As part of IFA 2019, Netgear has a number of new announcements across different product lines. The wireless networking products are of particular interest to us. We had attended Qualcomm's Wi-Fi 6 Day last month, and I had tweeted about Netgear's Orbi Wi-Fi 6 (RBK850) that was showcased at the event. Things are being made official today, with additional details becoming available.

Netgear's Orbi systems need little introduction, given their wide retail reach and popularity. At CES 2019, the company had divulged some details about the meshing together of Orbi and Wi-Fi 6. The key to the great performance of the Orbi RBK50 (802.11ac) was the dedicated 4x4 wireless backhaul between the router and the satellites. This left two 2x2 streams (one in 5 GHz and one in 2.4 GHz) available for the client devices connected to either member of the kit. The Orbi RBK850 (the kit carries the RBK852 designation) retains the same 4x4 backhaul, but makes the move from Wi-Fi 5 to Wi-Fi 6. In theoretical terms, the wireless backhaul is now 2.4 Gbps (4x4:4 / 80MHz 802.11ax) compared to 1.73 Gbps in the RBK50. The clients also get 4x4:4 streams from the satellite or the router, with one set of spatial streams dedicated to 2.4 GHz duties / 1.2 Gbps, and another to 5 GHz duties / 2.4 Gbps. Wired backhaul is also supported (the dedicated wireless backhaul spatial streams are disabled in that case), just like the Orbi RBK50.

As announced at Qualcomm's Wi-Fi 6 Day, the Orbi RBK852 is based on Qualcomm's Networking Pro 1200 platform. It will be available next month and the kit (a single router and satellite) will be priced at $700.

In other Orbi news, Netgear is announcing that the Orbi Voice and Outdoor Orbi satellites for the original Orbi (802.11ac) are getting a 'Universal Mode' update, enabling them to act as extenders for any router (even non-Netgear ones). This is a welcome addition to the Orbi family's feature set, and will help the company draw more people into the Orbi ecosystem.

Netgear is also announcing the Nighthawk EAX80 Wi-Fi 6 wireless extender today. It is based on a Broadcom chipset and meant to complement the Wi-Fi 6 routers already in the market.

Netgear is aiming to promote ease of extender use with an app-based configuration flow. The EAX80 will be available later this month for $250.

Based on reader feedback for previous Wi-Fi 6 articles, I brought up two questions for Netgear related to the above announcements - one related to the pricing of the Orbi RBK852 at $700 (a tad too high?), and another related to the consumer appetite for Wi-Fi 6 equipment given the current draft nature of the 802.11ax standard.

On the cost aspect, Netgear noted that the premium Wi-Fi 6 Nighthawk routers priced around the $300 - $400 range have been selling relatively well. Given that a mesh system is essentially the hardware for at least two wireless routers in one kit, the pricing is justified. Regarding the consumers' ability to stomach a $700 expense for a Wi-Fi system, Netgear pointed to internal surveys that showed consumers treating Orbi-like Wi-Fi systems as long-term investments (3-5 years). Given that these are folks who have invested in the latest premium notebooks and phones (Wi-Fi 6 clients), Netgear believes that the target market would not be put off by the price tag of the Orbi Wi-Fi 6 kit.

Apropos the Wi-Fi 6 standard's pending ratification, Netgear believes that the issues currently holding back Wi-Fi 6 in the draft stage are all controllable via the firmware, and will not require any hardware fixes. Since ongoing firmware updates have pretty much become the norm for most electronic products nowadays, any changes in the standard between now and eventual ratification can also make it to units already deployed in the field. It must also be noted that a final standard is needed to ensure maximum inter-operability between Wi-Fi 6 clients and APs from different vendors. Given that Netgear has systems based on silicon from all three major chipset vendors (Qualcomm, Broadcom, and Intel), interoperability issues should not be much of a concern for their customers.

Overall, we see that the Wi-Fi 6 market is poised to take off with the ongoing launch of multiple Wi-Fi 6 client systems and phones. The rollout of DOCSIS 3.1 as well as FTTH ISPs has brought gigabit Internet to many households, and consumers' appetite for practical gigabit Wi-Fi has been whetted. Netgear's 802.11ax portfolio expansion is happening at the right time for the company to take advantage of the current state of the market.

Source: Netgear

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  • csroc - Friday, September 6, 2019 - link

    For that price I'd expect more units, and for Netgear to consider a long term investment being longer than just 3-5 years. Past experiences with Netgear were poor, while I'm sure they're better these days I'm hoping there will be more reasonably priced alternatives from other brands.
  • Supercell99 - Friday, September 6, 2019 - link

    Is WIFI6 even available outside of routers? Is the firmware stable? Seems like this is more marketing crap to sell expensive $300 routers that are unstable and do not perform as advertised.
  • name99 - Friday, September 6, 2019 - link

    The new Snapdragons (855) have it. And there is a Broadcom chip. (Meaning that I would expect the new iPhones to have it, either through that BC chip, or maybe Apple finally has the entire BT/WiFi stack on their own chip, a beefed up W4?)
  • ganeshts - Friday, September 6, 2019 - link

    All the new Ice Lake laptops come with Wi-Fi 6.

    You can also get Wi-Fi 6 cards on Amazon if you have a system with an appropriate M.2 slot - Eg. :
  • abufrejoval - Sunday, September 8, 2019 - link

    Well, they don't 'have' it really, they just come with the logic parts inside the SoC, while vendors are still free to shave a cent or two of the final sales price by mounting not the matching CNVi module, but something cheaper.

    Case in point my Whiskey Lake, which has AC9000 series WiFi 5 embedded in the SoC, was sold with a 3165 M.2, quite a serious downgrade at 433Mbs raw data rate.

    So I had the chance to upgrade that with an Intel 9560 CNVio (€9) or 9260 PCIe (€11) module, or I could get vPro capabilities for either with another €6 on top.

    But penny pinching on those €2 for the CNVio module, I would have tied the card to that notebook, where in fact it only lived a few weeks, until the WiFi 6 AX200 PCIe module became available for €11 as well. I haven't even seen the CNVio variant for AX200 yet, but it sure wouldn't deliver WiFi 6 if it worked at all on a SoC with WiFi 5 capabilities, but in any case this embedded WLAN chipset stuff only makes sense to Apple: Anyone with a bit of sense should stay away.

    BTW: The 9260 immediately moved to the next best notebook in the family, that doesn't have any WiFi on the SoC, where it's doing much better than being an immediate CNVi throwaway.
  • name99 - Friday, September 6, 2019 - link

    "On the cost aspect, Netgear noted that the premium Wi-Fi 6 Nighthawk routers priced around the $300 - $400 range have been selling relatively well. Given that a mesh system is essentially the hardware for at least two wireless routers in one kit, the pricing is justified."

    I don't know that that's valid logic. I clearly can't speak for other people, but my primary interest in the AX Nighthawks is that they're currently the only way to get a small home system with at least some (limited, but present) >1Gbps switching ethernet switching. By buying an AX nighthawk you get at least 2*1G aggregation, and a 2.5/5G port; and you may be able to convert that into some value in your home network (eg connect the NAS to the fast port, and whatever other machine is appropriate to the 2*1G ports).

    Point is -- the kind of people who buy for those ETHERNET features are mostly not the kind of people who buy mesh networking, because they have alternative ways to get the coverage they want over the entire house...
  • snakyjake - Friday, September 6, 2019 - link

    I have a 2400 sq ft home, and have no problems reaching Netgear's 7000 router, even when outside. But I do wonder if I can reach greater distances and faster throughput, and try to decide between a router with bigger antennas or go mesh. I rather have bigger antenna so the radius is bigger. I'm concerned that 2 mesh devices only make the signal shape oval. So to get a bigger circular radius, I'll need multiple mesh devices, which increases cost.

    I haven't totally bought into mesh as the answer.
  • Dug - Thursday, September 12, 2019 - link

    Without 10Gb at the router switch, this is a no go for the price.
    I have 10Gb on my Synology and 10Gb on my desktop. (10Gb switch)
    But if I want to share over wifi 6, which apparently can saturate 1Gb, then this becomes the bottleneck again.
  • delphin460 - Saturday, September 21, 2019 - link

    did anyone notice the elephant in the room here

    it isnt using the full AX standard for ether its backhaul or client 5 gig

    see specs

    2.4GHz (1200Mbps†) + 5GHz (2400Mbps†) for WiFi devices to connect to the Internet

    5GHz (2400Mbps†) dedicated WiFi link for faster data connections between Orbi Router and Orbi Satellite

    the full ax standard is 4804mbps at 160mhz

    it looks like they are only using 80mhz

    strange indeed
  • delphin460 - Saturday, September 21, 2019 - link

    so ether the diagram used in this thread is incorrect or the tech specs on netgears own web site are incorrect

    the same argument can also be cast as with the ethernet here , why have the wifi backhaul the same speed as the client 5 gig , the backhaul should have been full 4804mbps

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