I have a rather complicated home network. Its usage has skyrocketed in recent years, as the kids are always on Wi-Fi and somebody is always watching over-the-top services like Netflix while I play networked console or PC games. The number of devices we use that connect to the Internet has also gone up.
Fortunately, there are enough Netgear products to solve my challenges. If you’re a gamer, you might want to pay attention because it isn’t easy to guarantee great gaming connectivity in a house full of other people. I recently got a Orbi Wi-Fi router for the home, a Orbi Satellite, and a couple of Netgear Nighthawk S8000 8-port gaming and media switches. With those four devices, I can get speedy Internet throughout the home, no matter which way I connect.
It’s not an easy problem to solve. I get my Internet access through Comcast, via a cable modem in my living room. We connect a wired line to a computer at a desk in the living room, and also string Ethernet wires out to the Nintendo Switch game console, the Xbox 360 console, and Shield set-top box connected to the TV. That means that we have to put an Internet router in the living room, near the cable connection. We often play videos on the wired laptop by connecting it to the TV via a HDMI cable.
The Orbi AC3000 router can easily feed fast Internet to the wired devices in the living room. And it can also send Wi-Fi out across a section of the home. But I also work in the garage on my desktop computer. We took the trouble to wire a long Ethernet cable into my garage office a while ago, and so I now connect that wire to one of the Nighthawk S8000 8-port gaming and media switches.
At my desk, I get a download speed of 115.5 megabits per second and an upload speed of 6.2 megabits per second. That’s plenty fast for connecting my PC for work purposes, and it’s good for connected PC games as well. Then I extend a wire from the switch to another part of the garage where I’ve got my brand new, (too noisy for the living room) consoles. That’s where I do most of my gaming.
Before, I had to connect via a switch to another switch, and for some reason the consoles didn’t recognize the wired connection. So I had to play on Wi-Fi, and that meant that in Call of Duty matches, I was too slow. (Yes, there were probably skill-related reasons for why I didn’t do well in those matches). But now I’ve got another Nighthawk S8000 8-port switch in the console area. And even though I am going from my cable modem to the Orbi to the Nighthawk switch to the Nighthawk switch to the consoles, I get a pretty fast connection on the games.
The Orbi also comes with a satellite Orbi that makes the Wi-Fi much more robust. Normally, the Orbi can extend Wi-Fi to about 4,000 square feet. With the satellite, it can extend that range. Orbi uses sophisticated Tri-band mesh network technology. The Tri-band Wi-Fi that powers Orbi includes a dedicated 1.7Gbps 5GHz band solely for extending internet speeds to Orbi satellites. This enables the other two Wi-Fi bands to be fully dedicated for all connected devices across an entire home. Tri-Band ensures that the Orbi Wi-Fi System provides both reliable coverage and maximum internet speed throughout your home. And it means everybody in the home gets a good Wi-Fi connection.
The range is relatively short, but there’s an indicator light on top of the Orbi that changes color to tell you if the satellite is within range of the base. Importantly, the Orbi satellite does not have to be in the line of sight of the base, and the signal can go through a wall or two. A blue indicator light at the top shows if the satellite is operating at full speed.
With the Orbi and its satellite, I can now extend high-speed Wi-Fi throughout the home and into the garage. So now I can easily use my smartphone on Wi-Fi while I’m on the desktop or playing with a console. It effectively eliminates the Wi-Fi dead zones, and as it has a password, I can make sure that the neighbors aren’t accessing it.
I can monitor all of the traffic on the network using the Netgear app or the web link for the switch. With the web site, I can test to see which cables are working when connected to the switch.
I can see what it prioritizes in terms of media or gaming, and change it if I like. By prioritizing gaming, it will make sure that the games I’m playing in the garage don’t have dropped frames because someone else is on the network watching video. And that’s what really matters in life.
The Netgear Nighthawk S8000 8-port switch costs $100. The Orbi RBK30, with one Orbi AC2200 router and one wall plug satellite, is $300. The RBK40, with one Orbi AC2200 router and one matching satellite, costs $350. And the original Orbi AC3000 router with matching satellite costs $400. A stand-alone wall plug satellite (covering 1,500 square feet) costs $150, while a larger satellite with a wider range (2,500 square feet) costs $200. Netgear provided me with products for this review.