A fast, if expensive, mesh satellite, the RBS50Y is a great way to extend your wireless network outside your home
- Remarkable performance
- Intelligent integration system
- Useful outdoor-specific features
- Fiddly to set up
- Cable is absurdly short
Mesh systems have largely been focused on solving the problem of poor Wi-Fi inside your home. After all, it’s where you use your wireless system the most. Still, there’s a growing number of outdoor wireless applications, from security cameras to devices enabling you to use your laptop or phone in the garden. That’s where the Netgear Orbi Outdoor RBS50Y comes in.
Netgear Orbi Outdoor RBS50Y review: What you need to know
As you can tell from the name, this product integrates into the excellent Orbi mesh system, extending your mesh system outside your home. It can also operate in Extender mode, connecting to any other router to boost your Wi-Fi.
The RBS50Y is a better product when connected to an Orbi router, as it gives you all of the main benefits of a mesh system: a single network name and seamless roaming, where your devices are pushed to connect to the strongest Wi-Fi satellite. The RBS50Y is also part of the Disney Circle network, meaning you can use this integrated app for parental controls. Then again, it’s nice to have options so it’s good that the RBS50Y can work with non-Orbi mesh systems.
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Netgear Orbi Outdoor RBS50Y review: Design and features
Although the Orbi Outdoor looks similar to other Orbi satellites, there are some key differences. First, bar the weather-sealed power input, there are no ports on this model. That’s because the satellite has to be weather-proof, which adding Ethernet ports would prevent. Second, the RBS50Y requires a little effort to get it where you want. Rather than just having feet to stand it on, the satellite has a mounting bracket that lets you screw it to a wall or the optional stand.
Wall-mounting is the better permanent option, but using the stand is handy if you temporarily want to place the satellite on a table or you have a bench you want to put it on. You’ll need a protected all-weather outdoor power socket to plug the Orbi into.
Getting it plugged in and turned on isn’t hard, although it would have been nice if the power cable was a little longer: 2m is okay for wall-mounting in some locations, but a bit more flexibility would help, particularly if your outdoor socket’s not that close to where you want the RBS50Y to go.
Once turned on, the Orbi Outdoor needs to be synchronised to your home network. In the case of an existing Orbi system, it’s a matter of using the app and then hitting the Sync button on the back of the RBS50Y. The connection should be fairly quick to make, although we found that we had to update the RBS50Y’s firmware before we could get a stable connection.
Once connected, the Sync button on the back is disabled. That’s for security reasons, to prevent someone else from hijacking the connection and joining your network. You’ve also got a bit of configuration to do.
In the app, you’ll see that there’s an option to set the Orbi Outdoor to Indoor or Outdoor mode. This setting isn’t mentioned in the manual, but is there for compliance. In the UK, 5GHz channels 36 to 64 are locked for indoor use only, and channels 100 to 140 are allowed to be used indoors or outdoors. In Outdoor mode, the RBS50Y switches to dual-band mode, removing the standard 5GHz client channels. It’s entirely up to you which mode you pick.
The next option for the Orbi Outdoor is how you want the light to work. As well as showing you status information, you can turn on the satellite’s down-firing LED to act as an outdoor light. You can even set a schedule for it in the app and adjust the brightness – or just turn it off completely. It’s just a little thing, but one that makes the Orbi Outdoor feel more like a proper outdoor product.
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Netgear Orbi Outdoor RBS50Y review: Performance
Even more important is performance. The RBS50Y has the same specs as the top-end Orbi RBK50 system, which means that you get tri-band Wi-Fi with 400Mbit/s 2.4GHz and 866Mbit/s 5GHz channels for clients, as well as a dedicated 1,733Mbit/s 5GHz backhaul channel for communication with other Orbi devices.
Testing with the Orbi placed in the back garden, we saw upload speeds of 459Mbit/s and download speeds of 304Mbit/s. That’s a good 100Mbit/s faster than we’ve previously managed outdoors, using an Orbi placed in the kitchen window to boost range. Outside, on the side street, we could still get a strong signal, showing how powerful this system really is.
Netgear Orbi Outdoor RBS50Y review: Verdict
With its excellent performance and neat integration into the Orbi system (not to mention that it can work in extender mode with other networks), the Orbi Outdoor is a brilliant way to extend your wireless network outside, even if it is a little expensive.