Review: Netgear Nighthawk X10 packs a speed punch, has nice add-on features

Future-proof your network (802.11ad, VR gaming) with this powerful home router

At a Glance
  • NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 - AD7200 802.11ac/ad Quad-Stream MU-MIMO WiFi Router with 1.7GHz Quad-core Processor & Plex Media Server (R9000-100NAS)

How many years have gone by since you’ve upgraded your Wi-Fi router? If it’s been a few years and you want to also future-proof the network for upcoming technologies, a router on your short list should be Netgear’s Nighthawk X10 (model R9000, $499.99).

The X10 not only has very fast dual-band (5GHz and 2.4 GHz) networking, but it also adds 802.11ad (60GHz) support, which provides for very fast data transfer rates over very short distances. This can be perfect for transferring large amounts of files over your LAN (such as between computers or a centralized storage device). Netgear also says that VR gaming will benefit from 802.11ad technologies (for when the headsets go wireless and need a high-speed connection to the PC from the headset) in the future. MU-MIMO technology is also supported, which maintains high data transfers when multiple-devices are also trying to do things on the network (such as stream video).

netgear nighthawk x10 Netgear

We recently tested the Nighthawk X10 on our network and found it to be a powerful Wi-Fi router. Not only did it provide us with fast data transfer rates in our different locations, but its add-on features were quite unique and helpful to us in our home network setup.

One such example – the X10 features six Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports on the back of the unit, while most standard Wi-Fi routers only include 4 LAN ports. If you’re an Ethernet device type of person, the additional ports should make you smile. Other features include Amazon cloud backup (new users can get a six-month free trial) that lets you back up a connected USB storage drive to the cloud service, and parental controls options.

Setup can be done traditionally (by connecting to the router via a web browser), or you can use Netgear’s new Up installation app (iOS and Android supported). It’s possible I was using an early version of the app, because it was horrible. The app tried to connect to the router’s predetermined Wi-Fi name and password – after it found it I got an “Internet Status: Not Connected” message, with no way to force the router to refresh to try and re-connect. It wasn’t until I connected to the network with my computer and browser (through Netgear’s” that I could proceed with setup. I hope Netgear fixes this for people who prefer to set up routers via app.

Once connected via the browser, I could update the router’s firmware (very helpful due to some recent reports on router vulnerabilities on Netgear routers), then change the device’s Wi-Fi name and password. The X10 can be accessed through Netgear’s Genie app (on mobile and PCs), so if you you’ve used this app with other Netgear routers, everything should look familiar.

802.11ad testing – great speed, small distance

Like the , the Nighthawk X10 includes 802.11ad support – networking over the 60GHz frequency. This allows for very fast data transfer speeds, but over a very short distance. Netgear provided us with a Windows notebook that includes an 802.11ad wireless adapter – the Acer TravelMate P in order to see how fast it could transfer data over 802.11ad.

In our three locations where we do our Wi-Fi router unscientific tests, the client could only connect to the 802.11ad network from the first location (in the same room, about 6 feet away from the router). Even at this short distance, the signal strength indicator on Windows only gave us a 3-bar connection (usually we get 5 bars for all of our Wi-Fi tests). In Locations 2 and 3, the notebook couldn’t locate the network. However, for location #2, we moved slightly closer to the router and into a line-of-sight position, and we were able to connect.

At Location #1, we were able to achieve a data transfer rate of about 278 Mbps, blazingly fast compared with our tests over the 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz networks. At Location 2a (a bit closer and within a line-of-sight of the router), we achieved 275 Mbps of transfer speed on average. The big problem, of course, is obstacles, walls and distance with 802.11ad.

For the other two networks (the more traditional 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz frequencies), the X10 still showed great performance. The X10’s ability to maintain a 75+ Mbps data rate from the far edge of the house was quite impressive, even though it was the only device on the network.

netgear nighthawkx10 router Network World

To test the MU-MIMO functionality, I streamed video from three different sources (Netflix, YouTube, the local NAS box) from three different locations (close to the router, midway in the house and from the far edge) on three different devices (iPad mini, iMac, iPhone 6S).

netgear nighthawkx10 mu mimo Network World

Like the earlier tests, speeds did go down the further away I got from the router. There was some slowdown due to the extra traffic on the network, but it wasn’t so significant to cause any problems on any of the streams (all still worked).

Plex support – let’s play some multimedia!

A unique feature of this router is its support of the Plex Media Server. Plex is a service that helps you aggregate media content from different sources (videos, music, photos, etc.) and play them on devices across your local network (and when you’re not local, if you’re traveling). What’s cool is that the Plex Media Server can run from a USB hard drive connected to the router. Other options for Plex Media Server are having it run on a separate computer that always has to remain powered on, or through a special NAS box. The only downside to this at the moment is that the Plex Media Server support only supports the USB-connected drive. My non-supported NAS device (where a majority of my media is stored) couldn’t take advantage of this router option (for now – as I’m hoping that an update will support my older NAS box).

With the Plex Media Server up and running, other devices on the network (phones, computers, Internet TV boxes) can play the media content on their own devices (after you download and configure the Plex app, of course).

netgear nighthawk x10 back view Netgear

Bottom line: The very nice speeds of the 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz frequencies make this a worthy router if you haven’t upgraded to 802.11ac yet. If you are experiencing slowdowns due to multiple devices all competing for the same network bandwidth, the MU-MIMO functionality is also very nice. The 802.11ad support is great for high-file size data transfers within the same room, and is also a nice future-proofing feature (if we ever see additional 802.11ad clients or hardware). Finally, the Plex Media Server support was another nice add-on, although I’m also hoping for NAS box support.

Grade: 5 stars (out of five)

At a Glance
  • NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 - AD7200 802.11ac/ad Quad-Stream MU-MIMO WiFi Router with 1.7GHz Quad-core Processor & Plex Media Server (R9000-100NAS)

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