Net­gear Nighthawk X10

The fastest router money can buy and it’s packed with fea­tures – this could even re­place your NAS drive

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The Net­gear Nighthawk X10 is hands down the most ex­pen­sive router we’ve ever tested. At £400, it costs more than a games con­sole, many a 4K TV and – per­haps a lit­tle more rel­e­vantly – any of the award-win­ning mesh Wi-Fi sys­tems on test this month. But per­haps this is a sign of the times. In 2017, it seems, spend­ing £200 to £400 to sort your Wi-Fi ap­pears is the go­ing rate.

So what do you get for your money? The first thing to note is that the X10 doesn’t come with an ADSL/ VDSL mo­dem built in, which is dis­ap­point­ing for the price, but you can at­tach it to your ex­ist­ing mo­dem or router us­ing the WAN port to ex­tend your net­work (or use it in ac­cess point mode for the same ef­fect).

Aside from this, it’s fully stacked with the very lat­est in wire­less tech­nol­ogy. The X10 is a tri-band 802.11ac Wave 2 router, and it sup­ports MU-MIMO and 160MHz chan­nels for link speeds up to 1,733Mbits/sec on each of its 5GHz net­works, and 800Mbits/sec on its 2.4GHz net­work.

It has a 1.7GHz quad-core pro­ces­sor and four ex­ter­nal an­ten­nae with em­bed­ded am­pli­fi­ca­tion for the strong­est pos­si­ble sig­nal. There’s also sup­port for the next-gen­er­a­tion wire­less stan­dard, 802.11ad, for po­ten­tial short-range speeds of up to 4,600Mbits/secs at 60MHz. This is more fu­ture-proof­ing than prac­ti­cal, though, as hardly any de­vices sup­port the new short-range stan­dard.

Over nor­mal Wi-Fi, though, the Nighthawk X10 is a champ and, in our through­put tests, it was the fastest over­all sin­gle-unit router. We mea­sured down­load rates of 102MB/sec at close range – that’s nigh-on Gi­ga­bit Eth­er­net speed – and 17.1MB/ sec at long range in the kitchen.

The only sys­tems sig­nif­i­cantly faster than the X10 at long range are the three multi-point Wi-Fi sys­tems, which cost be­tween £200 and £400. At £400, the X10 might be ex­pen­sive, but it isn’t com­pletely out of touch with the mar­ket rate.

In many re­spects, the Nighthawk X10 of­fers a lot more than all th­ese multi-box sys­tems. For one, if you don’t have one al­ready, it’s one of the few routers on the mar­ket that can truly be con­sid­ered a re­place­ment for a proper NAS drive.

The USB trans­fer rate is ridicu­lously quick at 75.8MB/sec over wired Gi­ga­bit Eth­er­net and, with that pow­er­ful pro­ces­sor in­side, it should be able to deal with mul­ti­ple con­nec­tions with­out too much has­sle.

There’s the soft­ware here to back it up as well. Net­gear’s ReadyCloud sys­tem pro­vides easy re­mote ac­cess to your files, ReadyVault lets you back up files from PCs and lap­tops to con­nected USB drives, and there’s also Ama­zon Cloud drive sup­port, so you can mir­ror files to the cloud au­to­mat­i­cally. Strangely, though, this only sup­ports sin­gle-folder backup.

There is also DLNA, TiVo and iTunes me­dia server sup­port and, im­pres­sively, the Nighthawk X10 can run a Plex me­dia server. The router’s CPU is even pow­er­ful enough to transcode video on the fly for re­mote stream­ing.

If the on­board USB stor­age fea­tures aren’t enough for you, the X10 has six Gi­ga­bit Eth­er­net ports, two of which can be teamed to­gether for a 2Gbits/ sec NAS drive con­nec­tion, and there’s also an SFP+ port so you can go up to 10Gbits/sec speeds if you want to.

Per­haps the one dis­ap­point­ment is that Net­gear hasn’t hugely over­hauled its Ge­nie soft­ware at the same time as pack­ing in so much hard­ware. While Ge­nie is rich with fea­tures, it has some strange gaps and in­con­sis­ten­cies. For ex­am­ple, while you can set parental con­trol con­tent fil­ter­ing lev­els (us­ing OpenDNS) on a per-de­vice ba­sis, the fea­ture is only avail­able via the app, not via the web man­age­ment pages.

Like­wise, although it’s pos­si­ble to block and pause in­ter­net ac­cess by de­vice, you can’t ap­ply a sched­ule per de­vice, which is a ba­sic fea­ture we would ex­pect all routers to of­fer. Still, you can tweak most other set­tings on the router, and it has a cou­ple of use­ful ex­tras: OpenVPN sup­port and a BitTor­rent down­loader.

The Nighthawk X10 is an im­pres­sive router, no doubt about that. It’s the fastest sin­gle unit around and has great range. And it’s ex­tremely pow­er­ful and packed with fea­tures. For most peo­ple, though, £400 would be bet­ter spent on a multi-box sys­tem such as the Google Wifi or BT Whole Home Wi-Fi.

ABOVE At £400, the stealth air­craft-style Nighthawk X10 is the most ex­pen­sive router we’ve tested

BE­LOW The X10 has six Gi­ga­bit Eth­er­net ports, two of which can be linked to­gether for a 2Gbits/sec NAS drive con­nec­tion

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