Netgear Orbi Voice: a Smart Speaker, Mesh Router that Just Misses the Mark
Netgear has launched Orbi Voice at IFA 2018, combining all the best parts of an Amazon Alexa speaker and mesh router that has good intentions but doesn't quite hit the aesthetic mark.
As far as mesh routers go, Netgear has been an industry darling with their Orbi line. It is fast, super functional, and solves a lot of the friction of setting up a home network. More importantly, the Orbi line began to redefine how the consumer electronics industry thought about routers. No longer were brutish pieces of technology being thrown in cabinets or hidden behind a couch, defeating the purpose of the signal reproduction, and causing headaches from unknowing consumers.
Orbi was one of the first routers not only to begin utilizing the industry-leading mesh network protocol, it looked damn good doing it. The otherwise off-white ovoid shaped routers were actually delightful and clean to look it. It obviously screamed that it was a piece of technology, but it had an Apple-esque aesthetic that let it sit on any countertop without clashing with the design of a room.
Which makes the new cloth-covered Orbi Voice a bit of a departure from that ideology. Candidly speaking, the Orbi Voice has set a new standard in how consumers will begin to think about what other obscure pieces of technology should be talking to them, but there was something to be said about how dashing the first iteration ended up being.
This version doesn't quite hit that mark.
But there will certainly be a market for the new speaker, as the partnership with Harman Kardon means that speaker will definitely sound satisfying. A one-inch tweeter and a 3.5inch woofer support a bass reflex port that should produce a surprising amount of noise, without overwhelming the bass thanks to the way it will bounce off the bottom fins. Soft buttons on the top of the speaker showcase the usual suspect of mute, volume, and Bluetooth controls with a few scattered LED's to show if the Alexa or the WiFi are currently enabled. The tri-band mesh router will support a 2.2Gbps speed, offering two Ethernet ports to any devices a consumer may want to hardwire to the internet.
There really is something to be said about the Netgear Orbi Voice as it encapsulates the IFA 2018 show. It shows that companies aren't afraid to try something new, and this certainly defines a niche-product. It also has an intangible benefit of encouraging the router to take up counter space, indirectly increasing the effectiveness of the signal, and producing a better experience for consumers.
It may not be the prettiest speaker on the market but at $300 - $429 with a bundled hub - it will certainly be the most functional.