Tobold's Blog
Sunday, January 28, 2018
Netgear Orbi RBK50

Fiddling around with technology that doesn't work makes me very nervous. On the plus side I am then mighty pleased when I finally get everything working. And so I am happy to report that after fiddling I managed to dramatically improve the WiFi reception in my home by installing a Netgear Orbi RBK50.

For the last few years I have been using a Linksys EA7500 WiFi router. That worked, but in spite of the promises on the box about covering a "medium household", WiFi reception in my den was always feeble. The den is only two rooms away from the office with the router, but the room between is the bathroom, and so there is one tiled wall without an opening in the way. That appears to block the signal quite drastically, so it takes the long way around. It was okay for web surfing, but not ideal for things like Netflix streaming. And then I bought the Switch. The Switch has one major drawback regarding Wifi, in that it has the world worst WiFi antenna. When your tablet shows 2 bars instead of 3, the Switch already can't find any signal at all any more. So I had to move the Switch next to the base station every time I wanted to download something. Time for an upgrade.

I surfed the internet for recommendations (which also told me that Linksys routers aren't considered to be very good) and found that a lot of people liked the Netgear Orbi. Just to make sure I took the RBK50 system, which has both a base station and one satellite for range extension. I had tried a Linksys extender, which had worked to some degree, but failed to use the same SSID as the base station as promised on the box. With Netgear Orbi there was no problem. I could put the satellite in the den, and it would still get a good signal from the base station and then enhance it. So now I have 75 Mbit/s WiFi connection everywhere in my home! Even the Switch shows three bars of WiFi connection.

The fiddling was necessary to get my printers working, which didn't like the Orbi switching to a completely new IP gateway address. So I had to change the Orbi to access point mode, which then mysteriously messed up everything and I had to factory reset my main router as well as the Orbi system to get everything working again. It is still a mystery to me why everything goes fast on a computer, except for network connections: Every time you reset a router or network card, it takes several minutes to establish a network.

Anyway, everything is working now, and at 15 times the speed necessary for Netflix HD streaming (or 3 times the speed for Netflix Ultra HD streaming, which I don't have the Netflix streaming plan for). Which means that both me and my wife can stream video without a download on the computer slowing down by much. Nice!

That is a pretty slick looking router.
Reminds of of something you would see at IKEA? :-)
Just curious: why didn't you try any powerline solution? I use them in two houses and they work perfectly fine at a stupidly cheap cost.
I tried a powerline solution, but maybe not the right one. The one I had only resulted in me having an ethernet cable connection in another room. So I would still have to connect a router to that to have a WiFi signal, and then I would have had two different SSID in the house. So I only used the powerline solution to connect the TV decoder in my den.
That's weird. A powerline usually lets you clone the original SSID. In our very old three-floors country house we've got 1x powerline per floor (1 plugged to the router + 1 on the 1st floor + 1 on the 2nd floor). We use the same SSID/password setup.

The only drawback is that if you move from the last floor to the ground floor the device will still use the last floor's signal until it works. So when I get down from last floor to the ground floor I simply activate/deactivate airplane mode to hook the closest signal source on the ground floor.

I doubt the Orbi would work any better, though. It's a very old stone-made house and penetrating the walls is extremely hard. Reaching the last floor with a decent signal would be nearly impossible.
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