Netgear Nighthawk X10 review



Netgear Nighthawk X10 review

NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 is not a new wireless router, even though it is one of the first on the market to bring support for the 802.11ad wireless standard. However, it is a new wireless router for us, at Digital Citizen, as it is the first time we get the chance to review a wireless router from this company. Nighthawk X10 is a massive wireless router, with impressive hardware, specs, and size. If you want to know about its real-world performance, and whether it is a good fit for you, read our detailed review:

NETGEAR Nighthawk X10: Who is it good for?

NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 is a great choice for the following types of users:
  • Users that want a powerful wireless router that can handle many network clients
  • People that are interested in what the 802.11ad wireless standard has to offer and are willing to invest in it
  • Users who need to connect fast storage solutions to their wireless router

Pros and cons

There are many positives about the NETGEAR Nighthawk X10:
  • Massive, powerful hardware that can handle many network clients
  • Very fast USB 3.0 ports
  • Wireless performance in line with other high-end routers
  • The sharing of USB devices is truly plug-and-play, due to the ReadySHARE feature
  • It has a 10 Gigabit LAN SFP+ port for connecting fast Network Attached Storage (NAS)
  • The basics of the router can be remotely controlled from your smartphone or tablet
  • You can set the router to update its firmware automatically, without your manual intervention
  • It can be mounted on walls
  • It introduces the 802.11ad wireless standard to the market
  • Great multilingual support
There are also negatives to consider:
  • The price is not for everyone
  • Too many lights and LEDs
  • Netgear's mobile app ecosystem is confusing and needs to be simplified and improved
  • The upload speed on the 2.4 GHz band has some weird fluctuations/drops
  • The Bitdefender antivirus integration should be available for this premium model too
PRODUCT RATED
4/5

Verdict

The market of premium high-end wireless routers includes several models that bring support for new wireless standards. Netgear Nighthawk X10 is one of the few wireless routers that has support for the 802.11ad wireless standard, which features incredibly fast wireless transfers over short ranges. If you are interested in this standard and are willing to invest it, this router is one of the best choices you can make. Another selling point for Nighthawk X10 is its support for fast storage solutions that can be connected to the router and used for media streaming and file sharing. Both its USB 3.0 ports are very fast, and the router also offers a 10 Gigabit LAN SFP+ port for connecting fast NAS solutions. If you want to build your personal cloud storage service, Netgear Nighthawk X10 is one of the most interesting wireless routers to consider.

Unboxing the NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 wireless router

The Nighthawk X10 AD7200 smart WiFi router comes in a large, and heavy box. On the top cover, you see a picture of the router and a list of some of its most important characteristics. On the sides of the box, we get a list with all the hardware specs of the router and a complete list of features.
The packaging of the Netgear Nighthawk X10
The packaging of the Netgear Nighthawk X10
Inside the box, you are going to find the following items: the router itself, the power adapter, the setup guide, an Ethernet cable, the warranty information, and a Resource disc that includes the Quick Setup Guide in several languages.
Unboxing Netgear Nighthawk X10
Unboxing Netgear Nighthawk X10
The unboxing experience offered by Nighthawk X10 is a pleasant one, even though the router comes in a massive box. In the packaging, you get everything you need to set up and use the wireless router.

Hardware specifications and design

The Netgear Nighthawk X10 is a massive wireless router with four non-detachable external antennas. Its looks are bulky and aggressive, giving you the impression that you are dealing with a powerful device. This impression is true, as we are dealing with a wireless router that has powerful hardware: a quad-core AL-514 processor from Annapurna Labs, running 1.7 GHz, 1 GB of DDR3 RAM, and 512 MB of storage space for the firmware. Annapurna Labs is an Israeli startup, that is part of Amazon Web Services, with development centers in the US and Israel.
The hardware inside the Nighthawk X10 needs to be cooled, and it has large ventilation grids on the top side, including a fan that sits on top of the processor. Luckily, in the two weeks that we tested this router, the fan never turned on, and it did not generate any noise.
The Netgear Nighthawk X10 R9000 wireless router
The Netgear Nighthawk X10 R9000 wireless router
This router has many many LEDs on the top side, that signal the functioning status of all the Ethernet ports and broadcasting features. On the left side, there are two USB 3.0 ports hidden from view, but which are easily accessible.
The USB 3.0 ports on the Netgear Nighthawk X10
The USB 3.0 ports on the Netgear Nighthawk X10
On the back of the Nighthawk X10, there are many ports: six Ethernet ports that work at 1 Gbps, two of which support Port Aggregation, one WAN port, one 10 Gigabit LAN SFP+ port for connecting fast Network Attached Storage solutions, the Power button, the power jack, and a button for turning the LEDs on and off.
The ports on the back of the Netgear Nighthawk X10
The ports on the back of the Netgear Nighthawk X10
On the bottom of the Nighthawk X10, there are holes for mounting it on walls and additional ventilation grids. Also, you can find some stickers with useful information like the serial number of the router that you have purchased, its default MAC address, and the default settings for the WiFi, useful when you choose not to configure your wireless router.
The bottom of the Netgear Nighthawk X10 wireless router
The bottom of the Netgear Nighthawk X10 wireless router
Netgear R9000 Nighthawk X10 is a tri-band wireless router:
  • One 2.4 GHz band with support for the 802.11n wireless standard, with a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 800 Mbps.
  • One 5 GHz band with support for the 802.11ac Wave 2 wireless standard, with a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 1733 Mbps.
  • One 60 GHz band with support for the new 802.11ad wireless standard, with a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 4600 Mbps.
This leads to a total theoretical maximum bandwidth of 7133 Mbps (and thus the 7200 Mbps approximation on Netgear's part). While these theoretical numbers sound impressive, the reality is quite different. The problem is that the 4600 Mbps on the 60 GHz band are available only for network clients that use the 802.11ad wireless standard. This standard is only for short-range wireless transmissions of up to 30 feet or 9 meters, without any walls or other obstacles separating the network client from the router. A big problem with 802.11ad is that it has not yet seen any major traction, which means that there are no devices that can use it, except for a few wireless routers like this one. For example, there are no mainstream laptops or Smart TVs that offer support for it. We do not have network clients that work with this standard, so we could not test the third band available on this router, and provide you with real-life measurements.
The LEDs on the Netgear Nighthawk X10
The LEDs on the Netgear Nighthawk X10
The dimensions of the Nighthawk X10 are impressive: this router has 8.81 x 6.61 x 2.91 inches or 224 x 168 x 74 mm in length x width x height. It also weighs 4.11 lb or 1.8 kg, making the heaviest wireless router that we have tested so far.
If you would like to learn more about the official specifications of this wireless router, go to this page: NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 Specifications.

Setting up and using the NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 wireless router

Setting up the NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 is similar to other wireless routers. The quick setup wizard is named NETGEAR genie and it even gives you the option to determine the best settings by itself, without your input. However, there are a few details that you have to provide: the details of your internet connection, the password for the admin user (we wish that Netgear allowed users to change the default user name too, instead of sticking to admin), and the answers to two security questions that you can use to recover your account when you forget your password.
Setting up the admin user on the Netgear Nighthawk X10
Setting up the admin user on the Netgear Nighthawk X10
Then, you are shown a summary of your initial settings, including the default names and passwords for the WiFi. Then, the quick setup wizard asks whether you want to use the ReadySHARE Vault app for Windows, and checks for firmware updates. We like this proactive approach, and we encourage users to update their firmware, in order to benefit from security fixes, new features, and performance improvements.
Netgear Nighthawk X10: The Firmware Upgrade Assistant
Netgear Nighthawk X10: The Firmware Upgrade Assistant
Another great precaution on Netgear's part is that it recommends that users set the router to automatically update to future firmware. We recommend doing so, to stay on top with the latest security fixes for your router.
After you are done with the initial setup, you can finally access the administration user interface. As you can see below, it is split into two tabs: Basic - with only the important settings most users need, and Advanced, which offers all the settings available for your router.
NETGEAR Genie on the Nighthawk X10
NETGEAR Genie on the Nighthawk X10
The administration user interface looks dated. However, it is easy to use and responsive, if you stick to the Basic tab with settings. The documentation for everything sits on a bar on the bottom of the user interface. Click on it, and you are taken to Netgear's website, where you can find the help you need. One positive is that the user interface is available in more than 20 languages, and switching between them is easy.
The languages for the Netgear Nighthawk X10 firmware
The languages for the Netgear Nighthawk X10 firmware
The Advanced tab has all the settings available for your router. However, the way it is organized, it is not that well thought out, and it needs some time to get used to the location of all the settings. For example, why are USB Settings not in the ReadyShare or Setupcategories, but under Advanced Setup, is not clear. Also, you get two different sets of wireless settings, both under Setup and Advanced Setup, which leads to confusion.
The Advanced settings for the Netgear Nighthawk X10
The Advanced settings for the Netgear Nighthawk X10
Netgear Nighthawk X10 can be remotely controlled from a mobile app for iOS and Android. Unfortunately, Netgear has a confusing approach to mobile apps: it recommends two different mobile apps, depending on where you look. On the this router's product page, Netgear recommends using the Nighthawk App. We tried it, and we found it both easy-to-use and basic. You cannot do much with it, except for the initial setup, and the editing your WiFi settings. This app is too basic to be worthy of an expensive high-end wireless router. Users expect more features and more usefulness.
The Nighthawk App
The Nighthawk App
If you look further, like on documentation pages about using Parental Controls on this router, you find that Netgear recommends their NETGEAR Genie app. This app offers more useful features, including the only way to access Parental Controls, but it is also slower, and buggier, leading to another user experience that is not worthy of such an expensive product.
The NETGEAR Genie app
The NETGEAR Genie app
One positive about Netgear's approach to remote control is the fact that it uses two-factor authentication to protect user accounts and network devices. When you enable the remote administration of your wireless router, you should activate two-step verification to make sure that unwanted parties cannot easily hack into your account and your home network. Other router manufacturers should copy this useful security feature.
One of the features that we were expecting to see on such a high-end wireless router, was NETGEAR Armor, powered by Bitdefender, which provides advanced cyber threat protection for your home and all your devices. Unfortunately, that is not the case. This feature is available only for two cheaper NETGEAR routers: Nighthawk AC2300 and Nighthawk AC1900.
NETGEAR Armor
NETGEAR Armor
After we were done setting up the Netgear Nighthawk X10 smart WiFi router, we connected several devices to the network: two desktop PCs, a couple of laptops, one tablet, several smartphones, an Xbox One console, two smart plugs, one smart bulb, and a wireless printer. They all connected with ease, and we had no problems in streaming media over the network, or in sharing files and folders. Media streaming was also fast, including on a desktop PC with a monitor that has a Quad HD resolution.
When transferring data through the network, we also looked at the variability of network transfers. When we used a laptop in the same room with the router, or in rooms that are separated only by one wall, things looked good, with some variability, which tends to be unavoidable.
Netgear Nighthawk X10 - wireless transfer on the 5 GHz band
Netgear Nighthawk X10 - wireless transfer on the 5 GHz band
The variability increased a bit when we placed the laptop in a room separated from the router by two walls, without becoming problematic.
Netgear Nighthawk X10 - wireless transfer on the 5 GHz band
Netgear Nighthawk X10 - wireless transfer on the 5 GHz band
The general performance offered by Netgear Nighthawk X10 was satisfying in our two weeks of use. However, if you want to see detailed measurements, and a performance comparison with other wireless routers, go to the second page of this review.

Wireless network performance

First, let's look at the apartment that was used in our testing and how it is set up. You can see that the router is placed in the living room. With most wireless routers, the signal strength is not that high in places like the Kitchenand the Medium balcony.
The apartment in which we tested NETGEAR Nighthawk X10
The apartment in which we tested NETGEAR Nighthawk X10
Our testing was done using a fast 1 Gigabit Internet connection that is capable of uploads on the internet of up to 500 Mbps. We used an HP Spectre 13 laptop and a Lenovo Yoga Book for our measurements and several software tools.
To get a better idea of the performance offered by NETGEAR Nighthawk X10, we compared it with two high-end AC wireless routers: ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 and TP-LINK Archer C5400. In our graphics, we decided to use a shorter Netgear R9000 name for NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 AD7200 R9000, because the full product name would have not fit into our graphs.
We analyzed the 2.4 GHz band first and measured the signal strength with NetSpot. You can see below how the signal strength evolved from room to room. The signal strength offered by Nighthawk X10 was good in all rooms, except the room furthest from the router.
Netgear Nighthawk X10: the wireless signal on the 2.4 GHz band
Netgear Nighthawk X10: the wireless signal on the 2.4 GHz band
Next, we used SpeedTest to measure how fast the internet connection offered by Nighthawk X10 is when using 2.4 GHz wireless network. This router delivered the fastest downloads in the rooms that were further from the router.
Netgear Nighthawk X10: SpeedTest downloads on the 2.4 GHz band
Netgear Nighthawk X10: SpeedTest downloads on the 2.4 GHz band
When measuring the upload speed, Nighthawk X10 had good performance, without being the best.
Netgear Nighthawk X10: SpeedTest uploads on the 2.4 GHz band
Netgear Nighthawk X10: SpeedTest uploads on the 2.4 GHz band
Continuing our measurements on the 2.4 GHz wireless network, we used the PassMark Performance test to transfer data between two computers connected to the network. In this test, Nighthawk X10 had good performance, similar to that of other high-end routers.
Netgear Nighthawk X10: wireless downloads on the 2.4 GHz band
Netgear Nighthawk X10: wireless downloads on the 2.4 GHz band
When we measured the upload speed, Nighthawk X10 had excellent performance in some rooms, and a poor one in others.
Netgear Nighthawk X10: wireless uploads on the 2.4 GHz band
Netgear Nighthawk X10: wireless uploads on the 2.4 GHz band
On the 2.4 GHz wireless band, Netgear Nighthawk X10 offers performance that is similar to that of other high-end wireless routers.
For the next set of measurements, we analyzed the performance of the 5GHz wireless band. We looked at the evolution of the signal strength, from room to room. NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 offers a signal strength that evolves similarly to other high-end wireless routers.
Netgear Nighthawk X10: the wireless signal on the 5 GHz band
Netgear Nighthawk X10: the wireless signal on the 5 GHz band
Then, we ran SpeedTest to see how fast the internet connection is when using the 5GHz band. To view the maximum potential of this router, we used the world's only PCI-Express network card with support for 4x4 MU-MIMO. When we used this network card, we obtained a maximum speed of 671.14 Mbps for the download speed, and of 430.16 Mbps for the upload.
Netgear Nighthawk X10 - maximum speed potential
Netgear Nighthawk X10 - maximum speed potential
To get back to earth, and everyday devices people use, we took our laptop and measured the download speed with SpeedTest, in every room of our test apartment. Netgear Nighthawk X10 delivered fast downloads without distancing itself from the pack in a meaningful manner.
Netgear Nighthawk X10: SpeedTest downloads on the 5 GHz band
Netgear Nighthawk X10: SpeedTest downloads on the 5 GHz band
When looking at the upload speed, there were some rooms in which Netgear Nighthawk X10 was the fastest router in our comparison.
Netgear Nighthawk X10: SpeedTest uploads on the 5 GHz band
Netgear Nighthawk X10: SpeedTest uploads on the 5 GHz band
For the last measurements on the 5GHz wireless network, we used the PassMark Performance test to transfer data between two computers connected to the network. Netgear Nighthawk X10 offered fast downloads in all rooms.
Netgear Nighthawk X10: wireless downloads on the 5 GHz band
Netgear Nighthawk X10: wireless downloads on the 5 GHz band
When looking at the upload speed, the trend was similar.
Netgear Nighthawk X10: wireless uploads on the 5 GHz band
Netgear Nighthawk X10: wireless uploads on the 5 GHz band
Netgear Nighthawk X10 is capable of delivering fast wireless connections on the 5 GHz band, similar to other high-end wireless routers.

Wired network performance

To test the quality of the wired Ethernet connection, we used a desktop PC equipped with an AMD Ryzen 5 1600 processor, running at 3.20GHz, 16GB of RAM, a fast Samsung 850 Pro 512GB SSD, and a Lenovo IdeaCentre 610s mini PC.
We measured the speed of the internet connection when using a 1 Gbps Ethernet cable, using SpeedTest. As you can see, Netgear Nighthawk X10 almost reached the maximum potential of our internet connection, even though it was slightly slower than the routers we compared it to.
Netgear Nighthawk X10: SpeedTest on Ethernet connections
Netgear Nighthawk X10: SpeedTest on Ethernet connections
Then, we ran a network transfer between the two computers, using the PassMark Performance test. This time, performed just as well as the routers we compared it to, without any meaningful differences.
Netgear Nighthawk X10: LAN transfers on Ethernet cables
Netgear Nighthawk X10: LAN transfers on Ethernet cables
Netgear Nighthawk X10 provides six Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports with the ability to aggregate two ports for faster file transfers. Their speeds are very close to those advertised.

USB performance

We connected a portable SSD drive to the USB 3.0 port of the NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 smart WiFi router. Then we ran a few transfers from a desktop computer to this drive and back. We measured 807.60 Mbps for the download speed and an upload speed of 525.37 Mbps. These are top-notch speeds, making the Nighthawk X10 one of the fastest routers in this regard.
Netgear Nighthawk X10 - the speed of USB ports
Netgear Nighthawk X10 - the speed of USB ports
If you need fast USB ports on your wireless router, you won't be disappointed by Netgear Nighthawk X10 AD7200.

Extra features

NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 bundles several advanced features:
Netgear Nighthawk X10: Advanced sharing settings
Netgear Nighthawk X10: Advanced sharing settings
  • Guest network - you can enable one guest network for each wireless frequency: 2.4 GHz, and 5 GHz. A useful feature is that you can decide whether you allow guests to see each other and access the local network.
  • Dynamic QoS - an automatic traffic prioritization service, that splits the available bandwidth by application and device, using Netgear's algorithms, without any user setup.
  • ReadySHARE - makes it easy to share external USB storage devices, and printers, with your entire network. For example, sharing a USB hard drive with the network is literally, a plug and play experience.
  • Cloud Backup - another nice feature is that you can set up your NETGEAR router to back up the router's local USB content onto Amazon Drive Cloud.
  • ReadyCLOUD - makes it easy to set up your personal cloud storage service, for free.
  • NETGEAR Downloader - an app that can download files on a USB hard disk or NAS, connected to the router, using protocols like FTP, HTTP, BitTorrent, or eDonkey.
  • Parental Controls - this feature is not built into the firmware of the router. When you try to access it, you are redirected to a NETGEAR web page that tells you to install the NETGEAR Genie app, to get access to this feature. After you install that app on your smartphone, you are told that you need an OpenDNS account. It is not a useful parental controls feature like that found on high-end routers from other brands.
  • Dynamic DNS - you can use NO-IP and NETGEAR DDNS accounts on your router, so that you can connect to the router from the internet, even if your internet provider gives you a dynamic public IP address.
  • VPN service - you can set the router to function as a VPN server, using the OpenVPN protocol.
  • Ethernet Port Aggregation - the first two Ethernet ports on the router can be used for port aggregation, for faster file transfers.
  • Amazon Echo/Alexa integration – you can control your home network using voice commands.
  • 10 Gigabit LAN SFP+ port - dedicated for fast NAS (Network Attached Storage) access.
The NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 AD7200 wireless router has some advanced features that are going to be appreciated by users, especially users who need to connect storage solutions to their router/network.

What is your opinion of the NETGEAR Nighthawk X10?

You have arrived at the end of our review, and you know our opinion about the NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 R9000 wireless router and how it performed in our testing. Do you like what it has to offer? Would you consider purchasing it? If you already have the NETGEAR Nighthawk X10, do share your experience with other readers and us.


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