Netgear Nighthawk X10
The fastest router money can buy and it’s packed with features – this could even replace your NAS drive
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