For as long as there have been Wi-Fi routers, setting up Wi-Fi has been pretty much the same. You buy a router at the store, plug it into your modem, and that’s it. Wi-Fi may even be built into your modem in the first place.
But increasingly, it’s looking like the future of Wi-Fi involves not one, but two or more routers scattered around your home as a way to provide a better signal. The idea has been catching on over the past year, and today, one of the biggest names in home routers is jumping into the game.
That’s Netgear, which is introducing a multi-unit router called Orbi. Netgear likes to call Orbi a “Wi-Fi system,” rather than a router, because it’s technically a combination of router, range extender, and some software that makes it all work seamlessly together. Whatever you call it, the end result is a single Wi-Fi network that’s supposed to be capable of blanketing 4,000 square feet of space and providing a strong and fast Wi-Fi signal to every corner of it.
Orbi consists of two units. There’s the main router, which, as always, gets plugged into your modem. And then there’s the secondary unit, which Netgear asks you to place somewhere “central” in your home. It even hopes that you’ll leave it out in the open on a table or a shelf, since that’s likely to provide better signal than if you stash it in a corner or a closet. It’s this second unit that’s supposed to let your Wi-Fi signal get to the far corners of your house that it’s never been able to reach before. Netgear says it even expects people to get Wi-Fi out in the yard.