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Netgear R9000 Nighthawk X10 AD7200 Smart Wi-Fi Router review: This router is powerful, expensive and cutting-edge -- and you probably don't need it

The Netgear R9000 is definitely a powerful and exciting home router -- if you have the right hardware to take advantage of it. Here's CNET's full review.

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Dong Ngo
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Dong Ngo

SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

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5 min read

Netgear's R9000 Nighthawk X10 is a needy Wi-Fi router.

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6.7

Netgear R9000 Nighthawk X10 AD7200 Smart Wi-Fi Router

The Good

Supporting the new 802.11ad Wi-Fi standard, the Netgear X10 can deliver unprecedentedly fast wireless speeds. It also features ultrafast wired connections for high-end servers. It has speedy network storage performance, and the built-in Plex server for media streaming works well.

The Bad

The router is expensive and bulky. The web interface is sluggish, unintuitive and doesn't allow for in-depth Wi-Fi customization. There are currently few devices that can take advantage of its high-end features, and its 802.11ad signal has extremely short range.

The Bottom Line

Geeks with deep pockets might love the X10, but the majority of home users will find it too expensive for their daily networking needs.

In order to experience its superfast local Wi-Fi speed, you first need an 802.11ad-enabled laptop and a high-end 10Gbps server. Chances are good you have neither. But even if you do, you will then need to place the laptop right next to the X10 at all times for the fast connection to work. As soon as you move it a few feet away, its speed will reduce to no better than that of a regular quad-stream (4x4) 802.11ac router, such as the Netgear R7500 or the Asus RT-AC87U.

In short, the X10 is like a race car. It's powerful and exciting but ultimately its performance won't necessarily fit in with your daily habits. And at $500, it's hella expensive, too.

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Apart from the six regular Gigabit LAN ports, the R9000 also has one 10Gbps LAN port, the first in home routers.

Dong Ngo/CNET

The 802.11ad conundrum

The X10 is the second 802.11ad router I've worked with, following the TP-Link Talon that came out last October.

Not to be confused with 802.11ax, the 802.11ad standard, which operates on the 60GHz frequency band, is a supplement to regular Wi-Fi rather than a replacement for it for two reasons. First, it doesn't function with existing Wi-Fi clients; rather, only those that support 802.11ad are compatible. And second, it has an extremely short range, around 15 to 20 feet and even shorter in case of the X10 (more on this below). Since its signal can't penetrate obstacles like walls, the standard is used only for clients that stay close to and within line of sight of the router. This makes 802.11ad more of a replacement for wireless USB 3.0 than a fully functional Wi-Fi standard. (For more on the 802.11ad and other Wi-Fi standards, check out this post.)

To make up for that, 802.11ad has ultrafast Wi-Fi speed. The X10, for example, can support up to 4,600 megabits per second (or 4.6 gigabits per second) in a single 802.11ad Wi-Fi connection compared to the 1,733Mbps top speed of of 802.11ac.

Multiple Wi-Fi standards, multi-gigabit wired connections

The X10 also incorporates a quad-stream (4x4) 802.11ac access point to support all existing Wi-Fi devices. In other words, this is a router that can simultaneously deliver up to 4,600Mbps, 1,733Mbps, and 800Mbps Wi-Fi speeds on 60GHz, 5GHz and 2.4GHz frequency bands, respectively.

In order for the superfast 802.11ad Wi-Fi speed to make sense, you need another device that connects to the router at the same or faster speed, and the X10 has that covered. The router has six Gigabit LAN ports for wired clients. Two of these ports can work together to create single 2Gbps connection. Additionally, the X10 is the first among home routers with a 10Gbps SFP+ LAN port. So if you're willing to invest in a 802.11ad laptop and a high-end NAS server that can connect to its 10Gbps LAN port, you will definitely be able to experience the full speed of 802.11ad.

CNET Labs' 2.4GHz Wi-Fi performance

TP-Link Talon 278 99.2Linksys EA9500 243.6 120D-Link DIR-880L 160.8 89.5Synology RT2600ac 146.6 81.8Netgear R9000 139.6 37.1Netgear R7800 124.6 82.8Synology RT1900ac 122.7 65.3D-Link DIR-868L 63.3 55.6
  • Close range
  • Long range
Note: Measured in megabits per second. Longer bars mean better performance

Extremely short 802.11ad range

I didn't have such a NAS server, only a 802.11ad-equipped Acer laptop. For that reason, the top real-world 802.11ad Wi-Fi speed I got was that of a Gigabit connection, which was in no way close to what 802.11ad is capable of. However, I was able to connect the laptop to the router at 4.6Gbps.

One thing to note: the X10's range on the 60Ghz band was indeed extremely short. In order for the laptop to connect at multi-gigabit speed -- which ranged between 3Gbps and 4.6Gbps -- I had to place the laptop literally right next to the router. When I moved it just a few feet away, it then connected at somewhere between 385Mbps and 1.5Gbps. By 10 feet, out the laptop was barely connected.

Good 802.11ac performance

On the other hand, when working with existing non-802.11ad clients, the X10 did consistently well. On the 5GHz band, it offered a top speed of 533Mbps at close range (15 feet), and when I increased the distance to 75 feet (with one wall in between), it averaged 173Mbps. Overall it was about average among high-end routers. And like most high-end routers, its real-world speed on the 2.4GHz band was slow; just 140Mbps and 37Mbps for close and long range, respectively.

CNET Labs' 5GHz Wi-Fi performance

Netgear R7800 785.2 538.3Synology RT2600ac 715.6 453.6Linksys EA9500 685.2 496Synology RT1900AC 586.8 70.9TP-Link Talon 574 192Netgear R9000 533 172.6D-Link DIR-880L 525.6 212.8D-Link DIR-868L 271 221
  • Close range
  • Long range
Note: Measured in megabits per second. Longer bars mean better performance

Bloated interface, limited Wi-Fi customization

It's important to note that I wasn't able to configure the X10's Wi-Fi networks via its web interface to deliver best possible performance. The router has three Wi-Fi networks, one for each band (2.4GHz, 5GHz and 60GHz), and you can only set them to deliver "up to" certain speeds. This is sort of useless, since there's no reason you shouldn't choose the top speed for each band. The problem is, since you can't change other settings for each network, the router will always take compatibility over performance. That means you will always end up with a slower real-world connection speed than you'd hope for.

It's also worth noting that the interface is bloated with menu items and many advanced settings buried so deep that they're hard to find. The interface itself is also sluggish, taking a long time (up to 10 seconds) to respond when you move from one section to another.

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The X10 uses Netgear's bloated web interface that's sluggish and lacks Wi-Fi customization.

Screenshot by Dong Ngo

Fast network storage performance, built-in Plex server

If there's a silver lining to the interface, it's the Plex server feature. The X10 has two USB 3.0 ports and when you plug in an external hard drive, you can stream content stored on it to Plex clients. The Plex server is not as powerful as that of a dedicated NAS server, but it worked well in my trial nonetheless.

The X10 had fast network storage speed, too. Via a gigabit connection, I was able to copy data stored on the connected external hard drive at some 90 megabytes per second for reading and almost 70MB/s for writing, the fastest among routers with a network storage feature.

Should I buy it?

There's no doubt that the X10 is powerful. But it's powerful in areas that most home users won't be able to take advantage of. That said, unless you have a server with a 10Gbps SFP+ network port or you have a few 802.11ad devices, there's no reason to buy it at all. While it doesn't hurt to have it, if you just want a fast Wi-Fi network, the Asus RT-AC88U or the Netgear R7500 will give you the same experience for a lot less. If you're really on the market for multigigabit Wi-Fi connections, it's a better idea to wait for the upcoming 802.11ax standard, instead.

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6.7

Netgear R9000 Nighthawk X10 AD7200 Smart Wi-Fi Router

Score Breakdown

Setup 6Features 7Performance 7
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