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Netgear Orbi's newest mesh router adds in support for Wi-Fi 6E, costs $1,100

With a 2.4GHz band, two 5GHz bands and the new 6GHz band for Wi-Fi 6E connections, Netgear is hailing it as the first quad-band mesh system ever made.

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Netgear

Netgear Orbi is one of the most prominent brand names in the router aisle, with several versions of its popular mesh system already up for sale at a variety of prices. Today, that list of systems is expanding to include a new Orbi mesh router set to hit stores this month with support for Wi-Fi 6E, the new designation for networking gear that's equipped to send signals in the ultra-wide 6GHz band.

Dubbed the Netgear Orbi Quad-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6E System (model number RBKE963), the new AXE11000 mesh router sticks to a similar, upright design as previous models and will be available in both white and a special-edition black, sold exclusively on the Netgear website. The router supports the latest WPA3 security standards and comes with a 30-day free trial of Netgear Armor, which offers device-specific threat scans and other premium security features. In addition to your normal network and guest network, you'll be able to designate your Wi-Fi 6E devices to connect exclusively over the 6GHz band, or designate an IoT-specific network for your smart home gadgets. As the "quad-band" branding suggests, the router boasts four separate bands: 2.4, 5, and 6GHz, plus a second 5GHz band that the system uses as a dedicated wireless backhaul. 

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The new, AXE11000 version of Netgear Orbi will support four streams of traffic each on the 2.4, 5 and 6GHz bands, with a second, four-stream 5GHz band serving as a dedicated wireless backhaul connection between the main router and its satellites.

Netgear

Netgear is calling it the world's first quad-band mesh system -- and the company is pricing it accordingly, with a two-piece setup (one router and one satellite) costing $1,099, additional extenders costing $599 each and a three-piece setup with two satellites ringing in at an eyebrow-raising $1,499. That's more than 10 times as much as what the entry-level, AC1200 version of Netgear Orbi currently costs and $500 more than the AX6000 version of Netgear Orbi, which currently ranks as our top-tested pick for a high-end mesh router upgrade.

Netgear justifies the expense by positioning the new quad-band Orbi system as a future-focused, top-of-the-line upgrade for homes and businesses in need of the fastest, sturdiest connection possible. To that end, each of the identical devices (any one of which can serve as router or satellite extender) features a WAN port that supports incoming wired speeds of up to 10Gbps, plus four gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, including one intended for wired backhauls that supports speeds of up to 2.5Gbps.

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The real draw for most people will be Wi-Fi 6E and that 6GHz band, which the FCC opened for unlicensed use in a unanimous vote in 2020. With more than twice as much bandwidth as the 5GHz band and no interference from previous-gen Wi-Fi devices, manufacturers are positioning that 6GHz band as sort of an exclusive freeway capable of moving mass amounts of next-gen internet traffic. 

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The new Orbi system will come in both standard white and a special-edition black, sold exclusively on the Netgear website.

Netgear

However, in early tests, I've seen limited benefits from Wi-Fi 6E given the high costs of buying in. For starters, the 6GHz band offers less range than 2.4 or 5GHz and few homes have internet connections fast enough to put it to full use at this point, let alone Wi-Fi 6E devices capable of connecting to it at all.

"The Wi-Fi 6E ecosystem is poised for rapid growth," Netgear notes in its press release announcing the new system. "Many devices already support Wi-Fi 6E such as the Samsung Galaxy S21 and Fold 3 mobile phones, Dell Latitude 5520 and Lenovo Thinkpad T14 laptops, Samsung Neo QLED 8K TV and Intel Wi-Fi 6E PCIe card, with more to come before Christmas."

All of that means this mesh router will likely settle in as one of the flagships of the Wi-Fi 6E era. Buying in now at full price means paying an awfully steep premium for early adoption of the standard. We'll have a better sense of whether or not that's worth considering once we've had a chance to test the system out -- stay tuned.