Read NETGEAR Orbi WiFi 6 System AX6000 Review in detail. We’ve long been admirers of the Orbi range of mesh Wi-Fi products, particularly the RBK50 (Shopper 358). With the system running on the older 802.11ac technology, however, it’s time for a change with the Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 RBK852.
As you can tell from the name, this model is a Wi-Fi 6 product, built using the latest 802.11ax wireless specification, designed for the largest homes and the greatest number of wireless devices.
As you might expect, this kind of technology doesn’t come cheap, and the system starts at £710, more than double the current price of the RBK50.
Cross The Streams
As with that older system, the RBK852 is a two-pack: you get one router and a satellite. This time around, the router has a 2.5Gbit/s WAN port and four Gigabit Ethernet ports (up from three on the original), and the satellite has four Gigabit Ethernet ports. The USB port from the original has been removed, although given that we’ve never used one for sharing a printer or storage device, we don’t think that this loss will be felt too keenly.
Setup is performed via the same Orbi app that the original system uses, and is straightforward enough, using a simple wizard. This helps you configure your internet connection, enter your preferred network name and password, and attach your satellite to the router via the dedicated wireless connection.
At this point, there’s little to tell the old Orbi system apart from the new, but the real changes are in the wireless connection. The RBK852 is built to be a lot faster than its predecessor, both in raw speeds and the number of streams available.
First, while the dedicated wireless backhaul remains four streams, the RBK50 had a maximum speed of 1,733Mbit/s, whereas the new system has a 2,400Mbit/s backhaul (you can use an Ethernet cable if you need more range).
Both the router and the satellite have twice the number of streams, too, with the RBK852 providing four 2.4GHz streams at 1.2Gbit/s and four 5GHz streams at 2.4Gbit/s. That works out that each 2.4GHz stream is 300Mbit/s and each 5GHz stream is 600Mbit/s.
“The Orbi RBK852 is a router for the future, getting you ready for when all your devices are Wi-Fi 6 enabled.”
So, why the focus on streams? With Wi-Fi 6, streams can be used more intelligently. For example, if you had f devi be given their own individua z stream; a faster 4×4 device connecting could use all four streams at once for faster throughputs.
This lets Wi-Fi 6 work better with multiple devices, as bandwidth is better shared than with Wi-Fi 5 systems. The effect is even greater when used with the RBK852, as you get 16 streams of data for connecting devices; add an extra satellite (the three-pack costs £970) and you’ve got 24 streams to play with.
That’s the good news; the bad news is that to fully use all the features and stream sharing of Wi-Fi 6 you need to have Wi-Fi 6 devices. The Orbi RBK852 is really a router for the future, getting you ready for when your computers, laptops, phones and other devices are all Wi-Fi 6 enabled.
Technically, the RBK852 is not compatible with the older Orbi system. We had an old satellite plugged in via Ethernet and the new system detected it. Although we had some problems with network stability.
Out of Control
While the Orbi RBK852 is controlled via the same app as the RBK50, there are some noticeable omissions. There are no Disney Circle parental controls, giving you web filtering for your family.
There’s also no Netgear Armour service for protecting your network against cyber threats. Netgear promises that these features are in the pipeline but, for now, the RBK50 does more.
That’s a real shame, especially given how expensive the RBK852 is. There’s also no support for BT IGMP. Which means that if you have TV channels (such as BT Sport) delivered by a YouView box, they won’t work with this router. The older RBK50 and other Netgear routers support this option.
Via the app, you can turn on the guest network and change the name and password for your wireless network. If you want to select the wireless channels, you have to connect to the router using a web browser.
QoS settings are also very basic. You run a speed test on your internet connection and the Orbi system automatically prioritizes traffic. For most people, this will be enough. But if you’re into games you might want a system that gives you more control.
To test the system, we used a laptop with a two-stream (2×2) Wi-Fi 6 card inside it, and saw some of the fastest results we’ve seen from a wireless network.
Testing at close range, we saw upload speeds of 588Mbit/s and download speeds of 485Mbit/s; moving to the first floor, speeds were still quick, with upload speeds of 342Mbit/s and download speeds of 309Mbit/s; on the second floor, results were just as impressive with upload speeds of 368Mbit/s and download speeds of 310Mbit/s.
Given the speed of the system, there’s a lot to love about the RBK852; as we say, this is a mesh system that’s built for the future. Today, sadly, it’s harder to justify, given the high price and current lack of Wi-Fi 6 devices.
It’s also frustrating that some features that exist on the old Orbi system haven’t been migrated here. If you want the best in terms of performance, this is it, but the older RBK50 still performs well and is a lot cheaper.
MODEM: 2.5Gbit/s Ethernet
WI-FI STANDARD: 802.11ax
STATED SPEED: 2x 2,400Mbit/s (5GHz), 1,200Mbit/s (2.4GHz)
USB PORTS: 0
WALL MOUNTABLE: No
WARRANTY: Two years RTB
The fastest mesh system we’ve ever seen, but the high price and a few missing features mean it’s not quite ready for most homes yet.