Vilfo VPN Router Review – Keep Your Online Activity Private!

Vilfo is a new Swedish company with a pedigree base of VPN software and privacy courtesy of OVPN. The Vilfo VPN router is a privacy-focused router that brings custom router hardware, OpenVPN protocols, and native VPN support to a user-friendly monitori…

Vilfo is a new Swedish company with a pedigree base of VPN software and privacy courtesy of OVPN. The Vilfo VPN router is a privacy-focused router that brings custom router hardware, OpenVPN protocols, and native VPN support to a user-friendly monitoring dashboard in a small but powerful package.

NETGEAR Nighthawk MR2100 4G LTE Mobile Router Review

NETGEAR shows off their mobile broadband routers in the most mobile way possible. The Nighthawk MR2100 4G LTE router attempts to be a swansong in the hustling and bustling world of on-the-go mobile internet, with an integrated battery and 4×4 MIMO ante…

NETGEAR shows off their mobile broadband routers in the most mobile way possible. The Nighthawk MR2100 4G LTE router attempts to be a swansong in the hustling and bustling world of on-the-go mobile internet, with an integrated battery and 4x4 MIMO antennas aiming to deliver whole-day internet at up to 2 Gbps downloads!

NETGEAR Orbi LBR20 4G LTE WiFi Router Review

The NETGEAR Orbi LBR20 is a hybrid mobile hotspot and WiFi mesh-capable router. With the option to pair to satellite units and have wired or 4G LTE Internet options, especially with the latter as a backup or even primary connection, it is a reliable ho…

The NETGEAR Orbi LBR20 is a hybrid mobile hotspot and WiFi mesh-capable router. With the option to pair to satellite units and have wired or 4G LTE Internet options, especially with the latter as a backup or even primary connection, it is a reliable home WiFi option for many across the globe without reliable wired broadband access.

Netgear Introduces RAXE500 – An AX11000-Class Wi-Fi 6E Tri-Band Router

Netgear has a bunch of new product announcements at CES 2021, and the most interesting of the lot is the RAXE500 – their first Wi-Fi 6E router with support for 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz bands. The key here is the availability of the wide-open 6 GHz band – while the move to 6 GHz doesn’t deliver any extra bandwidth, the absence of interference (and additional free channels) in that band results in more stable throughput in practical scenarios.

The availability of client chipsets – the AX210 from Intel that is already shipping in some systems, as well as the Broadcom BCM4389 for mobile devices – means that we should see fairly rapid adoption and consumer benefits from Wi-Fi 6E compared to the long road that we had with Wi-Fi 6. Netgear shared some test results of 5GHz and 6GHz connections in a RF chamber and open air scenario to bring out the benefits of 6GHz channels.

Coming to the hardware itself, the RAXE500 follows the same industrial design of the other Nighthawk AX routers from Netgear. On the rear, we have two sets of LAN port pairs capable of link aggregation (one of them is capable of acting as a WAN port). There is also a 2.5Gbps LAN port, and two USB 3.0 Type-A ports. Internally, the WiSoC is a quad-core 1.8 GHz processor, and the radio chains are 4×4 each on the 2.4 GHz (at 40 MHz for 1.2 Gbps), 5 GHz (at 160 MHz for 4.8 Gbps), and 6 GHz (at 160 MHz for 4.8 Gbps) – allowing Netgear to claim up to 10.8 Gbps of theoretical throughput.

The additional radios for the 6 GHz band take the MSRP of the RAXE500 up to what the first AX12 (RAX200) was introduced at – $599. Netgear stated that the router should be available in the market by February 2021.

Interested in more of the latest industry news? Check out our CES 2021 trade show landing page!

Netgear has a bunch of new product announcements at CES 2021, and the most interesting of the lot is the RAXE500 - their first Wi-Fi 6E router with support for 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz bands. The key here is the availability of the wide-open 6 GHz band - while the move to 6 GHz doesn't deliver any extra bandwidth, the absence of interference (and additional free channels) in that band results in more stable throughput in practical scenarios.

The availability of client chipsets - the AX210 from Intel that is already shipping in some systems, as well as the Broadcom BCM4389 for mobile devices - means that we should see fairly rapid adoption and consumer benefits from Wi-Fi 6E compared to the long road that we had with Wi-Fi 6. Netgear shared some test results of 5GHz and 6GHz connections in a RF chamber and open air scenario to bring out the benefits of 6GHz channels.

Coming to the hardware itself, the RAXE500 follows the same industrial design of the other Nighthawk AX routers from Netgear. On the rear, we have two sets of LAN port pairs capable of link aggregation (one of them is capable of acting as a WAN port). There is also a 2.5Gbps LAN port, and two USB 3.0 Type-A ports. Internally, the WiSoC is a quad-core 1.8 GHz processor, and the radio chains are 4x4 each on the 2.4 GHz (at 40 MHz for 1.2 Gbps), 5 GHz (at 160 MHz for 4.8 Gbps), and 6 GHz (at 160 MHz for 4.8 Gbps) - allowing Netgear to claim up to 10.8 Gbps of theoretical throughput.

The additional radios for the 6 GHz band take the MSRP of the RAXE500 up to what the first AX12 (RAX200) was introduced at - $599. Netgear stated that the router should be available in the market by February 2021.

Interested in more of the latest industry news? Check out our CES 2021 trade show landing page!

Netgear Updates Orbi Pro Lineup with Wi-Fi 6 AX6000 Tri-Band Model

Mesh networking kits / Wi-Fi systems have emerged as key revenue streams for networking equipment vendors in the consumer space. In mid-2017, Netgear brought over this strategy to the SMB / SOHO space with the Orbi Pro 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) tri-band Wi-Fi system. Since then, Wi-Fi 6 deployment in the consumer market has achieved critical mass, with almost all modern smartphones and notebooks equipped with support for 802.11ax technology. Most vendors in the enterprise space now have Wi-Fi 6 access points (APs). Netgear’s own foray into the space started with the introduction of the WAX610 series last month. Today, they are launching the second-generation Orbi Pro with Wi-Fi 6 capabilities.

Similar to the last-gen Orbi Pro, the new Wi-Fi 6 model (SXK80 for the kit, with a single SXR80 router and a SXR80 satellite) borrows the internal hardware components of the consumer Orbi Wi-Fi 6 (RBK852), modifies the industrial design and reorients the internal antennae for better stability (rather than the peak performance aspect that is important for the consumer model). The 2.5 Gbps port is configured by default for WAN duties (to go along with Netgear’s recently introduced CM2000 cable modem), but it can be reconfigured for LAN duties also. Two of the 1G LAN ports can also be link-aggregated. The firmware is also tweaked for features required by SOHOs and SMBs. Management is done via the Insight app, rather than the Orbi app used by the consumer version. The product includes a free 1-year subscription to the Insight Cloud Management service. However, it must be noted that Insight app-based management is not a must for the device. It can be configured using a web UI on the local network also.

In terms of improvements over the existing Orbi Pro, the new version supports 1024QAM in 5 GHz, Wi-Fi 6 in both bands, and an increase in the number of radio streams from 8 to 12. Wi-Fi 6 also brings bi-directional MU-MIMO. The new Orbi Pro also supports OFDMA for better channel efficiency and the Target Wait Time feature for improved power efficiency on the client side. On the security side, WPA3 is supported and the unit is Wi-Fi certified Enhanced Open at launch. WPA3-Enterprise is scheduled to become available in a later firmware release.

Firmware features that are specific to the Orbi Pro (and not directly supported in the consumer Orbi) include better network separation and client isolation. The SXK80 supports four distinct SSIDs, each with a dedicated VLAN. Client isolation allows devices within a SSID to have better privacy and security by allowing upstream communication only (not visible to other devices connected to the same SSID).

One of the key differentiators in the Orbi Pro SXK80 is the usage of Wi-Fi 6 in the 2.4 GHz band also. Most of the entry-level APs in the Wi-fi 6 space forsake this (and operate at 802.11n speeds in that band) to hit lower price points. On this aspect, the Orbi Pro happens to be more future-proof, as client support for 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi 6 continues to improve with the resolution of various interoperability issues. Netgear refers to micro-businesses as the target for the Orbi Pro, and prefers full-fledged SMBs to go the separate gateway / switch / access point route. Micro-businesses and SOHO setups are likely to benefit more from systems with a robust dedicated wireless backhaul such as the Orbi Pro, as these setups often have to do without Ethernet cables inside walls and/or ceilings for a wired backhaul.

The Netgear Orbi Pro WiFi 6 Tri-band Mesh System (SXK80) comprising of one router and one satellite is available for purchase today at $770 in the US, with European availability later this quarter. Additional satellites are priced at $420 each, with multi-satellite kits offering a discount at $1100 (router and two satellites) and $1490 (router and three satellites).

Mesh networking kits / Wi-Fi systems have emerged as key revenue streams for networking equipment vendors in the consumer space. In mid-2017, Netgear brought over this strategy to the SMB / SOHO space with the Orbi Pro 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) tri-band Wi-Fi system. Since then, Wi-Fi 6 deployment in the consumer market has achieved critical mass, with almost all modern smartphones and notebooks equipped with support for 802.11ax technology. Most vendors in the enterprise space now have Wi-Fi 6 access points (APs). Netgear's own foray into the space started with the introduction of the WAX610 series last month. Today, they are launching the second-generation Orbi Pro with Wi-Fi 6 capabilities.

Similar to the last-gen Orbi Pro, the new Wi-Fi 6 model (SXK80 for the kit, with a single SXR80 router and a SXR80 satellite) borrows the internal hardware components of the consumer Orbi Wi-Fi 6 (RBK852), modifies the industrial design and reorients the internal antennae for better stability (rather than the peak performance aspect that is important for the consumer model). The 2.5 Gbps port is configured by default for WAN duties (to go along with Netgear's recently introduced CM2000 cable modem), but it can be reconfigured for LAN duties also. Two of the 1G LAN ports can also be link-aggregated. The firmware is also tweaked for features required by SOHOs and SMBs. Management is done via the Insight app, rather than the Orbi app used by the consumer version. The product includes a free 1-year subscription to the Insight Cloud Management service. However, it must be noted that Insight app-based management is not a must for the device. It can be configured using a web UI on the local network also.

In terms of improvements over the existing Orbi Pro, the new version supports 1024QAM in 5 GHz, Wi-Fi 6 in both bands, and an increase in the number of radio streams from 8 to 12. Wi-Fi 6 also brings bi-directional MU-MIMO. The new Orbi Pro also supports OFDMA for better channel efficiency and the Target Wait Time feature for improved power efficiency on the client side. On the security side, WPA3 is supported and the unit is Wi-Fi certified Enhanced Open at launch. WPA3-Enterprise is scheduled to become available in a later firmware release.

Firmware features that are specific to the Orbi Pro (and not directly supported in the consumer Orbi) include better network separation and client isolation. The SXK80 supports four distinct SSIDs, each with a dedicated VLAN. Client isolation allows devices within a SSID to have better privacy and security by allowing upstream communication only (not visible to other devices connected to the same SSID).

One of the key differentiators in the Orbi Pro SXK80 is the usage of Wi-Fi 6 in the 2.4 GHz band also. Most of the entry-level APs in the Wi-fi 6 space forsake this (and operate at 802.11n speeds in that band) to hit lower price points. On this aspect, the Orbi Pro happens to be more future-proof, as client support for 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi 6 continues to improve with the resolution of various interoperability issues. Netgear refers to micro-businesses as the target for the Orbi Pro, and prefers full-fledged SMBs to go the separate gateway / switch / access point route. Micro-businesses and SOHO setups are likely to benefit more from systems with a robust dedicated wireless backhaul such as the Orbi Pro, as these setups often have to do without Ethernet cables inside walls and/or ceilings for a wired backhaul.

The Netgear Orbi Pro WiFi 6 Tri-band Mesh System (SXK80) comprising of one router and one satellite is available for purchase today at $770 in the US, with European availability later this quarter. Additional satellites are priced at $420 each, with multi-satellite kits offering a discount at $1100 (router and two satellites) and $1490 (router and three satellites).

Hot Chips 2020 Live Blog: Intel/Barefoot Tofino2 12.9 Tbps Switch (10:30am PT)

Hot Chips has gone virtual this year! Lots of talks on lots of products, including Tiger Lake, Xe, POWER10, Xbox Series X, TPUv3, and a special Raja Koduri Keynote. Stay tuned at AnandTech for our live blogs as we commentate on each talk.

Hot Chips has gone virtual this year! Lots of talks on lots of products, including Tiger Lake, Xe, POWER10, Xbox Series X, TPUv3, and a special Raja Koduri Keynote. Stay tuned at AnandTech for our live blogs as we commentate on each talk.

Netgear Launches WAX610 AX1800 Wi-Fi 6 Access Point for SMBs

Wi-Fi 6 deployment in the consumer market has achieved critical mass, with almost all modern smartphones and notebooks equipped with support for 802.11ax technology. As expected, we are starting to see the small-business and enterprise access points (APs) moving to support this technology. While vendors such as Aruba Networks, Ruckus Wireless, and others already have Wi-Fi 6 SMB / SME-focused Wi-Fi 6 APs in the market, Netgear is launching their first set of Wi-Fi 6 products targeting this segment today – the AX1800 WAX610, and its outdoor counterpart, the WAX610Y.

Unlike previous Wi-Fi technology upgrades, the move to Wi-Fi 6 brings in the need for some underlying infrastructure changes – support for NBASE-T and PoE+ (802.3at). Some high-performance Wi-Fi 6 APs even require PoE++ (802.3bt) support. Netgear’s WAX610 and WAX610Y can be powered using 802.3at and use a 2.5Gbps RJ-45 port for wired backhaul / power delivery.

The focus in SMB products is more on stability compared to peak performance. Consumers in this space also want the ability to support a large number of concurrent client devices – high-density deployments – much more than what is usually handled by consumer Wi-Fi routers. Some SMBs also have to make do with non-dedicated IT staff, and external management capabilities as well as ease of setup / installation also plays a role in some scenarios. Netgear claims that the WAX610/WAX610Y’s feature set aims at tackling these aspects. The AX1800 (2×2 802.11ax with 1200 Mbps in the 5 GHz band and 600 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz band) APs utilize a Qualcomm chipset. Based on the performance specifications, we do not have 160 MHz support, and Negear also mentioned the absence of uplink OFDMA support. The former is not really important for SMB APs – at least, not without Wi-Fi 6E which brings extended spectrum and the possibility of availing multiple contiguous 160MHz chunks without interference / DFS.

In terms of security, Netgear is offering WPA3 support (as mandated by the IEEE Wi-Fi 6 specifications), as well as support for up to 8 SSIDs with a separate VLAN for each SSID. A number of SMB Wi-Fi 6 APs currently in the market use a 1Gbps wired port, but, Netgear has equipped their two new models with a 2.5Gbps LAN port. While most deployments would use the wired port for backhaul, Netgear has also provided mesh support, enabling the WAX models to mesh over Wi-Fi with other Netgear APs such as the WAC610 / WAC610Y / WAC540 / WAC564. The maximum power consumption for the WAX610 over PoE is rated at 15.3W, while the WAX610Y consumers 16.1W – enabling 802.3at-capable switches to power them easily. The APs will also function with 802.3af (traditional PoE), but ends up getting limited to 60% of its peak performance capabilities.

The APs are part of Netgear’s Insight-capable portfolio – allowing optional cloud-based management access. This is a boon for part-time IT folks as well as resellers wanting to provide value-added services.

I have quite not been sold on the Insight-type cloud-based management scheme for SMB equipment (irrespective of the vendor offering it). However, the value offered to folks who are not dedicated solely to IT maintenance in an organization is undeniable. Now, the increasing prominence of work-from-home culture will bring additional pain-points to solve, and Insight-type cloud-based management can definitely play a role. For example, enabling seamless VPN and/or the ability to securely extend a WLAN from an office location to an employee’s home (for scenarios where mobile devices needs to be in the company network for certain applications) are some challenges that IT administrators might want to solve in a user-friendly way moving forward. Cloud-based management solutions can definitely be of help in those scenarios.

The WAX610 and WAX610Y are Insight-capable (not Insight-only), and expose more functionality for local management compared to what is available over the app / using the cloud. Pricing ranges from $180 (base indoor model without a power adapter) to $250 (outdoor model). Compared to SMB offerings from vendors such as Engenius and ZyXEL (Engenius EWS357AP @ $184 and the ZyXEL NWA110AX @ $200, both AX1800 PoE+ APs without 2.5Gbps LAN), these are very competitive price points in terms of the features offered.

Source: Netgear

Wi-Fi 6 deployment in the consumer market has achieved critical mass, with almost all modern smartphones and notebooks equipped with support for 802.11ax technology. As expected, we are starting to see the small-business and enterprise access points (APs) moving to support this technology. While vendors such as Aruba Networks, Ruckus Wireless, and others already have Wi-Fi 6 SMB / SME-focused Wi-Fi 6 APs in the market, Netgear is launching their first set of Wi-Fi 6 products targeting this segment today - the AX1800 WAX610, and its outdoor counterpart, the WAX610Y.

Unlike previous Wi-Fi technology upgrades, the move to Wi-Fi 6 brings in the need for some underlying infrastructure changes - support for NBASE-T and PoE+ (802.3at). Some high-performance Wi-Fi 6 APs even require PoE++ (802.3bt) support. Netgear's WAX610 and WAX610Y can be powered using 802.3at and use a 2.5Gbps RJ-45 port for wired backhaul / power delivery.

The focus in SMB products is more on stability compared to peak performance. Consumers in this space also want the ability to support a large number of concurrent client devices - high-density deployments - much more than what is usually handled by consumer Wi-Fi routers. Some SMBs also have to make do with non-dedicated IT staff, and external management capabilities as well as ease of setup / installation also plays a role in some scenarios. Netgear claims that the WAX610/WAX610Y's feature set aims at tackling these aspects. The AX1800 (2x2 802.11ax with 1200 Mbps in the 5 GHz band and 600 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz band) APs utilize a Qualcomm chipset. Based on the performance specifications, we do not have 160 MHz support, and Negear also mentioned the absence of uplink OFDMA support. The former is not really important for SMB APs - at least, not without Wi-Fi 6E which brings extended spectrum and the possibility of availing multiple contiguous 160MHz chunks without interference / DFS.

In terms of security, Netgear is offering WPA3 support (as mandated by the IEEE Wi-Fi 6 specifications), as well as support for up to 8 SSIDs with a separate VLAN for each SSID. A number of SMB Wi-Fi 6 APs currently in the market use a 1Gbps wired port, but, Netgear has equipped their two new models with a 2.5Gbps LAN port. While most deployments would use the wired port for backhaul, Netgear has also provided mesh support, enabling the WAX models to mesh over Wi-Fi with other Netgear APs such as the WAC610 / WAC610Y / WAC540 / WAC564. The maximum power consumption for the WAX610 over PoE is rated at 15.3W, while the WAX610Y consumers 16.1W - enabling 802.3at-capable switches to power them easily. The APs will also function with 802.3af (traditional PoE), but ends up getting limited to 60% of its peak performance capabilities.

The APs are part of Netgear's Insight-capable portfolio - allowing optional cloud-based management access. This is a boon for part-time IT folks as well as resellers wanting to provide value-added services.

I have quite not been sold on the Insight-type cloud-based management scheme for SMB equipment (irrespective of the vendor offering it). However, the value offered to folks who are not dedicated solely to IT maintenance in an organization is undeniable. Now, the increasing prominence of work-from-home culture will bring additional pain-points to solve, and Insight-type cloud-based management can definitely play a role. For example, enabling seamless VPN and/or the ability to securely extend a WLAN from an office location to an employee's home (for scenarios where mobile devices needs to be in the company network for certain applications) are some challenges that IT administrators might want to solve in a user-friendly way moving forward. Cloud-based management solutions can definitely be of help in those scenarios.

The WAX610 and WAX610Y are Insight-capable (not Insight-only), and expose more functionality for local management compared to what is available over the app / using the cloud. Pricing ranges from $180 (base indoor model without a power adapter) to $250 (outdoor model). Compared to SMB offerings from vendors such as Engenius and ZyXEL (Engenius EWS357AP @ $184 and the ZyXEL NWA110AX @ $200, both AX1800 PoE+ APs without 2.5Gbps LAN), these are very competitive price points in terms of the features offered.

Source: Netgear

Supermicro SuperServer E302-9D Review: A Fanless 10G pfSense Powerhouse

Intel launched the Xeon D-2100 SoCs in early 2018, with a feature set making them a fit for several verticals including edge servers, networking, and storage. One of the key advancements made in the Xeon D-2100 compared to the first-generation Xeon D-1500 series was the inbuilt support for two additional 10G network interfaces. With TDPs starting at 60W, the Xeon D-2100 SoCs lends itself to some interesting and unique server and edge procesing products. Today’s review deals with one such system – Supermicro’s passively-cooled SuperServer E302-9D.

Intel launched the Xeon D-2100 SoCs in early 2018, with a feature set making them a fit for several verticals including edge servers, networking, and storage. One of the key advancements made in the Xeon D-2100 compared to the first-generation Xeon D-1500 series was the inbuilt support for two additional 10G network interfaces. With TDPs starting at 60W, the Xeon D-2100 SoCs lends itself to some interesting and unique server and edge procesing products. Today's review deals with one such system - Supermicro's passively-cooled SuperServer E302-9D.

At Last, a 2.5Gbps Consumer Network Switch: QNAP Releases QSW-1105-5T 5-Port Switch

After entirely too long of a delay, the wait for faster consumer-grade network switches appears to be coming to an end. This week QNAP launched its QSW-1105-5T switch, one of the industry’s first unmanaged 2.5Gbps (2.5GBASE-T) switches. The 5-po…

After entirely too long of a delay, the wait for faster consumer-grade network switches appears to be coming to an end. This week QNAP launched its QSW-1105-5T switch, one of the industry’s first unmanaged 2.5Gbps (2.5GBASE-T) switches. The 5-port switch supports 2.5GbE operation on all five of its RJ45 Ethernet ports, and along with being unmanaged it is also fanless, allowing the switch to work maintenance-free and installed virtually anywhere. The QSW-1105-5T is already on sale in Taiwan for roughly $100, meaning that we’re looking at a price-per-port of about $20.

The saga of NBASE-T has been something of a long one. First introduced in 2016, the standard added the then-new 2.5GBASE-T and 5GBASE-T modes, which were designed to offer a series of intermediate steps between the existing 1Gbps (1000BASE-T) and 10Gbps (10GBASE-T) standards. By scaling down parts of the 10GBASE-T spec, the new standards would allow more modest – but still many times faster – network transmission rates than 1Gbps Ethernet, all the while being able to reuse existing Cat5e and Cat6 cabling. Overall, 2.5GBASE-T allows for 2.5Gbps Ethernet over Cat5e at the same 100m distances as 1Gbps Ethernet, while 5GBASE-T allows for 5Gbps speeds over 100m runs of Cat6, as well as quasi-official support for shorter Cat5e runs.

Given the technology reuse, moderately-priced NBASE-T network cards were quick to hit the market. However affordable switches have been a more complex matter: while the high initial price of NBASE-T was easy enough to eat on a single controller, multiplied over several ports on a switch, it quickly drove up the price tag. As a result, the market for NBASE-T switches has largely between split between downgraded pro gear like Netgear’s $70-per-port XS505M, and mixed-port switches like Asus’s XG-U2008, which offer just two 10G/NBASE-T ports along with a slew of Gigabit Ethernet ports. So cheap NBASE-T networking options have remained elusive, at least until now.

Thankfully, in the last year we’ve finally started seeing the slower of the NBASE-T modes, 2.5GBASE-T, sprint towards wide adoption. The 2.5Gbps standard is the cheapest to implement, and with recent controller releases from the likes of RealTek and Intel, 2.5Gbps controllers have quickly become a staple on high-end motherboards. Accordingly, with the price per port coming down for 2.5Gbps controllers, it’s also bringing down the price of whole switches. And this is where QNAP’s new switch comes in.

The QSW-1105-5T is one of the first switches to be released using these new generations of cheap controllers. Aimed squarely at the home and SMB markets, the switch doesn’t offer any frills such as network management, Power over Ethernet, or SFP+ ports. Instead it focuses on the things that matter for the home market: supporting 2.5Gbps networking in a small, passively-cooled switch that’s suitable to be neglected by being tucked under a desk or in a closet.

QNAP QSW-1105-5T Switch
Speeds 100M/1G/2.5G
Ports (RJ45) 5
Managed No
Power 12 W
Dimensions 3.4 x 18 x 14.5 cm
Cooling Passive
(Fanless)
Price ~$100

As the first of what will undoubtedly be many 2.5G switches over the coming months, the QSW-1105-5T also gives us our first real look at what we can expect from this generation of switches as far as footprints and power consumption goes. Since it’s not carved from a pro-grade switch, the 18 cm x 14.5 cm switch is significantly smaller than earlier NBASE-T switches. And with a maximum power consumption rating of 12 W, we’re looking at power consumption of just a bit over 2 Watts per port, which is also a significant improvement over admittedly far more powerful switches.

All of which sounds unremarkable, and indeed that’s exactly what makes the QSW-1105-5T so interesting. The biggest barrier to wide consumer adoption over the last few years has been the cost – both in regards to the core technology and added frills – so we’ve been waiting for quite a while to see NBASE-T technology transition from pro-grade switches to cheap, consumer-grade gear.

Otherwise, QNAP’s new switch is further evidence that the PC industry is going to coalesce around 2.5Gbps Ethernet for the time being. Besides being the fastest standard to officially and fully support Cat5e cabling – which was installed in walls en masse when home networking first took off – it’s also the cheapest and lowest-power option. This is allowing it to be widely deployed not only in new motherboards and cheap USB adapters, but finally in switches as well – and making QNAP’s new switch a good match for all of those new NICs. And while I’d like to see cheaper 5Gbps and 10Gbps gear as well, 5GBASE-T seems likely to remain a premium (if not niche) option, owing to the higher controller costs as well as its higher power consumption, both of which remain big problems for a switch.

At any rate, QNAP’s 2.5Gbps switch is on sale now in Taiwan. The company has not announced release dates elsewhere, but judging from some of their previous product releases, I’d expect it to start showing up in North America some time in the next few months.