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Jul 12 2017

Bad Wifi: Netgear releases Orbi 1.12.0.18 update that keeps disconnecting your devices

Despite an initial rough start with the NetGear Orbi Home Wifi System I’ve been a big fan of it up until today. The reason I bought the Orbi was because I kept having wifi drops in some areas of my house with my Asus RT-AC87U router due to it’s placement. I play a lot of online games like Clash of Clans and if you know CoC the dreaded wifi symbol while you are playing is not something you want to see. That symbol means your connection sucks and you are about to get dropped, I would get that frequently with my Asus router at the far end of my house. Once I had Orbi up and running my wifi problems were completely gone for 7 months, until today.

Netgear pushed out a 1.12.0.18 update to my router and satellite last night and today I awoke to constant and frequent disconnects on both my iPad Air 2 and Galaxy S7 Edge. I could literally not go a minute without a disconnect. I called their support who was basically useless, they said to enable Implicit Beamforming which has been disabled by default many updates ago because of issues it caused with some devices. I tried that anyway and it seemed to help a little with the iPad but not the Galaxy S7.

Ironically Netgear had a big focus on fixing wifi disconnects with this update which has apparently plagued them from the beginning, read the Netgear forums and there are lots of threads on this issue like this one and this one. They also have problems with the Orbi losing connection to your internet device (i.e. cable modem), I also experience this frequently as well, the only fix is to reboot the cable modem. Most of the updates up until now have not really done all that much, this one had a lot of big fixes as seen below:

  • Fixes the iOS disconnection issue.
  • Fixes the Dropcam disconnection issue.
  • Fixes the convergence issue when an Ethernet connected device moves from one Orbi to another.
  • Fixes the issue where the Orbi app can’t find the Orbi router if the router is using IPv6 and is in AP mode.
  • Fixes the issue where the Orbi app can’t display more than 20 connected devices.
  • Fixes the issue where the installation assistant might not display if the device is connected to the Orbi network wirelessly.
  • Fixes the issue where the 2.4 GHz backhaul setting is disabled if the fronthaul MU-MIMO and TxBF is disabled.
  • Fixes the issue where IPv6 devices on the guest network can access the Orbi router’s web GUI.
  • Includes security fixes for the following security vulnerabilities:PSV-2016-0133, PSV-2017-0607, PSV-2017-0615, PSV-2017-0736, PSV-2017-2190

So an update that supposedly fixes disconnect issues (which I never experienced) does the opposite and starts causing them instead. Thank you Netgear for breaking my perfectly wonderful wifi system. Apparently their engineering team has been spending most of their time introducing new Orbi devices and not spending much time refining their current firmware.

I ended up downgrading both my router and satellite to the prior version which is 1.11.0.20 which has been working perfectly. In fact I have never had an issue with an Orbi update until now, I’m beginning to suspect the reason why is that they haven’t really done much with any of their 11 updates up until this one. Look at their typical release notes for the last 3 updates:

  • 1.10.1.2 – Fixed few bugs
  • 1.9.1.2 – Fixes bugs and security issues. – Improves the firmware upgrade process. – Continuous improvement in wireless connection stability
  • 1.8.0.6 – Fixes bugs and security issues. – Supports Korea wireless region

Now that they have finally starting to pay attention to some of the serious issues that Orbi has had they have apparently tried to fix some things and broke other things. At this stage with this new update I’m not going to update past 1.11.0.20 until Netgear gets their act together which is a shame as I will be missing out on potentially other fixes and enhancements. I loved my Orbi up until today and just yesterday was recommending it to people. However after this update dropped I will not recommend it anymore and may just end up migrating to one of the competing systems from Ubiquiti, Google and Eero which is a shame as Netgear had a good thing going with Orbi. Ultimately it comes down to what works best for me and if Orbi can no longer deliver that anymore than it’s adios amigo.

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