NetGear app that would require me to log in every time that I wanted to print, hit connect, have the printer connect and then finally print. Though not a super demanding ordeal, it would have been supper annoying to have to do every single time I am trying to print. After the easy experience printing with my old router, this was a deal breaker. I would essentially have to buy a new printer to make this system work properly, and thus would be rendering the USB port useless. Additional issues that I encountered with the USB ports were based around trying to plug an external hard drive in to them, simply for me it did not work at the level I would want, it again was not just plug and play, which is what I would have expected. Lastly the ports are all USB 2.0 thus making the file transfer speeds fairly weak compared to some of the other routers that come with USB 3.0 ports.
Overall I would still say that the NetGear Orbri Home WiFi System is a good purchase for most people just looking to cover a very large house, where possibly a single unit router can’t reach, but for those of you looking for a 100% replacement for the now discontinued Apple AirPort Extreme, look elsewhere. If you are looking for 100% simple plug and play USB ports you may also want to look elsewhere. Long story short, this unit is too expensive for the limitations in USB that it presents, and from that perspective I would not use it in my house, but if you find yourself in a situation where nothing else will reach but a multi unit system, this one isn’t half bad for speeds and coverage.