The Netgear Nighthawk X4 provides features that have thus far been lacking in other high-end routers, so it's a worthwhile option for anyone who wants superior range, fast speeds and, in particular, to enjoy the best of the best when hosting external hard drives.
Hardware and Features
The Nighthawk X4 is a quad-stream, or 4X4, 802.11ac router. Its 2.4 GHz frequency band, which is capable of Wi-Fi speeds of up to 600Mbps, is powered by a Qualcomm 1.4 GHz dual-core main processor, which is currently the fastest available on the market. Its 5 GHz frequency band, on the other hand, is powered by the Quantenna QT3840BC, a dedicated, dual-core, 500 MHz chip. This band is capable of Wi-Fi speeds of up to 1,733Mbps. Therefore, the total bandwidth of the Nighthawk X4 is 2,333Mbps.
In addition to boasting the first quad-stream 802.11ac chip on the market, the Nighthawk X4 is the first router to have two USB 3.0 ports. There are also the standard four Gigabit LAN ports, a Gigabit WAN port, a power port, an on/off button and a recessed reset button that restores the router's default settings. Near the front and top of the device, there's the usual array of LED lights, a Wi-Fi Protected Setup, or WPS, button and a Wi-Fi on/off button. The four detachable antennas must be plugged into the corresponding slots to work properly.
Interface and Speed
Conveniently, the Netgear Nighthawk X4 works right out of the box with its default settings. Advanced users who want to customize the router, however, may find it difficult. To customize this router's settings, you must use the web interface, which is decidedly clunky and overcrowded with options and features. To make matters worse, the web interface is often slow to react. After making changes, it's usually necessary to restart the router, which takes a minute or two as well. In terms of convenience, then, this router doesn't quite make the grade. The Netgear Genie app can be used in some instances, but it's not terribly intuitive, either.
This router has a slick Quality of Control, or QoS, feature called Dynamic QoS, which automatically prioritizes the use of the bandwidth based on the types of devices that are involved. This feature can cleverly distinguish between gaming, streaming, file sharing and other processes, and it allocates bandwidth accordingly.
Despite its impressive hardware and Dynamic QoS, the Nighthawk X4 fails to deliver the kind of speed one would expect. In 4X4 tests, it registered at 205Mbps at a close range and 147Mbps at a long range. In 3X3 tests, it registered at 382Mbps at a close range and 242Mbps at a long range, which is slightly better.
The Bottom Line
Although the speed tests for the Nighthawk X4 had somewhat disappointing results, the fact of the matter is that this is one of the fastest, most powerful routers around, and it's a great choice for anyone with demanding home networking needs.