Spending nearly five hundred dollars on anything is a small fortune, let alone a network hub meant for your home. In many respects, the NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 AD7200 Smart Wi-Fi Router could be considered extravagant overkill for the average person, and like the competing Linksys EA9500 Max-Stream Router these wireless behemoths cater to extreme performance and versatility.
Are you a power user who needs the most from a fiber connection? Or do you want to experience broad compatibility with everything from 4K multimedia to VR gaming? The Nighthawk X10 will get the job done, bringing MU-MIMO and next-generation 802.11ad into the mix — appropriately equipped for all that money spent.
It should be known that the closest model to match the Nighthawk X10 in nearly all categories we’ve currently had is — you guessed it— the Linksys EA9500. Pound for pound, the X10 feels just as heavy and takes up plenty of space (2.6” by 10.4” by 12.5” and 4.11lbs dimensionally), however, NETGEAR decided to mold their flagship with a more reticent folded-top aesthetic. The array of four large antennas contributes to a low-key looks along with a row of status LEDs that tell of every network/connection currently operating, which a little less elegant but somewhat informative and pragmatic in execution.
The rear comes nicely equipped with WAN, six Gigabit LAN ports – two of which are optimized for link aggregation, one 10G LAN SFP+ for compatiblet devices, and the usual the typical power/reset buttons. On the left side are two USB 3.0 ports and both WPS and Wi-Fi on/off buttons on top.
More Powerful Inside
The Nighthawk X10 is a spec-beast and figuratively unmatched as a whole. A 1.7GHz quad-core processor, MU-MIMO, tri-band for 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 60GHz (N800 + AC1733 + AD460), and the addition of SFP+ all come standard. Other technical features include Beamforming (+) technology that boosts signals directly to enabled clients, security options in double firewall (SPT/NAT) and denial-of-service attack protection, and a suite of sharing apps (ReadyCLOUD, PLEX, Amazon Drive) in conjunction with DLNA.
Router installation was easy, and can be done within minutes directly from your PC or with the NETGEAR Up app through the supplied default SSID/password. There really isn’t a whole lot to say here and that’s a good thing, the on-screen instructions are simple and aren’t complex with lots of imagery to help you out when configuring basic internet and wireless settings. Nothing out of the ordinary compared to other modern routers.
A God of Benchmarking
If you read our Linksys EA9500 review, then you might have a good idea on how fast the X10 is already — the paper figures favor NETGEAR exponentially but is a tighter race in terms of real-world performance. Our single-room proximity figures for both 2.4GHz (98.9Mb/s) and 5GHz (448Mb/s) were some of the highest benchmarks we’ve seen on Popzara, with 40ft long-distance speeds dropping to a very good 69.6Mb/s (2.4GHz) and 404Mb/s (5GHz). Final results were near-identical with the EA9500 having a marginal advantage (99.4Mb/s and 453Mb/s), however, this only equated to a difference of 2%.
Sticking with an Acer Aspire V3-574G notebook which is the most affordable option equipped with a Qualcomm QCA61x4A MU-MIMO wireless adapter, our near-quarter speeds at 10 feet was 231.5Mb/s and 176.1Mb/s at 40 feet. Media-sharing gave us typical speeds when transferring a 5GB file at 34.4Mb/s (write) and 41.3 (read).
WiGig-Ready Before Anything Else
The Nighthawk X10 also has 802.11ad which offers a throughput of 7.2Gbps (hence the AD7200 classification), however this router is coincidentally more future-proofed than any other networked device we have in the lab — because nobody manufactures any wireless device or adapter card that can take advantage of the tech. The consumer name is called WiGig, and works exclusively at a 60GHz maximum frequency, meaning that the signal is free from interference and totally unbarred for maximum speed. The immediate disadvantage is that signal can’t penetrate walls, limited effective range of 30-40 feet, and doesn’t contribute towards higher speeds for existing AC-type bands. The takeaway is that the X10 should be ready for WiGig when (or if) it’s properly implemented — right now, it’s something of a bragging novelty.
The NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 AD7200 Smart Wi-Fi Routeris technically ahead of anything else we’ve tested. With performance on a level that much of the competition haven’t yet reached. This NETGEAR is phenomenal for medium-grade NAS duty or small businesses; however, for all its overachieving function normal people won’t see a difference when compared against the Linksys EA9500 and has an even higher price on top of it.
But if you actually like micromanaging your network to an extreme degree, the Nighthawk X10 remains one hell of a theoretical forerunner — for anybody with a large and taxing home network, right now and probably in the future.