Netgear Orbi is one of the hot WiFi Mesh Systems right now. It is reliable, super fast, very flexible and provides great WiFi coverage for various types of homes (one floor, two floor, large homes etc).
A lot of people, however, have several questions about this product before deciding if its right for them or not.
In this article we have identified the most frequently asked questions about Orbi and we’ll try to answer them below.
For a more detailed presentation of the capabilities and features of Netgear Orbi, have a look at this comparison between orbi and velop. Also, we have compared orbi with eero 2nd generation which is another popular choice of WiFi mesh system in home networks.
The video in this article shows a quick overview of Orbi with some recommendations of the suggested models (in our opinion) for different home environments.
Table of Contents
- Is Netgear Orbi a Modem or a Router?
- How to Add a Satellite to Netgear Orbi
- How to Reset Netgear Orbi to Factory Defaults
- Does Orbi Work with Verizon Fios?
- Is Orbi a Mesh Network?
- Is Orbi Compatible with Comcast?
- Does Orbi Need a Modem?
- Does Orbi Work with Xfinity?
- Does Orbi Work with DSL?
- Is Orbi Good for Gaming?
- What Is Orbi Fast Roaming?
- Does Orbi Work with Spectrum?
- Does Orbi Work with Alexa?
- Does Orbi Work with ATT Uverse?
- Which Orbi model is right for me?
- Orbi Access Point (AP) Mode vs Router Mode
- How many Satellites can you connect to the Orbi Router?
Is Netgear Orbi a Modem or a Router?
The Netgear Orbi is technically a set of two or more wifi routers that can connect to your existing modem or router (provided by your ISP) to help blanket your home or apartment in Wi-Fi. There are also several Orbi models that include three wifi units to increase the coverage area.
One exception is the Orbi CBK40 model which includes an embedded Cable Modem (in addition to the WiFi Router) so that you can remove your existing ISP cable modem (and save on rental cost) and use the CBK40 model instead.
All Orbi models should work with most existing modems or routers supplied by your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
In every Orbi kit, there is always a central WiFi Router unit which must be connected to your existing ISP modem or router (with an ethernet cable). In addition to that, there are one or more extra Satellite WiFi units which are connected with the central Router unit either via the high-speed wireless backhaul or via ethernet cable.
Here are some of the most popular Orbi Models:
- RBK50 (AC3000): 1 x Router + 1 x Satellite (3000 Mbps combined wireless speed from the 3 bands). This is the most powerful and popular model.
- RBK53 (AC3000): 1 x Router + 2 x Satellites (3000 Mbps combined wireless speed from the 3 bands).
- RBK40 (AC2200): 1 x Router + 1 x Satellites (2200 Mbps combined wireless speed from the 3 bands).
- RBK43 (AC2200): 1 x Router + 2 x Satellites (2200 Mbps combined wireless speed from the 3 bands).
Have a look at the official website to see all possible combinations and kits of the product.
How to Add a Satellite to Netgear Orbi
If you have bought a new Orbi kit or if you have reset the Orbi to its default settings you will need to add the satellites and sync them to the mesh network.
The process below shows the cases when you are setting up the Orbi system for the first time or when you add a satellite to an existing system.
Let’s see the step by step instructions:
1) Setting up Satellites for the First Time
- The easiest way to setup the Orbi for the first time is to download the Orbi app for your smartphone device (from Android or Apple stores).
- Connect both the Router and Satellites to power sources without turning on.
- Start the Orbi app and create an account.
- The app will request access to your camera so that to scan the QR code on the back of your router unit.
- After you scan the QR code, the app will continue with instructions.
- First connect your ISP modem to the Orbi router unit (yellow port) and power-on the router unit.
- Now power-on the satellite device and wait for it to auto-sync to the router unit. The LED color on the satellite should be Solid Blue if the sync is successful.
- Now your mobile app will ask you to connect to the WiFi network.
- Follow the app instructions to finish the installation.
2) Adding an add-on satellite to an existing mesh Orbi system.
- Connect with the Orbi app on your smartphone to the existing Orbi system and log-in with your username/password.
- In the Menu (top left) tap on ADD SATELLITE
- Follow the screen instructions to add the unit
How to Reset Netgear Orbi to Factory Defaults
Sometimes the only way to bring your Orbi router back to an operational state is to reset the device to factory default settings.
However, you should keep in mind that resetting your Orbi means that you will lose all personalized settings such as SSID name, WiFi password etc.
Moreover, this operation will break the synchronization between the router and satellite units so you will need to run the setup from scratch again.
Having said that, let us see how to reset an Orbi router:
- Make sure the Orbi router unit is connected to its power source and turned ON.
- As shown on the image above, get a paper clip and push the tiny reset button.
- Keep the Reset button pressed until the Power LED blinks amber.
- Your Orbi device is now reset to default factory settings.
Does Orbi Work with Verizon Fios?
YES. The Orbi does work with the Verizon Fios service. This service bundles phone, internet, and television into one package delivered across fiber-optic networks. The Orbi system will work with the Fios service if you follow the setup instructions.
One option is for the Orbi to be set as an access point through the advanced setup menu. You then need to switch the system to AP mode. The Fios router then assigns an IP address to the Orbi router. Also, you can switch off the WiFi on the FIOS router and have the Orbi working in normal router mode thus assigning IP addresses to wireless clients (this is the best option in my opinion).
Is Orbi a Mesh Network?
The Orbi is a type of mesh network, as it is using more than one router to increase the Wi-Fi coverage in your home. A typical mesh network would consist of a central router that connects to the modem, along with several satellite routers positioned throughout the property.
Initially, the product was considered a Hub-and-Spoke topology (one central hub unit and several satellite spoke units). With a new firmware update, the satellites can now connect with other satellites in the network (daisy-chain) thus forming a type of mesh network.
The Orbi creates a home mesh network using two or three routers, depending on the system that you purchase. However, these systems are easy to set up, even with limited technical experience.
Is Orbi Compatible with Comcast?
YES. Comcast customers are provided with a standard gateway device that serves as both a modem and a router. The Orbi system does work with these devices.
To connect the systems, you need to turn off both devices and connect the Orbi to the Comcast modem. Log into the Orbi menu and set AP mode through the advanced setup menu. You can then reboot the Orbi and allow the Comcast device to assign an IP address to the Orbi.
Moreover, the CBK40 model can replace the cable modem provided by Comcast thus connecting directly to the ISP (cost savings).
Does Orbi Need a Modem?
The Orbi system is designed to work with your existing modem or router. However, it is recommended that you turn off the Wi-Fi on the existing ISP modem or router (if it has wifi) to improve the performance of the Orbi.
If the modem has router functionality, the Orbi needs to be set to AP mode. If the modem does not have router functionality, the Orbi can be set to router mode.
If you want to replace the provided modem with the Orbi, you will need the Orbi Cable Wi-Fi system (CBK40). This version of the device can connect to the cable outlet and works as a modem and a router.
Does Orbi Work with Xfinity?
The Orbi is compatible with the Xfinity cable internet services. Users can connect the device to the Xfinity modem.
If the modem is set to bridge mode, the Orbi should be set to router mode. This allows the Orbi to assign IP addresses and handle wireless connections to home users and devices. When using the modem in router mode, the AP mode should be used on the Orbi.
Does Orbi Work with DSL?
Yes, you can connect an Orbi to your DSL router or modem. However, the Orbi cannot replace the DSL modem. Most DSL internet service providers rent customers a DSL modem with router functionality. This allows Orbi users to connect the device to the DSL modem and use either AP or router mode.
To use the Orbi in router mode, the DSL router’s WiFi should be turned off and have the Orbi router assign IP addresses to clients. This option is not always available on DSL gateway devices. If the router does not allow this option, the Orbi can be used in AP mode which means that the DSL router will assign IP addresses and the Orbi will just provide WiFi connectivity.
Is Orbi Good for Gaming?
Internet gaming often requires high speed internet connections, especially with massive multiplayer online games and first-person shooters. The performance of the Orbi depends on the speeds available through your internet service provider and connected modem.
The latest Orbi systems can transmit up to 1,733 Mbps between the router and the satellite devices. Most games recommend 5 to 6 Mbps internet connections for optimal gaming performance. This means that the Orbi should handle gaming pretty well if you have fast enough internet service.
Keep in mind that there are dedicated routers in the market that are more suitable for high-demanding gaming.
What Is Orbi Fast Roaming?
With the Orbi system, you have one or more satellite routers in your home plus the central unit. Your phone or tablet connects to the closest device. When you walk across the house, your Wi-Fi enabled device may disconnect from one unit and connect to another.
The latest Orbi system updates include Fast Roaming, which is a method of improving the efficiency of switching from one access point to another.
This option can be enabled or disabled accordingly. If you notice that your wifi clients connect back and forth between router and satellites too much, then you can disable this feature.
Does Orbi Work with Spectrum?
Yes, you can connect your Orbi to a Spectrum modem/router. You have two options for connecting the device. The Spectrum modem can be set to bridge mode, which disables the Spectrum router while still allowing the modem to function. The Orbi in this case will be working in normal router mode.
You can also choose to set the Orbi to AP mode. The Spectrum modem/router still handles the wireless connections while the Orbi simply serves as an access point. You may also purchase the Orbi Cable Wi-Fi system to replace the Spectrum modem.
Does Orbi Work with Alexa?
The Orbi is compatible with Amazon Alexa. Users can enable the Netgear skill on their Alexa devices, allowing users to interact with the Orbi system using voice commands. You will also need to enable remote management on your Orbi system. This option is accessed through the Orbi menu.
You can access most router settings through Alexa after enabling the features. For example, you can ask the device to tell you the Wi-Fi password, Wi-Fi settings, and internet speed. You can also change settings and options via voice commands.
Does Orbi Work with ATT Uverse?
You can use your Orbi with ATT Uverse. ATT provides customers with a gateway modem/router. You cannot set this device to bridge mode, which disables the ability to use the Orbi in router mode.
However, in newer ATT Uverse gateway devices you can set the gateway to “IP Passthrough” mode and connect the Orbi Internet port (yellow port) to the ATT gateway (LAN port). This basically forwards all incoming/outgoing traffic from/to the Internet towards the Orbi which can work as a router.
If you want another simpler way to connect the Orbi to the ATT gateway device, you need to turn off both wireless bands on the ATT router. The Orbi system then needs to be set to Access Point (AP) mode and will serve as the WiFi “provider” in the house. See the section below about Router vs AP mode for more information.
Which Orbi model is right for me?
With so many different models available, many people get confused and want to know the best kit for their home.
There are many factors that one must consider to select the best wifi system for them according to their needs. Factors like how big the home is, materials of the walls, how the wifi will be used (e.g just for internet access or also for heavy internal communication), all contribute to different needs for different people.
Roughly though, here are some general guidelines:
- If your Internet connection is 150Mbps or more and if you want to transfer large files locally (or you have some heavy local traffic within the home), then go with an AC3000 model (RBK50, RBK53).
- If your Internet connection is less than 150Mbps and you don’t have much internal traffic (i.e between devices within the home or office) then go with an AC2200 system (RBK40, RBK43).
Orbi Access Point (AP) Mode vs Router Mode
Netgear Orbi supports different modes of operation such as access point, router mode etc.
The Router Mode is the most popular one (and actually is the default mode of operation) and is used when you already have a standalone modem from the ISP (e.g a cable modem or DSL modem) and thus you connect the Orbi router’s Internet (WAN) port to the modem. In this setup, the Orbi should be working as WiFi router mode in order to assign IP addresses to home network clients and also route their traffic towards the modem and then towards the ISP and Internet.
The Access Point Mode is used when you already have a router gateway device (e.g combo modem+router) connected to the ISP and thus you want to connect the Orbi behind this existing router. In AP mode, not all features of Orbi work. e.g parental control does not work in AP mode.
See the diagram below for more details:
As shown from above, if you already have an existing modem gateway device (3) which already has router and WiFi capabilities, then you should connect the Orbi Internet port to a LAN port of the existing gateway. Then, you should disable the WiFi functionality of the existing gateway router and set the Orbi in AP mode (under ADVANCED > Advanced Setup > Router/AP Mode.)
So, to summarize, the difference between Orbi router mode vs AP mode is the following:
- If you have a standalone modem (without WiFi) connected to the ISP (e.g cable provider) then setup the Orbi in Router Mode (the default).
- If you have a combo modem+router gateway (i.e with WiFi) connected to the ISP, then setup the Orbi in AP mode but make sure to disable the WiFi on the combo gateway device.
How many Satellites can you connect to the Orbi Router?
Orbi kits come with one or two satellites (such as the RBK23 and RBK53 which have 2 satellites). However, you can connect many more satellite units and people have reported up to 5 satellites working fine as described here. You can also mix and match between wired and wireless backhaul connections between satellites and router nodes.
Keep in mind that if all of the satellites are connected via wireless backhaul, then the link is shared among all satellites therefore the total WiFi backhaul bandwidth will be reduced if you have many satellites. This does not happen if you connect them via wired backhaul though.