Orbi Voice Gives Orbi Systems Smart Speaker FeaturesBy - 10/31/2018
We all kind of knew it was only a matter of time before someone decided to shove a smart speaker into a Wi-Fi router, and I’m glad it’s Netgear that took the leap. Netgear’s Orbi is one of the best mesh router systems on the market, and with Orbi Voice, you can now fill your home with Wi-Fi and talk to Alexa using one device.
It’s Not Rocket Science
For Netgear, creating Orbi Voice wasn’t rocket science at all. They simply took two popular tech products (smart speaker & mesh router) and melded them together. But here’s the thing: Netgear didn’t have to reinvent the wheel to come up with an exceptional product. All they needed was the right technology from the right companies, and that’s exactly what they got.
The Router Courtesy Of Netgear
Orbi Voice’s networking features were (obviously) developed by Netgear. They didn’t create an entirely new mesh system or a standalone router. Instead, they made a satellite mesh router for Orbi systems, which is good news for those who already have an Orbi Router (RBR50) or Orbi Cable Modem Router (CBR40). If that’s you, you can buy Orbi Voice (for $299.99 (at time of publishing) on Amazon) and connect it to your Orbi Router. However, if you are interested in using Orbi Voice but don’t have an Orbi Router yet, you’ll need to buy the Orbi Voice Kit (1 Orbi Router + 1 Orbi Voice) first, which will set you back $430.
As Orbi Voice is merely an addition to the Orbi mesh system, it doesn’t add any new router features. You can still enjoy Orbi’s network monitoring features, parental control, seamless Wi-Fi coverage, and Alexa and Google Assistant integration, but nothing more. However, you might want to look at its spec sheet to see how it compares with other Orbi Add-on Satellites. Doing so might also help you decide how to build your Orbi system based on what features you need.
|Orbi Voice (RBS40V)||Orbi Satellite (RBS50)||Orbi Satellite (RBS40)||Orbi “Wall-Plug” Satellite (RBW30)||Orbi Outdoor Satellite (RBS50Y)|
|Special Feature||Router + Smart Speaker||Standard Indoor-Only Satellite||Cheaper Satellite, Less Coverage||Cheapest, Least Coverage, Plugs Directly To Outlet||Standard Outdoor Satellite|
|Wi-Fi Coverage||2,000 sq. ft.||2,500 sq. ft.||2,000 sq. ft.||1,500 sq. ft.||2,500 sq. ft.|
|Router Features||Tri-Band (2.4GHz & 5GHz for Wi-Fi devices + 5GHz dedicated backhaul)||Tri-Band (2.4GHz & 5GHz for Wi-Fi devices + 5GHz dedicated backhaul)||Tri-Band (2.4GHz & 5GHz for Wi-Fi devices + 5GHz dedicated backhaul)||Tri-Band (2.4GHz & 5GHz for Wi-Fi devices + 5GHz dedicated backhaul)||Tri-Band (2.4GHz & 5GHz for Wi-Fi devices + 5GHz dedicated backhaul)|
|Total Wi-Fi Throughput Speed||AC2200 (2200Mbps)||AC3000 (3000Mbps)||AC2200 (2200Mbps)||AC2200 (2200Mbps)||AC3000 (3000Mbps)|
|2.4GHz Throughput Speed||400Mbps||400Mbps||400Mbps||400Mbps||400Mbps|
|5GHz Throughput Speed||867Mbps||867Mbps||867Mbps||867Mbps||867Mbps|
|5GHz Dedicated Backhaul Throughput Speed||867Mbps||1,733Mbps||867Mbps||867Mbps||1,733Mbps|
|Gigabit Ethernet Ports||2||4||4||0||0|
|Where To Buy||Amazon.com||Amazon.com||Amazon.com||Amazon.com||Amazon.com|
The Speaker By Harman Kardon
To build Orbi Voice’s smart speaker, Netgear tapped Harman Kardon. We all know how awesome Harman Kardon speakers are, and the fact that they helped build Orbi Voice is testament enough for the router/smart speaker’s potential.
Harman Kardon equipped Orbi Voice with a 3.5″ front-facing woofer, a 1″ tweeter, and a bass reflex port for a more pronounced bass. The entire speaker system is wrapped in mesh fabric. What jumps out the most for me is the fact that Orbi Voice’s speakers aren’t omnidirectional like most Alexa-enabled smart speakers. This goes to show that Orbi Voice was designed as a router first and a smart speaker second as routers are more commonly placed in corners rather than in the center of the room. Nonetheless, Orbi Voice can easily fill a room with sound thanks to its powerful speaker system.
Unfortunately, while Orbi Voice can play music from streaming services such as Amazon Music, Spotify, and iHeartRadio, it’s not a Bluetooth speaker so it can’t stream music from your phone.
The Voice Assistant, Alexa
Netgear provides the Wi-Fi, Harman Kardon the audio, and finally, Amazon brings the AI, Alexa. With access to Alexa and thousands of Alexa Skills, Orbi Voice provides not just Wi-Fi and good audio but also a superb smart home experience.
Of course, Orbi Voice can only do as much as any smart speaker: answer questions, create reminders, set an alarm, control smart home devices, stream music, etc. Orbi Voice’s advantage comes from the fact that it’s a mesh router and smart speaker in a single device.
Like most Alexa-devices, Orbi Voice features buttons and an indicator light that lights up when Alexa is listening. There’s a microphone mute button, speaker mute button, and power button as well as a volume control slider around one edge of the device.
So here’s what I think about Orbi Voice: It’s a well-built device thanks to the combined effort of Netgear, Harman Kardon, and Amazon. Is it a necessity? No, it’s not. It’s expensive and it doesn’t function out of the box unless you already have an Orbi mesh system. However, it’s a worthy addition to your home if you’re a fan of both Orbi and Alexa.
UPDATE 2/14/2019: It’s worth noting that Amazon recently acquired Eero, one of Orbi’s fiercest competitors. What this means for Eero’s mesh router lineup is still unknown, but an Alexa-enabled router is certainly a possibility.
Photo Credit: Netgear