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Upgrade Your Home Wireless Network to Orbi and See What You've Been Missing


Do you experience problems getting speedy WiFi in your home? When it’s too slow or unreliable, not only does it take a lot of time to access a website, but watching Netflix on your TV or tablet can stall or buffer, making it difficult to watch without frequent interruptions. And with all of the devices now being connected in the home, from TiVos to thermostats to doorbells, a reliable WiFi network is becoming a necessity more than ever.

While most of us are connected at home to the Internet through a cable company over a cable modem, the signal is delivered throughout the rest of our home using wireless WiFi. That requires either a cable modem with a WiFi router built in, or the use of a separate WiFi router that attaches to your cable modem.

For years we’ve relied on a single basic router to send WiFi throughout the home. While more expensive routers offered better coverage using more antennas, advanced processors, and multiple WiFi signals, even the best routers often failed to deliver a signal where you needed it, far from where your cable modem is located. All it takes is a couple of solid walls or a thick floor to significantly reduce coverage. And many cable companies locate the modem and router where it’s convenient to install, not where it will perform the best.

That’s the problem I suffered at a home in Northern Calif. The cable modem was installed in the basement, causing the signal to be weak on the first and second floors. In a nearby detached garage used as an office, the signal failed to work at all.

I tried a number of routers over the past several months, including an Asus RT series, an Apple Airport, and a few others, touted as offering broad coverage. I even tried some extenders, which are small devices that supposedly extend coverage throughout the home. I found some minor differences, but none that improved the performance on the second floor or reached the garage. And even on the first floor, the signal was mediocre because the WiFi needed to pass through a thick wooden floor. My conclusion was for this 2600 sq. ft. home, a single router was just not sufficient for good coverage where I needed it.

That’s when I decided to try one of the new generation of mesh router systems that seems to have proliferated over the past six months. Each consists of a basic unit placed near the modem and one or two additional satellite units that are placed throughout the home. The concept is that they communicate with each other to deliver the WiFi signal to the remote units, located closer to where you need the strong signal, with each remote broadcasting a WiFi signal as if it was the primary router.