Netgear Orbi WiFi System AC1200 (RBK13) Review
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Netgear Orbi RBK13 is a three-piece WiFi mesh system that sacrifices some key features to achieve its affordable price but performs respectably.
- Easy to install and manage.
- Low-profile components.
- Respectable performance.
- Age-level parental controls.
- Nodes lack LAN ports.
- No QoS settings.
- No USB connectivity.
- Malware protection and advanced parental controls require a subscription.
Netgear’s New Orbi RBK13
Netgear’s new Orbi RBK13 is the company’s most affordable WiFi mesh system. The reason is it eschews many of the more expensive Orbi systems features, most notably a LAN ports and dedicated backhaul band on the satellite nodes. It’s a breeze to install age level parental controls. If you want advanced network security utilities and advanced parental controls, you’ll have to pay extra. The main point is it can’t match the throughput performance and feature set of our editor’s choice, the TP-Link Deco M9 Plus.
One Plus Two
The Orbi RBK13 is a three-piece system consisting of two satellite nodes and a router that provides up to 4549.99 square feet of WiFi coverage. Netgear also sells a two-piece system RBK12. The RBK12 covers up to 3000 square feet, and Netgear also cells a four-piece system RBK14 that covers up to 5999 square feet.
Netgear Orbi Includes
The router node is equipped with an LED status light, two gigabit LAN ports (one for ethernet and one for WAN), reset power jack, and synchronize buttons. There are no USB ports for connecting to external peripherals. Components used in Orbi RBK30 and Orbi RBK50 are relatively bulky, the RBK13 modules are smallish textured white cubes that measure 2.7 by 4.1 by 4.1 inches (HWD). Each satellite node has a reset, a status LED, a power jack, and a sync button but neither LAN nor USB ports.
Netgear Orbi Performance
A dual-band AC1200 system, the RBK13, is capable of speeds of up to 866Mbps on the 5GHz band and 400Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. It supports beamforming(direct-to-client signal transmissions) and MU-MIMO simultaneous data streaming, but it lacks the dedicated 5GHz backhaul band that comes with Orbi RBK50 and RBK30 systems. A 710MHz quad-core CPU powers the router and nodes. And the router gets an additional boost from 256MB of flash memory and 512MB of RAM. All three components have two internal antennas.
The mesh system comes with parental controls courtesy of Disney Circle. To enable them, you must download the Circle app and create an account. Then you can create profiles for each family member and assign a filter level, e.g., Adult, Teen, Pre-K, kid or None, etc. You can allow or disallow a list of specific sites and categories. View the history of visited sites by each device. To take advantage of Disney Circle’s other features, including time limits, bedtime schedule, rewards, and usage reports, for these features, you’ll have to subscribe to the Circle Premium plan, which will cost you $49.99 per year or $4.99 per month.
30 Day Trial
The Orbi RBK13 also provides a 30 day trial of Netgear Armor powered by Bitdefender, which protects your network and clients from virus infections, phishing attacks, and other malicious content. It also provides tips on how to defend your network better and reports regarding your overall protection level. Once the trial expires, you’ll cost 69.99$/year. The TP-Link Deco M9 Plus provides free protection for three years, and the First Alert Onelink Secure Connect AC3000 gives you free malware protection for the lifetime.
Manage Router using App or Web Console
The RBK13 can be managed by using the web-based console and can also using Orbi mobile app for iOS and Android devices. The app’s home screen contains Security, tables labelled Device Manager, Parental Controls, Internet Speed, WiFi Settings, Network Map, Traffic Meter, and Guest WiFi. Tap the Device Manager tab to see a list of al connected clients, which nodes they’re connected to, and their security status. You can also pause network access for any wireless client.
Through the Security tab, you can enable or disable Netgear Armor, see how many vulnerabilities and blocked threats you have, view security rating on a scale of 1 to 100, add security coverage to connected devices, and read recommendations to optimize your network security. The Internet Speed tab contains a button that lets you measure download and upload throughput, while the Network Map displays the node and router components. Tap any node to see connected clients and view details such as serial number, firmware version, IP address, and MAC address.
Tap the Parental Controls tab to open the Circle app where you can create and assign profiles and enable parental controls. Change your WiFi security encryption by using your WiFi credentials, and edit your network name then tap the security tab. The traffic meter tab takes you to a screen with a color graph showing you details of how much data has been downloaded and uploaded each day.
Installation and Performance
The Orbi RBK13 installation process is straightforward. First, I download the mobile app, then create an account, and select Yes when asked if I wanted to install a Netgear product. I scanned the QR code on the router using my phone and followed the instructions to reboot my modem and, using the included LAN cable, connected the Orbi router. I placed and plugged in satellite nodes, tapped next, and waited a little bit more than a minute to power up all nodes and join the Orbi network. I click next again to personalize my network settings and give name and password to a new network: and waited two minutes to save my settings. I updated the firmware and installation was complete.
Router Throughput Test
The Orbi system performs very well in our performance tests. The router’s throughput of 430 Mbps in our close-proximity test trailed the Eero Google Nest WiFi routers and Eero 2nd Generation routers by modest amounts and the TP-Link by a full 120Mbps. In the 30-foot test, the RBK13 router’s score of 212Mbps edged the Eero but couldn’t catch the Google and TP-Link routers.
The Orbi RBK13 satellite node managed 199Mbps in the close-proximity test, trailing the Nest node by 50Mbps and coming in the right behind the Eero. The TP-Link Deco M9 Plus node was light-years ahead with a score of 410Mbps, aided by a dedicated 5GHz backhaul. Results in the 30-foot test were the same, with the Orbi node finishing last at 149Mbps while the TP-Link node posted a throughput of 330Mbps. Search more about Netgear from the wiki.
You Get What You Pay For
The Orbi RBK13 is the least expensive of Netgear’s three-piece mesh WiFi kits and the leanest in terms of onboard features. There are faster systems for about the same money that doesn’t charge extra for malware protection and parental controls. It also doubles as a home automation hub that can control your home smart devices.