Orbi is NETGEAR’s mesh division famous for making some of the best consumer mesh networking kits available. Today see’s us take a look at Orbi’s flagship offering, the RBKE963, featuring WiFi 6E, 10.8Gbps throughout, quad-channel WiFi, 10GB WAN port, 2.5 and Gigabit LAN ports, as well as the usual Orbi offerings. Let’s see then why the RBKE963 has its mammoth £1699.99 price tag…
Orbi RBKE963: Specifications
- The world’s most powerful whole-home WiFi system with up to 10.8Gbps WiFi speeds & coverage up to 7,500 sq. ft., including front & back yards
- NEW: Exclusive Quad-Band technology & Dedicated Backhaul WiFi ensures max speeds for up to 200 connected devices
- NEW: WiFi 6E opens up a new 6GHz band, delivering dedicated top speeds to the latest WiFi 6E-ready laptops, phones, & tablets
- NEW: 10 Gig internet port unleashes the fastest download speeds of today & tomorrow. Connect to the latest cable or fibre Internet service up to 10Gbps
- Patented antenna design boosts WiFi coverage & delivers high-performance WiFi across your entire home.
- NETGEAR® Armor™ software provides an automatic shield of security for your WiFi and connected devices (PC, phone, camera, TV, Echo, etc.) for real-time protection against hackers and added privacy with VPN. 1-year subscription included
- Compatible with any internet service provider and sets up in minutes with the Orbi app
Product page: CLICK HERE
Orbi RBKE963: Unboxing and Closer Look
The box is a typical Orbi affair, with a smart, clear, and concise overall appearance. A nice clear picture of the RBKE963 can be seen as well as the Orbi logo and model number. The rear lists the important features and specifications.
The inner box is white in colour and is a much thicker card. The Orbi logo can be seen debossed into the card which gives it an premium look and feel. This is very nice and shows you that the RBKE963 is a premium product, including the packaging. Tear-off tabs can also be found on two sides of the box, holding the lid in place. This is very apple-esque!
Upon removing the lid, the included quick start guides, in a few different languages, and mandatory paperwork booklets are found as well as the router and both satellites. Finally, the additional box is opened and this houses the three power adapters with UK and EU plugs, these slot into the power supplies. A 1m Cat5e flat white Ethernet cable is also included as standard.
A front and rear view of the RBKE963 units. These are the router, which has the sticker attached and two satellites, placed on either side. These units are white in colour with a silver metallic base and side housing. On the rear at the bottom is where you find the associated Ethernet ports and power connectors, as well as the Sync button to the left.
On the router, Orbi has included a 10G WAN port which is compatible with up to 10GB ISP providers. A single 2.5GB LAN port and 3 additional Gigabit LAN ports are also included.
The Satellites feature a single 2.5GB LAN and 3 Gigabit LAN ports per satellite. Allowing plenty of connections. It’s great to see the 2.5GB LAN ports across the board as 2.5GB connectivity is becoming far more affordable.
A view of the bottom and top of the router unit. Notice a large amount of rubber padding on the bottom which keeps it very stable on a tabletop/shelf, along with 2 screw points which can be used to mount the units to a wall mount kit, available to purchase separately.
On the top, we can see the metallic silver plastic which runs from the top down the side down to the bottom. Black plastic grilling can be seen which opens the unit up to passive air cooling drawing air in from the bottom of the unit out of the top.
We reviewed (what I’m currently using full time) the RBK763S back in November 2022. So I thought I’d compare the size of the units. We can see the additional features of the RBKE963 need some additional space as the units are around 40% larger.
Orbi RBKE963: Setup and Configuration
Setting up the Orbi RBKE963 requires a mobile app, so make sure you also have a NETGEAR account as this is needed.
Usually, a web browser could be used to complete the setup, but in this situation, Orbi has made it so easy to do so that I’d recommend using the app. However, if you really don’t want to or can’t use the smartphone app then connect a laptop, PC, or Mac to the router unit and set it up there using the www.orbilogin.com URL.
The Orbi app is simple to use and I completed the configuration, including manually entering my ISP’s FTTP connection, WiFi configuration, connecting the two satellites, and a firmware update in about 10 minutes.
It’s hard to articulate just how easy Orbi, and by extension NETGEAR, has made setting up the RBKE963 for anyone, which for technology, is no mean feat! But the user interface is well laid out, and the steps are simple to follow.
Orbi offers 2 extra service plans during setup which are “Warranty” and Warranty + Support”. These plans require an upfront payment but extend the warranty from 1 to 3 years, and if you think you require the support package also, that includes 24/7 phone support with a NETGEAR agent.
Once done, you can make most configuration changes in the app. However, you’ll need to switch over to the web-based configuration page, using the www.orbilogin.com URL, to make more “advanced” changes typically found in a standard router menu.
Finally, Orbi has included an IoT group, with another separate WiFi network for connecting IoT (Internet of Things, also called ‘smart’) devices, such as cameras, doorbells, lights, etc.
Ultimately though, this is just another WiFi channel, and you could, if you wanted to name it something completely different and use it for something completely different, such as a separate WiFi channel and password for guests you don’t want to open your network to, for example, or maybe a dedicated access point for children that can be disconnected without affecting the main network.
The attached devices menu lists all attached devices and how they are connected e.g. Wired, 2.4, 5, or 6GHz WiFi, as well as what channel and the Orbi device they are connected to (router or satellite).
Orbi RBKE963: Under the Hood
Orbi has added a whole list of features to the RBKE963 that make it the flagship. We’ve compiled a list of them for you:
- Quad-band connectivity – Utilising a single 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz band for WiFi devices to connect to the internet, and a dedicated (hidden) 5GHz WiFi link for faster data connections between the Orbi Router and Orbi Satellites.
- WiFi 6E (AX) – With a rated speed of 10800Mbps. 2.4GHz (600Mbps) + 5GHz (2400Mbps) + 6GHz (4800Mbps) for WiFi devices to connect to the Internet. 5GHz (2400Mbps) dedicated (hidden) WiFi backhaul for faster data connections between the Orbi Router and Orbi Satellites.
- 4×4 Wi-Fi – 12 streams – High-performance internal antennas with high-powered ampliﬁers. With supported channel widths of 20/40MHz on the 2.4GHZ channel, 80MHz on the 5GHz channels, and 160MHz on the 6GHz channel.
- Seamless roaming between satellites – The Orbi RBKE963 units work together to form a unified network with a single network name. Walk through your home, or office, and stay connected.
- Beamforming – Concentrates wireless signal strength towards clients to expand the WiFi range up to 7500 ft².
- Wired Backhaul – Use the included Gigabit LAN ports to create a wired backhaul, reducing the latency further compared to the 5GHz wireless backhaul.
Orbi RBKE963: Testing & Results
The Orbi RBK963 offers quad-band WiFi 6E (AXE) connectivity with the 2.4GHz band at 600Mbps, 5GHz band at 2400Mbps, and 6GHz band at 4800Mbps for WiFi (up to WiFi 6E) devices. There is an additional hidden “backhaul” 5GHz band with HE160 (160MHz) band running at 2400Mbps for a total theoretical bandwidth of up to 10800Mbps, hence the rounded-up AXE11000 branding.
Network speed test (iPerf3) using a laptop with an Intel AXE210 WiFi 6E (AXE) card installed connected to a workstation (Host) on 10Gbps Ethernet, outputting up to 2.5GbE LAN for routers with that capability.
As we’re testing a mesh networking kit, the RBKE963, the testing needs to be extended.
As well as range testing (on a single unit), we want to see the speeds the satellites communicate with each other, this is called the Wireless Backhaul, this is done using 2 computers connected via Ethernet, which eliminates additional WiFi links.
The units are positioned in what we’d call a typical home layout with one downstairs acting as the router and a second unit upstairs in a central location. We believe this is the most typical use case for a mesh networking product like this, instead of using a wired backhaul.
10ft range – 208Mbps
40ft range – 149Mbps
10ft range – 730Mbps
40ft range – 861Mbps
10ft range – 1490Mbps
40ft range – 980Mbps
Wireless Backhaul Testing:
The Orbi RBKE963 did well in terms of coverage. The 3-pack can handle a home of about 7500 ft² (696 m²). The RBKE963 also supports 200 devices connected concurrently.
Orbi RBKE963: The Verdict
Obviously, as the Orbi RBKE963 is the flagship product in Orbi’s lineup, the results are about as good as you can expect, with the best WiFi device speeds and decent backhaul wireless performance. We didn’t test a wired backhaul as we believe that’s not what this product is designed for, with an included hidden backhaul 5GHz channel included.
The overall range of the 3-pack (hence the 963 naming) is very good too at about 7500 ft² (696 m²) and is overkill for my 3-bedroom house. I’d recommend the RBKE962 unit instead, with a router and single satellite, one for upstairs and one for downstairs.
The Orbi RBKE963 is limited in terms of what user-configurable options there are, especially when it comes to Wi-Fi.
Typically routers allow adjustments to be made to things like the HT link speed e.g. 20/40MHz on the 2.4GHz band and 80MHz or 160MHz on the 5GHz band, for example. But no such luck on the Orbi RBKE963, the only wireless options are the ability to change the name (SSID), the channel selection for the 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz channels, channel passwords, and what security e.g. WPA, WPA2-PSK, WPA3-Personal, etc.
Like the previous reviews of Orbi products, I personally had issues connecting 2.4GHz devices from my TP-Link light bulb and security cameras when WPA3-Personal was selected. But I’ve since learned that it’s due to the WiFi settings not offering WPA3 and WPA2 modes concurrently, instead, they’re separate. Be sure to choose the mode that will work with all the devices you plan to connect.
With a nice overall white and metallic accent aesthetic, including the matching white power supply and Ethernet cable, as well as a familiar and easy-to-use app with fantastic WiFi speeds, as well as matching the quoted range. They all come together to make a cracking package. The RBKE963B is also available in black, should you prefer that.
So, with everything on offer. What’s it going to cost you? £1699.99!
Expensive and you’d be right, but taking a look at the features and performance on offer, it’s a flagship product with substantial flagship features, as well as being the ONLY quad-band mesh networking kit featuring 10G WAN for internet connections and 2.5GB LAN.
Also, factor in the included 1-year of NETGEAR Armor (powered by BitDefender) which is a product costing £84.99 per year, that protects your network and all connected phones, PCs, laptops and Macs. Though, Orbi is now offering this with models further down the tier list.
So is the Orbi RBKE963 for you?
If you’re looking for a decent flagship spec mesh Wi-Fi kit, that comes with Wi-Fi 6E (AXE) out of the box with an excellent range at around 7500 ft² (696 m²), awesome performance with quad-band connectivity, supports 200 concurrent connected devices, looks great and just plain works with minimal configuration then the Orbi RBKE963 should make your shortlist, providing you’re willing to pay for it. Do we think it’s worth it? Absolutely.
A big thank you to NETGEAR for providing the Orbi RBKE963 for today’s review.