Netgear has released its newest super duper fast router that can handle any streaming video bandwidth. I’ve spent the last month with the Netgear Nighthawk X10 AD7200 router. Netflix 4k and Amazon UHD streaming as well as VR gaming has been consistent and without a glitch. A quad-core processor, enhanced antennas, and a new WiFi standard work together to bring in the fastest WiFi speeds I’ve seen from a home network router. Along with speed, the X10 has added home network central storage and backup capabilities as well as a Plex Media Server to make it the best home theater streaming router available today. Of course, while it performs beyond that of the average router, it’s also priced above the average router at $500 but Amazon has 10% off from the origintal price.
The 802.11ac WiFi (“AC routers”) standard has been the recommendation for streaming 4K video. The Nighthawk X10 has added a newer standard—802.11ad. This standard can provide (theoretical) WiFi speeds up to 7 Gbps. Of course, we will have to wait until more streaming TVs and players have the 802.11ad receivers built in, but it does make the Nighthawk future proof for streaming needs over the next few years. Along with the typical dual bands at 2.4 GHz and 5GHz, the 802.11ad will communicate over a 60GHz band not found on today’s routers. With nothing else in your house transmitting at the 60GHz bandwidth, it can carry more information with better throughput.
Netgear reports a comparison of 802.11ad speed to 802.11ac by claiming that a 3GB backup will take 8 seconds vs. 24 seconds. An 8GB 4K movie file will take 21 second rather than over a minute. A 20GB VR video will take under a minute versus 2 minutes on the typical 802.11ac router.
Four enhanced active antennas improve the reliability and speed of WiFi from the Nighthawk X10. The antennas boost transmission before the signal leaves the antenna. The result has been that I can receive full 4k streams from Netflix on my upstairs (other end of the house) Roku Ultra. With previous AC routers, Netflix would slow to an HD stream (and occasionally to an SD stream) with the same setup.
The X10 is the first home networking router to have a 1.7 GHz Quad-Core Processor, which contributes to its ability to transmit four large bandwidth streams. The processor also makes it possible for the router to stream from a Plex Media Server without a computer and to backup to a connected USB drive at the same time.
Two USB 3.0 ports are available to connect whatever size hard drive you may need for backing up computers on your home network along with storing your media libraries. While some PCs may require that you map the network drive, the USB immediately appeared in the file finder on my computers without any special setup. What’s more, access to the drive was as fast as if it were connected directly to my computer. This type of connected central hard drive is much easier for accessing files and streaming than using a NAS (network attached storage) drive. Plus the connected drive can be set up to be your own private cloud that can be accessed remotely through Netgear’s ReadyCloud portal.
Once you have transferred files to the USB drive, you can back them up online. Rather than use a proprietary special service, the Nighthawk X10 can back up the files to Amazon Drive. The router comes with 6 months free Amazon Drive service. After the trial period, Amazon charges $60 a year for unlimited file storage (not part of Amazon Prime). It can only backup what is on the connected drive. To backup your computer files to the cloud, simply indicate the backup folder as one to be copied to the Amazon Drive for the security of having files saved off-site.
Netgear has added the Plex Media Server to the Nighthawk X10. For those who download media files, the Plex Media Server is one of the best server/player experiences. It gathers metadata from online to include video Extras, a poster and more. Plus it can recommend other titles in your library based on a chosen movie. The experience is much like an online streaming service but it works with the media you own. The Plex Media Server is usually run from a computer, requiring the computer to be turned on whenever you want to access your media (either locally or remotely). It takes up your computer’s resources. By adding it to the router, a computer does not need to be turned to access and play from the Plex library.
While I was assured that it was easier to set up Plex on the router than on a computer, I didn’t find that to be the case. As with setting up Plex on a computer, you must browse to add media folders to the movies, music, and photo libraries. Unlike the Plex Media Server on a computer that can connect to a number of different drive sources, the Nighthawk’s Plex uses only libraries on the connected USB drive.
During testing, an issue arose where the USB drive disconnected (“unmounted”) from the router. I don’t know how it happened, but the USB (and therefore my Plex Server) was unreachable. I disconnected and reconnected the drive to the router. This was the wrong thing to do as it created new paths to the folders and problems with Plex. It became clear that if the USB drive becomes unmounted, it is best to reboot the router and keep the drive attached. This resets the library folders to the correct paths.
Note that if you are an established Plex user with large media libraries, switching to the router is a bit of a hassle. Over time Plex has found metadata to go with your media files including synopses, cast lists, posters, theme music and video extras. Perhaps you had to correct the metadata on files. When using the library on the X10’s Plex Media Server, it will want to rediscover the metadata from scratch. This could take a lot of time and effort if there are corrections. You might want to create the new Plex Media Server as a separate new source for your account or move a smaller number of files to a new folder to manage the transition slowly.
In the end, the Plex library does work as it should. I was able to play my huge iTunes library, watch episodes of Mr. Robot, and view a movie I had downloaded.
The Netgear Up smartphone app makes it easy to set up the router without a computer. The Netgear Genie app lets you change wireless settings, control guest access and parental controls, shows the traffic meter to let you know how much data you’ve downloaded from the internet, and transfers files to and from the USB drive. The app makes the router settings easier for the average user to make changes without going into the browser-based dashboard.
The Netgear Nighthawk X10 is truly the best router for home theater and gamers. With no latency, and consistently fast speeds, it is an excellent performer. The Plex Media Server will ultimately be a great benefit. The USB connection can accommodate backups and file transfers with immediate access. It’s much more than a router, and is worth its higher price tag.