If you look in the budget area of networking products you’ll find many of the devices produced by Tenda, most of them dedicated to the home audience, who use a few devices, connected to Wi-Fi, for streaming, gaming and browsing without much fuss. As long as Netflix loads in 4K and games don’t lag, it’s all good. However, the Chinese-born company also makes some of the most affordable small business solutions, and the Tenda W30E is one of them. The router provides access to advanced features, multiple Wi-Fi networks and full control over them, with a solid construction.
The Tenda W30E is a “business” router with functional design
The Tenda W30E is a “business” router, so its design isn’t one made to blend well into living spaces. The design is simple, and is “functional” rather than “aesthetic”. We’re talking about a black box, made of metal, with minimal branding on the outside. The network ports are on the front, and on the back and sides we have five Wi-Fi antennas.
The first three of the four ports can each be used to provide a standalone network (WAN) connection. Basically, you can have uninterrupted Internet service over two redundant networks with this router. Of course, each port can also be used for LAN connections for the local network.
Curiously, the Tenda W30E doesn’t come with a network cable in the package, as we’ve become accustomed to from other devices of its kind. However, it’s somewhat understandable, being made specifically for use in a professional environment, where cables, most likely, are run by professionals, and a short 1m cable wouldn’t be useful in that situation.
The configuration interface is simple but includes many options
Even though we’re talking about a more advanced router, setup is just as simple as with “home” models. It automatically detects the type of internet connection and automatically activates a Wi-Fi network so you can use the internet straight away, without too many settings.
Once you have set your Wi-Fi password and the password for accessing the administration interface, you can start configuring the router from all points of view. The most advanced settings are the Wi-Fi settings, with this router giving you full control to create up to three independent Wi-Fi networks, each with its own IP group, SSID and password, and even the ability to split each network into 2.4 or 5 GHz connections. Of course, each SSID can be “hybrid”, providing connections for both types of networks, depending on the connected device.
You can then set speed limits per network or per device, IP limits, block Internet access on certain devices based on IP or MAC, or set channels, frequencies and antenna strengths for each network. Most users don’t need such granular settings, but for business, they are very useful.
In addition to the three main Wi-Fi networks, a fourth, “guest” network can be set up with limited access to the local network and the possibility of limited download and upload speeds. But by far the most interesting Wi-Fi feature of this router is its “Captive Portal” function. This allows you to limit Wi-Fi access via a login page, similar to what you’d find in hotels or airports. That page can be customised with your own content, such as a logo or background.
The interface also allows you to connect and manage multiple Access Points, so you can provide coverage over a very large area with a single router controlling everything.
In addition to the four network ports, there is also a USB 3 port, to which USB sticks, hard drives or ssd’s can be connected, and that “drive” can be shared on the network. Most common file systems are compatible, such as exFAT, FAT32 or NTFS.
What I can’t say I liked about the W30E is that I preferred the full control of functions on other models via the mobile app over the web interface. Unfortunately, this capability is very limited on the W30E. You can’t even edit Wi-Fi network names or enable/disable important functions via the app. Fortunately, the web interface also works quite well on mobile, even if it’s not formatted correctly for vertical screens.
Tenda W30E delivers what it promises: high speeds over Wi-Fi
Performance is all that matters, however, in a router in general, and the Tenda W30E is one of the best performers we’ve tested in this price range. For 300 “something” bucks you get a router with gigabit ports for local wired connections, as well as the ability to reach up to 2.4 Gbps over Wi-Fi.
I tested the router with a wired desktop PC (but also Wi-Fi), a MacBook Air M1 and an iPhone 11 Pro Max. None are the latest generation, but all are Wi-Fi 6 equipped, so I was able to test the Wi-Fi network capabilities.
On the PC, wirelessly, with an Intel AX2000 network card, I was able to achieve a 2.4 GHz connection with the router only in close proximity. If you go more than a few feet, full speed connection becomes impossible. This is largely because various obstacles occur, and networks at high frequencies like 5 GHz are very sensitive when objects or people appear between the device and the router.
However, the speed I was able to record was only 920 Mbps, which is the maximum a Digi gigabit connection can carry. The same speed I recorded on cable, so from that point of view, there is no difference. The important thing is to have the router right next to your computer. Once I placed the router in a central position, to cover the two-bedroom apartment as well as possible, the speed dropped by half. But 400-500 Mbps is more than enough for any kind of activity on a PC, including downloading tens of GB games.
Tests on iPhones and MacBooks have stuck at speeds between 300 and 500 Mbps for various places in the house, each with at least one concrete wall between device and router. Tests with these devices next to the router reached highs of 600-700 Mbps. Variations can occur here due to the power of the antennas on the devices, with the phone generally offering lower speeds.
PC (Wi-Fi LAN 6)
- LAN: Download: 932 Mbps / Upload: 914 Mbps
- Near router: Download: 828 Mbps / Upload: 541 Mbps
- Test 1: Download: 453 Mbps / Upload: 453 Mbps
MacBook Air M1 (Wi-Fi 6)
- Near router – Download: 656 Mbps / Upload: 688 Mbps
- Test 1 – Download: 513 Mbps / Upload: 522 Mbps
- Test 2 – Download: 470 Mbps / Upload: 409 Mbps
- Test 3 – Download: 317 Mbps / Upload: 370 Mbps
iPhone 11 Pro Max (Wi-Fi 6)
- Near router – Download: 574 Mbps / Upload: 584 Mbps
- Test 1 – Download: 531 Mbps / Upload: 536 Mbps
- Test 2 – Download: 332 Mbps / Upload: 369 Mbps
- Test 3 – Download: 403 Mbps / Upload: 485 Mbps
The Tenda W30E is a high-performance router and extremely offering in terms of configuration possibilities. Sure, it’s not the kind of router to use at home, as you can solve issues like speed and coverage for streaming, gaming and browsing with simpler and even cheaper solutions. But for someone who needs something cheap and fast for a small to medium-sized business, to keep a few dozen devices in an office connected, and to better compartmentalize departments, the Tenda W30E seems like a more than decent solution.
And if needs ever get beyond the capabilities of this model, there are other significantly more expensive professional solutions. Most likely though, most small businesses, including small hostels or hotels, won’t need more.