Wow, this was the simplest networking setup I have ever done! To add even more weight to that statement, I have done a lot of setups that were pretty easy and the ease of this setup simply blows them away. I hope this next comment doesn’t offend anyone but the Orbi system has a very “Apple” feel to the whole product. The design of the packaging, the beauty of the product, the simplicity of the interface all create this sense that the user was really taken into consideration during the creation of this product. They definitely didn’t just say “lets solve this networking issue” and slap together a functional system but instead they decided to really put a lot into the aesthetics and ease of use of this product.
From start to finish the set up only took a few steps and I was guided the entire way by the Orbi App on my iPhone. If you want to set up a powerful home or small business network and don’t want to have to spend a lot of time configuring then this would definitely fit that bill.
In the past I had WiFi coverage problems in my home and had set up a dual access point network so devices could easily connect in the dead spaces at the far end of the house. It took awhile to set that up because there were many settings I had to configure to make sure everything worked as it should. When I created this similar network with the Orbi system all I needed to do was define a network name and password on the main device, plug in the satellite device and tell the app find the satellite. Done! I can’t say enough at how amazed I am at how simple this whole process was. OK, I left out that there were a few extra steps that I took to secure the access to the Admin controls of the system, which I really recommend, but I don’t know that those were required and the app guided you through that process so, again, pretty simple and straightforward.
Of course, easy installation is great but what does it matter how easy it is to install if the system doesn’t work well? Not to worry in this case as the system performed very well, and measured even better performance than my original dual-access point system. I have a device to measure the strength of the WiFi signal at various points across the house and the signal was strong and clear throughout.
Because I am fairly familiar with the setup and configuration of a home WiFi network the one downside I initially saw was that there was no way to “look under the hood” and see how everything was configured. Generally, there are pages of settings with network gear and sometimes, if you understand what you are doing, it is worthwhile to make changes to fit your needs. With the Orbi app, once you do the basic setup the only other options I found were to add additional satellite devices, restart the setup from scratch, or check to see who is connected. (I love the way you can check who is connected from the app because it is very quick and simple to do and something I like to do frequently.)
So I was all ready to drop a star on my review because of the lack of additional control capability when I remembered that the system was also supposed to allow the creation of a guest network. Because that wasn’t part of the app I knew there must be a way to access that control somewhere. I did a quick search on Netgear’s website and found that this system actually does allow you to get in and have access to all of those deeper controls too! Star added back! The lack of this access through the Orbi app is probably good because it doesn’t leave a user feeling that they are missing something if they don’t understand those controls. Now my complaint is that I did have to do a search on Netgear’s website to find out how to get access to those controls. I didn’t see anything documented or in the app that indicated there was a path to those settings. Because this system is the low-end model maybe that information is more readily available during setup of the higher-end systems. Still, it would be nice for them to alert you that those instructions exist for users of this system too. I guess if you are a power user you will also know how to search for those details.
When you access the Admin page that accesses those deeper controls, some of the options you can do is create a guest network, set finer access control for devices and how they connect to the entire network, and adjust many other things that a more network savvy person might want to control. One of the features that I found really cool with this system is when you create a guest network is that you can turn it on or off using Amazon’s Alexa. A guest network is something that is great when you don’t want to provide guests with your normal login credentials, or for a business and you want to keep customers segmented and not allow access to your company network. The ability to control it with Alexa means a simple voice command to your Amazon Echo or EchoDot speaker can turn that network on or off and you don’t have to login on a device like a phone or laptop to enable or disable that network.
Personally, I only enable my guest network when I have guests and I don’t share the administrator access credentials to modify those controls with my family. When they have friends over I have to be the one to grab a device and enable the feature. Now I, or anyone in my family, can simply say the command to Alexa and turn on the guest network for whoever is visiting and I don’t have to be bothered. I have not yet been able to test this feature but I am very excited to get that enabled next week!
In conclusion, if you want a great WiFi router that is aesthetically pleasing, incredibly simple to get up and running yet is very powerful, this is a great system for meeting that need. At the same time, If you are a networking power user and also want to be able to configure Access Control Lists, QoS, enable a VPN, etc. this system also has that capability too. If that last sentence sounds like gibberish then this system is definitely the one you want to give you great performance and coverage in your home or small office but not require you to learn anything about networking to setup an excellent network.
Although I was provided this product for free to test the system and write this review, the content of the review is my honest and unbiased opinion.