Review: Netgear's Orbi 860 series offers blazing fast Wi-Fi - for a high price

The Orbi 860 Series Tri-Band WiFi 6 Router with 10 Gig Port.
Photo credit: Netgear

Netgear has recently released a new Orbi Wi-Fi mesh system in New Zealand that could mean a lovely big jump in your home's internet speed and reliability without quite as insane a price as some of the brand's other units.

Last year I reviewed the Orbi 960 series - a Quad-Band Wi-Fi 6E unit I described as the Rolls Royce of Wi-Fi mesh systems. It delivers astonishing Wi-Fi coverage but it launched at $3199 in Aotearoa, a price so high it likely puts it out of reach for many families.

Now I've also tested Netgear's newer, cheaper Orbi 860 series, which is a Tri-Band Wi-Fi 6 mesh system that at the time of writing is on sale at PB Tech for $1279 - less than half of what the top-end unit was asking.

But that is still well over $1000 and thus an expensive unit. Is it worth it, and how slow is it compared to the 960?

After using an Orbi 860 series set-up for the past few weeks, I can happily recommend it, as it still offers super fast and reliable Wi-Fi with a nice, large range, and it's very easy to set up and manage.

Yes, it is slightly slower in some situations than the Quad-Band Wi-Fi 6E unit and isn't future-proofing as much as that one is, but it's still more than fast enough for most homes.

However, for many Kiwi families this will still be overkill as there are cheaper options out there that maybe don't offer everything the Orbi 860 series does, but still have more than what is needed.

Using it I was able to run five different streams of 4K video on five different screens around the house, all appeared to be in full 4K and with no issues. That's on top of all the other connected devices - of which there are many - all remaining connected and not reporting any issues.

That's fast enough internet that for most people they could use the Orbi satellites around a house and rely on that Wi-Fi instead of cabling the place up for wired connections, especially as you can plug cables into the satellites if you still want wired devices.

I'll share the actual speed test results below for more details on how fast the Orbi 860 goes, but first a bit about the setup. Using the Orbi app makes this really simple.

2degrees currently uses Netgear Orbi modems with its fibre plans, so if you've joined one of them recently you'll likely already have the Orbi app installed with an account created. I did and with it setting up took around five minutes, from plugging in the 860 series router and satellite to having them cranking out Wi-Fi around the house.

Rear of Netgear Orbi 860 series router showing ports.
Photo credit: Netgear

The app gets you to scan the devices' QR codes, plug the units in and place them, then there's lights on the devices themselves to help keep you informed on the connection process. Managing your home network through the app is then easy and satisfying, with the ability to do loads of stuff like set up a separate internet-of-things (IoT) network for smart-home devices.

If you pay for it, the Netgear Armor app is a really good cybersecurity package you can control through the app, too. But it's annoying that you have to pay for it, on top of the high cost of the hardware. Currently the two-unit package I'm reviewing offers a year of the subscription for free, but I feel they could be more generous still.

Netgear reckons you can get up to 360m squared of coverage with this package, but I think it'd be less than that on most properties due to walls and other obstacles. I can say at my place the coverage was fantastic all through the house and in both the front and back yards.

Although I was using a two-pack, there is a three-pack (a router and two satellites) for larger properties, and just the one unit package also available for little places, too.

Netgear also reckons this supports up to 100 simultaneously connected devices, which I wasn't able to test. It sure handled 37 with absolutely no worries though.

And each of them had a blazingly fast connection.

Exactly how fast are we talking?

The Orbi 860 series packs a mighty 10-Gbps WAN port. Most people can't actually get a connection that fast in New Zealand, yet, but with Hyperfibre you might get up to 8000 Mbps.

With the numbers below, keep in mind that one of my practical tests was running five 4K video streams at once - each of which would require around 25Mbps, so five would require 125Mbps.

It turns out a proper stress test would be more like running 36 simultaneous 4K video streams, which I'm pretty sure not many properties in New Zealand are ever doing.

None of the test results from the Orbi 860 were below 600Mbps.

The following speed tests were carried out with the RBK862SB AX6000 using a 1Gbit fibre internet connection supplied by 2degrees in Auckland.

The first device tested was a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, which supports Wi-Fi 6e and the top-end version of pretty much everything else you can expect a modern mobile phone to. The image on the left is its result when connected wirelessly to the Orbi 860 router, the right is from the satellite:

Orbi 860 series speedtest on Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Photo credit: Ookla / Newshub.

Next I tested a Samsung Galaxy S20 Note Ultra, which is a few years old and supports Wi-Fi 6 but not 6e. That got the following results - again, router on the left and satellite on the right:

Orbi 860 series speedtest on Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
Photo credit: Ookla / Newshub.

The above speeds from the router are actually very comparable to what I was getting from the Orbi 960 series. It's the speeds from the Orbi 860 satellite that show a more notable drop-off - which would be down to the backhaul on the 960 system being 6Ghz, while the 860 backhaul is 5GHz.

To confirm this I then tested the M1-powered Macbook Pro with a thunderbolt 3 10/100/1000 network adapter plugged into the devices. The top image is from when it was plugged into the Orbi 860 router and the bottom is from when it was plugged into the satellite:

Ookla / Newshub.  Orbi 860 series speedtest on M1 Macbook Pro.
Photo credit: Ookla / Newshub.

That slower backhaul meant a drop in speed of between 80-150Mbps compared to the Orbi 960 - but that still means much faster than most Wi-Fi networks in Kiwi homes, I would say.

You could probably mitigate the slower backhaul by wiring the satellite rather than having it connected wirelessly, but that does kill one of my favourite things about the Orbi mesh systems - it eliminating the need for cables all around your home.

The verdict

In short, the Orbi 860 series is once again a bar-setter in terms of the ultra fast Wi-Fi.

The cost is still really high, however, despite being cheaper than the 960 series. There are much cheaper options from TP-Link and the like which won't be nearly as good as this Netgear package, but would be good enough for many households.

But for households filled with heavy and demanding Wi-Fi users who like their internet super fast, the Orbi 860 series could be a solid investment.

Newshub was supplied with a Netgear RBK862SB AX6000 for this review.