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Netgear Orbi Outdoor Satellite (RBS50Y) review: Netgear's outdoor Wi-Fi extender performs out of this world

The Orbi Outdoor Satellite extends your Wi-Fi outside, with impressive range, top speeds, a night-light and a hefty price tag.

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Dan Dziedzic
dan-dziedzic

Dan Dziedzic

Associate editor

Dan has been a professional writer for more than a decade and now specializes in routers and networking devices. Originally from Chicago, IL, Dan studied comedy writing at Second City and worked as a Chicago sports journalist for a number of years. With a background in physics, he spends his spare time learning about the intricacies of the universe.

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7 min read

Relaxing in the yard with your tablet is a pleasant way to spend a weekend, but you're going to need a Wi-Fi connection to make it perfect.

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9.0

Netgear Orbi Outdoor Satellite (RBS50Y)

The Good

It has superb range and can live outside year round to extend Wi-Fi to your yard, pool or garage. It even has a night-light.

The Bad

It can only be used with an Orbi router and it costs more than most of its competitors. Despite security measures from Netgear, someone could steal or break it if you leave it outside.

The Bottom Line

If you have the money to spend, and already have an Orbi router, the Orbi Outdoor Satellite will give you great coverage outdoors and speeds as fast as you get inside. Make sure you mount it somewhere safe if you plan to leave it outdoors.

The Netgear Orbi Outdoor Satellite extends your Wi-Fi network outside your home, to the yard, garage or pool. Its performance will surprise you, but you'll have to pay $330 to get one. Plus it only works with a Netgear Orbi router (RBR50, RBR40, RBR20 or SRR60). But in the end, your network will thank you.

Be careful where you put it

The all-white, rectangular prism-shaped Orbi Outdoor is larger than you'd expect, measuring 8.3 by 2.7 by 10.6 inches and weighing more than 3 pounds. It's designed to be mounted outside to a wall or placed on a stand, which is included.

It's weather resistant with an IP56 rating for dust, water and temperature. Netgear advises that you shouldn't submerge it in water, but it will hold up in rain, snow and temperatures between -4 and 122 Fahrenheit. If you live in a colder climate, you may want to mount it inside a garage or just bring it out when you need it.

On the back you'll find the power, reset, sync and LED buttons. It doesn't have Ethernet or USB ports for wired devices, but that's probably a good thing. You wouldn't want just anyone to be able to plug into your network.

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The buttons are weather resistant but for some reason Netgear put the default network name and password right on the extender. Make sure you change them.

Chris Monroe/CNET

When you mount it to a wall or the stand, the buttons are a little hard to see and reach, so make sure you familiarize yourself with them before setting it up. The power cord is 10 feet long, so you have some leeway if you need to reach an outlet. An outdoor extension cord would help as well.

Security is always a concern when leaving a valuable device like this outdoors. The secure mounting latch is held in by just two screws, which anyone could take out in less than 30 seconds. I would definitely recommend putting it somewhere out of sight, up high or not easily accessible. Also, the network name and password are listed on the back, so make sure you change them.

The Orbi Outdoor has an ambient light, which you can turn on and off, dim or set on a timer. It isn't super bright, but it will shed some light on the surrounding area. This will draw attention to the device, but people may think it's just a light. During setup it lights up in different colors (blue, magenta, amber) to tell you the status. But disappointingly you can't select any of these colors when you turn the light on. Netgear said it doesn't have plans to add this feature right now.

Hurry up and wait to set it up

Setting up the Orbi Outdoor was relatively easy, but it did take about 15 minutes. I spent most of that time waiting for it to connect or sync. It did work on the first try though.

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Setup was easy, but I spent most of the time just waiting for it to sync. You can enjoy the colorful light show while you wait though.

Chris Monroe/CNET

You need to have an Orbi router already set up in your home. Orbi mesh systems come with one unit designated as a router and additional satellites, so make sure your router is an RBR50, RBR40, RBR20 or an SRR60 model. You can't use the Orbi Outdoor with any other routers right now, but the good news is that Orbi is one of the best mesh systems out there. You'll have to spend upwards of $700 for a two-piece system plus the outdoor satellite, but in this case, you get what you pay for.

To set up the Orbi Outdoor, plug it in near your main Orbi router. I had no problem from about 15 feet away. I waited 3 minutes for the white light to stop pulsing and turn solid. This meant it's ready to sync.

To do this, I pressed sync first on the Orbi Outdoor and then pressed sync on the Orbi router. Then, things got a little trippy. It turned blue for a minute, magenta for a minute, blue for minute, magenta for 30 seconds, blue for 3 minutes and then turned off. The blue meant it worked. The rest, apparently, was just for fun.

Then I unplugged it, brought it outside and plugged it back in. After a few minutes, I connected my computer to the network and was ready to enjoy fast Wi-Fi in the backyard.

After setup, Netgear automatically disables the sync button on the Orbi Outdoor for security, but you can enable it from the router menu in a browser at orbilogin.com.

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As a bonus, the Orbi Outdoor is also a night-light.

Chris Monroe/CNET

If you haven't used the Orbi system before, the app is easy to use. Once the Orbi Outdoor is connected, a new icon labeled Outdoor Orbi populates the menu. From it, you can see details like hardware version, firmware version, device type, MAC address and IP address. You can also turn the light on or off and dim it. If you want to set the light on a timer, you will need to access the Netgear menu from a browser.

Powerful specs worth the price of admission

If the price scared you away, the specs will bring you back.

The Orbi Outdoor is an AC3000 tri-band satellite, with speeds of 400Mbps on 2.4GHz and 867Mbps on 5GHz, including "2x2;2" antennas (that's two transmit antennas, two receive antennas; two spatial streams) for each band. Its dedicated 5GHz backhaul channel offers 1,733Mbps with 4x4;4 antennas. This proved to be high quality during my speed tests. Check out the results below.

The hardware is impressive for a satellite. It has a quad-core 710MHz processor, 512MB of RAM and 256MB of flash memory. MU-MIMO can be turned on for fast simultaneous connections and parental controls are available for the entire system. It also offers both explicit and implicit beamforming, the latter of which helps older devices (for example, those with 802.11n specifications) achieve better performance.

Netgear says the Orbi Outdoor will add 2,500 square feet of additional coverage to your network. But having tested it, I believe that's an understatement.

Wi-Fi here, there and everywhere

The Orbi Outdoor performed much better than I ever expected. You won't believe how far away I was and still able to stream HD video.

To get a feel for what the Orbi Outdoor could do, I did a baseline test 10 feet away from the main router while indoors. It performed at 643Mbps. Then I tested speeds from the main router when I was outside. At 40 feet away, I was already getting inconsistent speeds with an average of less than 10Mbps. The signal had to go through a bunch of walls, so it automatically connected to 2.4GHz. 5GHz wasn't even available. As I moved farther away the signal would go in and out, eventually disappearing beyond 70 feet. You've probably experienced inconsistent speeds like this at home with any Wi-Fi router or system, which usually aren't good at penetrating exterior walls.

Once the Orbi Outdoor was turned on, everything changed.

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I was able to stream HD video from behind the house in the background, 200 feet from the Orbit Outdoor.

Chris Monroe/CNET

I set up the satellite outside about 30 feet away from the main router. Then I wired a server computer to the main router and wirelessly connected a client computer to the 5GHz band of the Orbi Outdoor, which gave me a throughput of 478Mbps. This is the same location where I previously saw less than 10Mbps from the main router. At 30 feet away from the Orbi Outdoor, it performed at 416Mbps. Amazing.

Please note that you can't find the best signal and choose which band (2.4GHz or 5GHz), router or satellite you're connecting to. The Orbi system does this automatically. It would have been nice to have a manual option, but most mesh Wi-Fi systems, such as the Samsung Connect Home, don't let you choose either.

I wanted to really see what the Orbi Outdoor could do, so I walked 100 feet away from the unit and ran some speed tests. During the first test, it connected to 2.4GHz and hovered around 50Mbps. I thought I'd found its breaking point, but I was dead wrong. The next tests all connected to 5GHz and averaged an incredible 257Mbps.

I tried one last time to find its limit with a real-world scenario. I grabbed my phone and connected to the Orbi Outdoor Satellite. I walked another 100 feet away, pulled up an HD video on YouTube and hit play. It was crystal clear at 200 feet. That sold me. 

The Orbi Outdoor extends Wi-Fi coverage outside your home

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Netgear also offered some advice on placement. It said to put the satellite at least 10-15 feet away from the main router to avoid Wi-Fi interference. During setup, the colors will tell you if placement is poor. Magenta means you've got a bad connection or none at all. Amber indicates a limited or low connection. You're looking for a blue light, which indicates a solid connection. 

Netgear added that while testing in a near ideal environment, it was able to get two Orbi Outdoor Satellites to connect at greater than 10Mbps at 1,000 meters away. That's nearly two thirds of a mile.

Keep in mind that speeds you experience will largely depend on what you're paying for from your internet service provider. It'll typically be less than 100Mbps unless you have a fiber connection. According to SpeedTest, a site for testing Wi-Fi and mobile speeds, the US average for broadband download speeds (wired and wireless combined) in December 2017 was 77.32Mbps.

Should you buy one?

Netgear's Orbi Outdoor Satellite is worth it, even for its high price. It only works with an Orbi router, which isn't cheap, and the satellite itself will run you $330. Expect to spend upwards of $700 for a router, indoor satellite and outdoor satellite. But you won't regret it when you're swimming in Wi-Fi whether you're lying in bed or lounging by the pool.

Orbi Outdoor Satellite Specs

Brand NetgearModelOrbi Outdoor Satellite (RBS50Y)
IEEE 802.11 Standard a/b/g/n/acClassAC3000
Speed (Mbps) 3000 (400+867+1733)CPU ProcessorQuad core 710MHz
Frequency Tri-band (2.4GHz+5GHz+5GHz)RAM Memory512MB
Ethernet Ports 0Flash Memory256MB
USB Ports 0Guest Wi-FiYes
Antennas 2x2 (2.4GHz); 2x2 (5GHz); 4x4 (5GHz dedicated backhaul)Parental ControlsYes
Spatial Streams 2 (2.4GHz); 2 (5GHz); 4 (5GHz dedicated backhaul)MU-MIMOYes
Modulation 256-QAM 5/6BeamformingYes (Explicit and Implicit)
Security WPA2, Secure mounting latch, IP56 weather-resistant rating SetupApp or Browser
Size (in) 8.3x2.7x10.6Weight (lbs)3.06
Approximate coverage per unit (sq. ft.) 2500Extra FeaturesAmbient light
fl-orbi-reg0
9.0

Netgear Orbi Outdoor Satellite (RBS50Y)

Score Breakdown

Setup 9Features 8Performance 10