Speedy 60GHz throughput. Excellent 5GHz performance. Very fast file-transfer speeds. Supports Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MU-MIMO), 802.11ad, and 160MHz networking technologies. Feature-packed.
Very expensive. So-so MU-MIMO throughput in testing. Lacks detailed Quality of Service (QoS) settings.
- Bottom Line
The 802.11ad, MU-MIMO-equipped Netgear Nighthawk X10 R9000 delivers blazing 5GHz throughput and even faster 60GHz speeds, and despite the high price, is an excellent way to future-proof your wireless network.
The Netgear Nighthawk X10 AD7200 Smart WiFi Router (R9000) is the second 802.11ad router we've tested. Designed for large homes, this gargantuan router is chock-full of networking goodness, including Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) data streaming, circuitry for 60GHz 802.11ad networking, and 160MHz Wi-Fi technology. In fact, it's the only one we've reviewed so far to have all three, as well as a 10G SPF+ LAN port, more commonly seen on enterprise-level routers. While its MU-MIMO performance was middling in testing, it turned in the fastest 5GHz range performance scores we've seen to date, and comes close to the 1Gbps mark in our 60GHz 802.11ad throughput tests. It also offers plenty of LAN and USB ports, but at $499.99, it's not a small investment. But if you're willing to pay up front to future-proof your router, it's worth it.
//Compare Similar Products
Design and Features
At 2.9 by 8.8 by 6.6 inches (HWD), the R9000 is huge, but not as imposing as the TP-Link Talon AD7200 Multi-Band Wi-Fi Router (1.7 by 9 by 9 inches). It has four adjustable antennas, which contain blue LEDs that light up when the Wi-Fi radios are active, and there's a long line of LED indicators positioned along the front edge of the router for power, internet, 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 60GHz radio bands, guest networks, six Gigabit LAN ports, a 10G SPF+ LAN port, and two USB ports. Here, you'll also find a WPS button and a Wi-Fi On/Off button.
I/O ports abound. There are two USB 3.0 ports located on the left side of the router, and around back are six Gigabit LAN ports, a WAN (Internet) port, an SPF+ LAN port, and power, Reset, and LED On/Off buttons. The R9000 supports Ethernet Port Aggregation, which lets you combine two LAN ports (port 1 and port 2) to improve file-transfer speeds to compatible aggregate devices, such as network switches and network-attached storage (NAS) devices. The 10G SPF+ LAN port, which is a feature usually found in an enterprise-oriented router, is used to connect the R9000 to 10-gigabit Ethernet devices, such as enterprise servers and switches.
Equipped with a 1.7GHz quad-core CPU, the R9000 is a quad-stream, dual-band 802.11ac router that can hit 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1,733Mbps on the 5GHz band. As with the TP-Link Talon, it supports 802.11ad networking, which operates on the 60GHz band and is capable of (theoretical) throughput speeds of up to 4,600Mbps. However, in order to take advantage of 802.11ad speeds, all clients must have Wi-Fi circuitry that supports 802.11ad networking, and as of this writing, they are few and far between. This technology is ideal for transferring big chunks of data and for streaming 4K video, but it can't penetrate walls, and is limited to same-room communications.
The R9000 supports MU-MIMO data streaming, which sends data to MU-MIMO-compatible clients simultaneously, rather than sequentially, and beamforming, which directs Wi-Fi signals to specific clients, rather than over a broad spectrum. Additionally, this router supports 160MHz Wi-Fi, which is also featured on the Linksys WRT3200ACM MU-MIMO Gigabit Wi-Fi Router. This basically doubles the 80MHz channel width on the 5GHz band to achieve faster throughput speeds, but there is no way to test this feature, as 160MHz clients are not yet available. Other key features of the R9000 include automatic backups to the Amazon Drive cloud-based storage service, and Plex Media Server support, which allows you to manage and share photos, videos, and audio files stored on a connected USB hard drive.
You can use either the Netgear Genie web-based console or Genie mobile app to manage the R9000. The home page contains Basic Internet and Wireless settings. Here, you can also view information about Attached Devices (IP address and MAC address), set up Guest Networks, configure a Plex Media Server, view Amazon Drive backup settings, and enable ReadySHARE printer and storage-sharing options. You can also enable Parental Controls to restrict internet access time and block specific sites, but you'll have to download the mobile or web app first.
The Advanced settings page displays detailed Router, Wireless, and Guest Network information. The Setup menu lets you configure advanced Internet, Wireless, and Guest Network settings and allows you to enable a basic Wi-Fi MultiMedia (WMM) Quality of Service (QoS) feature, but it lacks QoS settings that allow you to prioritize network traffic for specific clients and applications. Advanced Security settings let you block specific websites and create access schedules, and the Advanced Setup page is where you go to enable Ethernet Port Aggregation, adjust Port Forwarding and Port Triggering settings, configure VPN Services, and view network traffic statistics.
Installation and Performance
Like the Netgear Nighthawk X4S Smart Wi-Fi Router (R7800), the R9000 is easy to install. Once it's connected to your PC and internet service, you open a browser and type www.routerlogin.net to access the Setup Wizard, which walks you through the basic internet and wireless network settings.
The R9000 turned in very impressive scores in our throughput performance tests. Its score of 558Mbps in our 5GHz close-proximity (same-room) test beat the D-Link AC5300 Ultra Wi-Fi Router (DIR-895L/R) (515Mbps) and the TP-Link Talon (440Mbps), both also top picks, and was just a tad slower than the Linksys WRT3200ACM (569Mbps). At a distance of 30 feet, the R9000's score of 392Mbps was the highest we've seen from any router, beating out the D-Link DIR-895L/R (324Mbps), the TP-Link Talon (237Mbps), and the Linksys WRT3200ACM (238Mbps).
Performance on the 2.4GHz band was also good. The R9000 managed 99.1Mbps in the close-proximity test, topping the D-Link DIR-895L/R's score of 98.4Mbps and the TP-Link Talon's throughput of 98.9Mbps. The Linksys WRT3200ACM scored 76Mbps in this test. In the 30-foot test, the R9000's score of 73.3Mbps beat the D-Link DIR-895L/R (71Mbps) and the Linksys WRT3200ACM (58.5Mbps), but came in behind the TP-Link Talon (79.8Mbps).
To test the R9000's 802.11ad Wi-Fi prowess, I used an Acer TravelMate P648 Series laptop equipped with a Qualcomm Atheros Sparrow 11ad Wireless Network Adapter. In the close-proximity test, it turned in a scorching 951Mbps, nearly double that of its 5GHz throughput speed. The TP-Link Talon also did well in this test, scoring 945Mbps. As with the TP-Link Talon, the R9000 couldn't hold a signal at a distance of 30 feet, which is not surprising, given the limited range of 802.11ad Wi-Fi.
To put the R9000's MU-MIMO capability through its paces, I used three identical Acer Aspire E15 laptops equipped with Qualcomm Atheros QCA9377 wireless 802.11ac network adapters as my clients. In the close-proximity test, the R9000's score of 156.3Mbps trailed the Linksys WRT3200ACM (174Mbps), the D-Link DIR-895L/R (264.6Mbps), and the TP-Link Talon (226Mbps), but was a bit faster than the ZyXel Armor Z2 AC2600 MU-MIMO Dual-Band Wireless Gigabit Router (NBG6817) (150Mbps), and the Asus RT-AC88U Dual-Band Router (138Mbps). At 30 feet, the R9000 scored 112Mbps, once again trailing the Linksys WRT3200ACM (138Mbps), the D-Link DIR-895L/R (134.5Mbps), and the TP-Link Talon (113Mbps), but besting the ZyXel Z2 (72Mbps) and the Asus RT-AC88U (80Mbps).
File-transfer speeds were excellent. The R9000 scored 89.1MBps in our hard drive read test and 77.1MBps in the write test, edging past our previous leader, the Linksys WRT3200ACM (88MBps read and 74MBps write). The D-Link DIR-895L/R scored 44.1MBps (read) and 33.2MBps (write), and the TP-Link Talon garnered 56.8MBps and 27.9MBps, respectively.
You'll pay big bucks for the Netgear Nighthawk X10 AD7200 Smart WiFi Router (R9000), but you get a high-end, feature-packed router that delivers some of the fastest throughput performance we've seen. While there are other routers that have MU-MIMO, 160MHz, or 802.11ad Wi-Fi capabilities, the R9000 is the only one we've seen so far with all three. It's loaded with six Gigabit LAN ports, an SPF+ LAN port for 10-gigabit connectivity via fiber (a feature we haven't seen in a consumer-level router until now), and automatic Amazon Drive backup and Plex Media Server capabilities. Granted, there aren't many clients around to take advantage of the 802.11.ad and 160MHz Wi-Fi features, but if you want to get ahead of the curve with a router that is ready for the future, the Netgear Nighthawk X10 R9000 is our latest Editors' Choice for high-end routers. If $500 is too steep, you'll get 802.11ad connectivity and better MU-MIMO performance with the $350 TP-Link Talon AD7200, but you'll have to do with fewer I/O ports, and there's no 160MHz Wi-Fi.
By John R. Delaney Contributing Editor
As a Contributing Editor for PCMag, John Delaney has been testing and reviewing monitors, TVs, PCs, networking and smart home gear, and other assorted hardware and peripherals for almost 20 years. A 13-year veteran of PC Magazine's Labs (most recently as Director of Operations), John was responsible for the recruitment, training and management of the Labs technical staff, as well as evaluating and maintaining the integrity of the Labs testing machines and procedures. Prior to joining Ziff Davis, John spent six years in retail operations for… More »
More Stories by John R.
- Abode Home Security Starter Kit
The Abode Home Security Starter Kit is a fantastic do-it-yourself security system that offers no-con… More »
- The Best Wireless Range Extenders of 2017
Bring your home's Wi-Fi dead zones back to life with a wireless range extender. Here's what you need… More »
- Dell UltraSharp 32 Ultra HD 4K Monitor (UP3216Q)
The Dell UltraSharp UP3216Q is a pricey 32-inch, professional-grade monitor that delivers precise co… More »