Netgear’s new Orbi might cure mesh Wi-Fi’s weakest link

While many people are still considering whether they should upgrade their wireless network to the Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E standards, Netgear is already trying to tempt consumers with the technology’s future successor. 

Announced in a press release, the new Orbi 970 mesh router series promises to combine the benefits of Wi-Fi 7 (aka 802.11be) — a new Wi-Fi standard that promises speeds up to 46Gbps using the 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz wireless bands — with a new antenna design and what Netgear calls its “patented Quad-Band technology” to deliver fast low latency internet across every device in the home.

Here’s a closer look at the design and ports that can be found on the rear of the Orbi 970 mesh system. Image: Netgear

Netgear says that the Orbi 970 takes advantage of Wi-Fi 7’s Multi-Link Operation (MLO) feature to double the connection speed between the new Orbi 970 router and satellites by combining a 5GHz band with a 6GHz band to achieve a 10Gbps wireless backhaul that should help reduce latency and deliver data with maximum speed. Slow wireless backhauls continue to be one of the biggest issues blighting mesh Wi-Fi systems, despite Wi-Fi 6E also claiming to have solved the problem.

But you’re going to pay dearly for such futureproofing. The Netgear Orbi 970 series is available to buy today, with a three-pack bundle containing the main router and two satellites available for $2,299.99. A two-pack (router plus one satellite) is also available for $1,699.99, and individual satellites to expand the network can be purchased for $899.99. That’s a lot of money to pay now when you still can’t buy devices that work with Wi-Fi 7.

Slow wireless backhauls continue to be one of the biggest issues blighting mesh Wi-Fi systems

The Orbi 970 series router provides one 10Gbps internet port, alongside one 10Gbps and four 2.5Gbps ethernet ports. Netgear claims the three-pack mesh system can cover up to 10,000 square feet (10 percent more than the previous Orbi 960 series) and support up to 200 devices.

Each additional satellite increases that range by 3,300 square feet and features one 10Gbps and two 2.5Gbps ethernet ports. The Orbi 970 series is fully compatible with older Wi-Fi devices, supports channels up to 320MHz (double the bandwidth of Wi-Fi 6E), and features Smart Connect — which automatically selects the fastest Wi-Fi band for each connected device.

While it’s always tempting to have the latest and greatest, remember devices that actually support Wi-Fi 7 aren’t expected to arrive until the standard is officially released next year, and there are more affordable Wi-Fi 7 router offerings on the market if you’re looking to upgrade now.



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