While the Nighthawk X10 by NETGEAR did finish in the top portion of the pack, it is by far the most expensive router that we tested. This router has tons of features — the most of the entire group, but it failed to impress us or distinguish itself in the throughput or range tests. All in all, this router isn't one of our favorites.
NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 (R9000) Review
Pros: Tons of features, easy to use
Cons: Expensive, mediocre throughput
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The X10 finished in the third place position, right behind the TP-Link Talon AD7200 and the Asus RT-AC88U. While the Nighthawk has a more impressive feature suite than the Talon, we found the Talon to be much easier to use overall. The Asus tied the X10 when it came to features, but it has better throughput over the 5 GHz. network and is easier to use. Additionally, both the X10 and the Talon cost significantly less than the X10, usually by about $150.
We bought all the best routers on the market and compared them side-by-side to select our award winners. To rank and score the performance, we conducted close to 20 different tests, spread over five weighted rating metrics, with the sections below describing the results of the X10 compared to the rest of the pack.
Accounting for the most weight out of any of the metrics, Features is responsible for 25% of the total score. The X10 did reasonably well, earning an 8 out of 10 for its performance.
First, we checked the X10 to see if it had beamforming and MU-MIMO (Multi-User, Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output) capabilities. The X10 has both of these, putting it off to a great start in this metric. These features both act to greatly speed up your network performance. Beamforming allows the router to focus the WiFi signal in the direction of the device, rather than transmitting in all directions and MU-MIMO greatly improving performance when there are multiple users on the network simultaneously. The Nighthawk X10 also supports IPv6 and VPN networks, as well as a guest network.
Next, we checked if the router can be remotely reset and if the indicator lights can be turned off or dimmed. Again, the X10 has both of these traits, earning it more points. These features are quite nice, as the remote reset allows you to hide the router in a discreet location and being able to turn the lights off reduces the router's visibility if you store it in a visible location. The X10 is also wall mountable.
This router has 4 LAN ports and two USB 3.0 ports — about average for these products.
You can manage the router through either a browser interface or through a mobile app, bringing us to our next metric.
Ease of Use
Our Ease of Use metric is next, accounting for 20% of the overall score. The X10 again scored very well, meriting a 7 out of 10 for it showing.
However, this router started off somewhat poorly, being one of the more difficult products to set up. While this router does have a wizard that starts automatically, we found it to be very buggy and prone to freezing or failing to load pages. We eventually got it to work by switching browsers multiple times, but it still wasn't very reliable and took multiple tries to get it right.
This model also required a firmware update right out of the box. However, this router wasn't too bad to use, once we completed the initial setup process. The interface is relatively user-friendly, though the aesthetic and overall design is a little outdated. We also found the browser interface would not work when using Google Chrome.
The X10 has one of the best set of parental control features, offering the most precise level of control. You have the option to whitelist and blacklist domains, as well as set different levels of restrictions based on content, using either your custom settings or the list provided. The setup process can be a little more labor intensive than some of the other routers, but the NETGEAR products were the best by far when implementing parental controls.
The Nighthawk X10 also supports Quality of Service, or QoS. This allows you to set a priority order for bandwidth by device or application. It's about average on the X10, using a dynamic QoS system similar to the Asus RT-AC88U. Finally, it is also quite easy to set up a guest network with this router.
2.4 GHz. Throughput
Our next metric, also responsible for 20% of the overall scores, assessed each router on how quickly it could transmit data over its 2.4 GHz. network. We conducted five different tests: short distance (10') line of sight, short distance obstructed, medium distance (35') line of sight, medium distance obstructed, and long distance (70') obstructed, averaging the results of three iPerf3 trials at each location to determine scores. The X10 finished in the middle of the pack, earning a 5 out of 10 for its performance.
The X10 started off with a strong showing in the short distance tests. It finished in the upper portion of the group in the line of sight tests, achieving an average speed of 49 Mbits/s. It performed even better in the obstructed version of the test, finishing relatively higher in the pack with it average transfer speed of 46 Mbit/s, as shown below.
This model continued its strong performance into the medium distance assessments, again scoring near the top of the pack in both tests. It had an average speed of 45 Mbit/s in the obstructed test and 47 Mbit/s in the line of sight test.
However, the performance of the X10 fell off quite rapidly in the final test of this metric, putting it close to the bottom of the pack, as shown below.
The Nighthawk X10 only had an average throughput of about 10 Mbit/s, though it did do slightly better than the 9 Mbit/s of the TP-Link Archer, our Best Buy Award winner.
5 GHz. Throughput
This metric is very similar to the previous metric, with an identical set of tests, though this time conducted over the 5 GHz. band. This metric is also worth 20% of the final score, with the X10 doing reasonably well, again earning a 5 out of 10 for its efforts.
While the X10 failed to impress in the short distance tests with its average throughput of 157 Mbit/s in the obstructed test. This put it towards the back of the pack, as shown below.
It did a little better in the line of sight test, but not by much, still only averaging about 186 Mbit/s — much slower than the 224 Mbit/s of the top model. Moving on to the medium distance tests, the X10 continued to deliver a subpar performance. It was slightly below average in the line of sight test, but actually performed the worst in the obstructed test, as shown below.
Inexplicably, the X10 followed this up with the best performance of the entire group in the long distance test, having an average throughput speed of 46 Mbit/s.
Taking credit for the remaining 15% of the total score, our Range metric is comprised of a single test. We attempted to stream a video on a test laptop at various measured points, scoring based on the distance where the video would no longer play without interruptions. The X10 finished out with an average performance, earning a 5 out of 10 for its results. This router delivered a clear signal for 152' in our tests, with the video cutting out after that.
The X10 is one of the worst values you can get, offering third-tier performance at a top-tier price.
Overall, we wouldn't really recommend this router. It didn't have any surprisingly amazing performance and costs substantially more than our top recommendation, the Asus RT-AC88U.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer