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Circle on Orbi offers same great protection at a price

by Philip Sellers

I’ve used Circle for several years now and since I adopted Netgear Orbi as my home Wi-Fi, I decided to transition directly to the embedded Circle protection and away from the original, separate Circle device.  There was no problem running a stand-alone Circle box on the network with the Orbi – But in my mind, why have an additional device?

Circle for Orbi offers the same features as a stand-alone Circle, but the costs differ a bit.  Circle for Orbi is more a freemium model.  It offers some limited functionality for free, but to get feature parity you’ll need to pay for a premium subscription.

Transition – Backup but no Restore

The Circle app has a great backup and restore for your configuration.  I backed up the config on my Circle device, then reset it.  Then I turned on Circle in the Orbi configuration and began the setup from the Circle App.  I attempted to restore my config from the stand-alone Circle onto the Circle for Orbi and it failed every time.

This means that I basically had to start with a fresh configuration and setup all of my circles and devices again.    It was not a big undertaking – most of the config had to do with identifying the MAC addresses of the devices and associating the devices with the correct user profile.

Circle works on the concept of a user profile (or Circle – get it?) that includes the devices for the user.  You can set different filtering controls, time limits, and exceptions on a user.  All of these settings had to be rebuilt.  All-in-all, it took about a week to work out all the kinks to get it back to ‘normal.’

Subscriptions with Circle for Orbi

Circle for Orbi only offers a basic set of free functionality.  Unlike the Circle device, you lose many of the advanced features unless you subscribe to Circle Premium for Orbi, a $4.99 subscription.   The basic features are limited to the internet filter, viewing history and the ability to pause Internet for a particular user.

Premium features like Bed Times, Time Limits and integrations all require the Premium subscription (link shows full details on Netgear website).   To me, these are the features that everyone using Circle will want.  The basic features can be accomplished with free services like OpenDNS (aka Cisco Umbrella) to filter out bad sites or content that you do not want your kids to access.

If you need or want the Circle Go functionality you will need a separate $4.99 per month subscription.  That cost is the same as with an original Circle.  Circle Go enables Mobile Device Management (MDM) for your children’s devices.  All of their traffic is sent back to the home over a VPN.  This means not only are your filters enforced, it also enforces time limits, bedtimes and all other settings.   The MDM features are limited to setting the VPN and forcing it on while the phone is on cellular service.  Unlike other MDM parental control solutions, all of the other features are set within the Circle.

So, if you want all the Circle features and control on the go, you’ll be paying $8.98 per month with Circle for Orbi, versus $4.99 per month with an original Circle device.   With an already pricey Wi-Fi router, this additional cost will mean most people do not adopt Circle.  I’m a big believer in their product, but I would much rather have a one-time fee we could pay for lifetime access to the Premium features.

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