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Nighthawk X10 my mini review

Bartlomiej BaraniecBartlomiej Baraniec Posts: 1,784Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass

Few months ago, I’ve stumbled upon Nighthawk X10. Netgear says it the fastest router in the world and I do believe it is with all the tech built in, but for me the main feature is Plex Media Server on router with Quad-Core CPU. I think I’ve read and seen every possible review online and while they are interesting and very detailed I wanted to know how Plex performs on a router.
To start off this isn’t a sponsored review, however Netgear did sent me this unit for testing, but all opinions are my own. Just FYI, this isn’t another unboxing and Router/Plex setup video review.
I don’t have any fancy charts comparing WiFi coverage, network speeds, signal strength, etc. I won’t be comparing Nighthawk to any other router. For over a week, I was using Nighthawk with Backup Internet next to my existing one.
I’ve set up Plex Media Server, I’ve tested different playback settings on different clients, I’ve done some network speed testing, not only WiFi but also Ethernet. Next step was to replace my current router with Nighthawk and see how it perform in “real life” scenario.
I wanted to focus mainly on Plex, but Nighthawk is just packed with so many things. I would be shame not to mention them in few sentences.

The look:

First impression, it’s huge :) I would say it’s as big as my 13’ Notebook. Router comes in very nice, eye catching box. I know looks is highly subjective but I find Nighthawk X10 nice and sleek. Very good build quality, no cheap squeaking plastic or wiggling antennas. Throughout the plastic mesh on top of the router you can see huge heatsink with fan. I took four 720p transcoding streams to start the ****.

You can control router LED either by hardware switch that is located at the back of Router or from web interface. Hardware switch can be set to either on or off position. Software gives third option to keep the LED on but disable blinking.

Initial setup:

Easiest way to setup up Nighthawk is by using an application for iOS and Android called NETGEAR Up.
Just start it and follow on screen instruction. Default wireless settings are printed out on sticker on top on the router. While setting up WiFi my fat fingers made spelling error in password. Fortunately for me, NETGEAR Up displays the values I have provided after personalization. Netgear advertise it: “Router installation that works”. It does, highly recommended.









PLEX:

Installation takes less than five minutes. In Router interface check “Enable Plex Media Server” and plug an USB drive for Plex data. You can use any of the two USB3 ports. What happens if you decide to change USB port later on? Router will rescan drive and restart Plex. That simple. Removing USB drive with Plex Media Server library will stop the service.
You have access to whole PMS folder via Network Share. This come handy if you want to manually install an add-on.

Same drive can be use also to store media, but you need to remember that changing USB port will change mounting point and your media will be unavailable. Current firmware supports only USB drives for media storage but Netgear provided me a beta version that allows accessing network attached storage.
My setup. Plex library is located on external USB3 Toshiba DPT105, SanDisk Extreme 32GB is used for Transcoder temporary directory. My media is located on ReadyNAS Pro 6 running ReadyNAS OS 6.

For testing purposes I’ve created 3 libraries:
*TV Shows 720p (720HD TV, ~1GB/file)
*TV Shows 1080p (1080p BluRay, ~4GB/file)
*TV Shows 4K

I know 4K content will be transcoded to 1080p and both PMP and OpenPHT will max out my 6700k in DirectPlay because there is no hardware acceleration (at least not on Windows) but I just wanted to see if I can play it. My mobile clients used for testing are iPhones 5/6/7 and an iPad 4 all connect to 5Ghz network.
Overall performance of Plex running on Nighthawk is impressive. My main PMS is running on 2012 MacMini with Quad-Core i7 and I don’t see any difference in responsiveness, processing new content, loading metadata, etc.

Playback - Transcoding (Quality set to 2Mbps):

  • TV Shows 720p - I was able to run three different streams without any problems. Enabling forth stream was causing buffering on random device on rare occasion
  • TV Shows 1080p - 1 stream was running flawlessly, if you start second stream just after first one started you might get buffering on rare occasion
  • TV Shows 4k - just for the sake of “yes, we can”, I’ve managed to play on iPad transcoded to 8Mbit/s. Can’t say playback was smooth. It was buffering for 1 minute for every 2 minutes of playback, but then again even my i7-3615QM is struggling with 4K content

Playback - Direct Play (Quality set to Original, 1080p)

  • clearly, I wasn’t prepared for that and I must repeat this one with more devices. In both cases 720p and 1080p I was able to play content on 5 iOS devices and 1 Notebook connected via Ethernet without slightest problem.

BIF creation + chapter creation is very CPU intensive task and for 1080p BluRay file it took around 25 minutes.
Setting up remote access can be frustrating and problematic sometimes right? Opening ports, forwarding ports, UPnP on or off? With Nighthawk just enable remote access and save changes. Is that simple.

Ethernet + WiFi speeds and coverage:

Current router is located in living room. The worse WiFi coverage is in my Office, located 8 meters and two concrete walls away. Below results of speedtest in following order: 2,4Ghz 1 meter away from router, 5Ghz 1 meter away from router, 2,4Ghz in Office and 5Ghz in Office. My Internet connection is 100/10.

Current router:


Nighthawk:


As you can see, massive, massive improvement. More important than just numbers is the fact that whole flat has outstanding WiFi coverage. No longer I need to weave my phone in air searching for WiFi 
Wireless copying speeds (copying back and forth a folder between testing station and USB connected to Nighthawk) – my testing station is Lenovo X240 (Core i5-4300U, 4GB DDR3, Samsung SSD, Intel Dual Band Wireless-N 7260).

  • WiFi 2,4Ghz - 16,6 MB/s
  • WiFi 5Ghz - 26,2 MB/s

Wired connection

PC -> USB connected to router:

PC to NAS:

Few worth mentioning features:

  • Default wireless security is set to WPA2 for all networks
  • LAN Setup – flexible Subnet Mask, you can use any mask you want
  • Traffic Meter can be used to either just monitor the usage of internet or to control it

  • Amazon Cloud Drive backup, you can backup content of any USB connected device directly to Cloud. This feature is really ease to setup and use and should motivate people to do backups.

  • Access control give you another layer of security. If enabled even if someone manages to connect to your router, will be denied accessing network. Furthermore, it works also for Ethernet clients.

  • 2,4 and 5Ghz guest networks

Conclusions:

Buying a wireless router for home use can be real headache. There are many models to choose from and without doubt you can find something for 100 euro or less.
If you need more from your network, if you watch 4k content, play online games, you need to transfer large files between devices, you have a NAS or you planning to get one, Nighthawk will definitely meet your expectations.
I love cutting edge technology. Even though I don’t have currently 802.11AD device or NAS with 10Gbit/s connection I’m ready. Furthermore 6 Ethernet ports, 2 of them supporting link aggregation, Quad-Core CPU, great WiFi coverage and speeds, latest MU-MIMO technology, HT160 support all that makes a Nighthawk X10 worth recommending.

And Plex, yes, I have to mention it again. If you set your clients such as AppleTV, FireTv, PS4/XBxox, various Smart TV to direct play, Nighthawk won’t have any problems with playback. Also, Netgear gives you 3 months Plex Pass for free.
Nighthawk is truly amazing piece of technology. Is it expensive? Would I buy? Yes, and yes. Good wireless router is not the place to try and safe money, it’s a backbone of your network. Nighthawk X10 will not only meet your needs today but for the years to come.

Still to be tested:

  • VPN Server
  • Link aggregation

Cons:

  • My Sandisk Extreme does not fit in USB1 ;)

Please leave a feedback, constructive criticism or questions. I will try to answer all of them.

UPDATE1 - AC speeds and Cloud Backup:

Testing Laptop is Dell Lattitude E5470 with Intel Wirelless AC-8260.
Small files - it's a folder with mp3 files:

Large file - one 2,25GB img file
Notebook and router are located in the same room.

NB to NAS small files:

NB to NAS large file:

Nas to NB small files:

NAS to NB large file:

Look at those speeds, especially while copying large files. Never seen such high numbers over WiFi.
I run the same test from my Office (8 meters away, 2 conrete wall) and I was getting speeds between 30-40MB/s.

Few words about Amazon Cloud Backup. First of all you need to connect your Amazon account. Then you choose what will be included in Backup.
Either full drive or selected folder(s). Now interesting part, you can either scheduled backup or set up Real-time backup.

I've tested both methods, they work flawlessly and reliably, so no more excuses that setting Backup is hard Smiley Happy
Real-time backup works very fast but don't forget this isn't bidirectional sync. Local changes will be backed to the cloud but not the other way.
There are two things I would like to see implemented in the future: option to pause/stop backup and ability to set upload speed.

There was an update to Plex recently. You can enable automatic updates, when new version is available if you want. I preffer to do everything manually.
Whole process is limited to two mouse clicks and took maybe 1 minute.

General happiness factor - excellent :)

UPDATE2 - Plex Sync:

Personally I don't use Plex Sync. I just stream everything.
Ok, so we are syncing 1080p BluRay, 4GB file:

I've started sync from iPad:

Status from Plex web app:

Downloading to iPad, and synced item ready to play:


I was getting converting speeds between 0.7x and 1,7x and it took around 40 minutes for that item to convert from 1080p to 4Mbit/720p but don't forget, it's still "only" a router :smile:

Comments

  • matthew7899matthew7899 Posts: 1Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass

    Can you access Plex outside of your home network?

  • Bartlomiej BaraniecBartlomiej Baraniec Posts: 1,784Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass

    Yes remote access is working.

  • sbushman18sbushman18 Posts: 19Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass

    The Netgear is doing transcoding?

  • Bartlomiej BaraniecBartlomiej Baraniec Posts: 1,784Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass

    Yes, it does but it has limitations. It's a router after all.

  • sfrandyssfrandys Posts: 2Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass

    Interesting read. I just posted this evening about not being able to stream Plex to my Tivo Bolt. If you read it and have any suggestions I'd really appreciate it. Thanks

  • Kung-Foo-KamelKung-Foo-Kamel Posts: 14Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass

    Nice review Bart,

    I would say transcoding will get better as they optimise the software, I have run Plex Server on Atom cpus, I series and even on an Arm based XU4, the latest Atoms are hopeless, they won't transcode much, mainly just audio, all I series intel are good, I3 Low Power is still good for at least 1 x 1080 stream the XU4 odroid will also do 1080, it will do more with water cooling, but it was still a hopeless Plex server, its throughput via lan wasn't good enough me to use it full-time, from my initial testing, the X10 performs really well, I mainly stream direct to all my nVidia Shields, but I just tested playback over the net to remote outback location to my iPhone and my MacBook and the X10 worked great, I wasn't expecting that.

    Even setting up Plex was faster than I expected, its just as fast as using a good PC, I was looking at using a shield tv as a server, but this thing made better sense, its now eliminating 3 wifi access points, 1 x gigabit switch and now with any luck, 1 mini intel pc.

    I'm not sure what the CPU specs are for the X10 but I know the guys at Plex have been coding towards using hardware to transcode, I read somewhere that the nVidia shield will transcode in hardware, so hopefully this thing has some h264/5 hardware acceleration built in.

  • bryn987bryn987 Posts: 37Members ✭✭

    You used Plex via USB. Does it work if your storage is over Ethernet?

  • Bartlomiej BaraniecBartlomiej Baraniec Posts: 1,784Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass

    Do you mean like NAS device?

  • coastsidecoastside Posts: 41Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass

    I'm trying to figure out if the Nighthawk can support any more than just the 1 or 2 USB connected drives...
    I currently have 7 USB drives connected to my Mac Mini currently comprising a total of 27 TB of movies and TV shows.
    If I share the drives from the Mac Mini, can the Nighthawk access those drives with the Plex Server?

  • Bartlomiej BaraniecBartlomiej Baraniec Posts: 1,784Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass
    edited August 26

    Yes to two drives, I haven't tested usb hubs.
    Yes, if you share the drives from MacMini you can mount them in Nighthawk web UI.
    I don't see any reason you would want to do so, Mac is much more powerful.

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