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Netgear Orbi RBK752 review: A great all-rounder with a few flaws

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
445
Inc VAT

It doesn’t tick all of the feature boxes, but the Orbi RBK752 casts a consistently wide Wi-Fi 6 mesh

Pros 
Great coverage and performance
Sleek design
Voice commands work well
Cons 
No USB ports
Lacks features of its competition
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One look and there’s no doubt that this is Orbi kit. Like most of Netgear’s mesh systems, the RBK752 comes in the form of two white monoliths, and while we stop short of calling them beautiful, the design is organic and won’t look too out of place on a bedroom shelf or kitchen worktop.

It follows that the Orbi isn’t exactly festooned with distracting LEDs. A recessed light at the front glows various colours during startup and shines an angry purple if the nodes can’t talk to one another, but most of the time there’s no visible indication that they’re even switched on. Connectors and controls are in a similarly short supply. Netgear has seen fit to equip the router unit with just three Gigabit LAN sockets and the satellite gets only two. There’s no USB at all, nor even a power switch; you do get a small WPS push-button, but it’s fiddly and is misleadingly labelled “Sync”.

The software features are also simplified in a few places, compared to Netgear’s standalone routers. For some reason, band splitting isn’t allowed on the Orbi platform, so you’ll have to operate both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks under the same name. Parental controls are entirely absent: the manufacturer says it’s working on adding support for the Circle app, but it hasn’t committed to any time frame. And, inevitably with no way to connect external storage, you miss out on file-sharing functions. Still, the web portal itself is neater than the Nighthawk variant and the smartphone app works well as a central point of management for your distributed network.

The RBK752 retains Netgear’s integrated VPN server for secure access to your home network over the internet, and a few integrations with Amazon Alexa allow you to turn the guest network off and on, check your internet statistics and review your wireless settings with a quick voice command. As an optional extra, you can enrol your RBK752 system into the Armor security service, which aims to detect malicious content on your network and block dangerous websites. The $70-a-year fee might seem steep when Asus provides similar online protection for nothing, but Netgear’s deal includes Bitdefender client software for all your home devices.

Netgear Orbi RBK752 review: Performance 

Of course, this is all by the by if the performance isn’t there. Fortunately, this is one area where the RBK752 excels. The goal of a mesh system is sure to eradicate performance troughs and “notspots” in your home, and the Orbi delivered impeccably on that promise.

A glance at our performance graphs will illustrate what I mean. While the fastest speeds were predictably attained in the same room as the router unit, our Wi-Fi 6 tests revealed that moving from an adjoining room all the way to the other end of the building resulted in less than a 10% drop-off in performance.

Nor has Wi-Fi 5 been neglected. Top speeds were once again only achieved at short range, but the results in other parts of the house were almost indistinguishable, with performance barely falling at all as we transported our last-generation laptop between the living room and bathroom. Before we get too excited, it’s worth noting that, in absolute terms, speeds were good rather than great. While the RBK752 projected a strong signal to all the places we wanted it, its Wi-Fi 6 connection was generally slower than Netgear’s standalone RAX80 and even the Linksys MR7350. The reason isn’t much of a mystery.

The RBK752 is a tri-band system, with each node containing a pair of 5GHz Wi-Fi 6 radios so that client connections don’t have to share bandwidth with backhaul traffic. That translates to an expensive bill of materials so, to keep costs under control, Netgear has used client-facing 5GHz radios rated at a relatively slow 1,200Mbits/sec, ditched 160MHz channels and limited the design to 2x2 MU-MIMO. In light of all that, it’s amazing that the RBK752 performs as well as it does.

Netgear Orbi RBK752 review: Verdict

The RBK752 won’t be everyone’s ideal mesh. If you’re hungry for the best performance you’ll need to step up to the beefier RBK852, while those seeking plenty of features and connectors should check out the Asus ZenWifi AX. The Orbi RBK752 is, however, a lot cheaper than the former, and more stylish and user-friendly than the latter; factor in its unimpeachable coverage and it’s a great all-round mesh solution.