Our Summary of the Nighthawk X10 Router
This was not a complete analysis of the new Netgear Nighthawk X10 because it’s so forward-looking that we can’t even test some of its big-ticket features, like 4x4 MU-MIMO or
60GHz Wi-Fi (Update 1/28/17: See previous page for 60GHz testing). We also didn’t test its port aggregation or its 10G connection, but you can certainly rest easy knowing this router is as future-proof as you can get these days. That’s important because, at a $449-$499 street price, the Nighthawk X10 is the most expensive consumer router you can buy right now. However, clearly this router is designed for specific deployments, and it's hard to fathom it being used in a mainstream consumer's home, as most people don't need these high-end features, at least currently. That said, the Nighthawk X10 clearly has a lot going for it, along with some caveats too, so let's examine them.
As far as 5GHz AC performance goes the Netgear Nighthawk X10 is easily the fastest router we’ve tested, by a decent margin too. It offered the highest TCP transmission rates we've seen thus far, which is to be expected given its specs and pricing. In both 5GHz and 2.4GHz testing, the X10 actually performed better than other routers we've tested at longer ranges. We have heard that the beamforming feature of 802.11 needs a bit of room to focus the data streams, but this is the first time we've seen it so apparent in our testing. This is just our hypothesis, but the Nighthawk X10 certainly performed better for us at longer ranges versus shorter ranges.
Our 60GHz testing showed that 802.11ad does indeed work as advertised, and was much faster than 5GHz for file transfers, streaming or what-have-you, but it doesn’t have the range of AC and requires line of sight, so it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison. Still, at 20 feet it was wicked fast, and we can definitely see it being used for devices in the living room or near the router that can benefit from such a high-speed wireless connection. Since it’s effectively a tri-band router you could just use the 60GHz band for one device, such as your TV or laptop, and still have regular 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands as well, which is a unique proposition. Still, it remains to be seen whether or not 802.11ad will ever enjoy widespread adoption, though it certainly helps make the Netgear Nighthawk X10 more future proof.
Aside from wireless performance, the most significant selling point of the Netgear Nighthawk X10 is that it is the first router with a built-in Plex Media Server, so it doesn't require a NAS to feed it media or power the transcoding process. You still need some sort of external USB storage to host the media, but it can be anything from a cheap hard drive or a flash drive, which most people have lying around. Plex service is not free however, and though Netgear includes a 3-month Plex Pass with the router, to watch movies on your mobile devices, you will need to pony up some cash at some point. Given this router's price, it would have been nice to have a Plex Pass that lasted longer than three months.
Instead, the main reason to buy this router is because it's loaded with forward-looking features including 802.11 10G LAN, port aggregation, 160MHz Wi-Fi channels, Amazon cloud backup (for a fee), and built-in Plex Server 1080p functionality. It's also the fastest AC router we've tested to date as well. We don't quite think that justifies its lofty sticker price, at least for most home users, but those in a more enterprise or power user environment, that can put these advanced features to use, may find it suits their bandwidth-hungry needs.