Hands on: Netgear Cable Orbi modem & mesh Wi-Fi router

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 13
The Cable Orbi, the latest in Netgear's Orbi line, attempts to kill three birds with one stone: cable internet, Wi-Fi, and mesh access.

Netgear Cable Orbi


If you're not familiar with the Orbi or other mesh Wi-Fi routers, the gist is that on top of a primary router, you can connect one or more satellite units that seamlessly widen your network without requiring multiple SSIDs, as with normal extenders. The Cable Orbi comes with a single satellite, and can in theory cover as much as 4,000 square feet.

The Netgear Orbi app for iPhones and iPads does a pretty good job of guiding users through the setup process, which is of course more complicated for the Cable Orbi since you'll need to contact your ISP and supply them with a MAC address and serial number. Set aside some time for installation -- even if your hardware works perfectly, you might still run into provisioning problems with your ISP, and you may have to reconnect household devices.

Thankfully, we haven't run into the HomeKit issues plaguing some Wi-Fi-only Orbi models.

We'll have to conduct much more testing for our full review, but once you're past modem configuration the Orbi seems to be smooth sailing.

Just about everything is handled through the mobile app -- we found it easy to configure the bundled satellite, change the Wi-Fi login, and locate critical info. A device list shows everything currently active as well as connection strength, and options to selectively "pause" each item. This feature may be handy for maximizing bandwidth but mostly seems to be aimed at parents trying to kick their kids offline for a few hours.

Netgear Orbi app


On a spec level, the Cable Orbi is one of the better options. The modem component delivers 32x8 DOCSIS 3.0 with up to 1.4 gigabits of bandwidth, more than enough for current home connections. Local Wi-Fi bandwidth can hit 2.2 gigabits per second, split between two 866-megabit channels and one 400-megabit path. One of these is a dedicated 5-gigahertz backhaul for the satellite access point, ensuring that speeds don't drop off dramatically away from the main router.

Our early experiences hint at snappy internet access across a two-floor house. On an iPhone 6s Plus, apps that previously had trouble loading suddenly did much better, as did security camera feeds.

Netgear Cable Orbi speeds


The main router includes four gigabit Ethernet ports, unlike a product such as the Google Wi-Fi, which has just two. The Cable Orbi satellite has two Ethernet jacks of its own.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    Two things if you could look at...1) can you do a 5GHz only network and 2.4GHz only network. 2)What is the best firmware to be on when dealing with HomeKit devices?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 15
    I like the idea of a dedicated wireless backhaul channel. Does any other mesh router have this?
    mike1watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 15
    ortiz3m said:
    Two things if you could look at...1) can you do a 5GHz only network and 2.4GHz only network. 2)What is the best firmware to be on when dealing with HomeKit devices?
    Yes!

    V2.1.4.16

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 15

    The Cable Orbi, the latest in Netgear's Orbi line, attempts to kill three birds with one stone: cable internet, Wi-Fi, and mesh access.

    Netgear Cable Orbi


    If you're not familiar with the Orbi or other mesh Wi-Fi routers, the gist is that on top of a primary router, you can connect one or more satellite units that seamlessly widen your network without requiring multiple SSIDs, as with normal extenders. The Cable Orbi comes with a single satellite, and can in theory cover as much as 4,000 square feet.

    The Netgear Orbi app for iPhones and iPads does a pretty good job of guiding users through the setup process, which is of course more complicated for the Cable Orbi since you'll need to contact your ISP and supply them with a MAC address and serial number. Set aside some time for installation -- even if your hardware works perfectly, you might still run into provisioning problems with your ISP, and you may have to reconnect household devices.

    Thankfully, we haven't run into the HomeKit issues plaguing some Wi-Fi-only Orbi models.

    We'll have to conduct much more testing for our full review, but once you're past modem configuration the Orbi seems to be smooth sailing.

    Just about everything is handled through the mobile app -- we found it easy to configure the bundled satellite, change the Wi-Fi login, and locate critical info. A device list shows everything currently active as well as connection strength, and options to selectively "pause" each item. This feature may be handy for maximizing bandwidth but mostly seems to be aimed at parents trying to kick their kids offline for a few hours.

    Netgear Orbi app


    On a spec level, the Cable Orbi is one of the better options. The modem component delivers 32x8 DOCSIS 3.0 with up to 1.4 gigabits of bandwidth, more than enough for current home connections. Local Wi-Fi bandwidth can hit 2.2 gigabits per second, split between two 866-megabit channels and one 400-megabit path. One of these is a dedicated 5-gigahertz backhaul for the satellite access point, ensuring that speeds don't drop off dramatically away from the main router.

    Our early experiences hint at snappy internet access across a two-floor house. On an iPhone 6s Plus, apps that previously had trouble loading suddenly did much better, as did security camera feeds.

    Netgear Cable Orbi speeds


    The main router includes four gigabit Ethernet ports, unlike a product such as the Google Wi-Fi, which has just two. The Cable Orbi satellite has two Ethernet jacks of its own.

    Keep following AppleInsider for a full review in the coming weeks.

    Follow us on Twitter @AppleInsider and Facebook for the latest Apple news and product reviews. And don't forget to check out our YouTube channel for tips, tricks and more.
    My only issue with this new model, Docsis 3.0. Why not 3.1? When they modems with 3.1 that have been our for years?
  • Reply 5 of 15
    cobby10cobby10 Posts: 5member
    My only issue with this new model, Docsis 3.0. Why not 3.1? When they modems with 3.1 that have been our for years?
    I just purchased a new cable modem for a house I’m about to close on. I went with a DOCSIS 3.0 (Motorola MB7621 24X8). I think “most people” like me don’t want to pay the additional mortgage payment to get the benifets of a Rate plan that requires a DOCSIS 3.1 modem.

    I got 400Mbps with TV 250+ Channels Comcast package at $180 per month BEFORE taxes, DVR rental fees, local network access fees...... And that’s on top of $140 per month for Verizon (2lines, 8Gb). I can’t justify additional costs. 

    when Comcast starts issuing DOCSIS 3.1 modems, AND prices come down...... I’ll have to switch. But I don’t expect that for another 10 years. 

    Also got a Netgear GS316 16 port unmanaged switch and Velop Whole Home WiFi (not tri-band). We’ll see how it goes running Cat6 and all new modem, switch and WiFi..
  • Reply 6 of 15
    harry wildharry wild Posts: 509member
    Wow!  284 mps downloads!  I get at best with speedtest 19.7 mps wiith an up to 60 mps Wi-Fi!  
  • Reply 7 of 15
    friedmudfriedmud Posts: 149member
    I love my (original) Orbi system - and I have a whole house full of Homekit stuff and haven't had any problems.

    In my old house, I stopped using the satellite because it's only 1500 sq ft and the base station alone covered everything well enough.  I bought the system to be future proof though because I was looking at buying a house.

    I just closed on a house and it's 3500 sq ft spread across 2 floors and a finished basement.  This last week I got cable internet hooked up at the new place and spent an hour with the install guy going over options for where to put the Orbi base and satellite.  Ended up with the base in the middle of the top floor... and the satellite in the middle of the basement.  Everything is working perfectly and there is plenty of wifi signal everywhere (in fact - I actually lowered the transmit power of the Orbi system because there was more than enough signal).

    Also: I bought the Netgear DOCSIS 3.1 modem to go with the Orbi.  My local cable company can't use it yet... but as long as I was buying a cable modem I don't see why you wouldn't get DOCSIS 3.1 gear.  I do think it's odd that Netgear went with 3.0 for this...


    mike1watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 15
    theothergeofftheothergeoff Posts: 2,062member
    friedmud said:

    Also: I bought the Netgear DOCSIS 3.1 modem to go with the Orbi.  My local cable company can't use it yet... but as long as I was buying a cable modem I don't see why you wouldn't get DOCSIS 3.1 gear.  I do think it's odd that Netgear went with 3.0 for this...


    Market forces.   It's the same reason why Honda sells most of their cars with 2.0 liter gas engines, vs fully electric cars.  Even if  people can afford a $35k+ EV car, they can get where they need to in a new Civic  at the same speed (because rates are limited) with a 4 cylinder gas engine for < $22K.


    realistically 3.1 doesn't really buy you anything until you get in the 300mbps+  cable internet speeds (or you have really crappy cable plant with lots of multi bit errors).   Few users (I would be surprised if 10% of Cable Modem users are using more than 75Mbps) are paying for that much bandwidth,  and few  cable providers sell that much bandwidth (and fewer sell 3.1 capabilities yet, for a myriad of reasons), and fewer have the backhaul to support it.  

    If most people want to to spend less than $75 a month on their Cable bill... why would anyone spend nearly $300 (or more) for a cable modem/router, when you can get a decent one for $99 bucks, that can handle 99.9% of your bandwidth needs (if you doubled your 75mbps every year for 3 years, you just crack 600mbps).   and in 3 years, when 3.1 starts taking over, that $300 will then be  $99, be 2nd or 3rd generation (better code, better interoperability), so you save $100 over that time period, and have a better 3.1 modem.


    propodwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 15
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,278member
    friedmud said:

    Also: I bought the Netgear DOCSIS 3.1 modem to go with the Orbi.  My local cable company can't use it yet... but as long as I was buying a cable modem I don't see why you wouldn't get DOCSIS 3.1 gear.  I do think it's odd that Netgear went with 3.0 for this...


    Market forces.   It's the same reason why Honda sells most of their cars with 2.0 liter gas engines, vs fully electric cars.  Even if  people can afford a $35k+ EV car, they can get where they need to in a new Civic  at the same speed (because rates are limited) with a 4 cylinder gas engine for < $22K.


    realistically 3.1 doesn't really buy you anything until you get in the 300mbps+  cable internet speeds (or you have really crappy cable plant with lots of multi bit errors).   Few users (I would be surprised if 10% of Cable Modem users are using more than 75Mbps) are paying for that much bandwidth,  and few  cable providers sell that much bandwidth (and fewer sell 3.1 capabilities yet, for a myriad of reasons), and fewer have the backhaul to support it.  

    If most people want to to spend less than $75 a month on their Cable bill... why would anyone spend nearly $300 (or more) for a cable modem/router, when you can get a decent one for $99 bucks, that can handle 99.9% of your bandwidth needs (if you doubled your 75mbps every year for 3 years, you just crack 600mbps).   and in 3 years, when 3.1 starts taking over, that $300 will then be  $99, be 2nd or 3rd generation (better code, better interoperability), so you save $100 over that time period, and have a better 3.1 modem.


    I would like a system that includes the modem like the ORBI but also includes a fail-over backup cell connection.  Or a modem cable and cell connection to the internet.   My comcast cable is incrediblely flakey.
  • Reply 10 of 15
    k2kw said:
    friedmud said:

    Also: I bought the Netgear DOCSIS 3.1 modem to go with the Orbi.  My local cable company can't use it yet... but as long as I was buying a cable modem I don't see why you wouldn't get DOCSIS 3.1 gear.  I do think it's odd that Netgear went with 3.0 for this...



    I would like a system that includes the modem like the ORBI but also includes a fail-over backup cell connection.  Or a modem cable and cell connection to the internet.   My comcast cable is incrediblely flakey.
    you're asking for Corp/SMB level capabilities.  to get that in an all-in-one (mesh, router, FW, cable, Cell), AND reliability, you're pushing the $$ envelope.   It's better to get a decent mesh/'inside router', and then add an 'outside' router (like a cradle point) that handles the Failover.   modularity gives you flexibility, and cheaper repairs.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 15
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 2,354member
    k2kw said:
    friedmud said:

    Also: I bought the Netgear DOCSIS 3.1 modem to go with the Orbi.  My local cable company can't use it yet... but as long as I was buying a cable modem I don't see why you wouldn't get DOCSIS 3.1 gear.  I do think it's odd that Netgear went with 3.0 for this...


    Market forces.   It's the same reason why Honda sells most of their cars with 2.0 liter gas engines, vs fully electric cars.  Even if  people can afford a $35k+ EV car, they can get where they need to in a new Civic  at the same speed (because rates are limited) with a 4 cylinder gas engine for < $22K.


    realistically 3.1 doesn't really buy you anything until you get in the 300mbps+  cable internet speeds (or you have really crappy cable plant with lots of multi bit errors).   Few users (I would be surprised if 10% of Cable Modem users are using more than 75Mbps) are paying for that much bandwidth,  and few  cable providers sell that much bandwidth (and fewer sell 3.1 capabilities yet, for a myriad of reasons), and fewer have the backhaul to support it.  

    If most people want to to spend less than $75 a month on their Cable bill... why would anyone spend nearly $300 (or more) for a cable modem/router, when you can get a decent one for $99 bucks, that can handle 99.9% of your bandwidth needs (if you doubled your 75mbps every year for 3 years, you just crack 600mbps).   and in 3 years, when 3.1 starts taking over, that $300 will then be  $99, be 2nd or 3rd generation (better code, better interoperability), so you save $100 over that time period, and have a better 3.1 modem.


    I would like a system that includes the modem like the ORBI but also includes a fail-over backup cell connection.  Or a modem cable and cell connection to the internet.   My comcast cable is incrediblely flakey.
    I prefer to keep the cable modem and router as separate units.   It provides flexibility when changing providers.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 15
    cobby10cobby10 Posts: 5member
    realistically 3.1 doesn't really buy you anything until you get in the 300mbps+  cable internet speeds  
    My understanding (I could be wrong) is that, the benifets of DOCSIS 3.1 are higher bandwidth at higher frequencies For better error correction and latency. For the ISP they also have much better power efficiency over greater distance using already in place cabling.

    DOCSIS 3.0 supports approximately 38 Mbps at good signal strength per channel. Now that DOCSIS 3.0 modems are hitting 32 channels, that equals 1216Mbps. 

    I agree that most people don’t even need 75 Mbps internet speeds. DOCSIS 3.0 can hit well above that already. As of right now, ISP gain more form DOCSIS 3.1 for bandwidth and efficiency then customers needing higher downstream speed increases. I find it odd that people keep pushing for the 3.1 upgrade as if they are going to ever use that added bandwidth. 
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 15
    lovemnlovemn Posts: 23member
    I went from AirPort Extreme and two Airport Expresses to the eero pro system. What a difference, eero is super fast and flawless, albeit expensive. The eero is worth every Franklin I paid for it. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 15
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,622member
    What firewall features does it have?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 15
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 4,929member
    cobby10 said:
    realistically 3.1 doesn't really buy you anything until you get in the 300mbps+  cable internet speeds  
    My understanding (I could be wrong) is that, the benifets of DOCSIS 3.1 are higher bandwidth at higher frequencies For better error correction and latency. For the ISP they also have much better power efficiency over greater distance using already in place cabling.

    DOCSIS 3.0 supports approximately 38 Mbps at good signal strength per channel. Now that DOCSIS 3.0 modems are hitting 32 channels, that equals 1216Mbps. 

    I agree that most people don’t even need 75 Mbps internet speeds. DOCSIS 3.0 can hit well above that already. As of right now, ISP gain more form DOCSIS 3.1 for bandwidth and efficiency then customers needing higher downstream speed increases. I find it odd that people keep pushing for the 3.1 upgrade as if they are going to ever use that added bandwidth. 
     this would explain why my ISP gave me a free docsis 3.1 modem...
    watto_cobra
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