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Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen
Great speed and reliability on 5GHz
Fantastic speeds on 60GHz band
Plex Media Server support
Key 802.11ad feature hasn’t caught on
No support for 802.11ax
MSRP is too high
Web interface is unintuitive and slow
The Netgear Nighthawk X10 AD7200 is a fantastic router if you can take advantage of the blazing-fast 60GHz 802.11ad speeds, but most users will do better investing in an alternative that supports 802.11ax.
The Netgear Nighthawk X10 AD7200 is a tri-band router with WiGig support that’s built on the 802.11ad standard instead of 802.11ax. That means it operates on the 60GHz, 5GHz, and 2.4GHz bands, but you need to have devices that also use the 802.11ad standard to access that super high-speed 60GHz band. With MU-MIMO support, four external active antennas, and Plex Media Server built right in, this router has some serious chops. But most users won’t ever use its full capabilities.
I recently unpacked a Netgear Nighthawk X10 and plugged it into my own wireless network to see how it performs in the real world. Over several hours of intense testing, and a couple of days of more casual use, I tested connection speeds at various distances, ease of setup and use, and more.
I’ve tested a lot of Netgear routers, and this falls somewhere between the stealth bomber angles of the Nighthawk AC series and the slick flying wing designs seen in the Nighthawk RAX routers.
The body of the Nighthawk X10 is squarish, with a massive hourglass cutout across the top that reveals a breathable metal mesh surface. The four external active antennas are chunky, evocative of their impressive power, and decked out with soothing blue LEDs.
A row of LED indicators marches across the angled front surface of the router, easily readable whether wall-mounted or left on your desk, providing visual confirmation of data transfer from the internet, over each wireless band and the guest network, each USB port, the 10G connection, and each individual Ethernet connection.
Most of the connectors are located around back, along with a physical switch to turn off the LEDs on the antennas. For connectors, you get an Ethernet jack for connecting to your modem, six individual Ethernet jacks to connect other devices, a 10G LAN SFP+ connector, power input, and a physical power switch.
Two USB 3.0 type A connectors can be found on the left side of the router as you look at it from the front. These can be used to connect USB thumb drives or SSDs to populate the built-in Plex Media Server and pipe multimedia content to devices throughout your home.
Setting up the Netgear Nighthawk X10 AD7200 was easy, from unboxing to plugging it into my network. Unlike most routers, the Nighthawk X10 comes completely assembled. Each antenna comes sheathed in a bit of protective plastic, but even that slips right off. The router is basically ready to go right out of the box, which is a big time saver.
A lot of routers I test require a modem reboot, which is a bit of a pain as my network is set up with the modem and router in different rooms. The Nighthawk X10 AD7200 required no such reboot. I was able to launch Netgear’s routerlogin.net site as soon as I plugged in the Ethernet cable, and the setup process was almost entirely automated after that.
The Nighthawk X10 did require a firmware update as soon as I got it set up, but that only took a couple of minutes. You’ll also have to budget some extra time if you want to dig into additional features, like the built-in Plex Media Server, but the basic setup process is over really fast.
The Netgear Nighthawk X10 AD7200 is an AD7200 tri-band router, which means it’s capable of providing 1733Mbps over a 5GHz wireless network, 800Mbps over a 2.4GHz network, and a blistering 4600Mbps over a 60Hz network. That last one is the key feature here, as only 802.11ad routers like this one feature a super-high-speed 60GHz network.
If you aren’t familiar with 802.11ad, it’s a completely different standard from the more common 802.11ax. While 802.11ax is the successor to 802.11ac, the 802.11ad standard found in this router is a specialized offshoot that offers extremely high speeds and very short distances.
Also referred to as WiGig due to its high speeds, 802.11ad supports speeds of up to 7Gbps and transmission distances of up to 30 feet when beamforming is employed, but real-world performance typically maxes out around 15 to 20 feet, and can’t pass through walls or other obstructions.
In addition to the 60GHz WiGig band, this router also creates simultaneous 5GHz and 2.4GHz networks for your devices that don’t support WiGig, which is likely to be either most or all of them.
For physical connectivity, the Nighthawk X10 features six Ethernet ports, two of which can be used together to create a single 2Gbps connection. You also get two USB 3.0 ports for connecting USB drives and a single 10Gbps SFP+ LAN port. This final port is potentially the most interesting, and also most niche since it allows you to connect a high-speed NAS server, a secondary switch for more Ethernet ports, or other devices that require a bunch of high-speed bandwidth.
Since this is an 802.11ad router, and the 60GHz WiGig network is the key feature here, that’s where I’m going to start. All of my tests are performed using a 1Gbps Mediacom cable internet connection, so any testing done on an 802.11ad router like this involves data transfer speeds within my network, not the internet connection. For testing purposes, I have a laptop that I retrofitted with a network interface card featuring the QCA9005 chipset.
Using my test laptop, I was able to connect to the Nighthawk X10’s 60GHz network and measure speeds that topped out at 4.6Gbps. The issue is that in order to maintain a solid connection and record connection speeds anywhere close to 4.6Gbps, I had to place the router on the desk right next to the laptop.
With the router in its normal position, just a few feet away from my desk, I was only able to manage a transfer speed of a little bit over 1Gbps. Moving my test laptop a bit further away resulted in a dip to barely 300Mbps, and the connection struggled to work at all at a distance of 10 feet with no obstructions.
The bottom line is that this router provides truly awesome speeds at very short distances, but the benefit falls off sharply, and you’d be better off using the 5GHz network even a few feet away.
To the Nighthawk X10’s credit, the 5GHz network performance exceeded my wildest expectations. Using my 1Gbps Mediacom cable internet connection, I measured a relatively mediocre 373Mbps down and 73.6Mbps up. At the same time, using a wired connection to the same router, I measured 536.8Mbps down.
Moving about 10 feet away from the router, with a closed-door in the way, the download speed increased to 405Mbps, with 62Mbps up. At about 50 feet out, with several walls, appliances, and pieces of furniture in the way, the connection held strong at 310Mbps down and 49.6Mbps up. That’s one of the best results I’ve seen out of all the 5GHz routers I’ve tested.
For my final test, I took my phone down to my garage at a distance of about 100 feet, with an unreasonable amount of obstructions between the router and the device. At this distance, most routers fail to connect at all, struggle to maintain a connection, or kick me to the 2.4GHz band.
The Nighthawk X10 held strong though, dropping the download speed to 38.8Mbps and the upload speed to 13.1Mbps, but without touching the ping, barely increasing jitter, and introducing just 1.2 percent packet loss. Strangely enough, this 802.11ad router’s strongest selling point might be the impressively robust nature of its 5GHz network.
Strangely enough, this 802.11ad router’s strongest selling point might be the impressively robust nature of its 5 GHz network.
Like its other offerings, Netgear gives you the option to manage the Nighthawk X10 using a web interface or a smartphone app. I used the web interface, and I found it fairly easy to understand and navigate if a bit slow.
The web portal provides you with basic and advanced tabs, with the basic tab giving you a big picture overview of the router’s status. It shows whether or not the internet is connected, the status of your wireless networks, how many devices are attached, and then gives you a bit of information on the status of the parental controls, the ReadySHARE feature for connecting USB drives, and your guest network.
Digging into advanced settings is more complicated, and you may find yourself reaching for documentation to find some options that are buried beneath several levels of menus.
Beyond the basics, this router comes with Plex Media Server built right in, and you can access and configure it through the main Netgear web portal. The way it works is that you can plug storage media into the Nighthawk X10 via the USB ports or the 10G SFP+ port and then stream media directly to Plex clients.
Aside from the robust 5GHz network, the built-in Plex server is definitely the strongest feature included with this router. I plugged in one of my media-filled SSD USB drives and had no trouble streaming to any of the Plex clients I have on my network.
I plugged in one of my media-filled SSD USB drives and had no trouble streaming to any of the Plex clients I have on my network.
With an MSRP of $500, and a street price closer to $250, the Nighthawk X10 AD7200 is a tough sell to most consumers. It features a wireless technology that hasn’t really caught on, and which most consumers just won’t be able to take advantage of. For the money you’d spend on this router, you could get a high-end 802.11ax router.
If you do have use for an 802.11ad router, then $250 isn’t that bad of a price tag, especially considering the fantastic 5GHz performance and the convenient inclusion of Plex Media Server. I wouldn’t recommend upgrading your existing equipment to 802.11ad just to use this router, but the Nighthawk X10 makes a fine choice if you already have the hardware to support it.
By way of comparison, the Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR700 has similar specifications, swaps out Plex Media Server for some gaming-centric quality of life (QoL) features, and has a street price that’s close to $400.
With an MSRP of $400, and a street price closer to $350, the Nighthawk RAX80 (see on Amazon) is in the same general territory as the Nighthawk X10. The big difference between these competing Nighthawk devices is that one is an 802.11ad router, and the other is an 802.11ax router.
In terms of real-world 5GHz performance, the Nighthawk X10 actually blows the Nighthawk RAX80 out of the water. It’s important to note that testing was done with 802.11ac devices that couldn’t take full advantage of the Nighthawk RAX80’s full capabilities, but I measured significantly slower speeds from the Nighthawk RAX80 in my 50-foot test, and it wasn’t even able to maintain a 5GHz connection at all in my garage.
The bottom line here is that the Nighthawk X10 is remarkably good with 5GHz 802.11ac devices, and it’s a good choice if you have 802.11ad devices, but the Nighthawk RAX80 is a better value looking into the future since it supports 802.11ax.
Strong 5GHz performance and Plex Media Center make this a good option if you need an 802.11ad router.
The Netgear Nighthawk X10 AD7200 is a bit of a mixed bag since its key feature is so niche. If you really need an 802.11ad router, you may want to look for one with a stronger range. However, this router has fantastic performance on the 5GHz band, and the Plex Media Server implementation is also a very strong plus. If short-range 802.11ad support with excellent fallback 5GHz performance sounds good to you, then this is the router you’re looking for.