Netgear Orbi RBKE963 Quad-band Wi-Fi 6E AX 11000 mesh (network review)
The Orbi RBKE963 Quad-band Wi-Fi 6E AX11000 mesh is the most potent Wi-Fi 6E router and mesh solution you can currently buy.
This is a unique mesh router. Research and testing for this review reveals a lot more about Wi-Fi 6E mesh solutions. Let’s look at a few we have encountered so far. Note that Wi-Fi 6E is a 6GHz band reserved for 6E devices only. Wi-Fi 6 or earlier cannot see the band.
- Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6E mesh routers have the standard 2.4 and 5GHz as well as 6GHz. These can Wi-Fi backhaul using a portion of the 5GHz band or via Ethernet. Netgear RAXE500 AXE11000, Wi-Fi 6E Router (network review)
- Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6E using 6GHz for backhaul or Ethernet. The only issue here is the shorter signal distance. TP-Link Deco XE75 Wi-Fi 6E AXE5400 Tri-band Mesh router (network review)
- Quad-band that has 2.4GHz, 2 x 5GHz and 6Ghz bands and uses a 5GHz band or Ethernet for backhaul. The Orbi Orbi RBKE963 Quad-band Wi-Fi Quad-band (this review) uses that. The advantage of using a dedicated 5GHz band is stronger and longer signal distances.
But perfection comes at a cost – $2,799, to be precise.
Why buy it?
It is for those who want the best, don’t need to ask the price, or need a router and satellites that can easily cover a large home.
While Wi-Fi 6E devices like smartphones and PCs are pretty scarce at present, it gives a separate 6GHz super-highway to them for 4800Mbps speeds. But we repeat our advice – Should I buy a 6 or 6E Wi-Fi router? (network guide). They are costly, and Wi-Fi 6 may be all you need. Our router reviews cover many Wi-Fi 6 devices.
Australian review: Netgear Orbi RBKE963 Quad-band Wi-Fi 6E AX 11000 mesh router
|Website||Product and Manual|
|Price||3-pack $2799 |
Extra satellite RBSE9060 $999
|From||It is a specialist product and may have to be ordered from Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi and Netgear or Orbi stockists.|
|Country of Manufacture||Vietnam|
|Company||Netgear (Est 1996) is an American computer networking company based in San Jose, California, with offices in about 22 other countries. It makes class-leading Nighthawk routers, MESH Orbi systems, Wi-Fi extenders, switches/hubs, Powerline adapters and a massive range of business and service provider networking equipment. Arlo spun out recently as a separate security camera company.|
|More||CyberShack Netgear news and reviews|
We use Fail (below expectations), Pass (meets expectations) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. We occasionally give a Pass(able) rating that is not as good as it should be and a Pass ‘+’ rating to show it is good but does not quite make it to Exceed.
You can click on most images for an enlargement.
First Impression – Big but attractive – Pass+
Orbi has a design code, and this is just a bigger version at 279 x 190mm x 1.36kg – needed to house the 12 antenna and multiple Ethernet ports.
It is attractive enough to blend into any décor, and Netgear has a White/gold version for retail sale and a Black edition online only.
The router and satellites look the same – the router has a Yellow 10Gbps Internet port, a 2.5Gbps WAN/LAN port, and three gigabit Ethernet LAN ports. You will love the extra LAN ports on the router and satellites.
Bandwidth – Heaps and separate IoT band – Exceed
The Orbi RBKE963 Quad-band Wi-Fi router and satellites all use Qualcomm’s premium Networking Pro 1610 chipset and a 2.2GHz quad-core processor. All have 1GB of memory and 512MB of storage for firmware and settings.
The mesh backhaul uses the latest Wi-Fi 6 5GHz AX technology and 4K Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) to push data at full-duplex. Beamforming connects directly with clients, and MU-MIMO feeds data. It has intelligent data-traffic management. There is currently no faster Wi-Fi 6E router or Mesh.
- 2.4GHz 1200Mbps (HE 20/40 maximum speed 900Mbps)
- 5GHz 2400Mbps (HE 20/40/80 maximum 2400Mpbs)
- 5GHz Backhaul 2400Mbps (HE80)
- 6GHz 4800Mbps (HE 20/40/80/160 max 4800Mbps)
The 16 simultaneous Wi-Fi streams deliver instant, uninterrupted video everywhere in your house at the same time.
It presents as a single SSID for all bands and connects the device to the most appropriate one (band steering).
It also transmits a separate 2.4/5Ghz guest band and a 2.4Ghz IoT band that removes the issues of older IoT devices not connecting.
If you use an Ethernet backhaul, we understand the second 5Ghz band is still unavailable for Wi-Fi devices.
Ports – Exceed
The router has a 10Gbps (yes, 10,000Mbps) auto-ranging internet port, so it will accommodate the highest NBN speeds.
Both the router and satellite have a 2.5Gbps LAN/WAN port and three gigabit Ethernet ports. You can set up a 2.5Gbps backhaul using Cat6 Ethernet cables or a 2.5Gbps Switch from Netgear or use D-Link DMS-106XT 2.5Gbps gaming and media 6-port unmanaged switch (as we did).
Setup – Too easy with the Orbi App – Pass+
Download the Netgear Orbi App for Android or iOS and set up an account (you need to do this so that you can recover lost passwords etc.). Plug in the router to power and the internet gateway, scan the barcode, and the app does the rest. Give it a name and password. The Admin password is the account password. Enable Two-Factor-Authentication.
Once the router is set up, place the satellites where you will use them, and the app will Find and configure them.
Web interface – Pass+
Before you use the web interface, read the Manual.
We found that the defaults worked best anyway, but it is easier to change the SSID. Password and LAN IP address (change it from 192.168.1.1 to something else like 192.168.50.1, as too many gateways use the default address).
My only gripe is the single-band SSID, but it seems to work well in tests.
HINT: You can enable a separate 6GHz SSID in the App, showing three SSIDs – the 2.4GHz IoT, a combo 2.4/5Ghz and 6GHz.
IoT support – Exceed
Given that the router and satellites each have 1200Mbps 2.4GHz bandwidth, they should be able to support 30-50 IoT devices each.
HINT: Rather than reset and reconnect all IoT, use the name and password you had for the old router’s 2.4GHz band. If a non-IoT device needs 2.4GHz, it will use the combined 2.4/5GHz SSID.
But while this works well, it did result in some strange connections that needed either a power cycle or router reboot to get them to talk to the correct (closest router/satellite).
Speed – it is complex – Exceed
If you connect to the router, you will get up to 2.4GHz 866Mbps, 5GHz 2400Mpbs and 6GHz 4800Mbps (but likely 2400Mbps 2×2).
If you connect to a satellite, the maximum 6GHz speed is 2400Mbps or 1000/2500Mbps, limited by its Gigabit or 2.5Gb Ethernet backhaul.
Tests – Mesh measurement is more complex.
The Orbi RBKE963 Quad-band has a far stronger antenna signal strength than we have previously encountered. Our test device (Wi-Fi 6E capable Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra) refused to swap from the main router to the Wi-Fi or Ethernet backhaul satellites 10m away.
Devices connect randomly – the router has 26, the Ethernet backhaul has 6, and the Wi-Fi backhaul has 13 (some of these should be connected to the router or a satellite).
One satellite is approx. 10m away through two walls and two cupboards. With Wi-Fi backhaul, it had a 75% signal strength, and as we had an Ethernet point, it used that for backhaul. It was picking up devices 15m away. These should not be there as they are closer to the router or the Wi-Fi satellite. A reboot solved that.
The other satellite is 10m line-of-sight from the router and has a 100% Wi-Fi signal. We don’t need this satellite (but we had a three-pack to test). It, too, is picking up devices that should be off the router. A reboot solved that.
There is a minor issue with Wi-Fi 6E devices. Their practical distance limit is about 6-7 metres (same or next room) before the signal drops to almost unusable. They hold on too long to 6GHz before swapping to the 5Ghz band for 2400Mbps speeds. That is a firmware issue that Orbi will address when the ACMA stops crippling the 6GHz signal strength – read Wi-Fi 6E AX 6Ghz now approved in Australia. What does that mean for you?
The bottom line is that the home is bathed somewhat redundantly in high-speed Wi-Fi 5GHz 2400Mbps and variable 6GHz.
Coverage – Exceed
In our experience, placing a satellite more than 10m from the router can cause issues. We extended that to 15m line-of-sight, and the signal was still adequate.
In theory, each device can cover 300m2, but in practice, which is a 20m diameter circle centred on the device. Given reasonably strong signals to 10m, you get:
<10m>satellite<10m>router<10m>satellite<10m> or 40m x 20m2 = 800m2.
Using Ethernet backhaul, you will get the maximum coverage of 900m2. This is excellent coverage, and you should wire the home with Ethernet for spectacular performance.
Power Use – Pass+
Under load, the router peaked at 15W and the satellites at 12W. The device’s ‘sort of sleep’ power ranges from <1w to 5W, will cost less than 30 cents per day to run.
Netgear Armour – This may or may not be attractive
Netgear Armour by BITDEFENDER – a subscription service that provides IoT protection, AV end-point for Windows, macOS and Android devices outside the home, a basic VPN and optional Parental controls. If you already have AV suites and IoT protection, it may pay to use Armour.
Circle parental control (trial – not tested)
It has the usual parental controls and more at extra cost. You can set profiles for each family member, schedules, time limits and bedtimes, automatically blocking a child from using any of their devices past a specific time. More here.
Voice control – Pass+
Google Assistant and Alexa have basic voice commands.
CyberShack’s view Netgear Orbi RBKE963 Quad-band Wi-Fi 6E AX 11000 mesh
Yes, it is expensive, but who cares if it cures all your current router issues? And you can have up to six satellites ($999 each) if you want.
While Wi-Fi 5 AC mesh was not worth considering, any Wi-Fi 6 or 6E mesh is.
However, the Netgear Orbi RBK852 Wi-Fi 6 AX6000 does very well without the 6GHz band, and a 3-pack costs $1749.
Netgear Orbi RBKE963 Quad-band Wi-Fi 6E AX 11000 mesh$2799 for 3-pack
- Excellent Wi-Fi 6/6E coverage – more extensive than any other 6E Mesh
- 10Gbps WAN and 2.5Gbps LAN ports
- Separate IoT network and can have a separate 6GHz network.
- A very powerful router handles the heaviest home network traffic
- Easy to use
- Cost – it may be overkill for most users.
- The second 5GHz band is not available to clients when using Ethernet backhaul.
- Trial subscription for Netgear Armor security software – after that, you can pay
- No USB Ports
- 2.5Gbps Ethernet backhaul requires 2.5Gbps switch