Mesh networking kits / Wi-Fi systems have emerged as key revenue streams for networking equipment vendors in the consumer space. In mid-2017, Netgear brought over this strategy to the SMB / SOHO space with the Orbi Pro 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) tri-band Wi-Fi system. Since then, Wi-Fi 6 deployment in the consumer market has achieved critical mass, with almost all modern smartphones and notebooks equipped with support for 802.11ax technology. Most vendors in the enterprise space now have Wi-Fi 6 access points (APs). Netgear's own foray into the space started with the introduction of the WAX610 series last month. Today, they are launching the second-generation Orbi Pro with Wi-Fi 6 capabilities.

Similar to the last-gen Orbi Pro, the new Wi-Fi 6 model (SXK80 for the kit, with a single SXR80 router and a SXR80 satellite) borrows the internal hardware components of the consumer Orbi Wi-Fi 6 (RBK852), modifies the industrial design and reorients the internal antennae for better stability (rather than the peak performance aspect that is important for the consumer model). The 2.5 Gbps port is configured by default for WAN duties (to go along with Netgear's recently introduced CM2000 cable modem), but it can be reconfigured for LAN duties also. Two of the 1G LAN ports can also be link-aggregated. The firmware is also tweaked for features required by SOHOs and SMBs. Management is done via the Insight app, rather than the Orbi app used by the consumer version. The product includes a free 1-year subscription to the Insight Cloud Management service. However, it must be noted that Insight app-based management is not a must for the device. It can be configured using a web UI on the local network also.

In terms of improvements over the existing Orbi Pro, the new version supports 1024QAM in 5 GHz, Wi-Fi 6 in both bands, and an increase in the number of radio streams from 8 to 12. Wi-Fi 6 also brings bi-directional MU-MIMO. The new Orbi Pro also supports OFDMA for better channel efficiency and the Target Wait Time feature for improved power efficiency on the client side. On the security side, WPA3 is supported and the unit is Wi-Fi certified Enhanced Open at launch. WPA3-Enterprise is scheduled to become available in a later firmware release.

Firmware features that are specific to the Orbi Pro (and not directly supported in the consumer Orbi) include better network separation and client isolation. The SXK80 supports four distinct SSIDs, each with a dedicated VLAN. Client isolation allows devices within a SSID to have better privacy and security by allowing upstream communication only (not visible to other devices connected to the same SSID).

One of the key differentiators in the Orbi Pro SXK80 is the usage of Wi-Fi 6 in the 2.4 GHz band also. Most of the entry-level APs in the Wi-fi 6 space forsake this (and operate at 802.11n speeds in that band) to hit lower price points. On this aspect, the Orbi Pro happens to be more future-proof, as client support for 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi 6 continues to improve with the resolution of various interoperability issues. Netgear refers to micro-businesses as the target for the Orbi Pro, and prefers full-fledged SMBs to go the separate gateway / switch / access point route. Micro-businesses and SOHO setups are likely to benefit more from systems with a robust dedicated wireless backhaul such as the Orbi Pro, as these setups often have to do without Ethernet cables inside walls and/or ceilings for a wired backhaul.

The Netgear Orbi Pro WiFi 6 Tri-band Mesh System (SXK80) comprising of one router and one satellite is available for purchase today at $770 in the US, with European availability later this quarter. Additional satellites are priced at $420 each, with multi-satellite kits offering a discount at $1100 (router and two satellites) and $1490 (router and three satellites).

Source: Netgear

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  • willis936 - Thursday, September 3, 2020 - link

    It’s a nice feature set but that price earns every coffee spit sticker shock response it gets.
  • Samus - Friday, September 4, 2020 - link

    I Second - could never wrap my head around spending anywhere near that kind of coin on some Netgear shit. Their support has been historically awful, they make Linksys\Belkin look like Apple.

    Any business legitimately looking to spend nearly this much on a SMB-class router need not look further than the Ubiquiti Dream Machine for $300 because even with link aggregated\teamed GBe ports, you will never be able to use 4x4 802.11ax, and if you really plan to push the theoretical 3-4Gbps wirelessly, again, consider the Ubiquiti UniFi XG Wave 2 AP with a 10GbE uplink, which is SHOCKINGLY less expensive than these Netgear things.
  • pbollwerk - Friday, September 11, 2020 - link

    That Ubiquiti UniFi XG Wave 2 AP is $799 for a single AP. I'm not sure how you come to the conclusion that this is SHOCKINGLY less expensive than these Netgear things, which is about the same price for 2 APs (well, router and AP). Additional Netgear APs are $420.
    I'm not defending Netgear, but your price assessment is inaccurate based on my findings.
  • pbollwerk - Friday, September 11, 2020 - link

    I'm also unable to find any trusted third party speed tests of the Ubiquiti UniFi XG Wave 2 AP, so I have no idea what real world speeds it can achieve.
    So far the Netgear Orbi AX6000 has the fastest real world wifi speeds for any consumer device I've seen tested.
  • pbollwerk - Friday, September 11, 2020 - link

    How fast? Let's compare it to the Nest Wifi, our current top pick in the mesh category. We clocked that system's top wireless transfer speeds at 612 megabits per second at a close-range distance of five feet. The Netgear Orbi 6 hit a top speed of 666Mbps -- at a distance of 75 feet. Up close, the number was 871Mbps, which is the fastest speed we've ever seen from a mesh router in that test.

    How impressive? When I took the two-piece Orbi system home and tested how fast I was able to connect throughout my house, I saw average speeds at the farthest point from the router that were 95% as fast as my average speeds up close, in the same room as the router. No other mesh system I've tested has managed to get any higher than 82% in that same test. Most come in below 60%.
  • tekeffect - Friday, September 4, 2020 - link

    So many “tech sites” put the RAX 80 at the top of their list and I have nothing but problems. Between that and the extender I’m $700 invested into what was supposed to be a perfect setup finally. It’s horrible and drops out all the time everyday even streaming locally off a media server hardwired in. Never again with this company
  • FXi - Sunday, September 6, 2020 - link

    Rather surprised this didn't also include Wifi 6e.
  • GreenThumb - Thursday, September 10, 2020 - link

    I own a first gen Orbi. Updating the firmware has burned me so many times I’m reluctant to buy Netgear again. It’s so odd that Eero does not yet support WiFi 6. Anyone heard when this will happen?

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