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Orbi home mesh wifi system: Pros, cons and tips

If you are planning to move to a large house or apartment for the first time, you will find out that the router you were using on your small apartment is not good enough to provide WiFi connection for a large space.

Then you will have to find out a reliable system that fulfills the following WiFi requirements:

– A WiFi that provides wide coverage to the whole area.

– A strong WiFi, because large but weak coverage lead to slow and unreliable internet access.

– A fast WiFi, because wide and strong coverage must match internet speed.

– A reliable WiFi, without disconnections that could make video calls or online gaming a bad experience.

To find the right way to provide internet access to a large area is a DIY project that most people can manage themselves. But there are some important information that everyone should be aware of before buying an expensive router, or for troubleshooting an existing one.

On this article we are showing a real life example of an Orbi mesh WiFi router providing internet connection for a large house.

mesh wifi

Why a home mesh wifi router

For anyone living on a large house, building or apartment, a single router will not be sufficient to have good WiFi coverage over the entire space.

So, how to get strong and reliable WiFi for large spaces?

A strong and reliable WiFi can be achieved by installing a mesh WiFi router.

A mesh WiFi router and satellites, or access points, connects to each other to extend the WiFi signal coverage. 

Orbi router and satellite distribution in two floors house
Orbi router and satellite distribution in one floor house

So it is possible to connect a first satellite or access point to the router and extend the WiFi range by X meters/feet, then connect a second satellite or access point to the first one and extend the wifi range even further, and so on… 

The example pictures above and additional information can be found on the ‘Where should I place my Orbi satellite‘ page.

Why Orbi as a home mesh wifi router

The Orbi home mesh WiFi system has in general very good reviews for speed and coverage.

So, even though it is not any cheap, it should be good a great way to get WiFi coverage for large house or apartments.

And this is true, to a point… because there is more to it, and not always good, than just the reviews of some popular web pages.

Orbi RBK50 router and satellite front
Orbi RBK50 router and satellite back

On this article we are going to explain a real home mesh wifi using ORBI RBK50 ROUTER and two RBK SATELLITES.

But note that our intention is not to promote Orbi or any of their products, but just to use a real mesh WiFi router as an example.

Orbi router and satellites distribution

To bring you the most value, we are going to use a real example for a house of 150 habitable square meters, or 1614 habitable square feet where we have installed ONE ORBI ROUTER and TWO ORBI SATELLITES.

‘Wohnhaus’ stands for ‘Residential building’ in German and this house is located in Germany and built as per German standards.

The house is highlighted in grey and the rest of the space around the house can be considered as garden.

The house has three floors: ground floor, first floor and second floor.

The ORBI ROUTER is located on the ground floor, where it should give coverage to the whole ground floor plus the garden area around the house. The position on the picture is marked with a red R.

The TWO ORBI SATELLITES are located in the first and the second floor.

House top layout view and router location

The ground floor has an area of 74 square meters, or 800 square feet, and the layout is shown on the picture below.

The ORBI ROUTER location is marked with a big R in red, easy to spot.

The ORBI ROUTER has been placed in this specific location in the hope that could provide wifi coverage to the whole garden area at the back of the house. 

Note that the access to the first floor is through stairs, which are highlighted in grey and named as ‘Decke’. 

Between the router and the satellite in the first floor there is not any obstacle such as door or a large piece of furniture.

First floor layout and router location

The first ORBI SATELLITE is located on the first floor and the location is marked with a big S in red.

Between the router and this satellite, there is a distance of 12 meters or 40 feet. The distance has been measure in straight line, or the shortest path between devices.

The satellite location is far from ideal, because it is located on the corridor, between rooms.

But, this is because this is the only location where the satellite has good reception signal from the Router.

Any other location, and many has been tried, give as a result a poor connection to the router, which decreases WiFi signal reliability and internet speed.

Ideally the router should be located in the room named as ‘Gast’, which stands for guest in German, but even moving the router for a a couple of meters does decrease too much the connection signal strength.

The second floor has also an area of 74 square meters, or 800 square feet.

Second floor layout and satellite location

The second ORBI SATELLITE is placed on the second floor and it’s location is marked with a big S in red.

In this case the satellite location is ideal because the area where it is locate it is intended as an office.

Between the router and this satellite, there is a distance of 8 meters or 20 feet. The distance has been measure in straight line, or the shortest path between devices.

First floor layout and satellite location

Before progressing with more details,  it is worth to remark again that this house is built with German standards.

– The exterior walls, marked with dashed lines, are 35 cm wide (approx, 13 inches).

– The interior walls, marked with crossed lines, are 20 cm wide (approx, 7 inches).

– The interior walls, marked with dashed lines, are 14 cm wide (approx, 5 inches).

– The interior wall, without any lines, are dry walls 10 cm wide (approx, 3 inches).

– The interior doors are 4 cm wide (approx, 1 inch).

– The windows have all double glass.

We are remarking this point because the house construction, and specially the type of material used, have a big impact on the wifi signal propagation and strenght.

For example, a house with walls made of wood will allow a better wifi signal propagation that a house with wall made of concrete.

Orbi WiFi coverage

The Orbi RBK50 WiFi coverage was lower than our initial expectations.

But maybe our expectations were to big.

We expected that one router and one satellite was going to be sufficient to provide strong and reliable WiFi connection to the whole house.

But the first floor satellite was not able to provide enough and strong WiFi coverage for the second floor.

Also, we had to place the first floor satellite in the location that is far from ideal.

Maybe the construction or our house, or the materials, do impair the WiFi signal propagation and some other constructions, like a house made with less sturdy materials, will have larger coverage by routers or satellites. 

How to measure the WiFi signal strenght

Why is it important to have a strong WiFi signal all over the house?

It is important that your devices have a strong WiFi signal connection, or otherwise the internet speed will be decreased.

This is, you may be paying to have a very fast internet connection speed but if the WiFi strength is poor in some areas of the house, the devices on those areas will have low internet speed connection. 

While there are many ways and applications to measure the signal strength, most of them are not very accurate.

We have tried several phone apps and the results were far from satisfactory.

Also, we have tried the most basic method, that is to walk around the house looking into the phone, laptop or tablet WiFi signal icon (three bars over a dot)

– Four bars do indicate a strong WiFi signal strength and one bar indicate poor WiFi signal strength. 

But this method does just provide some general indication of the WiFi signal strength.

Basic internet signal strength

But, for Windows user, there is a quite reliable way to measure the WiFi signal strength, which is the following..

On the Windows command line,  enter the following command: netsh wlan show interfaces.

Windows command prompt

And, it will return some details from which the most useful for us will be the ‘Signal’ strenght.

As shown below, this PC is connected to a WiFi network with a 99% signal strength.

Windows command to find out WiFi signal strength

But, what is a good WiFi signal?:

– A result above 80 is a good and reliable signal.

– A result 70 and 80 it is just good enough signal for non demanding applications like light web browsing.

– A result below 70 is a bad and not reliable signal.

Orbi wifi signal strength

At the beginning we thought that one ORBI SATELLITE on the first floor should be sufficient to provide strong wifi signal to both the first and second floor.

But using the method explained above we found out that on many areas of the second floor the signal strength was just around 80%.

And with an 80% signal strength we were not achieving fast internet speed, which was a big problem for some PCs located on the second floor office.

This situation only improved after we purchased and installed a SECOND SATELLITE for the second floor. But, the cost of each additional satellite is considerable and it was not an expenses that we were expecting to make.

What we have learn here is not to fully trust the information found on the manufacturer’s website or on reviews. This is because the construction of the house and the materials use do have a big impact on the mesh router coverage. 

How to measure the wifi signal reliability

Another important factor to take in consideration is the WiFi signal reliability because constant and long disconnections can be a big problem.

We have been using a browser extension named ‘Internet Computer Monitor’ that continuously monitors for internet disconnections.

Internet connection monitor browser extension

This extension can be easily added to your favourite web browser. But if you are not sure how to do it, search on your browser for ‘Internet Connection Monitor extension’ and that should simplify the installation process.

Internet connection monitor browser extension installation

The connection log will show when and how often there are internet disconnections. For example, as shown on the picture below, this PC has had 5  disconnections in the last 24 hours and 87 disconnections since powered on.

Internet connection monitor browser extension logs

Some disconnections are very short, just a few seconds, but even a few seconds can be a problem when having a video call or playing online games.

Orbi WiFi signal reliability

And here is where we come to one of the biggest cons of the Orbi RBK50 mesh WiFi… there are frequent disconnections for both the router and satellites.

In general, for the router, the disconnections are very few and very short. But for the satellite the disconnections are more frequent and last longer.

Even a couple of disconnections per day for 10 seconds can become a problem if you are having an online meeting or an application or software that requires continuous up time. 

But, to be fair, this seems to be a problem that many other mesh WiFi routers have and in some cases the disconnections are quite frequent.

How to measure the WiFi speed

When using a mesh WiFi router, it must be taken into consideration that the satellites or access points may not reach the same internet speed as the router.

So, as a good practice you may want to check the WiFi speed of your router, and satellites or access points. Because the WiFi speed of a device connected to a satellite or access point should be just slightly lower than the router’s WiFi speed.

There are many websites that offer free speed tests but we do usually use speed test by ookla.

Ookla internet speed test

Orbi WiFi speed

The wifi speed of our Orbi satellites it is very close to the wifi speed of the Orbi router.

There is barely any download or upload speed decrease between the router on teh ground floor and the satellite on the second floor, so in this respect the Orbi RBK50 has a good performance.

How to measure the router electricity cost

For the vast majority, the electricity usage and electricity cost is not a factor that it is considered when buying a router. Still, it is worth to have a look…

A single router does not use that much electricity but when using a mesh WiFi system withe several satellites or access points we need to have into consideration that each device will increase our electricity consumption.

Depending on where you live and how much you are paying for each kWh you consume, the electricity cost can be worth to note.

how much does electricity cost

Orbi router and satellites electricity cost

Each of Orbi RBK50 router and satellites use 12 Volts and 2,5 Amperes that mean a power consumption of 31,25 Watts per hour.

And that consumption of 31,25 Watts per hour at a prize of 0,217 euro per kWh mean that to have one router of satellite continuously powered on during the whole does cost us 59,4 euro.

As we have one router and two satellites, the total cost is 178.,2 euro per year, which it is not the biggest electrical expenses in the house, but large enough…

If you would learn more, have a look to our web page where we explain how to calculate the power consumption and electricity cost of a router.

Home appliances and devices electricity calculators

A few other examples from our ‘Electricity usage and electricity cost calculators‘ page that may be of your interest:

Or, if you are interested on this topic,  you can have a look to this electricity measurement units calculators to get a better understanding of:

> What is a Watt (W) and how to transform Watts into Kilowatts

> What is a Kilowatt (kW) and how to transform Kilowatts into Kilowatts hour

> What is a Kilowatt hour (kWh) and how to transform Kilowatts hours to other units

> What are Power (P), Voltage (V) and Current (I)

Watt (W)
Watt (W) wattage calculator
Kilowatt (kW)
Kilowatt (kW) calculator
Kilowatt hour (kWh)
Kilowatt hour (kWh) calculator
Power, voltage, current
Power, voltage, current calculator

Conclusions

When we moved to a large house for the first time, we were in the wrong assumption that a powerful and expensive router or a mesh router with one satellite should be sufficient to provide full WiFi coverage.

Since then, we have learnt that the layout of the house, the materials, interference… have a big impact on what router to chose to provide strong and reliable connection to a large house.

To chose the right router or mesh WiFi router for a house is a small but very important DIY project. It is worth to do as much as possible research in advance. 

We hope that the information we have shared will allow those with limited experience to test and troubleshoot a new router for a large space.

The best would be to test the WiFi signal strength, speed, coverage and reliability as soon as the new router is received. And return the router and purchase a different one if the results are not good.

We hope that this article has been of use for you. And if you have any questions or doubts, leave them in the comments.

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