How We Tested and Nighthawk X10 Performance
When we test hardware we typically use a blend of "real world" and synthetic tests, but that can be difficult to pull off with something as unpredictable as wireless networking. There aren't any established benchmarks like 3DMark, per say, and it is impossible to remove variables in the testing environment anywhere outside a laboratory, so as always your mileage may vary. Here in the real world where we test, performance varies according to a variety of factors, including where the router is placed, the size and construction of your dwelling, interference from neighbors, and
However, we did our best to illustrate both real world and "best case scenarios" with our testing, and for
We were also able to test the X10’s 802.11ad performance, thanks to a laptop with an appropriate wireless adapter that is on loan from Netgear. The company sent us the Acer TravelMate P648, which is one of the few AD-enabled laptops on the market, and due to its line of sight requirement we could only test it at 20 feet, but not at 30 feet, since there are walls involved in that test. Netgear told us AD’s range is around 30 feet or so, in case you were wondering.
We'll begin with testing at 5GHz, then move to 2.4GHz testing below.
Right off the bat, the X10 leaped to the head of the pack in short-range TCP performance, besting the Asus RT-AC88U by a modest six percent. What's more interesting is that it spanked its little brother, the
Though the X10 wasn't the speed king in this test it was the second-fastest router we've tested by a slim margin, losing top honors to the Asus RT-AC88U in our TCP test by 16 percent. It pretty much hung with the faster
Our file copy test backed up what we saw at 30 feet, with the Nighthawk X10 basically performing on par with the rest of the routers we've tested. There's nothing significant about the result, as it's merely average.
We also measured each router's power output at the outlet using a watt meter. The X10 consumed more power at idle than any other router we've tested at full load, which was a bit surprising. We suppose with great power comes a greater power bill.
Plex Media Server Testing -
In testing the Plex Media Server using 5GHz AC
To isolate the culprit in these tests, we installed the Plex Media Server on our desktop PC with a Devil's Canyon Core i7-4790K CPU and of course had no trouble streaming 4K videos to the same devices, likely not completely a bandwidth issue. It does, however, seem to be at least partly a processor load issue. Standard, unhosted 1080p streaming from its integrated USB port is certainly achievable though, over the 60GHz 802.11ad band. More on that shortly...
Update - 60GHz 802.11ad testing
After this review was published Netgear reached out to ask if we wanted an Acer laptop with a wireless 802.11ad equipped laptop so we could test that functionality of the router, so naturally we agreed. The Acer TravelMate P648 arrived and we got down to business. As we wrote above, 80211.ad is very fast, but has a short range and requires line of sight with the router, so it’s implementation options are quite limited. It is certainly enough for a living room setup beaming to a TV or laptop, however. We were only able to run two tests; the standard TCP/UDP test and the file transfer test, and here are the results.
60GHz - TCP and UDP at 10 feet vs. Standard 20' Test
60GHz File Copy Test at 10 Feet
4K Video Streaming with Plex at 10 FeetThough we had issues streaming 4K video on the 5GHz band, those issues largely evaporated using 802.11ad connectivity. Videos spooled up quickly, played smoothly, and we were also able to skip around without suffering endless buffering like we did on the 5GHz band. The bandwidth difference between AD and AC isn’t that dramatic, but we saw it with our own eyes where the Nighthawk X10 struggled streaming 4K using AC with the on board Plex server, but had no issues using AD. This makes it an extremely good option for a living room setup beaming to a compatible laptop or set-top box, so we’ll be curious to see if any future devices support this nascent protocol. We can say with experience it does work, and it is indeed extremely fast.
After we finished testing, we booted the laptop one final time to check something and lo and behold, we could not even see the 60GHz network any longer. This was a problem throughout our testing, as even at 10 feet the connection strength was tenuous, and the Acer laptop we had for testing would just disconnect from the network quite often. If we moved it closer, say within five feet, it would reconnect, but the notion of using anything wirelessly at five feet is more than limiting.
Like any PC performance enthusiast, we were very curious to see what 60GHz would deliver, and we can tell you, after spending a few days with it, that it's not something that currently seems ready for widespread adoption. It is currently too finicky, has to be line of site, and its range is very limited compared to 5GHz. Not to mention there are almost no clients that support it, or routers for that matter. We suppose you could theoretically stream data from a compatible PC with a 10G port to a compatible laptop, if you somehow owned both of these unicorn devices, but you'd still be limited to short distances. Currently the standard requires specific hardware in a very specific, and limiting, environment. In the end we were left shaking our head at 802.11ad as we can't see any business or serious enterprise adopting it due to its limitations. We applaud Netgear for pushing the envelope, but this is one technology that is just a bit too bleeding edge for most folks, in its current state and implementation.