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 in your small apartment is not good enough to provide a 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 leads 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.
Finding the right way to provide internet access to a large area is a DIY project that most people can manage themselves. But there is some important information that everyone should be aware of before buying an expensive router or troubleshooting an existing one.
In this article, we are showing a real-life example of an Orbi mesh WiFi router providing an internet connection for a large house.
TABLE OF CONTENTS – QUICK NAVIGATION
1. Why a home mesh WiFi system
1.1. Why Orbi as a home mesh WiFi system
2. Orbi router and satellites distribution
3. How to measure the WiFi signal strength
3.1. Orbi WiFi signal strength
4. How to measure the WiFi signal reliability
4.1. Orbi WiFi signal reliability
5. How to measure the WiFi signal speed
6. How to measure the router electricity cost
6.1. Orbi router and satellite electricity cost
6.2. Home appliances and devices electricity calculators
Why a home mesh wifi router
For anyone living in 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, connect to each other to extend the WiFi signal coverage.
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 cheap, it should be good a great way to get WiFi coverage for large houses 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.
In 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 a garden.
The house has three floors: the ground floor, the first floor, and the 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 on the first and the second floor.
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.
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 measured in a straight line or the shortest path between devices.
The satellite location is far from ideal because it is located in the corridor, between rooms.
But, this is because this is the only location where the satellite has a good reception signal from the Router.
Any other location and many have 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 ‘Gast’, which stands for guest in German, but even moving the router for 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.
The second ORBI SATELLITE is placed on the second floor and its location is marked with a big S in red.
In this case, the satellite location is ideal because the area where it is located 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 measured in a straight line, or the shortest path between devices.
Before progressing with more details, it is worth remarking 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 on this point because the house construction, and especially the type of material used, have a big impact on the wifi signal propagation and strength.
For example, a house with walls made of wood will allow better wifi signal propagation than a house with walls made of concrete.
Orbi WiFi coverage
The Orbi RBK50 WiFi coverage was lower than our initial expectations.
But maybe our expectations were too big.
We expected that one router and one satellite were going to be sufficient to provide a strong and reliable WiFi connection to the whole house.
But the first-floor satellite was not able to provide enough strong WiFi coverage for the second floor.
Also, we had to place the first-floor satellite in a location that is far from ideal.
Maybe the construction of our house, or the materials, does impair the WiFi signal propagation, and some other constructions, like a house made with fewer sturdy materials, will have larger coverage by routers or satellites.
How to measure the WiFi signal strength
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 in those areas will have a low internet speed connection.
While there are many ways and applications to measure 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, which is to walk around the house looking at 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 indicates poor WiFi signal strength.
But this method does just provide some general indication of the WiFi signal strength.
But, for Windows users, 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.
And, it will return some details from which the most useful for us will be the ‘Signal’ strength.
As shown below, this PC is connected to a WiFi network with a 99% signal strength.
But, what is a good WiFi signal?:
– A result above 80 is a good and reliable signal.
– A result of 70 and 80 is just a 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
In the beginning, we thought that one ORBI SATELLITE on the first floor should be sufficient to provide a strong wifi signal to both the first and second floors.
But using the method explained above we found out that in 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 expense that we were expecting to make.
What we have learned 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 used do have a big impact on the mesh router coverage.
How to measure the wifi signal reliability
Another important factor to take into 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.
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.
The connection log will show when and how often there are internet disconnections. For example, as shown in the picture below, this PC has had 5 disconnections in the last 24 hours and 87 disconnections since powered on.
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 uptime.
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 usually use speed test by ookla.
Orbi WiFi speed
The wifi speed of our Orbi satellites is very close to the wifi speed of the Orbi router.
There is barely any download or upload speed decrease between the router on the 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, electricity usage and electricity cost is not a factor that it is considered when buying a router. Still, it is worth having a look…
A single router does not use that much electricity but when using a mesh WiFi system with 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 noting.
Orbi router and satellites electricity cost
Each Orbi RBK50 router and satellites use 12 Volts and 2,5 Amperes which means a power consumption of 31,25 Watts per hour.
And that consumption of 31,25 Watts per hour at a price of 0,217 euro per kWh means 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 euros per year, which is not the biggest electrical expense in the house, but large enough…
If you would learn more, have a look at 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 in this topic, you can have a look at these 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 do transform Kilowatts hours into other units
> What are Power (P), Voltage (V), and Current (I)
When we moved to a large house for the first time, we were under 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 learned that the layout of the house, the materials, and interference… have a big impact on what router to choose to provide a strong and reliable connection to a large house.
Choosing the right router or mesh WiFi router for a house is a small but very important DIY project. It is worth doing 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 to you. And if you have any questions or doubts, leave them in the comments.