Netgear's Orbi line contains some of the most skilled network routers around, and now the line is getting even more interesting. The latest router, Orbi Voice, is also a speaker with built-in microphones and Alexa. That way, you can place it in a room where you want to play music or listen to podcasts and improve the area's Wi-Fi reception at the same time.
There are not many other products that combine a router with something else. I really can not think of anyone, apart from combination routers and modems, since the two products have long set aside anyway. In most cases, it would not make much sense for a router to be combined with anything else.
But network routers are meant to be located around the house to increase a Wi-Fi signal in dead zones. And the more in the router, the better the signal is likely to be ̵
Orbi Voice differs in a typical way from the typical smart speaker: Most of these speakers are designed to provide 360 degree sound, while Orbi is a more traditional speaker, with a woofer and treble in front, as well as a bass reflection port (a chamber to jump around the bass). That means you want to place it against a wall; But as Netgear points out, the device must be powered, so that's where many people will put it anyway.
There are also four microphones and a number of buttons on top to control Alexa. As usual, you can use it to control music playback with voice, view things up and order other smart devices on your network. Netgear says that the speaker will work with Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, iHeartRadio, and several others (including Amazon services, of course). Unfortunately, it does not support simultaneous playback with other speakers, at least at launch.
As a router, it should be quite a good one. It does not match the best of the Orbi series, but it's still a tri-band model. Netgear says it can reach 2.2 Gbps Wi-Fi speeds, and it includes two Ethernet ports.
It's a very interesting product. And while the combination of speaker and router can be a little niche right now, it seems like this device is talking about trends we can see in the future. Why buy a dedicated router when any other product may increase your Wi-Fi connection instead?
Orbi Voice is on sale next month for $ 300. You need an Orbi hub device for it to work. It will also be sold with one of them – the high-end model – for $ 429.
In addition to Orbi Voice, Netgear announces a sequel to its first "pro" game router, Nighthawk XR500. The new model is the XR700, and it offers up to a 7.2Gbps WiG connection. But the bigger deal for players will be its abundance of high-speed Ethernet ports: it has seven gigabit speed ports, as well as a single port that supports speeds up to 10 gigabits. Netgear positions it as a way to connect to the previously announced LAN switch, allowing 15 people to connect with gigabit connections between the two devices.
The router also runs software called DumaOS that contains a variety of customization options as well as control of the distance of servers you connect so that players can make sure they get a stronger connection. It also supports Plex. It's coming for sale next month for $ 500.