Perfection for a price: Netgear’s Orbi 860 mesh

September 24, 2023
3 mins read


Netgear Orbi 860 Mesh

Orbi’s latest mesh system costs a bomb but as PAT PILCHER found out it’s fast as hell and practically bomb-proof.


I reviewed Orbi’s Wi-Fi 6e mesh system a while back and declared it the best. Now Orbi is back with a Wi-Fi 6 version for those who don’t need all that fancy pants Wi-Fi 6e stuff. But is it any good? Here’s what I uncovered.

The single biggest sticking point for many will be the cost. Coming in at a whopping $2229, the Orbi 860 isn’t a purchase you’ll make on a whim. That said, you get three routers and bomb-proof, super-fast Wi-Fi for the growing number of phones, PCs/Macs/tablets/smart home gizmos cluttering our homes.


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With a single, non-mesh router set-up, Wi-Fi coverage tends to falter and even fail the further away you get from the router, leading to Wi-Fi dead zones and variable internet speeds throughout your home. A single router also has limited processing grunt, so adding smart lights, doorbells, cameras, robot vacuum cleaners and smart speakers/TVs – in addition to smartphones, computers and tablets – can swamp your single router’s meagre processing resources, leading to snail-like internet connectivity.

This is precisely where mesh routers step in. By using a master router that connects to your broadband and two or more mesh satellite routers, you effectively spread Wi-Fi coverage throughout your home. Multiple Wi-Fi signals, all on the same network, mean dead spots and areas with poor internet performance have become a thing of the past. As you are also using multiple routers, each with its own processing and computing resources, a mesh network is also better able to handle large numbers of connected gadgets. Having been a mesh user for several years, there’s no way I’d ever return to a single router set-up.

That said, there are mesh routers, then mesh routers. The single most telling thing that separates the mesh wheat from the chaff is getting set up. This is where the Orbi gear shines. After installing the Orbi app (Android/iOS) on my phone, I followed its on-screen instructions and plugged in the router to my fibre ONT and then the power. Following on-screen prompts, I set up my network and installed the two Orbi satellites throughout my home. Cleverly, the Orbi routers use RGB LEDs to give you a colour-coded indication of their status. They’ll glow solid blue if they have a clear connection back to the Orbi router, amber for a fair connection and Magenta if they’re not having any joy getting online. Combined with the app, the set-up process is so straightforward that any idiot (even yours truly) can do it. I was up and running in about 15 minutes.

The Orbi 860 system comes with a master router and two satellite routers. Additional satellites can be purchased separately for an additional $879 for large homes. Once again, it isn’t cheap, but you can add satellites to expand Wi-Fi coverage as needed, giving you a tonne of flexibility you couldn’t dream of getting with a single router set-up.

Speaking of coverage, a quick check of the specs reveals a new optimised antenna design that sees each Router offer coverage of up to 360 square meters (walls and the building material of your home will impact this, so your mileage will vary). In practice, this translated into the smart lights, speakers and cameras located outside my home connecting reliably.

One particularly nice feature with Orbi mesh gear is the option to have an IoT network specifically for smart home gear. With their dedicated network, I’ve found that my smart home gear operates faster and, crucially, more reliably.

While the 860 gear has no Wi-Fi 6e connectivity, it still offers super zippy connectivity. Thanks to its baked-in Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), I got (using the Ookla speed test app that’s built into the router) around 960Mbps during off-peak periods while in the same room as the router, and in the evenings, where there is more internet congestion, throughput hovered at the 800-900Mbps mark everywhere in my house. Where a lot of mesh gear uses a chunk of the Wi-Fi bandwidth they’re dishing up to your home to connect routers to satellites, Netgear uses a dedicated wireless channel. So, keeping the mesh set-up connected doesn’t affect its Wi-Fi performance. As the Orbi mesh router has a 10 gigabit WAN port, anyone with hyperfibre will probably see significantly faster throughput. Even if you’re a tech peasant like me and only have a gigabit connection, the 10 gigabit WAN port handily adds a degree of future-proofing should you ever choose to upgrade your fibre plan.

Speaking of Ethernet, the Orbi 860 router and satellites all come with four ports on both the router and satellite. So, up to 4 Ethernet-only widgets can plug into the satellite or router. This is a vast improvement over the 1 or 2 ports you typically get with most mesh gear.

So, the verdict. The Orbi 860 mesh set-up offers rock-solid and surprisingly quick Wi-Fi that covers most typical-sized homes. That said, it is a costly piece of gear. While you can get more affordable mesh hardware, few are anywhere near as well-featured and capable as Netgear’s Orbi routers. If you are after bomb-proof connectivity and need quick yet reliable Wi-Fi, then the Orbi 860 mesh set-up is a solid choice.


Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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