The demands placed on our home networks are higher than ever, especially when it comes to gaming. Netgear was arguably one of the first router manufacturers to optimize the networking needed for gaming with its Nighthawk line of routers. Now, it's attempting the same thing with its new line of 6E enabled Orbi mesh routers. The Game Booster service largely resembles the Nighthawk Pro Gaming application used to configure their XR line of gaming routers, with one glaring difference: it requires a subscription.
The Game Booster service for Orbi devices will cost $50 annually, and while this isn’t a massive sum of money, it certainly raises some questions about why Netgear is charging for a service that was previously offered for free on other devices. This decision is made all the more puzzling when you consider how expensive an Orbi system is, with some larger systems costing as much as $1,500.
Netgear states that Game Booster offers more than a simple quality of service (QoS) optimizer. Besides making QoS easier to use, the Game Booster software, much like the Nighthawk Pro Gaming application, provides you with easy-to-read metrics to help you fine-tune your home network.
Game Booster should allow you to prioritize server connectivity based on ping or location, and allow you to allocate and reserve bandwidth for both downloads and uploads on a per-device basis. However, Netgear has stated that this service is not a VPN or meant to replace your VPN.
While many of these features are also present in other services, Game Booster will also include an integrated ad-blocker with a regularly updated block list. The blocker will also allow you to fine-tune which devices and domains are blocked, in addition to providing you with updated metrics on its effectiveness.
Having more granular control over your home network is certainly a good thing, however many of the features offered by this paid service ultimately rely on the assumption of an ideal network environment among other factors. They’re also largely tools that other routers provide for free, or, as in the case of the ad blocker, can be built for a fairly low upfront cost by a savvy user. This all raises some questions as to whether this paid service will be beneficial enough to merit the subscription in addition to the above-average cost of the hardware.
The Game Booster application is set to be available for 750 and 850 series Orbi devices beginning in Q1 2022.