Netgear Orbi

Discussion in 'Technical Corner' started by denverpilot, Sep 10, 2019 at 9:25 PM.

  1. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down

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    I got super lazy. Decided to pick up a pair of these silly Netgear mesh network things and see how they do. Got the RBK50 and made sure it had dedicated backhaul.

    Been running on ancient Apple stuff that did the in-band extension thing with the click of a button ten years ago, with non-dedicated backhaul extending a WiFi network by a single mouse click, which l has been possible on the right gear for over a decade.

    Apple stuff was not optimal and used some bandwidth back to the main router to do it, but worked fine for our slow azz internet. Plus for many years they were all wired to the stereos for AirPlay. But Apple’s lead in this stuff died many years ago and AirPlay was years behind in offering playback groups so those have been disconnected for years.

    Anyway, was going to do the “hard core” geek thing and run wiring in walls and ceilings to hang Uniquiti AP Pro Access Points on the ceiling of both floors of the house and the garage, and home run those with Ethernet to a PoE switch to power them — rock solid setup for over 100 users at work, so at home, total overkill. But still cheaper than most of the consumer crap on the market and more consistent.

    Does require a Linux box for their “server” software just to get them set up (they don’t care if their server is down after configuration) and around here that’s not any particular problem. Can also buy their little “server key” if one wants to throw money at the problem.

    But yeah really the problem was running the cable with the new medical “fun”. No big ladders for me and the right hand is all sorts of useless some days, and way too cheap to pay someone to come pull Ethernet. Maybe I’ll get over that, but people actually pay for that?! Hahaha. I guess if your hand doesn’t work well.

    Also looked at Ubiquiti’s “mesh” offering and it gets horrid UI, UX, and performance reviews (sadly) almost everywhere. It sucketh mightily it looks like. Surprising and sad considering their other stuff rocks.

    So ... Sunday I noticed that a big box store was price matching the Orbi RBK50 two device (main unit plus satellite) box of toys price from Amazon and they have a liberal returns policy so I figured, why not?

    Things are probably full of security holes and such, but I’m lazy but not lazy enough to not take them back...

    So I grabbed the box. And set it up. And it’s kicking butt. And almost zero networking brain damage.

    The iOS app sucks but Netgear has put a couple of things in it that only work right from the app.

    Trust me on this one, do the setup from an Ethernet connected browser just like any other router or network gear and figure out what needs the app later on. It’s not the common stuff and you’ll get 95-100% of the way there with a browser much faster and a better UI with more options. Mobile apps suck for this stuff.

    Don’t mix the web interface and the app at the same time during their initial “wizard” crap. I wish manufacturers would just let those of us who know what we are doing bypass those damn things bit anyway... Just don’t. I was trying to sneak around the crappy Wizard on iOS and logged in with a browser expecting an expert mode. Nope. Another wizard. Ahhh eff off Netgear.

    Anyway I had halfway done the iOS wizard and the redid it on the web page. I knew it was stupid and did it anyway. Welcome to factory reset. Totally my fault. It will screw them up. LOL.

    After the wizard and then going through all the settings screens REALLY setting it all up (honestly the defaults were sane, but I have special needs, as you all know... hahaha....) it all rebooted and...

    Just worked.

    Commentary:

    Reboots are horrendously slow. And the dumbass things need a reboot to enable the Guest WiFi network. Stupid design. You’re having friends over to watch football and streaming it and they show up and want on your guest network and you turn it on... and everything drops. Stupid stupid stupid.

    They have “Alexa support”. Don’t bother. It can do exactly three things. Tell you the IPs of the router, turn on a completely insecure guest network (the Alexa guest command doesn’t honor your guest network security settings nor password - it just opens an unsecured network... just do it from the app), and reboot the router.

    That last one is sad. Tell the network connected device to reboot the router. If it needs reboots that often, it’s getting sold. Alexa integration is a complete gimmick.

    “Alexa, tell Netgear to tell me which device is sucking all the bandwidth and needs to be shot ...” would have been nice. Haha. Don’t bother with Alexa.

    Slow reboots and marginal processor sucks during setup. Probably a really cheap processor in them. After setup it doesn’t seem to affect anything at all.

    Also reboots do the whole system. Main and satellites. Makes sense from a stability and configuration standpoint. But makes it even slower. Big downtime for a reboot. But it’s not a simple AP and does have to talk to all the satellites and such to get everyone on the same page with config changes so... okay. Ethernet comes back the fastest of course.

    Wireless coverage is stellar compared to the ancient Apple stuff, covering better than those and there were three of those scattered around. This is with two. One in the upstairs corner office, the other centrally located in the basement. Decent but not great coverage in the garbage which because of the layout of the house is many walls to pass through and a metal fire door and thick fire wall.

    It’s dual band and like anything single SSID, a few devices do wonky things and decide to stay on 2 GHz for example. There’s no split SSID for the two bands so you can’t force it. Whatever their buggy wifi chipset and the device WiFi chipset decide they’re happiest with, that’s what you get. And they’re all buggy. Ask me how I know. Remember the over 100 user thing? Yeah. The Ubiquiti stuff has ways to deal with stupid idiots like Broadcom. Ha. Anyway... around the house, don’t care. The important video stuff all grabbed 5 GHz as did most things, so fine.

    Speeds, I haven’t pushed it but plenty enough for even our whopping upgraded 25 Mb/s Internet pipe. The microwave kiddies put a new model of Motorola Canooy on the roof after almost ten years of service on the first one. Tech said he was able to pull 40 Mb/sec from the same tower, hitting different radios on the tower end now. But they won’t sell me the 50 Mb/s package... yet. I’ll keep badgering them. Don’t care if it runs 50. Just let me run 40. Ha.

    Haven’t done any hard core bandwidth tests. All running plenty fast enough between systems wired and wireless so as not to care. The inability to split SSID the bands means I can’t fix anything anyway so it is what it is. Other than adding another satellite if 5 GHz coverage was poor which, it’s not.

    Definitely not setting up the Disney branded content filtering or the so called “security” garbage on it from one of the biggish brand names for $70 a year. Pffft. Worthless and both widely reported to block legitimate things and such.

    Did do the usual thing and re-do the DHCP MAC table assignments for everything “known” on the network to stick to static IPv4 addresses. Cut and paste from the home network document and apply. Done. Works fine. Also changed the default subnet because 192.168.1.1? Pffft.

    Did briefly try their 6-to-4 implementation for IPv6 internal and 4 external and it blew up a number of iOS Apps that use separate DNS and their own connections to their load balancers. Turned that back off. Never works but I always give it a shot.

    So anyway. Networking engineer uses boring consumer grade junk — and finds it actually works. Pretty well even.

    Can still sell it and buy Unbiquiti if something comes up.

    It’s definitely consumer grade. Saw lots of weirdness during setup and the UI/UX of both the app and web interface is the usual “Netgear scatterbrained” because they try to hide all the actual useful settings under “advanced” menus and tabs for the most part, or just leave them out of the app altogether and they’re only in the web EXCEPT stuff like the Alexa junk, then you really want to use the app. Disjointed but par for the modern course and the same crappy UI/UX for twenty years from Netgear. Anyone will easily figure out default settings work the best anyway.

    MIMO is just 2x2. Nothing fancy, for the geeks. But explicit beamforming seems to do its thing without problems. Most don’t need the old implicit beamforming but it’s in there if you want to turn it on.

    Fast roaming — just leave it off. It ticks off apple chipsets and some intel ones. BTDT. You’ll see devices cycling networks all the time. They’ll hop devices just fine without it. And it’s Netgear proprietary like most of those are so it just doesn’t work right in a highly mixed device environment.

    Like any 2.4 network if the main router can’t see the neighborhood from a basement or something don’t use auto channel selection. Do a survey and choose it. 5 GHz same, but less chance of problems unless you’re in high density housing. Only uses the low band 5 GHz for clients. Reserves the upper band for the backhaul.

    They’ll daisy chain if needed. What I mean by this is if R is router and S is satellite, they’ll do

    R-S-S

    As a link chain if needed. Obviously not recommended for best throughput. You can disable daisy chaining in the advanced settings if you want to force satellites to do a star topology to the router. Requires (slow azz) reboot.

    So far, a solid little consumer grade doohickey. Even had to do MAC spoofing on the WAN side for my ISP until they came in the next morning — worked fine.

    Can’t complain. Does what it says it does which is more than a lot of things these days.

    Any other questions, holler. Might add another satellite just for perfect fill in the garage but don’t really need it. Definitely the lazy way to “wire” a house without structured Ethernet wiring.

    Now if I ever pay someone to do that I’ll just have them run Ethernet everywhere and not just for access points. Unlikely though.
     
    RJM62 likes this.
  2. WannFly

    WannFly En-Route

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    I have a couple of them, once you are done with the pain of setting it up, it works like a charm. When you get a new firmware, update the satellite first and then the main and thank me later
     
    denverpilot likes this.
  3. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down

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    Makes sense. The other way around could leave the satellite quite confused and hard to update.
     
  4. gkainz

    gkainz Final Approach

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    Perfect timing. I’ve been looking into replacing the way too old but still functioning Apple gear (3rd gen Airport Time Capsule) and patched together WiFi extender, this is one of the 2 I’ve been thinking about. The other being the eero, after reading some online articles about apple killing support and future development for their gear, those 2 came out as the top 2 recommended.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019 at 8:14 AM
  5. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down

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    Yeah that’s what was driving me to look into it, too. And my Apple stuff was even older.

    Watch out for the older Orbi stuff that didn’t do a dedicated backhaul. The stuff is still mixed on the shelves and online. You can only go by the model numbers on the boxes to be sure.
     
  6. schmookeeg

    schmookeeg Cleared for Takeoff

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    I tried the earlier Orbi and didn't like it. I hear the newer ones are nice. Our Eero gen2 setup is pretty solid.

    As a router, though, the eero only has like 3 routing features and is seriously annoying to me with its limitations (I think we put $400 into these things, so I expected more). I'm about to put it behind a pfsense box "in the fullness of time" and kick wifi onto its own subnet. The eero was supposed to add features and plugins over time and they never delivered. I think they offered an antivirus plugin with some monthly fee. :rolleyes:

    I find administering my wifi network with a pretty little phone app to be really dumb.

    My favorite thing about the eero is the two ethernet ports on each satellite. Basically the wifi version of the old powerline networking. It just works.

    I bet non-techies like them more than I do. :D
     
  7. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down

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    Same sentiments with the Orbi except the routing stuff. It does seem to have at least a mediocre set of tools there. And I can live with mediocre at home.

    Static routes, RIP (yikes! If you wanted it!), port forwarding and triggering, all the usual home router stuff, plus oddballs like multicast proxy for whoever needs THAT. LOL. Even looked like it could play on a single VLAN but I didn’t enable that to see what else it could do VLAN wise, since I don’t really split stuff that way at home.

    What is the Eero missing? I looked at those and they got meh reviews.

    The best reviews were the latest Linksys not their older ones also, but speeeeeendy for what they are.

    The Orbi was so close and over $100 cheaper.
     
  8. Badger

    Badger Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    Does hard wiring the satellites (vs wireless) help overall speed?
     
  9. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I actually had pre-release test versions of the ORBI (after having disastrous results with the EERO and LUMA products) given to me by NetGear.

    The good news is that they do seem to perform just fine getting top speeds and fairly low latency through all the units. The one thing to realize is that unlike the EERO and it's ilk, they are not MESH routers, but rather a master and a number of slaves. On the plus side, the single master and two slaves managed to cover my entire 7000 sf L-shaped house/hangar complex quite nicely. The good thing is while you CAN configure them via an app/web, you don't have to. They behave like pretty much any other netgear product, you can connect to them with a browser and configure them. They run just fine without any internet connection. I regularly use the master these days to run the operations computers in the Vintage FLO building.

    The EERO was a piece of junk. You can only configure it through its site and in addition to the security issues with that, when your internet goes out for whatever reason the things turn into bricks 45 seconds later and you don't even get local traffic. That's entirely unacceptable. They are slower than the ORBIs but I could have lived with that if they were reliable. The EEROs are junk. I've got them in a box. They have zero value.

    Anyhow, since I have cat5e in the house, I finally knuckled down and put 6 Ubiquiti access points, one in the hangar, three spread around the rest of the house, and two outside (one on the runway-side party deck, and the other on the back of the hangar). Since cell phone coverage here is junk, we use wifi calling on our property and this covers our entire two acres.
     
  10. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down

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    Not planning on testing it. Didn’t see anything definitive anywhere but it is unlikely since they’re already using wide channel in 5 GHz and I don’t believe any user gear supports bonding both low and high band simultaneously... yet.

    Or if anyone does, the distance that would be usable would be a few feet with typical neighborhood interference levels.
     
  11. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down

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    By the way, mine are reporting 1.4 Gb/sec on their wireless backhaul link. I haven’t tested that for sanity.
     
  12. schmookeeg

    schmookeeg Cleared for Takeoff

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    Quicker to list what it CAN do. :D
    Quicker to list things it can actually do :D From the "Advanced Network Settings" in their pretty little coffeehouse app:

    I can control DHCP leasing and make a lease static to a MAC address for a time period

    I can port forward, but not by range, only by single port number

    plus the bare minimum items of configuring the upstream internet connection and which DNS servers the DHCP clients get.

    ...yeah, end of list. Not even a DMZ option.
     
  13. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down

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    Wow. Yeah. That’s wimpy. Even for home gamer equipment.
     
  14. woywoyboy

    woywoyboy Filing Flight Plan

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    I got an Orbi master and slave (as someone says, they're not really mesh systems) after I got fiber to my house and noticed the old WiFi router setup was in fact much slower than the fiber. The Orbis were a revelation: despite being a bit of a pain to configure for my setup, they're faster than fiber (well, you'd hope so, but since my fiber connection is 700+ Mbs in both directions, that's important :)), and using a wired backhaul didn't seem to make much difference (but I kept the wired setup just in case). I'm impressed...
     
  15. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down

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    I must comment that APs that can handle full wideband WiFi standards and also can run multiple users and full gigabit data rate are kinda “old hat” in the commercial AP world.

    But it’s nice to see a consumer grade device with simple setup actually keep up with where cheap commercial APs were five to seven years ago, finally.

    The commercial APs still have this consumer junk beat badly in the multiple stream MIMO games as well as user authority from central sources (LDAP/Active Directoey, RADIUS, whatever you like...)

    The cheap Ubiquiti’s will do all of that plus mutliple SSID with different auth, captive portal on their server software for self-serve guest networks where each user’s access expires as well as is tracked, the multiple SSIDs cab be associated to separate VLANs on the wired side, tons of RF tweaks and settings for customizing coverage and device types that will “want” to talk to certain APs, etc etc etc. All for about $100 a pop in bulk packs.

    The Orbi is a easy/consumer thingy. There’s LOTS of stuff that’ll smoke it. Hard.