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Netgear gives Orbi a mesh Wi-Fi makeover -- and a much lower price tag

Netgear's new mesh router system promises to blanket your home in Wi-Fi without breaking the bank.

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The newly redesigned Netgear Orbi.

Netgear

When the Netgear Orbi mesh Wi-Fi system first launched back in 2016, a two-pack with the Orbi router and the nearly identical satellite device that relays its signal throughout your house sold for $400. Now, Netgear is back with a redesigned Orbi system -- and the price of that two-pack has plummeted to $149. (Earlier this week we saw that two-pack online for just $129, but it looks like the lower sale price isn't available anymore.)

It's an attractive price for a mesh Wi-Fi system, and it's one that's likely aimed at staving off fresh competition in the mesh category. One such rival is Eero, the Amazon-owned manufacturer, which just released a new mesh system of its own. That system saw its price get cut in half, down from $499 to $249 for a three-pack.

Read more: Give the gift of a better, faster router for the holidays | The best Wi-Fi routers in 2019 

Google, meanwhile, is rumored to have a new, voice-enabled version of its Google WiFi mesh system in the works, with a potential debut tomorrow at the company's Pixel 4 event. No word on what it'll cost if we see it, though the current, first-gen version of Google WiFi debuted at $299 for a three-pack back in 2016.

As for the specs, the new Netgear Orbi (model RBK12) promises top combined speeds of up to 1.2Gbps, along with a single gigabit Ethernet jack on the back of the router for a speedy, wired connection to your streamer, smart home hub or gaming console of choice. That's nice to have, though it's a step down from the original Orbi router, which boasted three separate Ethernet jacks on the router.

netgear-orbi-ports.png

There's only one spare Ethernet jack in the back of the Orbi router, and none in the back of the Orbi satellite at all.

Netgear

As for range, Netgear promises that its Orbi two-pack will cover homes of up to 3,000 square feet. Three- and four-packs are available for larger homes, with the four-pack promising to cover up to 6,000 square feet at an asking price of $299.

The devices support band-steering, which automatically passes you off between the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands within a single network as you move about the house. They also support voice controls via Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant.

They don't support next-gen Wi-Fi 6 speeds and features, though, so you'll still be connecting via 802.11ac, the current-gen, "Wi-Fi 5" standard you're probably already used to. For those early adopters looking to future-proof their home networks, Netgear will soon offer a Wi-Fi 6 version of its Orbi mesh system, albeit at a very steep asking price of about $700 for a two-pack. Personally, I'd be more inclined to try an entry-level Wi-Fi 6 router from TP-Link, which you can currently get for about a tenth as much.

We'll soon be testing all of the latest mesh systems to see which ones we like the best -- and you can bet that the new Orbi will be in the mix when that happens. More on the mesh front soon.

Originally published Oct. 14.
Update, Oct. 15: Clarifies pricing specifics from Netgear -- the two-pack's regular sale price is $149.