At the end of last year the Netgear Nighthawk X10 was released. It boasts PLEX smarts as well as being the industry’s first 802.11ad router. I have been putting it through its paces at Gadgety HQ.
Let’s kick off with giving 802.11ad a proper mention. There’s not much kit out there that can use it, but it’s always nice to be a step ahead of the game.
There’s also the standard 2.4GHz B/G/N and 5GHz AC wireless. Not only that though, it also has access to the 60GHz band which, theoretically allows it to deliver up to 7Gb/s of bandwidth across all three bands, hence the AD7200 claim.
Nighthawk X10 design
The Nighthawk X10 router continues with the Netgear angular, stealth-inspired networking kit.
You want more lights?
How about a row of blue LEDs going up either side of the antennas? Yeah, you got them. Personally, I love them. How can you not love blue LEDs? I suppose an on/off switch might be handy if you have to sleep in the same room as your router. You can control these via the software, should you need to though.
The white LEDs are quite bright. The blue ones I don’t think would trouble me sleeping.
Ports 1 and 2 can be run in Aggregate Mode to combine throughput for double speed – just the job for my QNAP NAS.
The Nighthawk X10 isn’t aimed at the ‘average’ household though. This is why it is packing 10-gigabit support – a first for domestic routers. That’s basically 10-times faster than anything you’ll find integrated on your gaming motherboard.
The Netgear X10’s 10Gbit port is a SFP+ port (small form factor pluggable transceiver – if that helps). Basically, you’ll need special cable like this and a module or compatible hardware at the other side. It does, however, mean you’ll have access to plenty much bandwidth!
So, if you have a 10Gbit capable NAS then you’ll have super-silky-smooth streaming.
There’s also a pair of USB 3.0 ports on the left side as you look at it. These can take portable drives which can then be magically made in to Plex servers by the X10.
Nighthawk X10 performance
The Nighthawk X10 has it all on paper. It supports Wave 2 MU-MIMO for up to four devices on the B/G/N/AC bands, and just one stream for 802.11ad. Since this is a Wave 2 device, it also supports the 160MHz channel as well.
It’s a tri-band router and can dish out up to 800Mb/s on its 2.4GHz band, up to 1,733Mb/s on its 5GHz band, and up to 4,600Mb/s on its 60GHz band. Netgear is rounding up a bit, but those three combined equal the 7,133Mb/s so it’s advertised as an AD7200 router.
Nighthawk X10 set up
The Nighthawk X10’s software looks very much like previous-gen devices, so if you’ve ever seen Netgear’s admin interface it before, it will look familiar.
Personally, I used the mobile app to set-up as my router lives downstairs and my PC is upstairs. Using the app saves me from having to sprint between floors should I need to do something with the router. It also means that my powerline adapters can be taken out of the equation if there are connectivity issues.
The Netgear Up app wizard is extremely easy to use.
The desktop software is the same Netgear management tool as always. It is clear but it might be time for them to give it a little refresh.
It’s not that it doesn’t work, it’s just that it looks a little dated when compared to their mobile apps.
Of all the features of the X10, the one that stands out is the last in the sidebar list: PLEX Media Server.
It’s the first router to offer this functionality without the aid of another device. You simply have to enable it and connect a USB Drive with some content on it.
After that, all you have to do is fire it up.
The interface looks essentially the same on any device too, whether it’s a phone, tablet, or in a browser.
The ReadySHARE section lets you set up a NAS-alike by attaching an external USB drive to one of the two USB 3.0 ports, then accessing it locally or remotely.
This is on a scrollable list, rather than flicking through the pages of the mobile app.
Port aggregation is always a plus point for me as my QNAP NAS is fitted with a pair of connections for this very purpose. Unfortunately, I don’t have the kit to take advantage of the X10’s 10G connection. The same goes for the 60G band.
This might seem like a bad thing right now, but just because I haven’t got the bleeding-edge kit right now, this router is just about as future-proofed as you’re going to get right now.
As far as 5GHz performance goes the Netgear Nighthawk X10 is easily the fastest router we’ve tested, by a decent margin too.
I didn’t think that I’d see much difference but on wired connection there was still a bump in performance, even through my powerline plugs.
Even over Wi-Fi you can see the speeds have increased. The tests in January are with my usual router, whereas the latest ones are with the X10. Again, no laughing. I can actually get better speeds with 4G most of the time but at least the X10 is really squeezing everything it can from my ADSL line.
Having an aggregated connection with two of the LAN ports means that my NAS can work more efficiently.
Speeds are good, allowing for swift uploading and downloading of media – usually FLAC music files. As you can probably work out for yourselves, the Resource Monitor is looking at both LAN ports on the QNAP NAS.
So, we all expected a speedy router and that’s what you get – it won’t make a shoddy service better, but it will eek out what it can.
But, apart from that, it has to be the PLEX skills that set the X10 apart from the rest. In fact, the Nighthawk X10 is that it is the first router with a built-in PLEX Media Server.
So, if you don’t have a NAS to feed it media or power the transcoding process, that’s not a problem. As the X10 has a potent Annapurna 1.7GHz quad-core SoC, this can take care of the heavy lifting and is capable of transcoding 4k video all on its own.
Just attach some some sort of external USB storage to host the media, and you’re golden.
I must just mention that the PLEX service is not free. Netgear does include a 3-month PLEX Pass with the router but you will have to cough-up the cash at some point. I think it must be PLEX but, after spending so much on this router, I think a 12 month pass would’ve sweetened the deal.
What is 802.11ad anyhow?
Let’s start by clearing one thing up. This is not the successor to 802.11ac. What you have here is a different type of wireless technology that is ridiculously fast. Like most sprinters, it’s best over short distances, though.
802.11ad, or WiGig as its also known, actually offers excellent range and low-latency in open spaces and with line-of-site connections.
Now, packing this tech makes perfect sense when bundled with the PLEX server smarts. You see, we all know that there’s less congestion on the 5GHz band compared to 2.4GHz, right? Well, there’s pretty much no clutter on the 60GHz band at the moment.
This makes it an ideal pathway for high-definition content. Thus the X10 is being marketed as the best router for wireless streaming of 4K content as well as VR gaming – as long as you’ve got the kit.
The antennas also help. The X10 has active antennas, where the amplifiers are on the antenna themselves. This router features four non-removable units, and they have blue activity LEDs on them. Add in that nippy CPU and it’s quite a package.
Netgear Nighthawk X10 review conclusion
Well, it is certainly a beast. The spec sheet alone is enough to get me slightly weak at the knees. So does the price, to be fair.
As I said earlier, this is not a router for everyone. If you’re kitted out with storage, as well as hi-res media hungry consumers, then I doubt you could do better.
The 1.7GHz quad core processor and 7.2Gps Wi-Fi speeds are definitely tempting. Throw in its PLEX server and 4K streaming skills, as well as its ability to handle 20 devices at a time, it will be more than enough for most.
We loved the X8 but want to elope with the X10.
Netgear Nighthawk X10 price and availability
You can grab one now from Amazon.co.uk for £360.