Netgear is a company that has been innovating networking products for home users and businesses for many years. They make connecting with people easy and improve with each new release. They even boast of having the world’s fastest router, both for streamers and gamers alike. Today we will be looking at the Nighthawk X10.
I have reviewed quite a bit of 802.11 routers lately including Mesh networking systems and newer tri-band routers. With the release of the Nighthawk x10 though, this is something new to the industry as it is the first 802.11ad router. The big fuss about 802.11ad is it offers 2.4GHZ & 5GHZ AC wireless but it can also operate on a 60GHz band, This can theoretically deliver up to 7GBs across all three. Let’s see if the new ad technology can help deliver real world performance improvements over Wireless AC technology.
The specifications are as follows:
- Wi-Fi SPEED- 7.2 Gbps
- TECHNOLOGY- 802.11ac + 802.11ad
- NUMBER OF PORTS- Seven (7) 10/100/1000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet ports
Two (2) USB 3.0 ports
- PROCESSOR SPEEDS- 1.7GHz Quad Core
- NUMBER OF DEVICES- 20+ Devices
- KEY FEATURES – Plex Media Server
Amazon Drive Cloud Backup
High-Performace Active Antennas
Why choose the Nighthawk x10?
Here is the major rundown on the x10. It is the world’s first ad router, but not too many devices take advantage of this technology yet but companies are adopting the technology rapidly. This router is going to be ideal for 4k streaming, hosting media, and of course gaming. With technology like Quad-stream architecture and MU-MIMO, you can expect maximum range and throughput for all your network devices. If you simply want the latest technology, then this router is for you.
The Nighthawk x10 as a product fits into the expensive category but is packaged accordingly for a premium product. The box is enormous and doesn’t hesitate with their advertising to boast they are the best. You can see ” Ultimate 4k Streaming & VR Gaming” right on the front. This is the largest router box I have ever unboxed.
Further unboxing shows under the lid more information about your rear ports and the features the router offers you. One of the biggest features of this router is it offers a plex media server built in and Netgear also offers 3-months of plex pass so you can enjoy your content on the go. Removing the packaging sleeve altogether shows a very shiny box with a rainbow effect and large printing of “Nighthawk x10”.
I think by now you get it and they are trying to prove a point. Opening the box displays your accessory boxes and the very first one says ” Fast Wi-Fi Starts Here!”.
The included accessories are as follows:
- Nighthawk x10 router
- Setup documentation and warranty information
- AC power plug for the x10
- Famous yellow Netgear Ethernet patch cable
I can say from at least removing everything from the packaging that this product seems sturdy and well presented. One of the more smaller things that caught my eye was the Do More booklet. It offers tips and suggestions for getting the most out of your x10. This book also gives you a spot to store your SSID, password, mac address, and serial for easy recovery later on. Small things like this can really make a product stand out.
If there is anything lacking from this router it isn’t the design. This is the best looking and heaviest router I have ever reviewed. This router is built like a tank! The front of the router has white LEDs to represent connected devices and activity. The entire frame was designed for ventilation and easy access to all your ports.
The x10 is the world’s fastest router and not just because of wireless ad technology. It has 4 CPU cores and 4x the capacity of any router on the market. The CPU inside is clocked at 1.7 GHz and can support the PLEX media server, VR gaming and lag free 4k streaming.
The x10 actually has active cooling inside with small fans to support both proper thermal transfer for the CPU and keep the unit cool when under heavy loads.
Being wireless ad makes this the world’s fastest router to date, but while this is fantastic to offer newer technology there are not a lot of 802.11ad equipped devices to test the advantages. 2017 should bring interesting competition and hopefully more devices with 802.11 ad. At the time of this review, I’m only aware of a few laptops that have ad built in. Technology like wireless ad is not the successor to wireless ac but instead a special technology built for better speed, range, and lower latency for high bandwidth streams.
One of the main reasons I feel like Netgear chose ad for the x10 is because of the powerful CPU and plex media streaming included with the router. This can all be accomplished without any high-end NAS gear and reduce the load of devices on your network. In order to handle 4k streaming you really need a superior network capable of handling bandwidth and a device even capable of transcoding the content. Having the 60GHz band available for 4k streaming is ideal because there is very little interference and it makes an ideal solution for your PLEX streaming.
In order to achieve the best wireless performance of any router, you need to offer the latest technology. Feeding that CPU are 4 active antennas and they have built in amplifiers. The antennas offer blue activity LEDs and are not removable. The x10 supports wave 2 MU-MIMO for up to four devices on each band up to ac, and only one for the ad band. Being wave two this will officially support 160MHz channels. MU-MIMO will essentially double your network performance and allow simultaneous streaming across all your bands. With the powerful 1.7GHz quade-core CPU and quad stream architecture your wireless speeds can go up to 7.2Gbps.
The back of the router has six Gigabit LAN ports and your uplink port for your modem. If you’re not one for a fancy light show you can also disable the LEDs with the LED on/off switch. One major advantage of this router is ports 1 & 2 can be set for port aggregate. This is going to be ideal for certain switches or NAS devices that support it. Port aggregation allows you to combine two ethernet ports together to increase file transfer speed and throughput.
If you have the luxury of having 10G Lan speeds then your going to drool over the built-in 10G LAN SFP port. This port offers full duplex for LAN and can connect to an SFP+ enabled switch for the ultimate LAN connection speeds. 10 Gigabit Ethernet is “NOT” going to be common for most users here, but if a company had a 10Gb connection they could take advantage of this over their network.
The side of the x10 offers two full USB 3.0 ports. This will allow you to connect multiple USB drives or printers to your x10 offering easy network sharing to all your connected devices.
Now that we had an overview of what makes the x10 so powerful let’s look at how easy it is to setup.
Testing & Setup
This is not a tutorial on how to configure networks but I will go over some basic setup information to get you started. If you are already familiar with Netgear’s ecosystem then you should have no issues setting up your devices to the x10. There are no major changes here to their setup process.
Setup for the x10 is extremely easy and can be done in a few ways. You can manually log into the router and configure it through the web interface or use Netgear’s mobile app Netgear UP. The first thing you see when you log in is to set up your admin password and select your secret questions in case you forget your password.
Netgear UP is a new app that offers a quicker way to set up wireless from your phone. UP allows the most helpful information about your router like Wi-Fi passwords and saved settings all at your fingertips. My favorite part is the ability to update FIRMWARE instantly through the app.
The next screen allows you to download helpful tools Netgear offers. The genie app is useful for monitoring your network devices from your mobile phone, and Readyshare allows continuous backups from the connected USB devices to your router.
Be sure to also have the latest version of firmware for your router. This is imperative to support the latest ad improvements and any security issues and fixes Netgear has found. It’s always key for best performance to make sure you have the latest firmware for your router. The apps listed are obsolete to Netgear UP, so I would suggest to use Netgear UP, and ignore downloading the older apps.
Once you’re finished setting up you can configure the device further to best support your environment. Thel links above are just handy for some information on the router and some of its features.
One you’re in the main interface of the router you can configure just about anything to your heart’s content. Some important things to change first would be your router’s default admin password and configure your SSID and Network key to your desired values. Also, I don’t suggest enabling WPS as it isn’t secure and can be hacked extremely easy with free tools. If possible I would suggest disabling WPS altogether.
The two new features with the x10 are going to be the “Downloader BETA” and PLEX Media tab.
The BETA feature of the x10 is called Netgear Downloader and is designed for torrents and attaching files to your attached storage. There isn’t too much information available yet for this as it’s still in a BETA phase.
One of the best features of the x10 is the PLEX Media Server which is built into the firmware interface. You will want to connect a USB device as your main storage access point and once that is done you can connect the content there to be streamed over the PLEX Server.
Testing networking devices can be extremely difficult, especially when you take Wi-Fi into consideration. You have too many variables like distance, LAN speed, interference, and latency. In order to tell if a product is a good fit for your environment, you have to consider placement of your networking equipment. Also, it’s important also consider how many devices can be connected at one time before bandwidth congestion occurs. Testing here will vary and you may not see similar results even with similar hardware. You also are going to be limited by your internet providers download and upload speeds for your network unless you’re transferring files between two devices on your LAN. This is critical for understanding internet speeds vs LAN speeds.
I’m going to test the x10 in a number of ways including Wi-Fi latency while gaming, LAN speeds, and normal speed tests. I have to also point out specifically these will be wireless ac tests, not ad because I have no ad devices to test against. I can update my tests once I get my hands on some ad adapters or notebooks. The wireless ad standard is where the x10 will shine but it backward compatible with all wireless standards, but let’s be clear here you will want this type of router for connecting multiple devices and good network gaming performance with a low ping.
My test bench is as follows:
- ViewSonic XG2703-GS Monitor
- Motherboard- Asus ROG STRIX Z270G mATX
- CPU: Intel Core I7 6700K
- Network Card- Netgear AC 1200 (USB 3.0)
- Router- Netgear Nighthawk x10
- Cooler- Cooler Master Master Liquid 240
- Memory- Corsair LPX DDR4 3000 MHz
- Video Card: Nvidia GTX 1060
- Storage- MyDigital SSD BPX 480 GB NVMe x2 RAID 0 Drives (Boot)
- Power Supply- Corsair RM650X
- OS: Windows 10 x64 Pro
- Mouse- Logitech G403 Wireless Gaming Mouse
- Keyboard- Logitech G413
- Headphones- Logitech G533 7.1 Surround Sound Wireless Headset
My main gaming PC and test systems are about 15ft away from the router in another room. So it is no surprise that my signal strength (dBm) is above 90% on the 5GHz channel. I used Gamefirst IV’S Wi-Fi Analyze from Asus which has some decent networking tools and statistics built into the software. I will be showing a speed test from both this PC and my iPhone 7 Plus which will be much farther away to show the loss in speed over Wi-Fi due to distance.
From my main test system, you can see total download hovers on average around 35Mbps, and My Upload is just above 6Mbps. This is basically my internet speed which is what I’m limited by for download and upload speeds.
Above is the speed test for my test system and it has a ping of 24ms. You have been conditioned to think gaming over Wi-Fi isn’t an option but using the latest Wi-Fi technology I will show you it’s totally doable in the video later on. Having a wired connection will always be your best option but not every has that luxury for a multitude of reasons.
The connection point of my LAN speed between my test system and the router shows 866.7Mbps. This is how fast theoretically I should be able to transfer files between different devices on the network and how fast each device can communicate with each other over the LAN.
The iperf test above shows a bandwidth copy test between different devices and is right around where I would expect it to be with the given LAN speed shown above between the router and my test system.
Above is the speed test from myiPhone 7 plus. My home is roughly 1500 sq ft and has two floors. To see any real word Wi-Fi speed loss from distance I had to go about 600 ft away from the router. Even at this distance, the loss wasn’t significant which means the active antennas are doing a great job, and I have very little interference on my active 5Ghz channel. At just over 600 ft I still had 26.16 Mbps download speed. Going past 300 ft you would think there would be a little loss and even more as you go further but I was surprised at how well my speed persisted at this distance.
Above you can see Blizzards Hero’s of the Storm. This game requires a decent connection and has to register tons of clicks and keys over the network. It’s fast paced and a good test to represent latency from a Wi-Fi connection. The game above was played over Wi-Fi on the 5Ghz channel. I maintained 23ms ping time through my entire game with no lag. I used a program called Simple Ping to monitor the games ping times with an in-game overlay. One fo the drawbacks of this program is some games need to run in windowed mode rather than fullscreen. There is a strange spike at the end of the game but I didn’t notice any issues from it. I believe it was just due to increased traffic from switching between the victory screen and the game summary scoreboard.
The Netgear Nighthawk x10 is superior to any router I’ve tested to date. It’s just a shame I didn’t have any wireless ad devices to test as this could show the true potential of this router. The x10 has an abundance of configuration options and offers excellent speed for anyone who wants the best of the best. Having the built in PLEX server is an added bonus but all this comes at a cost. The biggest issue with the x10 is going to be the price for most people.
Setting up the x10 is extremely easy and hassle free. The new Netgear Up app makes it even easier with setting up your Netgear devices over a mobile device. With my testing above you can expect a superior network over Wi-Fi and LAN with excellent speeds. You have to really take into consideration what will work for you when purchasing network equipment. Also, there are new devices that also use mesh networking compared to say one expensive router like this, even though the range is good. Someone with a larger home than me or needs maximum coverage might want to consider a mesh networking with a device like the new Netgear ORBI.
The average home offers a minimum of 11 wireless devices according to Netgear. As the cloud becomes a more dominant solution we still rely heavily on our network performance for streaming and accessing. You can buy the Netgear Nighthawk x10 for $450 on Amazon right now, and I highly recommend this device for anyone who simply needs to have the best. One of the main advantages of this x10 is it will future proof you for many years with the built in ad standard.