The Orbi RBK40 Wi-Fi system is the stripped down and more affordable version of the original Orbi RBK50 that came out last year. Its dedicated backhaul Wi-Fi band — one that wirelessly links its two hardware units together — has just half the speed of its older brother’s.
This means the new system has slower Wi-Fi speed compared to the previous model or less coverage, depending on how you want to use it. However, since the RBK50 can be overkill for many homes, the new system actually strikes a balance for those living in a home of 4000 square feet or less, wanting to bring fast broadband speed to every corner.
The RBK40 costs $350 (AU$599, £300) for a set of two units, $50 cheaper than the original Orbi, but more expensive than the similarly-configured Linksys Velop which goes for $300 for two units. Thanks to the its full feature set — which the Velop sorely lacks – the RBK40 can still be a slightly better choice for those with a fast broadband connection.
But if you just need to share a moderate internet connection — one that has slower than 100 megabits per second download speed — you might want to consider a more affordable home mesh system among these instead.
Stripped-down dedicated backhaul band
Like all Orbi Wi-Fi systems, the RBK40 includes two hardware units. One of them is a router (model RBR40) that you connect to your broadband modem. The other is a satellite unit (model RBS40) to be placed some 40 feet away to wirelessly extend the Wi-Fi coverage. They’re also all tri-band systems, meaning they have two 5GHz bands and one 2.4Ghz band.
When released last year, the original Orbi (model RBK50) was the very first home mesh system on the market that dedicated one of its 5GHz Wi-Fi bands for backhaul. This was revolutionary at the time because it eliminates the 50 percent signal loss that always occurs with wireless extenders when a band has to both receive and re-broadcast a signal at the same time.
Better yet, the RBK50’s uses a 4×4 band for backhaul that has a top speed of up to 1733Mbps, while having two 2×2 bands — capping at 867Mbps on 5GHz and 400Mbps on 2.4GHz — for fronthaul, which is the Wi-Fi network for devices to connect to. This means even when you place the satellite unit very far from the router unit, causing the backhaul link to degrade a great deal, it’s still fast enough to to deliver the fronthaul speed in full. This configuration effectively makes the RBK50 the only Wi-Fi systems that deliver consistent Wi-Fi speed similar to that of a standalone 2×2 router, no matter where you are within its coverage.
Since most homes use Wi-Fi only to share internet and most residential broadband connections are much slower than 400Mbps, the RBK50’s performance can be overkill. This is the reason Netgear released the RBK40 and the RBK30, of which the backhaul band’s speed is cut in half. This means devices connected to its satellite unit will likely have slower Wi-Fi speed compared to those connected the main router unit.