Netgear’s smart speaker, mesh WiFi “Orbi Voice” combo arrives

Having a smart speaker system is only one part of the smart home, and a decent network is definitely needed to bring it all together. Is there a solution that does both?

As our homes start to make the conversion from being a basic home to something far more net connected and web savvy, you have to start asking yourself what devices you will definitely need.

The revolution that is the “Internet of Things” will bring web connectivity to pretty much every device in the home, making the TV connected, sending the air conditioner online, security, lights, and more, but at one point, you have to seriously ask yourself if some of these gadgets can be folded into each other.

Simply put, can you get some devices doing more than one job, so you can possibly save on power, or at the very least, power points?

The answer is yes, but it may take some time. We’re seeing the first roll up right around now, however, as Netgear takes its mesh networking technology and marries it with a smart speaker, providing a way to boost the home WiFi and let you talk to the speaker to control aspects of your home.

That’s the idea in the Orbi Voice, a take on Netgear’s Orbi mesh networking products, which create a strengthened network by setting up points where data can be sent through around the home, instead of just having one centralised router doing all the heavy lifting.

Orbi Voice switches the idea up by integrating a speaker from Harmon Kardon, complete with smart controls by Amazon Alexa. That essentially makes it an Amazon Echo with potentially better sound inside of a device that can improve your home WiFi, making it a convergence device for your home network with those smarts many are beginning to adopt in a smart speaker.

“The two fastest growing consumer trends for Smart Home technology have been the popularity of the voice assistant control and the growth of WiFi mesh systems,” said David Henry, Senior Vice President of Netgear’s Connected Home Products.

“Orbi Voice is the result of combining the three key technologies used in the Smart Home environment in order to deliver both exceptional WiFi and quality sound from our audio technology partner Harman Kardon,” he said.

“It is also widely known that the most popular skill employed with smart speakers is to enjoy streaming music services. To address this need, we have taken our expertise in WiFi and married it with a legend in the industry, Harman Kardon, to deliver superior sound quality while aligning with the leading providers of streaming music to give our customers the best WiFi and HiFi in one package.”

From the Orbi mesh networking point of view, the speaker is designed to work with an Orbi system such as its tri-band mesh products, but just in case you don’t have one, the Orbi Voice will come with in a package a WiFi satellite to make the Orbi connection known.

As previously found in our review of Orbi, the concept is a little different from other mesh networking products which are typically smaller and rely on three points of networking activity. Orbi instead adopts two — the main part next to the phone, cable, or fibre line at the modem — and then another point on the other end of the home where WiFi is harder to find.

The idea creates what is basically a Venn diagram of wireless networking activity, giving you reach in your home, but with several wired networking points, too.

That concept is still part of the Orbi Voice speaker system, though the speaker is a new addition, adopting a Harman speaker with voice control, allowing you to talk to it and here music services through Amazon Music, Spotify, and hopefully Apple Music once Amazon and Apple sort out the international licensing issues.

You’ll find this one in stores very shortly, with the Orbi Mesh WiFi system (RBK50V) coming with both Orbi WiFi satellite and Orbi Voice smart speaker for $799, while a singular Orbi Voice speaker with the mesh satellite inside (RBS40V) can be found by itself for $499.

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