Netgear Orbi Pro Business WiFi System REVIEW
Earlier this year, we published a review here on MacSources about the Orbi Home WiFi System. Netgear redefined home WiFi networks with Orbi — the first tri-band home WiFi system. As a mesh system, it ensures that you have a strong signal no matter where you are in your home — even outdoors. In late August, Netgear launched the Orbi Pro, a brother system to the Orbi that is designed to work as a mesh network for small businesses.
At first glance, the systems look almost identical. The base Orbi Pro system is a 2-pack WiFi system that will cover up to 5,000 square feet with AC3000 WiFi. Netgear has also made available a 3-pack option that has the router and two satellites, which will cover up to 10,000 square feet and the management features make it easy to add additional satellites if needed. The main idea behind the Orbi Pro was to create a system for small businesses that would allow them to control, manage, and monitor internally without having to hire out network administration. I personally thought that taking the easy-to-use Orbi concept and transferring that to a business environment was brilliant. With the exception of our smart devices, I was able to have the Orbi up and running within about 5 minutes in our home. It’s been a very stable network for us and we have dozens of devices connected to it.
Naturally, the first thought that came into my mind was, “What are the differences between the two systems?” The first thing that will catch your eye is the price tag. The 2-pack system for the Home Orbi runs around $399, while the Orbi Pro system is $499. Second, you will notice that the Orbi Home edition has a USB 2.0 port on the backside of the router and the satellite and the Orbi Pro does not. To be honest, I’ve haven’t really found a use for the USB port on the Orbi Home so it doesn’t really bother me that it’s gone with the Pro version. Orbi Pro also comes with optional wall mounts whereas the Orbi does not.
The real differences between the two systems lie within the software. You will use the same Orbi app on your smartphone and orbilogin.com to access the management on both systems, but with the Orbi Pro, you have some additional options available. You can actually set up three separate WiFi networks within the Orbi Pro system — Admin, Employee, and Guest.
Admin & Employee Networks: Orbi Pro can handle the set-up of two distinct networks. The Admin set-up is designed to provide access to critical infrastructures such as private servers, VoIP systems, or computers that contain sensitive data like patient files, Point of Sale (PoS) terminals, printers, etc. It enables access to the Gigabit Ethernet ports on Orbi for connecting wired devices. While the Employee option is structured for employees who need access but do not need access to the systems on the Admin Network or the Gigabit Ethernet Ports. It has a SSID that is different than the admin network, and its password can be easily changed as employees leave. The management of these networks can be handled within the Orbi App.
Guest Access Network: Completely isolated from the other two networks, it is designed to be used by customers, patients, clients and other visitors. Their devices get access to the internet through a captive portal for only a limited amount of time as easily set by the network administrator.
The Guest Access Network is actually the feature that most appealed to us. With Orbi, you have the option for a Guest Network, but it’s not using a captive portal. A captive portal is what you see when you login into public WiFi hotspots and you have to agree to specified terms of service before being allowed to use it. This can come in handy in case someone using your guest network does something illegal or damaging to anyone while connected to it. You also have enough control to be able to direct users to a pre-determined website when they log in. This can be useful for personal uses as well as business ones, but most homes don’t need access like this.
Much like the Orbi, the Orbi Pro system came packaged with one router, one satellite, power adapters for both units, and an Ethernet cable (for connection to your modem). There was also a quick start guide, manual, and a few other papers included. Setup is simple. You unplug your modem (to reset it) and plug the Ethernet cable into the modem and the router (the yellow port). Then you plug the modem and router into power. The Orbi Pro will take a few minutes to start all the way up. The ring on top of the unit will pulse white until its setup and configuration are complete. When it’s fully operational, it will be completely off. The router and satellite will also use other colors for status. Click here for a full list of colors and their meanings. To get your satellite setup, you select your location for it and plug it into power. It will pull connection information directly from the router.
After the router is completely powered up, you will visit orbilogin.com to access the backend management of the Orbi system. Netgear does a wonderful thing here and it’s the same process you go through whether you are setting up the Orbi or the Orbi Pro. After you have logged into the management system and set up your account, the remainder of the configurations are done in the background. You have the ability to set up various options within the network from this interface or you can do it from the Orbi app on your smartphone.
Since the Guest WiFi was the most intriguing feature of the Orbi Pro to me, I want to specifically outline what it takes to set it up. First, click on Guest Portal in the sidebar menu. This will pull up the configuration details for the guest network. You will see a screen similar to what is shown below. To engage the Guest Network with the captive portal, you check the “Enable Guest Portal Network” and select your authentication option. For a guest network, I would recommend making it password protected. At this point, you can choose how long you would like the password to be available. For example, let’s say you have a group of people into your office and want to grant them access, but only for the time, they are there. You can make the password expire in 2 hours so that if they want to log in again, they will have to request access again.
The next step in this process is to customize your portal. You can input terms of service (text only) by uploading a document under “Terms and Conditions” and you can even upload a logo. Beneath that, you will see a place for “Redirected URL”. This is where you would put the website address for the place you want to take your guests when they log in. Most places will make it their company website. Once you have all the information inputted, you can preview the page and when you click apply, the Orbi Pro will reconfigure the network quietly in the background (your WiFi will shut down for a few minutes) and when it restarts, you will have an active Guest Network with a captive portal.
CONCLUSIONS Because I’ve enjoyed the extreme ease-of-use with the Orbi, I didn’t hesitate to test out the newer sibling to the home WiFi system. Orbi Pro provides a stable, flexible network that can handle a lot of devices. Its signal has remained clear throughout our home and even into our yard. With its five-minute set-up and customizable network options, Orbi Pro is really a great option for small businesses who don’t want to hire someone to maintain their network. I’ve not had any issues with the Orbi Pro and believe that it will handle any number of users thrown at it.
Originally published at macsources.com on October 19, 2017.