- 6E Wi-Fi performance
- Extensive functionality
- Easy to use
- Comprehensive connectivity
- Netgear Armor offered for one year
- Price is too high
- Paid parental controls
The Netgear Orbi 960 is the most technically advanced Wi-Fi 6E model. The devices are packed with the best of what is currently available regarding performance and functionality. There are four bands, including one dedicated to backhaul.
Twelve antennas per box will allow a quality network to be broadcast throughout the home, with an announced coverage of 800 m². The connectivity is complete, both on the router and on the satellites, and the functionalities will be just as wide thanks to the very well-supplied web interface that we know.
This kit is still aimed at the general public and remains compatible with the smartphone Orbi application.
Once unpacked, there is no doubt that this is a product from the Orbi range. Netgear has kept the tower design present since the first Orbi models were released several years ago. Nevertheless, the complexity and the number of antennas onboard require space, making each kit element relatively imposing. This is a far cry from the discreet RBK350 we tested a few years ago.
The router and satellites are visually indistinguishable and are constructed entirely of plastic (black in this special edition). The main chassis is clad in smooth charcoal plastic, sandwiched between two black plates slightly separated from the body to allow air to circulate because these devices get hot. The base of the chassis houses the traditional indicator light, which switches off automatically after a few minutes.
Netgear, therefore, keeps the distinction between router and satellite. Apart from how they work, the real difference lies in the connectivity. All cameras have a 2.5G port and three 1G ports. Conversely, the router has a 10 G WAN port that can only be used for the WAN link.
Netgear’s choices could be more explicit since using the 2.5G link to connect all the satellites is impossible, as the router only has one port of this type. A switch or the wireless link must therefore be used. As the 10 G port can only be used for the WAN, the 2.5 G port of the router can only be used for the LAN (or in an aggregation). These considerations are for advanced users only, but one would expect better on such a high-end piece of kit.
Finally, Netgear does not include USB ports; only the proprietary power connector accompanies the RJ45 ports. To conclude, beyond their black dress, which is a bit out of the ordinary, the Orbi 960 is no different from any other Orbi we’ve seen.
Getting started with the kit is as easy as ever. You must download the mobile application and scan the QR code at the bottom of the device. The router automatically detects the user’s configuration, and the satellites are pre-paired. The router automatically detects the user’s configuration, and the satellites are pre-paired, so all you have to do is plug them in electrically. They will automatically associate with the router.
The Netgear application is as basic as ever and is limited to essential features. Apart from offering a snapshot of the network and its status, it gives access to a few WiFi network-related settings, and that’s about it. You’ll have to use the web interface to go further in the configuration, especially to activate the dedicated 6 GHz WiFi network.
The kit also lets you broadcast a network reserved for connected devices (IoT). This network behaves differently from the guest WiFi network since it is not separated (at the network level) from the other SSIDs. Thus, a partitioning of the devices is carried out at the radio level without impacting their functionality. For example, a Google Home connected to this network will remain accessible via Chromecast from a device connected to the main network. In addition to partitioning, this dedicated network avoids the compatibility problems of certain older devices or devices of dubious origin, which sometimes have difficulty connecting to modern WiFi networks.
The mobile app has two main uses: managing the Netgear Armor security suite and parental controls. We won’t dwell on the latter as other tests have already covered this. Netgear’s solution is relatively classic and works on the principle of profiles, depending on each user (children, teenagers, etc.). However, most of the features require an additional subscription.
On the other hand, the Netgear Armor security suite is now offered for one year with the purchase of an Orbi 960 kit and will then be charged. This solution offers real-time network monitoring tools but goes much further thanks to a partnership with BitDefender. With the Netgear Armor subscription, it is possible to install the BitDefender antivirus solution on all the devices in the home. In this respect, and despite its price after one year, the solution is one of the most complete on the market since it enables all devices to be secured, whether or not they are connected to the Orbi network.
To go further in the configuration of the Orbi 960, it is necessary to visit the web interface accessible from any browser. When the kit is configured in router mode, it contains all the traditional settings: routing, DHCP, NAT, and DNS. Numerous locations dedicated to WiFi networks are also present, with the possibility of creating a dedicated SSID for the 6 GHz band or restricting the IoT network to specific bands.
Experienced users will appreciate this web interface which has followed the Orbi range since its inception. However, it is regrettable that the mobile application has fewer features which would prevent using the web interface so often.
We applied our usual test protocol to the Orbi 960 kit to measure its performance. As always, throughput was measured at three points: one WiFi 6E-compatible machine equipped with an Intel AX211 chip and a second dedicated to WiFi 6 with an Intel AX201 WiFi card. A third fixed machine is connected to the router’s 2.5G port and is an Iperf server.
In ideal conditions, at a distance of about 1 m from the router, the downstream speed of WiFi 6E peaks at an average of 1125 Mb/s, while the upstream speed reaches a record value of over 1600 Mb/s. When changing rooms, the Orbi 960 router maintains a stable throughput of over 1100 Mb/s in both directions. This means that the performance is better than the traditional RJ45 gigabit port. Finally, in more challenging conditions, and still in 6 GHz, the downstream speed reaches 620 Mb/s on average but still needs to be more stable.
Performance in WiFi 6, in the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, is a little more disappointing. While the limits of the technology are reached in the upstream direction, the speed struggles to exceed 650 Mb/s in the downstream direction. Some of the kits we have already seen do better. At 5 metres, the performance remains respectable and we can enjoy an average speed of around 500 Mb/s in both directions.
On the other hand, still in WiFi 6 and once outside with the various partitions and walls to cross, the performance collapses and the link loses a lot of stability. The data rate sometimes manages to tickle 100 Mb/s and then regularly collapses. The average measurement therefore stabilises at around 30 Mb/s. The performance of WiFi 6 therefore lags behind the excellent measurements achieved with WiFi 6E.
The Orbi 960 kit is, as we recall, a quad-band kit and therefore has a band dedicated to the link between the satellites. We took the opportunity to measure the performance of this band by adding a satellite to our installation and connecting one of our test computers to it. Under these conditions, we managed to maintain a stable throughput of around 800 Mb/s, which corresponds well to the performance of the 5 GHz link.
Thanks to its high performance and complete functionality, the Netgear Orbi 960 kit is the best. It retains the DNA of the Orbi range with ease of use and effective response to the initial problem: improving the WiFi network in our homes while doing better than our internet boxes in every respect.
The WiFi 6E speeds are exceptional, but the kit could be better on the classic WiFi 6. It offers a pervasive range of connectivity, even if, at such a price, we would have appreciated more 2.5G ports! Finally, although parental control is not accessible, we understand that the one-year subscription to Netgear Armor is well worth the price with everything it includes.
Now there’s the question of price, as the three-box kit is priced at £1,700, which seems unreasonable and unaffordable for many users. Apart from the cost of the three-device equipment, the investment is hardly justifiable since the coverage is so good with the router alone. A reasonably sized home can make do with a single satellite.
NETGEAR Orbi WiFi 6E Mesh System (RBKE963) – Quad-Band WiFi 6E Router with 2 Satellites | Coverage up to 7,500 sq. ft, 200 Devices | Ultra-Fast Speeds up to 10.8Gbps (AXE11000) | Simple Set Up
|Current Price||£1,699.99||September 23, 2023|
|Highest Price||£1,699.99||May 17, 2023|
|Lowest Price||£1,699.99||May 17, 2023|
Last price changes
|£1,699.99||May 17, 2023|
NETGEAR Orbi Quad-Band WiFi 6E Mesh System (RBKE963), Router with 2 Satellite Extenders, 10.8Gbps Speed, Coverage up to 9,000 sq. ft, 200 Devices, 10 Gig Internet Port, AXE11000 802.11 Axe
|Current Price||$1,499.00||September 23, 2023|
|Highest Price||$1,499.99||July 3, 2023|
|Lowest Price||$1,219.99||July 8, 2023|
Last price changes
|$1,499.00||September 11, 2023|
|$1,461.00||September 10, 2023|
|$1,499.00||September 7, 2023|
|$1,461.00||September 6, 2023|
|$1,499.00||September 5, 2023|