Thursday, January 21st, 2021

QHora-301W Review: QNAP’s Intriguing but Lacking First Router

QNAP QHora 301W WiFi 6 Router
The QNAP QHora-301W looks like more a business router than a home one.

The QHora-301W Dual 10G wifi 6 AX3600 SD-WAN router — the very first Wi-Fi broadcaster from QNAP, a known NAS server maker — is intriguing. As the name suggests, there are things about it you might have never heard of before.

OK, this is the first consumer-grade Wi-Fi 6 broadcaster that comes with two 10Gbps BASE-T (RJ-45) network ports and features software-defined WAN (SD-WAN). It has a lot of potentials.

On the downside, the new router’s Wi-Fi specs are relatively modest, and so are its features and network settings. In fact, its most valuable feature, namely SD-WAN, can only shine when you use multiple units at different sites, something most home users don’t need and only a few businesses do.

That said, at the current cost of around $350, the QHora-301W is pricy for what it has to offer. But if you’re looking for a router with some particular enterprise-class features, it can be a great purchase.

For everyone else, its reliable performance, will prove to be valuable. But compared to the current top Wi-Fi 6 home routers on the market, this Wi-Fi box still has nothing to qualify as a must-have.

QNAP QHora-301W Dual 10G WiFi 6 AX3600 SD-WAN router

$398.31
7.5

Performance

8.0/10

Features

7.0/10

Ease of Use

8.0/10

Value

7.0/10

Pros

  • Reliable Wi-Fi performance
  • SD-WAN and other enterprise-class features
  • Responsive web interface
  • Two 10Gbps network ports

Cons

  • Expensive for the modest Wi-Fi coverage
  • Some common settings are missing
  • No 160MHz channel width support (yet)
  • Useless USB-related features
  • No Dynamic DNS or QoS

QNAP QHora-301W: Plenty of what you (probably) do not need, little of what you sure do

I was very excited when QNAP pitched me the QHora-301W. Among other things, it’s like the Wi-Fi 6 router Synology hasn’t cared enough to make.

What does Synology have to do with this, you might ask?

Well, I can’t talk about QNAP without thinking of Synology. The two are direct competitors in NAS servers. (I have to admit that I’ve been leaning Synology on the NAS front, but the two vendors have a lot of similarities.)

And for years, Synology has had excellent Wi-Fi 5 broadcasters of its own, including the mesh-ready RT2600ac and MR2200ac, which are still on my list of best Wi-Fi 5 routers. But so far the NAS maker hasn’t shipped any Wi-Fi 6 machine yet, nor has it those with multi-gig ports.

READ NOW:  Synology Mesh Overview: Home Wi-Fi Turned Pro

So, the QHora-301W now dropped with a bang. QNAP’s first router seems to have everything a Synology fan would wish for. Or does it? We’ll find out below.

But up to this part of the review, QNAP deserved a round of applause for taking the initiative. I’ll remember the excitement while taking the QHora-301W out of the box.

QNAP QHora-301W: Detail photos

QNAP QHora 301W Wi Fi 6 Router 15
The QNAP QHora-301W’s retail box.

QNAP QHora 301W Wi Fi 6 Router 13
The router coms with a power adapter that uses a standard computer power cord, making it quite bulky.

QNAP QHora 301W Wi Fi 6 Router 2
On the front, the QNAP QHora-301W has an array of status lights.

QNAP QHora 301W Wi Fi 6 Router 4
The QNAP QHora-301W has six network ports. Note none is marked as the WAN port, out of the box.

QNAP QHora 301W Wi Fi 6 Router 3
The router is a typical rectangle box.

QNAP QHora 301W Wi Fi 6 Router 6
It has a large footprint (I have big hands.)

QNAP QHora 301W Wi Fi 6 Router 7
The QNAP QHora-301W’s underside. Note how it’s not wall mount-ready.

QNAP QHora 301W Wi Fi 6 Router 8
The router’s label shows its default IP configuation.

QNAP QHora 301W Wi Fi 6 Router 10
Did I mention that this was a rectangle box?

A standard router with sub-standard local network settings

Well, the excitement was short-lived. The QHora-301W’s hardware didn’t turn out to be consistently cutting-edge. And its software was also a bit underwhelming.

Out of the box, the QHora-301W is a bit mundane. It’s a standard rectangle networking box with internal antennas, ports on the back, and status LED on the front.

That’s not a huge issue and I like the fact you can set it up the way you do any standard router via the web interface which is available at 192.168.100.1.

Note: The router’s default IP above is the same as that of most Cable modems. So, in many cases, it’s a good idea to manually that to something else — I used 192.168.50.1 for this review — before connecting it to an Internet (WAN) source. Else, you might run into issues.

And there’s more to the router’s WAN connection. But first let’s check out the hardware.

QNAP QHora-301W: Lopsided hardware specifications

Despite the impressive port speeds and high processing power, the new router can be disappointing when you look at its Wi-Fi specs.

For one, it doesn’t support the venerable 160MHz channel width. (QNAP says, it might add this support in the first quarter of 2021 via new firmware). Also, it’s not mesh-ready, the way Synology Wi-Fi 5 counterparts are.

And then there are more things that didn’t turn out as I had hoped.

The QNAP QHora-301W reminds me of the TP-Link Archer AX3200 in hardware specs. Both are routers with multi-gig ports yet modest Wi-Fi.

By the way, the router has an internal speaker that makes high-pitch beeps to respond to certain user inputs or power status. Trust me when I tell you that I was delighted to find out I could turn these audio alerts off via the web interface.

The SD-WAN effect

The most noticeable feature of the QHora-301W is its SD-WAN. The router itself doesn’t come with a hardware WAN port. Instead, you can use any of its two 10Gbps network port, or the LAN 1 port, as the WAN port.

Out of the box, any of these ports will work as the WAN if you plug it into an Internet source (such as a modem.) But if you connect any of them to a local device, such as a computer, it’ll then work as a LAN.

QNAP QHora 301W Wi Fi 6 Router 5
The QNAP QHora-301W’s two 1Gbps port can work as LANs or WANs.

To be safe and save time, though, you should not connect any local device to the LAN1 port during the setup process, which will help you designate which port to work as WAN. And you can change that at any time. All via the router’s web interface.

But the flexibility of picking a WAN port is just a small part of SD-WAN. This is an industry standard that allows for connecting multiple local networks with ease via the Internet. It’s like a mesh network at the WAN level.

I’d take QNAP’s word for this since the only way to test SD-WAN out is to use multiple QHora-301W units at multiple sites. Most of us only have home and of those lucky few with more, chances are there’s no need to link them together via the Internet.

In other words, you will unlikely see the benefits of the router’s SD-WAN at all.

QHora 301W Wi Fi QuWAN
The QNAP QHora-301W’s QuWAN feature is only useful for some business users.

Some unique enterprise-class settings

What you sure can take advantage of, however, are some enterprise-class settings and features.

These include the support for Virtual LAN (VLAN), a powerful programable Firewall, and a flexible VPN feature. Again, these are great in case you need to link multiple offices together or if you need to manage VPN or remote connections to a specific device.

The QHora-301W also comes with three sets of virtual Wi-Fi networks. You can turn on just one (default), two, or all three at any given time. With each, you can make the band work in the Smart Connect mode, which combines both bands into a single network name (SSID), or separating them, and even schedule each SSID’s availability.

In all, if you want to segment your home network, the QHora-305W has a lot of options.

QHora 301W Interface
The QNAP QHora-301W’s web interface is responsive but shallow in features and settings.

Responsive but primitive interface, lacking in common features/settings

The QHora-301W’s firmware, called QuRouter, is totally different from QTS, QNAP’s NAS servers’ operating system. (That can be a good thing since QTS is quite messy and bloated, in my opinion.)

(Again, I draw these parallels since Synology’s router firmware called SRM, or Synology Router Manager, is very similar to that of its NAS operating system, which is DSM or DiskStation Manager.)

Unfortunately, in this case, there’s barely anything good. QuRouter has a relatively primitive web interface and is sorely lacking in features and settings. Those that are available all lack depth.

That said, if you have a top-tier router from Asus, TP-Link, or Netgear before, chances are you’ll run into some unpleasant surprises with the QHora.

Here are a couple of most disappointing examples.

QHora 301W Wi Fi Settings
You can’t set the QHora-301W to work exclusively in a high bandwidth setting.
No Dynamic DNS support

This is a major shortcoming since DDNS one of the most powerful features of a router that opens up a lot of WAN applications.

Instead, you can hook the QHora-301W to a QNAP account for VPN and remote management. But then, well, the system is now part of QNAP’s server. (By the way, you will need this account if you choose to use its SD-WAN and QVPN features.)

Sure, you can still use the router with DDNS, but you’ll need a device within the network to maintain the domain association. The point here is most home router, even a low-end one, has this feature built-in.

No speed-optimized Wi-Fi settings

While you can create a lot of virtual Wi-Fi networks, there’s no much you can do with each of them. First of all, as mentioned above, there’s no support for the 160MHz channel width.

And then, you can only make each band work exclusively in the lowest bandwidth (20MHz), but not so in the higher bandwidth (40MHz or 80Mhz.)

So, it’s safe to say, you won’t see amazing Wi-Fi 6 speeds out of this router.

No SAMBA or NTFS support for USB

Considering QNAP is a NAS maker, I was having high hopes that the QHora-305W will dub as a serious mini NAS server when hosting an external storage device via its two USB port. Boy, was I disappointed.

QHora 301W USB Settings
The QHora-301W’s USB ports didn’t work with any drive I tried with it.

For one, the router doesn’t support popular file systems, including NTFS (Windows), or HFS+ (Mac). Instead, it only does the ancient FAT16/32 or Linux-only ones, such as ext2/3 or 4.

If that’s not bad enough, there’s no SAMBA support, meaning you can not share the storage the traditional way, locally to your Windows or Mac computers.

There’s no local media streaming or data sync support, either. Instead, the only way you can access the storage is via FPT, which is inconvenient, to say the least.

And here’s the worst part: I tried multiple drives, from this list, and all were shown as incompatible. So this feature is a dud. Hopefully, future firmware will fix and even improve it.

(Again, to put things in perspective, Synology routers are excellent when it comes to hosting a storage device.)

No QoS, shallow Parental Controls

The QHora-301W has no built-in QoS feature, which is a big disappointment.

It does have a Parent Control feature but it’s quite lacking. All you can do is block the entire network from certain websites and apply safe search to popular search engines.

QNAP QHora-301W: Reliable, and fast but only at short range

The QHora did well in my testing in performance numbers, mostly thanks to its multi-gig ports. In fact, among those that don’t support the 160MHz channel width, it was the best at a short-range.

QNAP QHora 301W Wi Fi 6 Chart
(W-W): Test done with two 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 clients copying data from one to another.

Specifically, my test clients registered the real-world speeds of 630Mbps and 900Mbps within the range of some 40 feet (12m) away. When I used two clients and transferred data from one to another, the sustained rates now reduced to between some 350Mbps and 385Mbps .

QNAP QHora 301W 2 4GHz Chart

On the 2.GHz band, the router did quite well with the sustained speed of 150Mbps and 230Mbps at 40 feet (12m) and 10 feet (3m) ranges, respectively. These numbers were about the similar most other wi-Fi 6 standalone routers.

QNAP QHora 301W Wi Fi 5 Chart

The QHora also did well with Wi-Fi 5 clients. At a close range (<10 feet), my 4×4 device registered almost 880Mbps. Father out, at some 40 feet (12m), a 3×3 device got close to 700Mbps.

What the router didn’t impress me, however, was its range. It had almost the shortest I’ve seen for one of its price range — just about the same as low-end routers, like the TP-Link AX10 or eero 6. It’s hard to quantify a router’s range, but if your home is larger than 1500 ft2 (139 m2), it’s probably not a good idea to get this one.

The QNAP QHora-301W passed my 4-day stress test with flying colors, however. During this time there was no disconnection at all. So, it’s definitely a reliable Wi-Fi 6 machine for a small home.

Conclusion

Other than the name, the QHora-301W Dual 10G wifi 6 AX3600 SD-WAN router has nothing to show that it’s a product from a known maker of NAS servers. On this front, QNAP’s first router is far behind Synology’s Wi-Fi 5 counterparts.

In fact, as a Wi-Fi 6 machine, the QHora-301W is behind most I’ve reviewed. Sure, it’s a reliable one, and the two 10Gbps are tempting at first. But in daily needs, you’d likely be more upset about what it doesn’t have than happy about what it does.

So, consider the QHora-301W only if you care no more than reliable Wi-Fi for a small home, or if you have the need for the enterprise feature it has to offer. Most home users should consider another standalone router, instead.

READ NOW:  Best Wi-Fi 6 Routers of 2021: Pick One for Your Home!

7 thoughts on “QHora-301W Review: QNAP’s Intriguing but Lacking First Router”

  1. Thanks for this review. I’m really interested in this line of routers as a current Synology RT2600ac user.

    What would you consider the effective coverage of the WiFi for this router, in sq. feet? I’ve got a 2 bedroom apartment <1400 square feet. Compared to something like the Synology RT2600ac, would I notice poorer signal coverage?

    The 2600ac is the best router I've ever owned in terms of UI/ease of use and broadcast strength, but it's also starting to show its age. The hardware hasn't been updated since 2017, the software seems to be in bug fix mode vs. getting new features, and they're still selling it for $300. The lack of RAM (512M max) makes it sluggish if you ask it to do too much (the network attached disk function is particularly unstable), and trying to use a secure traditional VPN protocol is right out since there's no hardware cryptography support. (Synology does provide their own VPN-as-a-Service over HTTPS, which works well, and you get one free license, but that ties you to their VPN service.) IPv6 support is there and works but is missing more modern features like ULA settings.

    I'm hopeful the QNAP line will spur Synology to be more proactive with hardware and software refreshes for their router line. I see that QNAP has been extremely aggressive with software updates, and has now enabled 160MHz (2×2 mode only) in software, so they are definitely trying to compete. At minimum, it would be nice to have some indication from Synology of when they're refreshing the hardware.

    Reply
    • You’ll prolly get the same coverage out of this one compared to the RT-2600ac, John. But it’s no Synology, which’s been quite tight-lipped on what’s next in its Wi-Fi routers.

      Reply
      • Good to know about the coverage. Thanks!

        At this point, I’d just like confirmation from Synology that they’re actually still IN the router game. I don’t mind waiting if I know what I’m waiting for, but the Unifi Dream Machine and this device both represent powerful competition that’s under active development.

        (I actually need to buy a switch to get more hardwired ethernet ports so I can install a NAS unit. Not knowing what Synology has planned is putting me in a very annoying position as far as choosing companion hardware.)

        Reply
        • Your guess is as good as mine. But the existing routers have been getting regular attention on firmware so it’s likely Synology is still in the game.

          Reply
    • What would be your recommended strategy for adding more ports to a router of this class? This one only has at most 5 LAN ports depending on how it’s set up.

      Put another way, is there a benefit to putting a managed or semi-managed switch behind a router like this, with relatively sophisticated port mapping/VLAN capability/etc. vs. just adding a brainless switch and using the router’s software to manage the new ports?

      Reply

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