When it comes to home networking, Netgear is the brand that’s probably best known to home users. The company has been making routers and Wi-Fi products since the dawn of the Internet and now it’s announced the latest addition to its flagship Orbi range of mesh networking systems that can blanket an entire home with a high-speed Wi-Fi signal.

The new Netgear Orbi 860 Series builds on the success of the award-winning Orbi 850 Series by introducing a new high-speed 10Gb Ethernet port, which futureproofs the system by making it compatible with the new generation of multi-gig Internet connections that are being rolled out. In addition, the Orbi 860 Series also has an upgraded antenna design for achieving a better Wi-Fi range.

To round off the announcement all Orbi systems now come with a year’s subscription to Netgear’s Armor security system that provides the whole network with an automatic shield against cyberattacks and online threats, protecting every device on the network without the need to install any software.

The Orbi 860 Series joins Netgear’s existing Wi-Fi 6 range of whole home mesh networking products. Wi-Fi is essential now that so many of us work from home. We also spend more time these days shopping, learning and keeping in touch via social media and video calls, no matter where we are in our homes.

We also expect much more from our Wi-Fi because we use more bandwidth than ever by watching movies and holding video meetings. Additionally, ISPs (Internet Service Providers) are rolling faster Internet connections that need faster wireless speeds. In some areas, it’s now possible to get Internet speeds up to 10Gbps. However, our increased Wi-Fi usage means many more of us are leaving ourselves vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Network security is essential.

Thanks to Netgear’s patented dedicated Wi-Fi 6 tri-band backhaul technology, the new Orbi 860 Series mesh systems can maintain robust wireless connections with high speeds in every room without experiencing bottlenecks or buffering. A good mesh system can provide blanket Wi-Fi coverage over an entire home and cope with the bandwidth demands of multiple users simultaneously streaming 4K/8K movies, video conferencing and gaming, no matter where the user is within the home.

Congestion is another reason to upgrade to better Wi-Fi. The average home in the USA already has around 25 devices connected to its network, including security cameras and thermostats. The new Orbi 860 Series can cope with up to 100 client devices at the same time.

The new Orbi RBK863 is a triple-pack version of the Orbi 860 Wi-Fi Mesh System. It covers homes with up to 6,750 sq ft of living space while offering Wi-Fi speeds up to 6Gbps. Adding extra Orbi RBS860 satellites can expand the coverage even further. To achieve this level of data throughput, Netgear has developed a patented dedicated backhaul that puts data to and from the router on a high-speed Wi-Fi band. In contrast, the two other wireless bands are used to service client devices. The tri-band mesh system ensures that speeds remain fast even when more Wi-Fi devices join the network.

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Many people fear setting up a mesh network, but using Netgear’s Orbi smartphone app to set up a mesh is easy. The process involves plugging the main Orbi router unit into the WAN port on a broadband or cable modem before the satellite Orbi 860 units are positioned around the home as needed, ensuring there are no Wi-Fi dead spots like attics, basements or gardens. The app helpfully lets you know if the units are too close or too far away from each other.

And to ensure all the data on the network is kept secure, the Orbi 860 Series uses the latest WPA3 encryption and the network has just one SSID (network name) for all the Orbi units. As users move around the home with their smartphone or laptop, the mesh network ensures the device is always logged on to the closest Orbi unit with the strongest signal. It works in the same way as a cellphone network, with each Orbi functioning as a single cell, ready to switch the user to the next Orbi with a stronger signal.

Security is a growing issue for Internet users. Although our phones and computers use encryption, many smart devices don’t have any encryption. Netgear’s Armor is built into the router as a comprehensive security tool that screens and monitors all network activity going to and from the Internet. Netgear Armor protects all network devices, including computers, security cameras, baby monitors and other IoT devices, instantly flagging external threats while eliminating the need for installing security software on every device.

Netgear Armor also provides on-the-fly protection and VPN connection for phones and laptops. It’s a solid and effective lock for the network, ensuring hackers are kept at bay, stopping your camera doorbell or the baby monitor camera from being hacked. A year’s Netgear Armor subscription is bundled with Orbi products and the company hopes users will find it so valuable and essential they’ll renew each year after that.

Netgear Armor also offers advanced parental controls for protecting children when they are online. The system can also prevent children from accessing the network when they should be asleep or doing homework. The protection can easily be managed using Netgear’s Orbi smartphone or via the web interface built into the Orbi router.

Verdict: Netgear’s new Orbi 860 Series is the Rolls-Royce of home wireless mesh networking. This latest version can handle the new multi-gig Internet connections being rolled out. It has improved antenna designs that can cover a wider area than the previous generation of Orbi systems. Setting up an Orbi mesh network could hardly be easier using the app and the Netgear Armor subscription is a welcome addition. If you want a plug-in and forget blanket Wi-Fi 6 coverage for up to 100 connected devices, the Orbi 860 is a sure bet.

Pricing & Availability: The new Orbi 860 is available as the RBK863S: a Router and 2 Satellites in a triple pack. The Orbi 860 is available in White and Black finishes. The triple pack costs $1.099.99 / £1099.99, while extra satellite units cost $429.99 / £449.99. It’s also possible to buy a router unit that can be expanded later. The router costs $429.99 / £449.99.

Tech Specs:

  • Wi-Fi standard: Wi-Fi 6 tri-band.
  • Maximum clients: 100.
  • Internet speed: Up to 10Gbp.
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