An Ethernet switch is a networking device that connects a large variety of devices (like IP cameras, computers and even other switches) into a common network and it uses the packet switching technology to receive, process and eventually forward the data to the destination client.
Network switches are commonly used to create a business network (especially devices with lots of ports), but there is also an increasing tendency to include switches into a home network, especially since IP cameras are getting more popular.
On the market, you can find switches that use physical addresses for data processing and forwarding at the layer 2 of the OSI model, but there are also layer 3 switches that besides all the features of a L2 switch, have routing functionality (so, similarly to some traditional routers, they’re capable of hardware-based packet switching). That being said, there is an abundance of switches on the market with lots of different features, so let’s see which are the best Ethernet switches suitable for both home use and for small to medium business networks.
The Best Unmanaged Switches
Unmanaged PoE Switches
Non-PoE Unmanaged Switches
Unmanaged PoE Switches
1. Linksys LGS116P 16-Port
The Linksys LGS116P is an unmanaged 16-port network switch that is part of the Linksys’ Business Desktop Gigabit PoE switch series along with the LGS108P and LGS124P, an 8-port device and, respectively, a 24-port switch.
The LGS116P is a great solution for your office network, but it can also be used in your home (since this is an unmanaged device, which means that you can’t really configure it, it just allows the connected clients to communicate with each other).
The LGS116P features a fairly large rectangular metallic case (but comparing it with other 16-port switches, it’s surprisingly compact), with two pairs of airflow vents on the left and on the right, and no internal fan (it relies solely on passive cooling). The top of the LGS116P is quite plain, with only the blue Linksys logo breaking the continuity of the black matte finish.
In terms of positioning, the The LGS116P can be positioned flat on the surface (its dimensions are 4.2 x 11.0 x 0.9 inches and it weighs 1.8 lb) and it can also be wall-mounted, but it’s not rack mountable (only the larger LGS124P has this feature). If you turn the device upside down, you’ll see that there are no airflow vents here, there are only three screws, four round feet, two holes for wall mounting and a label containing the information about the device (model number, serial number).
The front of the switch is home to all 16 Gigabit 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports, from which only the first eight come with PoE+ support. The PoE+ technology allows you to transfer data and receive power over the Ethernet cable, so you can connect compatible devices without the need to have a power outlet in the vicinity (some of these devices can be access points, IP cameras, network hubs, intercoms, VoIP phones and so on). The entire dedicated PoE power budget is 80 W.
All of the ports have one green amber LED for Link/Activity/GB and the first eight ports have an additional green LED for PoE. On the left of the ports there are also two LED lights for Power (a blue LED) and for PoE Max (the LED will be amber and if it’s on, it means that the total power budget is over 67 Watts, otherwise, if it’s off, it means that the power budget is under 67 Watts).
In terms of hardware, the LGS116P is equipped with a Marvel 88E1685LKJ2 chipset and, since we get a total of 16 Gigabit Ethernet ports, there is a total bandwidth of 32 Gbps available.
Setting up the Linksys LGS116P is simple, all you have to do is connect the power adapter to your switch and into a power outlet and then connect your network devices to the switch by using Ethernet cables. Furthermore, you can cascade your switch to another switch. This can be done by connecting an Ethernet cable to any of the ports on the secondary switch (makes sure that it’s turned Off) and then connect it to a computer. Afterwards, take another Ethernet cable and connect one end to another port on the secondary switch and the other end to the main switch. That’s pretty much it, quite simple, right?
Since this is an unmanaged unit, you don’t get to configure the switch, but there are some interesting features that are worth mentioning. There is the Quality of Service Traffic Prioritization (QoS) which ensures that regardless of network congestion, certain data throughput is still maintained for some connected devices (useful especially for video streaming or VOIP). There’s also support for Jumbo Frames (up to 9K bytes of payload frames, which means less CPU cycles and reduced overheads).
Another cool feature is the PoE prioritization. What it does is it assigns the highest priority to the port 1 and as you connect devices, the higher the port ID, the priority will be lower. So, if only seven ports out of the eight are connected, but the maximum power budget is already maxed out, the eight device will be declined, since it will have exceed the power budget.
The Linksys LGS116P switch is compliant with the following standards: IEEE 802.3, 802.3u, 802.3x, 802.3ab, and 802.3az. Additionally, for PoE devices, it supports IEEE 802.3at and 802.3af standards. If a devices does not support any of these standards, it will not be powered ON.
Note: Inside the box, you can find the Linksys LGS116P unit, a Power Adaptor, a Wall Mount Kit, a Quick Start Manual and a CD with the documentation.
2. TP-LINK TL-SG1008PE 8-Port
TP-Link has gone a long way from being quite influential in the country of origin (China) and managed to achieve a top place among the best networking products manufacturers in the world. Tp-Link’s interest spans over many type of products, including powerline adapters, routers, ADSL modems, IP cameras and switches.
The product I’m going to focus on is the TP-LINK TL-SG1008PE, an 8-port PoE+ rackmount switch that is part of the unmanaged type of devices. The PoE power budget for this model is 124W, but there are also two additional variations: the TL-SG1008P, an 8-port Gigabit switch that features only four PoE ports and there’s the less expensive TL-SF1008P, which is also an 8-port switch with 4 PoE ports that lacks the Gigabit speeds (it’s a Fast Ethernet device).
The TL-SG1008PE features a rectangular metallic case, covered by a dark blue finish and with a slab of plastic where the LEDs and ports reside. The top of the TL-SG1008PE is quite uneventful, the only thing that caught my attention is the carved-in TP-Link logo. On the left, you can find a series of air vents that help deliver a better ventilation, but it doesn’t stop here, because TP-Link decided to go the noisy way and equipped the TL-SG1008PE with a fan (hidden under a hexagonal shaped vent hole pattern on the right side of the switch).
While other 8 and 16-port switches from this list were quite compact and could be easily placed anywhere, the footprint of the TL-SG1008PE is a bit large (it measures 11.6 x 7.1 x 1.7 inches and it weighs 5.5 lbs). So, you can definitely place the switch on a flat surface (like a desk or a shelf), but if you don’t have the space for it, you can’t mount the device on the wall. Fortunately, it can be mounted on a rack (inside the package, you get the rackmount brackets and some screws to help you with the installation).
The front side of the switch is home to the eight 10/100/1000M RJ45 Ethernet Gigabit ports (all eight come with PoE+ support). On the left side of the ports, there are two main LEDs for PoE MAX (solid red means that the power of all connected devices is between 120 and 126W, otherwise, if the LED is flashing red, it means that the power of all the connected PoE ports is either equal or exceeds 126W; lastly, if the LED is off, then the power of all connected PoE ports is under 120W) and Power (if it’s flashing green, then the power supply acts abnormal).
Besides these two LEDs, there are three arrays of LED lights for every port, each showing the PoE Status (flashing green means that there may be a short circuit or that the power current may be overloaded), the Link/Activity and the 1000Mbps (if the LED is on, it means that the port connection runs at 1000Mbps; there is no distinctive colour for the speeds under the 1000Mbps). On the back side of the switch, there is a power port (100-240V~ 50/60Hz 2.0A) and on the bottom side there four protruded feet and a label with printed info about the device (the serial number).
Since we are dealing with a Plug-and-Play device, the setup process of the TL-SG1008PE is quite simple, all you have to do is connect the power cable to the back of the switch and to a wall outlet (keep a safe distance from the other devices that may cause interferences, such as powerline adapters) and then just add your devices using Ethernet cables (since this is a PoE+ switch, you can add 802.3af/at compliant devices, like IP cameras or IP telephones).
One interesting feature is the priority functions, that has the role to protect the system in case of power overload. So, if the power consumption is greater or equal to 124W, the eight PoE+ ports will receive a priority and the switch will cut the power from the port with the lowest priority (for example, port 1, 2 and 4 will use 30W, while port 3 will use 25W, so any port after the first four will have the power supply cut, as they will have a lower priority).
Furthermore, the TL-SG1008PE has a great energy efficient technology that detects if there is any unused PoE port, so it can reduce the power consumption by up to 75%. Additionally, the switching capacity is 16Gps and it supports Jumbo frames (16Kb).
The TP-LINK TL-SG1008PE switch is compliant with the following standards: IEEE802.3i, IEEE802.3u, IEEE802.3ab, IEEE802.3x, IEEE802.1p, IEEE802.3af and IEEE802.3at.
Note: Inside the package, you can find the TP-LINK TL-SG1008PE switch unit, a Power cord, the Installation Guide, four rubber feet and two mounting brackets, along with the fittings.
3. TRENDnet TPE-TG81g PoE+ Switch
Founded in California, TRENDnet is gaining more traction with every released product (including its popular router series, surveillance cameras and network switches) and it is slowly catching up with the other mainstream manufacturers of networking products. While routers go through continuous transformations and new technologies are implemented with every iteration, switches haven’t changed that much over the years and to be honest, one of the reasons these devices went back into the mainstream is the increasing popularity of IP cameras and other PoE-based equipment.
So, the TRENDnet switch that caught my attention is the TPE-TG81g, an inexpensive 8-port PoE+ rackmount unmanaged switch which is part of the GREENnet series along with the 5-port TEG-S50g (Version v4.0R), the 8-port TPE-TG44g (with only four PoE/PoE+ ports), the 16-port TEG-S16Dg (Version v2.0R) and the 24-port TRENDnet TEG-S24Dg v2.0R (the GREENnet technology helps reducing the power consumption by up to 70 %).
Similarly to other switches on the market, the TPE-TG81g features a rectangular metallic case, covered by a black matte finish all around and the only relevant touch of colour is the green band on the top of the device, along with the blue spots on the front. Sure, the TPE-TG81g may not be as good looking as the Netgear Nighthawk S8000, but it has adopted the most practical design which allows you to place the router on a flat surface, mount it on the wall or for mounting it on a rack. That’s right, the TPE-TG81g comes with the necessary rack ears (included in the package) and can be mounted on a rack (advisable since it is equipped with a fan).
PoE switches aren’t as compact as the non-PoE counterparts, but, the TPE-TG81g fares well at 10.5 x 6.3 x 1.7 inches (3 lbs) since it’s a bit smaller than the TP-Link TL-SG1008PE. Furthermore, PoE switches have a tendency of becoming warmer, so TRENDnet has added a set of vent holes on the right side, as well as on the left side and on the rear, there are some cut-outs to reveal the 40 x 20mm 9000 RPM fan. When powering up the device, the fan will run louder for a short period of time and afterwards it will settle for a lower speed, therefore becoming a lot quieter (both the cooling fan and the internal PSU have a one-year warranty).
On the front of the device you can find a single Power LED in the middle (solid amber indicates that the device is powered on), along with a block of 16 LED lights divided into two sets, so each port gets two LEDs which show the status of PoE and Link/ACTivity (if the PoE LED is solid red, then a PoE client is connected; if the Link/ACT LED is blinking a green colour, it means that data is transmitted/received at Half/Full Duplex, otherwise, if the LED is flashing a red colour, then the data is transmitted/received Full Duplex – 2,000 Mbps). Next to the block of LEDs, you can find eight Gigabit 10/100/1000 Mbps Auto-MDIX PoE / PoE+ RJ-45 ports.
The switch is compatible with PoE Class 2 (7 W), Class 3 (15.4 W), and Class 4 (30 W) per port, with a total PoE power budget of 105 W (so, you can add up to 3 PoE+ devices). Turn the switch around and, on the rear side, you can find the Power port (ACLINE 90-260V AC 50/60Hz, 1A) and the cut-out for the built-in fan.
As expected from an unmanaged Plug-and-Play switch, the installation process is incredibly simple and all you have to do is connect the TPE-TG81g to a power source, use an Ethernet cable to connect it to a modem / router and add any other devices using the front panel ports (besides the usual access points or computers, you can also connect 802.3af PoE cameras and 802.3af PoE+ surveillance cameras). The TRENDnet TPE-TG81g lacks any type of utility for managing or configuring the device and the network, but, there are some interesting built-in features that will make a difference.
Among these features, there’s the automatic detection of connected PoE devices, the Store-and-forward switching method (which ensures no corrupted frames are forwarded to the specific port), 16 Gbps switching capacity, 96 Kb memory buffer, there’s the Jumbo Frame support for up to 9 Kb, the switch supports 2K-entry MAC addresses and, in case a port is unused, it is powered down, but remains in standby mode ready for connecting a new device.
The TRENDnet TPE-TG81g switch is compliant with the following standards: IEEE 802.3 10Base-T, IEEE 802.3u 100Base-TX, IEEE 802.3ab 1000Base-T, IEEE 802.3x Flow Control, IEEE 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet, IEEE 802.3af Power over Ethernet (Power over Ethernet), IEEE 802.3at Power over Ethernet (PoE+).
Note: Inside the package, there is the TRENDnet TPE-TG81g rackmount switch, the Power cord, some rack mount brackets and a Quick Installation Guide.
Non-PoE Unmanaged Switches
1. CISCO SYSTEMS SG112-24-NA
CISCO SYSTEMS is the largest networking company in the world and it’s well known for its enterprise-focused products (including routers and switches), but it also hasn’t neglected the consumer side.
One such product that is more suitable for the homes/small businesses sector, instead of the larger offices and corporations, is the CISCO SYSTEMS SG112-24-NA, a 24-port unmanaged switch that can offer network connectivity, as well as reliability for small businesses.
In terms of design, the SG112-24-NA looks pretty much the same as any other switch on the market. You get the black rectangular case, made of metal and with the matte finish on top. Since not much can be made for a switch to stand out from the crowd, manufacturers have resorted to making the devices as compact as possible. Cisco also adopted this new trend and made the SG112-24-NA surprisingly compact (it measures 11.0 x 1.7 x 6.7 inches and it weighs 5.05 lb), which means that it won’t take more space than a router.
So, you can position it pretty much everywhere in the room in the horizontal position, but, if space is important (in offices), Cisco offered the option to wall mount the device. Additionally, the SG112-24-NA can be rack mounted by using the two included brackets (before installing the switch into a rack, take into consideration the ambient temperature, don’t obstruct the airflow, use an overcurrent protection and a reliable earthing).
The bottom of the SG112-24-NA is plain, as well as the top, with only the CISCO logo that livens up a bit the device. On the front, you are greeted with all 24 Ethernet Gigabit RJ-45 ports (10/100/1000) positioned in two arrays of 12, and two more combo mini-GBIC (SPF) slots that converts the electric currents to optical signals and vice-versa (acts as an interface for high-speed networking and it’s used for fiber optic connections).
Each of the 24 Ethernet ports features two LED lights (on the left and right) for LINK/ACTIVITY and GIGABIT. On the left of the ports, underneath the small CISCO logo, there is a PWR green light that shows if the unit is powered ON. If you turn the switch around, there are a couple of labels, the first one containing information about the S/N, MAC address and PID VID. Next to the labels, there’s the Power port (100-240V~, 1000-500mA, 50-60Hz).
This switch does not feature any fan (it uses passive ventilation), so there is no annoying noise. The heat dissipation is done by the series of vent holes on the left and right of the device.
In terms of hardware, the CISCO SYSTEMS SG112-24-NA is equipped with 128 MB flash memory, 128 MB of RAM and, since we are dealing with a 24-ports switch, there is a total bandwidth of 48 Gbps available.
Setting up the SG112-24-NA is very simple, since this is a plug-and-play device, so you only have to connect your devices using an Ethernet cable and the switch will do the job on its own without needing any configuration from the user.
Obviously, since this is a Cisco device, there are lots of interesting features that run automatically and help creating a reliable network. Among them, there is the Quality off Service (QoS), which senses the services that need prioritizing (like VOIP or video streaming) so you get a better network performance. The QoS also uses the weighted round-robin (WRR) features, which has the role to distribute the load among the resources, so the requests are evenly distributed.
Another interesting feature is the Loop Detection, which has the role to discover any accidentally created loop in the network, so it avoids any possible broadcast storm (the network is overwhelmed by continuous broadcast or multicast traffic). Additionally, there are also the cable diagnostics (identifies any cable faults or shorts), the flow control, Layer 2 switching, auto-negotiating, it support Jumbo frames (9216 bytes), 35.7 Mbps forwarding capacity, Energy Efficient Ethernet (it monitors the traffic on an active link and it puts the link into sleep mode during quiet periods, so there is reduces energy consumption) and many more.
The SG112-24-NA is compliant with the following standards: IEEE 802.3, IEEE 802.3ab, IEEE 802.3az, IEEE 802.1p, IEEE 802.3u, IEEE 802.3x and IEEE 802.3z.
Note: Inside the box, you can find the CISCO SYSTEMS SG112-24-NA unit, a power Adaptor, the Rack Mount Kit and a Quick Start Guide.
2. NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108
Netgear is a well known manufacturer of networking products, having a portfolio that covers consumer-level devices, as well as enterprise-level products. Among them, there are powerline adapters, routers (especially the Nighthawk series), NAS devices, wireless VPN firewalls and ProSAFE switches.
Maintaining the theme of the article, I will focus on an entry-level unmanaged switch, the NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108, which is suitable for home use, as well as for small business offices. The unmanaged ProSAFE series also features a 5-port switch (GS105NA), a 16-port GS116NA, a 16-port rackmount switch (JGS516NA) and a 24-port JGS524NA. The ProSAFE series also features an array of Web Managed (Plus) switches (5,8,16 and 24-port devices) and two Web Managed Click switches (the 8-port GSS108E-100NAS and the 16-port GSS116E-100NAS).
The NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108 looks really similar to every other switch on the market, it doesn’t really excel from the aesthetic point of view, but switches are all about practicability. So, you can expect a metallic rectangular case, covered by a blue matte finish, with the Netgear logo and name written on top and two series of vent grills on both the right and left side.
The switch itself is very compact, as expected from an 8-port device and it measures 6.2 x 4.0 x 1.1 inches and weighs 1.04 lb (it’s lightweight, but the four feet should give it more stability). In terms of positioning, the GS108 can be placed horizontally on a flat surface (just make sure not to obstruct the air vents) or it can be wall-mounted. As expected, you can’t rack-mount it, this option is available only for the 16-port and the 24-port variants (JGS516NA and the JGS524NA).
On the bottom of the switch, besides the four feet and the two holes for wall-mounting, there is a label with printed information about the device (the version of the switch and the serial number). The front of the switch is occupied by the 8 10/100/1000 Base-T RJ45 Ethernet ports and a Power LED (if it’s ON, it means that there is Link, otherwise, if it blinks, it means that there is ACTIVITY).
Every port features two LEDs, the left LED lights if there is a connection of 100Mbps, the right LED lights for a connection of 10Mbps. If both LEDs are ON at the same time, it means that there is a connection of 1000Mbps. Unfortunately, none of the ports support the PoE technology. The rear side of the switch is home to a Kensington lock, an OFF/ON switch and a Power port (12V – 0.5A). Overall, the power consumption is quite low and because it doesn’t feature a fan (it relies on passive cooling), the switch is quiet.
Inside the case, the NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108 is equipped with a Broadcom BCM53118 chipset. The advertised switching capacity of the NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108 is 16Gbps.
Since this is an unmanaged switch, the setup process is very simple (this is a Plug and Play device): you have to connect the power adapter to the back of the switch and connect the desired devices using Ethernet cables (Cat 5). For every added client, the corresponding LED should turn on and flash when activity occurs.
Despite being unmanaged, the NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108 has lots of built-in features that help crating a better LAN network. Among them, there is the support for Jumbo frames (9k), which has the ability to boost the throughput significantly, there’s also the Store and Forward and the 192 KB on-chip Packet Buffering forwarding modes.
Additionally, you get traffic prioritization and DSCP-based QoS, so, applications like VOIP and video streaming have a higher priority.
The NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108 is compliant with the following standards: IEEE 802.3i, IEEE 802.3u, 802.3ab, IEEE 802.3x, IEEE 802.3az and 802.1p.
Note: Inside the package, you can find the NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108 Gigabit unit, the AC Power adapter, the wall-mounting screws, an Installation Guide and the Warranty.
3. Buffalo BS-GU2024 Switch
Buffalo Technology is a North American subsidiary of the Japanese company Melco Holdings Inc. The Austin-based company is a fairly popular manufacturer of networking products and a leading provider of NAS devices, wireless routers and access points, external hard drives, network switches (both unmanaged and smart devices) and many other type of networking solutions.
One of the more popular products from Buffalo Technology is the BS-GU2024, which is an interesting rackmount unmanaged switch, suitable for small business offices or for a home tech enthusiast. The Buffalo BS-GU2024 is part of the Gigabit Green Ethernet Switches group that, besides the aforementioned 24-port switch, also includes the 5-port BS-GU2005, the 8-port BS-GU2008 and the 16-port BS-GU2016) 24 BS-GU2024. This series lacks the PoE functionality and, if this is a necessary feature, you can have a look at the 16-port BS-GU2016P (but be aware that it will cost a bit more).
The design of the BS-GU2024 follows the same guidelines as most other switches on the market, which is a good thing especially because I am talking about a device that can be rack-mounted, so it has to have a rectangular case. Furthermore, Buffalo made the device fairly compact for a 24-port switch (it measures 11.8 x 1.7 x 7.0 inches and weighs 3.5 lbs) and the chassis is made of metal, therefore it’s a lot more durable than the plastic alternative.
The Buffalo BS-GU2024 can be positioned in multiple ways: you can put it horizontally on a shelf or desk (but, don’t forget to attach the supplied rubber feet), it can be mounted to a metal surface by using the BS-MGK-A Magnet kit (which is not included in the package – see the note bellow), it can be mounted on the wall using the supplied mounting brackets (use the mounting holes from the bottom of the device) and lastly, the switch can be installed on a 19-inch rack by using the mounting brackets and the provided screws (use the four holes on each side of the device).
Note: Inside the package, you can find the BS-GU2024 switch unit, an AC 100-240V power cable, a retainer band for the power cable, the 19-inch mounting brackets along with the screws, the rubber feet, the serial number stickers, user manual and warranty.
Since this device is marketed as a rackmount switch, the top of the device is plain and uneventful (except maybe for the vent holes from the top edges) and the same can be said for the right and left side. But, on the rear side of the BS-GU2024, you can find the AC-IN power port and a zone for the power cable retainer.
As expected, the front of the switch is the most eventful side. Here, you can find 48 LED lights, two for every port, each having three states: if the LINK/ACT LED is Off, the link has not been established, if it’s On, then the link has been established, otherwise, if the LED is blinking, it means that the data is being transferred and if the loop is blocked, the LED will blink once per second. If the 1000 Mbps LED (green) is On, it signifies a 1000 Mbps link, otherwise, if it’s Off, it signifies either a 100/10 Mbps link or no link. If the LED blinks once per second, it means that a loop is blocked. Additionally, there are a couple of LEDs, one for LOOP and the other for Power.
On the right side of the LEDs, there is a small Loop prevention switch, which can turn On or Off this function. Next to the small button, there are two blocks of 12 LAN ports each (1000BASET/100BASE-TX/10BASE-T). Overall, the power consumption of the switch is 13.5W at full load and, since this is a fanless switch (possible because it’s unmanaged), the device runs silent.
The Buffalo BS-GU2024 is an unmanaged switch, therefore setting it up is very simple (as with any plug-and-play device): all you have to do is to connect your devices to the switch, using Ethernet cables and that’s pretty much it, you don’t need to configure anything. But, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t some interesting features that help create a better and more secure network.
The BS-GU2024 is capable of Jumbo Frames (9K – Header 14 Bytes + FCS 4 Bytes inclusive), has a buffer memory of 512KB and a switching fabric of 48 Gbps. Furthermore, the switch features the 802.3az Green Ethernet technology, that scans which ports have connected devices and provides power only to the active ports, while also putting any transmitters in Sleep Mode if no data has been received or sent. Also, this feature takes into consideration the length of the connected cable so it can adjust the amount of power it needs to supply. Additionally, the switch has the Loop prevention feature which will turn off any port where there’s a network loop detected (you will also be alerted by the dedicated LED if there is a network loop detected).
Note: The switch has an internal power supply.
The Best Web-Smart Switches
Web-Smart PoE Switches
Non-PoE Web-Smart Switches
Web-Smart PoE Switches
1. D-Link Systems DGS-1210-10P
D-Link is a very successful Taiwanese Company that has been around for enough time to become a serious competitor for other networking manufacturers (like Cisco). It’s true that the company has been riddled by controversies, but it seems to have survived and we get new networking equipment to fiddle with every year.
Since switches are my main focus, I’ll have a look at the D-Link Systems DGS-1210-10P, a Web Smart PoE+ switch that features the D-Link Green technology (detects the length of the connected cable, so it can adjust the power usage, therefore saving energy, if you use shorter cables). The DGS-1210 line also includes the 10-port DGS-1210-10 (without PoE), the 20-port DGS-1210-20, the 28-port DGS-1210-28 (and the DGS-1210-28P, which has the PoE technology implemented) and the 52-port DGS-1210-52 (along with the PoE version, called DGS-1210-52MP).
The D-Link Systems DGS-1210-10P doesn’t really stand out from the design point of view. You get the usual rectangular metallic case with the black matte finish and there are grey accents on the front. Since this isn’t a product that’s been released in the last couple of years, D-Link didn’t pressure itself to make a compact case, so, the DGS-1210-10P isn’t really small, considering it only has 10 ports (it measures 11.02 x 7.08 x 1.73 inches and it weighs 3.1 lbs).
This means that you may have some trouble if you want to put it flat out on your desk (especially if you opt for the 28 or 52-port variant). Thankfully, the DGS-1210-10P can be mounted on a rack, by using the included brackets. If the device will be put on a desk or shelf, don’t forget to add the four rubber feet and make sure that the unit gets enough space to ensure a proper airflow (the air vents are located on the left an right side).
It’s important to mention that the DGS-1210-10P is fanless (as well as the DGS-1210-10/20/28) which means that they run very quiet, but the DGS-1210-28P, the DGS-1210-52 and the DGS-1210-52P have a fan installed that turns on if a certain temperature is reached. Not much is going on on the top of the switch, except for the carved D-Link logo. The bottom side is equally plain, with only the label with the information about the switch.
The back of the DGS-1210-10P is home to a Kensington Lock, a Switch GND (a ground lift that can help to get rid of the noise from ground loops), a label with the S/N and MAC ID, and the Power port (100-240V AC, 50/60Hz, 1.2A MAX) and a Power Cord Retainer. The front of the switch is where you’ll find the 8 10/100/100Mbps Ethernet ports and two 10/100/1000 BASE-T/SFP ports (it’s used for fiber optic connections or as an interface for high-speed networking).
On the left of the ports, there is a Power LED, the PoE LED (that lights up if the switch reaches the maximum power budget – 78 W), the Port Link/Activity/Speed LEDs (blinking means that the switch is either receiving or sending data; if the light is amber, it means that the port is running on 10/100 Mbps, otherwise, if it’s green, it means that the port is running on 1000Mbps), the PWR Fail LED (if it lights up, it means that the switch PoE is connected to a power failure) and the PWR OK LED (a PoE connection to a proper power source).
Additionally, you get a couple of buttons, one for Resetting the switch (hold for 5 seconds to return to the default settings) and a button for choosing the Mode (press it to change the port LED to Link/Activity or PoE).
On the inside the D-Link Systems DGS-1210-10P is equipped with an ARM Cortex-A9 CPU clocked at 400MHz, along with 126MB of DDR3 RAM and 16MB of flash memory (openwrt.com source). Although this is a 10-port switch, there is switching capacity of 20 Gbps.
As said before, the DGS-1210-10P is a Smart-managed switch, which means that you don’t get the complete control of a fully managed device, but there is enough configurability so it can’t be considered unmanaged. To sum it up, you get a small web-based utility so you can configure some of the options of the switch. In order to access this utility, you need to connect the switch to a computer using any of the 8 ports, open a browser of your choice and go to http://10.90.90.90.
Here, you will be asked to insert the password (by default, it’s admin) and you will be taken through some basic configuration process (Smart Wizard). Afterwards, you can access the main interface, which contains information about your device, information about the IP address and some quick configuration links (for RSTP, Port Mirroring, Storm Control, DHCP Client, Jumbo Frame, SNMP Status, 802.1X Status, Safeguard Engine, IGMP Snooping and Power Saving).
On the left, you can also choose the System (IPv6 settings, port settings, DHCP Relay), VLAN, L2 Functions (this feature includes the Port Mirroring, Spanning Tree, LACP (Link Aggregation Control Protocol)) and IGMP Snooping; there’s also the Loopback Detection and Cable Diagnostics), QoS (it can guarantee the quality of VoIP traffic by creating priorities), Security, AAA, SNMP and Monitoring.
The DGS-1210-10P is compatible with the following standards: IEEE 802.3, IEEE 802.3u, IEEE 802.3ab, IEEE 802.3az and IEEE 802.3x.
Note: Inside the box, you can find the D-Link Systems DGS-1210-10P switch, a Power Adapter, a Rack Mount Kit, the Rubber Feet, a CD-ROM with Product Documentation and a User Manual.
2. Netgear ProSafe GS110TP
Netgear is an American company that specializes in the production of networking products and over the years, it has managed to leave its footprint with products that remained reliable long after their release (like the Netgear Nighthawk R7000 router) and with the production of high-quality devices with the latest technology implemented. We already had a look at the NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108, an unmanaged switch that lacked in terms of PoE capabilities, but could deliver a stable network, so let’s also focus on the PoE smart managed switch series from Netgear.
The Netgear ProSafe GS110TP is an 8-port PoE switch, part of the Standalone Smart Managed Gigabit Switch Series, along with the NETGEAR ProSAFE GS510TP (which has 30W PoE+ port supply, so a total of 130W), the 16-port GS516TP (76W PoE budget), the 24-port GS728TP (192W PoE+ budget), 24-port GS728TPP (384W PoE+ budget) and the 48-port GS752TP (384W PoE+ budget).
The design of the GS110TP follows the same guidelines as the other switches on the market. You get a rectangular metal case, with a dark grey-blue finish and a yellow band underneath the Ethernet ports. Overall, the GS110TP could be considered a compact device (as it measures 9.2 x 4.0 x 1.0 inches and weighs 1.55 lbs), but newer 8-port switches are getting smaller and more compact every year. Still, because it is quite lightweight, the footprint has a role to play into the stability of the device (especially if you fill all the ports).
The default position of the GS110TP is horizontal, so it will easily fit on a shelf or desk, but, if every inch of your space is important (like in an office), then you have the option to mount the switch on the wall (the kit is included in the package). The top of the device is quite plain, except for the Netgear logo and model name and, if you turn the device upside down, you can find the four feet (don’t forget to add the rubber footpad), the two holes for wall-mounting and a label with info about the device (serial number, MAC address and the password – which is ‘password’ by default).
The front of the GS110TP contains eight RJ45 connectors for the 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet ports (all support IEEE 802.3af, Alternative A (MDI-X)), two 1000M SFP Gigabit Ethernet ports (interface for high-speed networking), a recessed Reset button to restart the switch (accessible with a paper clip) and a Factory Defaults button (to restore the device to factory settings).
Additionally, there are a couple of LED lights on the left for Power and PoE Max (that lights up a solid yellow colour when less than 7W of PoE power is available, otherwise, the LED is going to flash a yellow colour if the MAX LED was active the previous couple of minutes), one LED for each SFP port for Link/Activity and there are two LED lights for each LAN Ethernet ports: one for Link/Activity (if it blinks, it means that there is activity, if it’s yellow, then there is a connection of 10/100Mbps, otherwise, if it’s green, then there is a connection of 1000Mbps) and one for PoE Mode (green – PoE forward, yellow – PoE fault).
On the back side of the switch, there is the Power connector and the Kensington key. One thing that you will notice is that the device is silent. The reason for it is because it doesn’t have a fan and it relies on the vent holes from the back and the sides to maintain a proper temperature.
Inside the case, the Netgear ProSafe GS110TP is equipped with a couple of Broadcom BCM59101 controllers, 64MB DDR SDRAM (Nanya NT5DS32M16BS) and 16MB of flash. Furthermore, the GS510TP has a switching capacity of 20Gbps.
The smart switch features a small utility that helps you to quickly configure your device, called the Smart Control Center Manager (included on the Resource CD). To install this utility, you have to follow a simple wizard and afterwards, access it from the desktop. Bear in mind that this application can only be used for doing basic maintenance of the network, the real administration can be done by using the Java-based browser interface.
The Smart Control Access utility features four tabs: Network (click Discover to find all the Netgear switches on your network; after all the devices are discovered, you can configure the devices, open the Web Interface, change the password and reboot the connected devices), Maintenance (upload or download system configuration for every connected device), Tasks (shows any scheduled tasks) and Help.
From the Smart Control Center Manager you can go to the browser interface (you will be prompted to enter the password). Here you will be greeted by seven main tabs: System, Switching, QoS, Security, Monitoring, Maintenance and Help.
The System tab has the following sub-tabs: Management (IP configuration, DNS settings, Denial of Service, SNTP Global and Server Configuration and Green Ethernet Configuration – if the cable is short, less power will be drawn), Device View, PoE (here, you can control the PoE capabilities of the switch – priority levels, scheduling), SNMP, LLDP and Services (DHCP Filtering). The Switching tab features the following sub-tabs: Ports (Individual Configuration for every Port and Flow Control), LAG (Link Aggregation Protocol), VLAN, VoiceVLAN, Auto-VOIP, STP, Multicast and Address Table.
The QoS feature allows you to set priorities for every port or globally, for all ports, as well as classify the network traffic using the COS options. The Security tab gives you multiple levels of protection: Management Security, Access Port Authentication, Traffic Control and ACL. It also has 802.3af power-over-Ethernet (PoE) support, providing up to a total of 46W of power to connected devices, with a maximum of 15W per device. Each port can be powered down on a schedule and it has the maximum allowable power draw specified.
The Netgear ProSafe GS110TP is compatible with the following standards: IEEE 802.3 CSMA/CD, IEEE 802.3i, IEEE 802.3u, IEEE 802.3x (Full-duplex flow control), IEEE 802.3ab, IEEE 802.3z and IEEE 802.3af (DTE power via MDI).
Note: Inside the package, you can find the Netgear ProSafe GS110TP unit, the AC adapter (48V/1.25A), the wall-mounting kit, the rubber footpads, the resource CD and the installation guide.
3. Ubiquiti TOUGHSwitch TS-8-PRO Switch
Ubiquiti Networks is known as a manufacturer of enterprise-level networking products, but it also offers affordable solutions suitable for small business offices or for home use, as opposed to the expensive devices from Cisco or the consumer-oriented manufacturers that leave out many features for the sake of simplicity or for keeping the cost as low as possible (of course, Ubiquiti falls somewhere in the middle, as it offers some advanced features for a better price than its competitions).
This isn’t the first Ubiquiti switch I had a look at, since the Layer 3 EdgeSwitch ES-24-250W is also part of the list, but, this time, I’ll have a look at a more ‘tamed’ switch, from the web smart managed family called the Ubiquiti TOUGHSwitch TS-8-PRO. As the name suggest, this is a PoE (passive) switch that is equipped with 8 ports, but the TOUGHSwitch also comes as an 5-port variant (TS-5-POE), which also has support for PoE.
As usual, Ubiquiti dislikes the plain, boring design of the average switch (just a rectangular piece of hardware with ports), so it always tries to break the monotony with some minor, but eye-catching details. This time, with the TOUGHSwitch TS-8-PRO, instead of the usual rectangular box, it has some chamfered edges on the left and right side of the device. Besides that, the case is black (matte, so it doesn’t retain fingerprints) and the materials used are an unexpected combination of rubber and metal, making the switch looking surprisingly rugged.
Furthermore, the TS-8-PRO is made to easily fit on a shelf or simply, on the desk, measuring 8.2 x 7.2 x 1.6 inches and weighing 2.7 lbs, so, even though it looks smaller than the usual PoE switches, this device won’t budge no matter how many cables you connect to its ports. As expected, you won’t be able to mount the TS-8-PRO on a rack (because of its small dimensions), but, unlike the 5-port TS-5-POE, it does not have any holes for mounting the switch on the wall (there are some trays available on the market that allow you to mount the device on the wall if you’re tight on space). On the bottom of the switch you can still find the usual label with info about the device (such as the MAC address).
The back panel of the TOUGHSwitch Pro is mostly occupied by a large area with ventilation holes (some additional ventilation holes can also be found on the lateral sides and on the top of the device) and a Power connector. It’s good to see that Ubiquiti made all the proper steps into ensuring a good airflow (there is no fan installed inside the case, it relies solely on passive cooling, so you won’t be bothered by any loud fan noises – the switch remains completely silent).
The front panel is the place with the most activity: from the left, there’s a Management port (it’s a 10/100 Mbps port specifically created for the management of the switch, but, of course, you can use it as an additional Ethernet port, but be aware that it doesn’t do well under heavy load and it comes with the 10/100 Mbps and no-PoE limitations), a USB 2.0 port (it seems that this port can only be used to power up devices, as it provides 5V of power), eight 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet PoE ports (the maximum PoE wattage per data port is 11.5W for 24V and 23W for 48V) and a small Reset button (hold the button for more than 10 seconds to return the device to factory default settings). Furthermore, every port features two LED lights, one for PoE (green means 24V PoE, amber signifies 48V PoE) and the other for Speed/Link/Activity (amber means an established link at 10/100 Mbps, while green means an established link at 1000 Mbps; if either colours are flashing, it signifies activity). The Management port has only one LED light which will be amber when there is Power and when there’s a 10/100 Mbps established connection.
Inside the case, the TOUGHSwitch PoE Pro is equipped with a Broadcom BCM53128 chipset (Atheros AR7242 MIPS 24K CPU clocked at 400MHz), along with 8MB of flash storage and 64MB RAM.
The installation process is as simple as it gets and all you have to do is connect the Power cord to the Power port and to an outlet, then use an Ethernet cable and connect it to the Management port and to the Ethernet port from your PC (to perform the configuration of the switch) and lastly, you can simply add any devices you want (including PoE) using additional Ethernet cables. After you installed the switch, you can now configure the device by visiting the Configuration Interface (type https://192.168.1.20 in your favourite web browser and enter ubnt for both username and password fields).
You can’t really complain about the UI, as it looks modern and doesn’t scare away new-comers with a flood of options: it feels intuitive and everything is where it should be. So, the interface features five main sections: Status, Device, Ports, VLANs and Alerts, each with its own window and set of options. The Status section displays a graphic representation of the switch, with all connected ports and the specific LED light, as well as the Total Throughput, the Status of the device, the Status of the Ports (as well as Port Statistics) and the Data Distribution between the ports.
The Device section also keeps the upper graphic representation of the switch and addresses the Firmware Update, it allows you to change the Management Network Settings, the Basic Settings, the Management Connection Settings, configure the Services, the Spanning Tree Protocol, the Jumbo Frames, access the Device Discovery, the System Account, the Device Maintenance and the Configuration Management. The Ports section consists of Basic Settings, Ping Watchdog settings, the Spanning Tree Settings and the Alerts for every TOUGHSwitch port.
The VLANs section allows you to Trunk Ports and configure Virtual Local Area Networks, while the Alerts section shows the Alert and System logs. Besides the main sections, on the right side, there’s also a Tools drop-down list which includes the MAC Forwarding Table, Ping, Traceroute and Discovery.
The TOUGHSwitch TS-8-PRO is compatible with the following standards: IEEE 802.1Q-based VLAN with 4K entries, IEEE 802.3x, 802.3, 802.3u, 802.3ab.
Note: Inside the package, there is the Ubiquiti TOUGHSwitch TS-8-PRO Switch, a Power cord and the Quick Start Guide.
Non-PoE Web-Smart Switches
1. ZyXEL GS1900-16 Smart
Besides TP-Link and D-Link, ZyXEL is yet another Chinese-based company that in a short amount of time, has managed to become a well-known worldwide networking products manufacturer (it commonly acts as an OEM). The company has its fair share of innovations, being the first to create an integrated voice/fax/modem, the first ADSL2+ gateway, the first Analogue/Digital ISDN modem and more.
I had the opportunity to test some of the ZyXEL products: an access point, a dual WAN VPN router, a powerline adapter and today, I will have a look at the 16-port GS1900-16 switch, that is part of the Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) Web-Managed series (there are also 8-port, 24-port and 48-port variants, as well as a series that has PoE support implemented).
Design-wise, the ZyXEL GS1900-16 is a small, compact device, having a metallic rectangular body, covered by a black matte finish. The last few years, there haven’t been many improvements in the switches department and the main differentiating factor seems to be the size of these devices. Fortunately, since the ZyXEL GS1900-16 is small (it measures 5.2 x 8.5 x 1.7 inches) and reasonably lightweight (2.1 lbs), you won’t really have a problem placing it anywhere in the room (on a desk or on a shelf).
Still, if space is important (especially when dealing with crowded business offices), ZyXEL offers the possibility to mount the switch on the wall (use the two screws provided in the box) and, additionally, you get the option to mount it on a rack (there are two mounting brackets included in the package to help you), just be careful to not obstruct the airflow of the switch.
The ZyXEL GS1900-16 relies on passive cooling, so it lacks the loud fans some of us have come to dread. On the left and the right side of the switch there are some vent holes that should ensure a proper ventilation, but bear in mind that the GS1900-16 does have a tendency to get a bit warm. The bottom side of the switch is home to four feet (they come separately and you have to stick them to the bottom of the device), two holes for wall-mounting and some labels (with the product name, model number and the power consumption).
On the front side of the ZyXEL GS1900-16, you can find the 16 10/100/1000Mbps Gigabit Ethernet BASE-T ports positioned in two blocks (at 100Mbps, the duplex mode can be both half or full duplex, while at 1000Mbps, there is only full duplex available). On the left side of the ports, there are two main LEDs, one for Power, the other for System (if it’s blinking, it means that the system is either rebooting or is performing self-diagnostic tests) and two arrays of eight small LEDs showing the LINK/ACTIVITY for every port (if the green LED is blinking, it means that the system is transmitting and/or receiving data from a 100/1000 Mbps network, otherwise, if it’s on, it means that the link to a 100/1000Mbps network is up and running).
On the right side of the ports, there is a recessed RESET button, accessible using a paper clip. On the rear side of the switch, you can find a Power ON/OFF switch and a Power port (AC input 100-240VAC 50/60Hz 0.25A MAX).
On the inside, ZyXEL has equipped the GS1900-16 with a Realtek RTL8382M switch controller and 64 MB of RAM. Furthermore, the ZyXEL GS1900-16 has a switching capacity of 32 Gbps.
Setting up the GS1900-16 is very easy, all you have to do is connect the switch to a power supply and add up to 16 devices using Ethernet cables. Additionally, ZyXEL gives you the option to configure your new created network using a Web Configurator. To access it, you have to go to http://192.168.1.1, where you’ll be prompted to insert the user name and password (admin/1234) and lastly, you have to click Login to access the utility. The interface looks modern and it can be divided into two main parts. On the top right, you can Log out, Save the applied changes to your network, access About and read the Help section.
The second section is a lot more complex, as there are four main tabs and each opens a new screen with personalized configuration options: Getting Start, Monitor Menu, Configuration Menu and Maintenance Menu. The Getting Start tab displays general information about the device (name, serial number, MAC address, CPU and Memory Usage and so on), the System Status, the Virtual Device (displays an image of the front of the switch and shows the active LEDs and connected ports) and the Wizards (Start up, VLAN, QoS and Link aggregation).
The Start up Wizard allows you to set up the IP/DNS and user name and password. The VLAN Wizard let’s you create and edit VLAN IDs, as well as tag and untag VLAN for Ethernet frames. The QoS Wizard gives you a graphic representation of the ports and let’s you choose the priority of each of them (highest, medium or low). The Link aggregation Wizard allows you to create groups of ports.
The Configuration tab has a lot going on, having a very complex sub-menu: System (IP settings – IPv4 and IPv6; Time settings and Information – configure the system name, location and contact), Port (here, you can configure the port and EEE settings for each individual port, configure the Bandwidth Management and the Storm Control), VLAN (configure VLAN, Port and VLAN Port settings, as well as Guest and Voice VLAN), MAC Table (here, you can configure the MAC address, the VLAN ID of a attached device, as well as set up the static MAC addresses, add filtering MAC rules and configure the dynamic info), Link Aggregation (Global, LAG Management, LAG port and LACP port), Loop Guard (here you can configure the protection against the network loops that may occur on the edge of your network), Mirror, Multicast (here, you can configure different multicast features, such as IGMP snooping), Spanning Tree (configure the RSTP, MRSTP and MSTP in order to prevent network loops), LLDP, QoS, Security (Port Security, Protected Port settings, 802.1X and DOS settings), AAA and Management (here, you can configure the syslog, SNMP, HTTP/HTTPS, error disable and users and remote access controls).
The Maintenance tab allows you to manage the Firmware, the Configuration, the Diagnostics and gives you the option to Reboot the switch.
Note: The ZyXEL GS1900-16 is compatible with the following standards: IEEE 802.1Q, IEEE 802.1ab, IEEE 802.1p, IEEE 802.1x, IEEE 802.3, IEEE 802.3ab, IEEE 802.3ad, IEEE 802.3az, IEEE 802.3u, IEEE 802.3x.
2. TP-LINK TL-SG108E
The TP-LINK TL-SG108E is part of the TP-Link’s Easy Switch series, which offers a slight degree of customization, but not so much as to be considered fully manageable. As expected, TP-Link is an alternative to the more expensive switches from the market (like Cisco) and it aims to implement as much technology possible, while maintaining an affordable price. This makes the TP-Link switches perfect for home use or for small businesses.
Besides the TL-SG108E, the Easy Switch series also features the 5-port TL-SG105E, the 16-port TL-SG1016DE and the 24-port TL-SG1024DE. Additionally, the series also comes without the smart configuration feature (you can identify these switches by the lack of the letter E after the name, e.g. the TL-SG108). The unmanaged series also features a rackmount 48-port switch called the TL-SG1048.
From the design point of view, the TP-LINK TL-SG108E has the same rectangular metallic case, this time with a dark grey blue finish, but what attracts attention is that it’s incredibly compact, it’s not larger than a small book (or a VHS tape, if you remember those). It only measures 6.2 x 4.0 x 1.0 inches and it weighs 0.86 pounds (so it’s quite lightweight). Sure, it has rubber feet to stop the switch from budging, but, if you connect devices to all ports, you may have to pay attention to not position the device near the edge of the table (especially if you go for the 5-port or the 8-port version).
Since this is a small device, you won’t really have trouble positioning it anywhere in the room, but if you want to mount the switch on the wall, TP-Link made this option possible by adding two holes on the bottom of the device. Because of its reduce size, you obviously can’t mount it on a rack and the only unit from this series that is rack-mountable is the 48-port TL-SG1048.
As expected, the TP-LINK TL-SG108E does not have a fan and relies on passive cooling, so make sure that you don’t obstruct the vent holes on the sides. On the bottom side of the switch, besides the wall mounting holes, there is a label with printed information about the device (the MAC address, the Serial Number, the default IP address, the user name and the password).
On the front side, you can find a Power LED and the 8 10/100/1000 Mbps RJ-45 Ethernet ports (the connected cables must not exceed 328 feet). Each port has two LED lights on the top left and right side (if the LED light is amber, it means that it is connected to a 10/100Mbps device, otherwise, if the LED is green, it means that the port is connected to a 1000Mbps device). The rear side of the switch is occupied by a Kensington lock and the Power port.
Inside the case, the TL-SG108E is equipped with a Realtek RTL8370N Switch Controller (Layer 2) and 1MB of flash memory. The switching capacity of the TL-SG108E is 16Gbps.
The hardware installation is quite simple, you have to connect the switch to a power outlet, using the provided Power adapter and then connect it to a router (to access the Internet) and/or connect any desired clients to create a LAN network. Since the TL-SG108E is a smart switch, it does feature a configuration utility that is compatible only with the Windows OS.
In order to access the interface, you have to install the Easy Smart Configuration Utility. If you access the utility, you will be prompted to insert the user name and password in order to gain access to the main interface. Here, you can find six main tabs: System, Switching, Monitoring, VLAN, QoS and Help. The System tab has the following sub-tabs: System Info, IP Setting, User Account, Backup and Restore, System Reboot, System Reset and Firmware Upgrade.
The Switching tab consists of Port Setting (Speed/Duplex and Flow Control), IGMP Snooping and Port Trunk (up to two trunk groups, each with a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 4 port members). The Mirroring tab has the following sub-tabs: Port Statistics (Link Status and more), Port Mirror (ports that are part of a trunk group cannot be mirroring or mirrored ports), Cable Test (tests the ports and shows the cable fault distance) and Loop Prevention (if a loop is detected, the port will be automatically blocked in order to maintain the network running; it must be coordinated with the Storm Control).
The VLAN tab features the following sub-tabs: MTU VLAN, Port Based VLAN, 802.1Q VLAN and 802.1Q PVID Setting. The TL-SG108E supports 32 VLANs. The QoS tab has the following sub-tabs: QoS Basic (four priority levels), Bandwidth Control (you can set ingress and egress bandwidth limits for every port) and Storm Control (one limit to control possible storm traffic rates).
The TP-LINK TL-SG108E is compatible with the following standards: IEEE 802.3, IEEE 802.3ab, IEEE 802.3u, IEEE 802.3x and IEEE 802.1p.
Note: Inside the package, you can find the TP-LINK TL-SG108E switch unit, a Power cord, an Installation Guide, the Resource CD and the rubber feet.
3. NETGEAR JGS524Ev2
The NETGEAR JGS524Ev2 is the next step from the unmanaged switch and a reliable entry-to-intermediate-level solution for small businesses or even for home users enthusiasts. If you’re coming from an unmanaged switch, the Gigabit Web Managed (Plus) Series will offer a lot more control over how your devices are connected to the network and you get an utility tool to do some basic management (mostly L2, but there also are some L3 elements).
On the other hand, if you downgrade from a fully managed switch, you’ll notice that a lot of features are gone and that there’s a lot more constraint over the management capability. That being said, the JGS524Ev2 offers the essential networking features (such as traffic prioritization, loop prevention or IGMP snooping) and, while it lacks support for PoE, it remains a device worth taking into consideration if you want to upgrade from an unmanaged switch.
The NETGEAR JGS524Ev2 features the usual rectangular, metallic case, covered by a grey matte finish, while on the front the switch tries to break the monotony by using a darker violet nuance. It’s very hard to stand out of the crowd from the design point of view when dealing with non-consumer-focused networking products, but nobody really expects them to, since people will value a lot more the built quality and the features of the JGS524Ev2 than any eye-catching unnecessary element.
The switch is reasonably compact, measuring 12.9 x 6.7 x 1.7 inches, it’s quite lightweight (weighing only 3 lbs) and it lacks an internal fan, therefore the device runs completely silent; since it relies on passive cooling, the JGS524Ev2 features a series of vent holes on the left and right side of the case in order to maintain a proper airflow. Furthermore, the device is equipped with four feet if you want to put it on a desk or shelf, but, it also has four holes on each side for mounting on a rack horizontally (takes one rack unit; the package comes with a rack-mount kit).
Now, returning on the front of the switch, you’ll notice a small Power Led on the left side, along with a recessed Reset button (which return the device to factory default settings) and on the right side there a large block of LED lights which show the status of the ports. The LED lights are divided into two blocks and each port gets two LEDs: one LED is responsible for Link/Activity (if data is being transmitted or received, the LED will blink a green colour, otherwise, it will remain solid green as long as the device is not turned off), while the other will show the Link quality (green signifies 1000 Mbps, yellow means a connection at 100 Mbps and if the LED is turned off shows a connection at 10 Mbps).
Next to the LEDs, on the right side, you can find the 24 10/100/1000 Base-T RJ45 ports themselves which are divided into three blocks of eight ports. On the rear side, the JGS524Ev2 has a Kensington lock and the 100-240V ~ 50-60Hz power connector (0.9 A maximum, the power supply is internal). On the bottom, there’s a label with info about the device (such as the model name and the MAC address).
Setting up the JGS524Ev2 is pretty simple, as all you have to do is connect the switch to a power source and then add all the devices (in a plug-and-play manner), but, all switches from the Plus series come with a configuration utility (ProSafe Plus Utility) which allows some degree of management (unfortunately, it only works with Microsoft Windows OS). After you install the utility (from the resource CD), you’ll be asked to choose the switch that you wish to configure and to enter a password for the device. As a side note, be aware that the utility can be a bit slow at times. Netgear has also added a web-based interface, so you can access it by going to the IP address of the switch.
The interface of the JGS524Ev2 has a top main menu with four options (System, VLAN, QoS and Help), each with its own set of settings. So, under System, you can visit Management (here, you can access and configure the Switch Information (includes enabling DHCP Mode), view the Port Status, configure the Loop Detection and Broadcast/Forwarding), Maintenance (here, you can Change the Password, perform Device Reboot, return to Factory Default settings, perform Firmware Upgrade, Save the Configuration or Restore the Configuration), Monitoring (shows Port Statistics, gives you access to port Mirroring and Cable Tester), Multicast (IGMP Snooping) and LAG (allows you to configure the Link Aggregation between two managed switches and add ports under Link Aggregation Membership).
Under VLAN, you get two options: Port Based and 802.1Q (both with Basic and Advanced settings), while under QoS, you get access to QoS – Global Configuration, Rate Limit and Broadcast Filtering (enable Broadcast Filtering and configure the Storm control rate).
Note: The NETGEAR JGS524Ev2 is compatible with the following standards: IEEE 802.3az compliant, IEEE 802.3 Ethernet, IEEE 802.3ab 1000BASE-T, IEEE 802.1Q VLAN Tagging, IEEE 802.3i 10BASE-T, IEEE 802.1p Class of Service, IEEE 802.3x Full-duplex Flow Control and IEEE 802.3u 100BASE-T.
The Best Managed Switches
1. Cisco SG300-28 L3
Cisco is a recurrent name when we are talking about any networking products and that’s because the Cisco Systems is the largest networking company in the world, having lots of network security-related patents and let’s face it, whenever Cisco comes out, everyone thinks about high-quality, stable products that are easy to configure and are packed with all the latest features.
Sure enough, Cisco products aren’t known for having a cheap price tag, but there was a switch that caught my eye, namely the SG300-28, a 28-port Gigabit Managed switch that seems to be one of the most affordable Layer 3 switches on the market and which is perfect for small businesses and for home use, if you’re a tech enthusiast (although it may be an overkill). Besides the 28-port switch, the SG300 series also has models of 8 to 48 ports using the Fast Ethernet technology and models of 10 to 52 ports, using the Gigabit Ethernet connectivity.
Cisco designed the SG300-28 in the same fashion as the other switches on the market: you get a sturdy, metallic, rectangular case with a light-grey matte finish covering the external surface, except for the front side, where the surface is black. The footprint of the SG300-28 is quite large, even though it is advertised as being a desktop switch (it measures 17.3 x 10.1 x 1.7 inches and weighs 8.6 lbs), so it occupies a lot of space if you decide to place it on a shelf or on the desk (don’t forget to stick the four rubber feet on the bottom). But, if you want to use this device in an office, then you may not like the idea of placing it flat on a surface.
Fortunately, Cisco gives you the option to mount the switch on a rack (1 rack unit high) using the included kit and there isn’t a wall-mounting possibility (only the 8-port devices can be mounted on the wall). The top of the device is quite uneventful, there is only the Cisco logo. Both the left and the right side of the switch is home to large patterns of airflow vents and I was surprised to see that this large device is fanless. This means that it relies solely on passive cooling and there is no fan noise, the switch just sits quietly and does its job.
The front of the SG300-28 is occupied by the 26 10/100/1000Mbps Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 ports, each with two LED lights, one for LINK/ACTIVITY (solid green means that there is a link between the port and the connected device) and the other for GIGABIT (if the LED is solid green, it means that there is a 1000Mbps link established between the devices, otherwise, if the LED is off, it means that the connection speed is under 1000Mbps or that there is no connection to the port).
On the right side of the ports, you can also find two combo mini-GBIC slots (each combo has one 10/100/1000M Ethernet port and one mini-GBIC/SFP(Small Form-Factor Pluggable) Ethernet Gigabit slot), each port with the corresponding two LED lights (Link/Act and Gigabit). On the left side of the block of ports, there is a single System LED (if it’s amber, it means that there is a hardware failure) and a recessed Reset button (which can be accessed by inserting a paper clip). The back side of the switch, there is the Power port (100-240~ 4A 50-60Hz) and a Console port, where you can connect a serial cable to a PC for using the terminal emulation program.
Hardware-wise, the Cisco SG300-28 is equipped with a Marvell ARM CPU, 128 MB of RAM and 16 MB of flash memory. Furthermore, the SG300-28 features a switching capacity of 56 Gbps and a forwarding performance of 41.67 Mbps (64-byte packet size).
The SG300-28 can be configured using two different methods, one by using a web-based interface and the other, through the console port, by using the Command Line Interface (CLI). In order to configure your switch using the console port, you have to connect a computer using a serial cable and start a terminal application (for example, the HyperTerminal). You can check out what command lines you can use by following this guide: http://www.cisco.com/c/dam/en/us/td/docs/switches/lan/csbms/sf30x_sg30x/administration_guide/CLI_300_1_2_9.pdf.
To gain access to the web-based interface, open a browser of your choice and go to 192.168.1.254 (the default IP address) that will open the Login page. Here, insert cisco for both the user name and password (the first time, you also get the option to change the password). The UI has two main sections: one on the top right corner, where you can choose the language, Log out, access the About page and visit the Help section; the other consists of the main menu positioned vertically.
The menu has the following sections: Getting Started, Status and Statistics (System Summary, Interface, Etherlike, GVRP, 802.1xEAP, TCAM Utilization, RMON, View Log), Administration (System Settings, Management Interface, User Accounts, Idle Session Timeout, Time Settings, System Log, File Management, Reboot, TCAM Allocation Settings, Diagnostics, Discovery – Bonjour and LLDP), Port Management (Port Settings, Link Aggregation, Green Ethernet), Smartport (Properties, Smartport Type Settings, Interface Settings), VLAN Management (Default VLAN Settings, Create VLAN, Interface Settings, Port to VLAN, Port VLAN Membership, GVRP Settings, VLAN Groups and Voice VLAN), Spanning Tree, MAC Address Tables, Multicast, IP Configuration (DHCP Relay, ARP and Domain Name System), Security (TACACS+, RADIUS, Password Strength, Management Access Method, Secure Sensitive Data Management, SSL Server, SSH Server, SSH Client), Access Control (MAC-Based ACL and ACE, IPv4 and IPv6 Based ACE, IPV6 Based ACL and ACL Binding), Quality of Service and SNMP.
Since this is a Layer 3 managed switch, you can expect that every section is full of options that help you make a complete, in-depth configuration (just make sure that after you went through all the settings, you have to realise that you made the changes to the current, running configuration, so you have to click the save button at the top, otherwise, all the changes will be lost after the first reboot).
Note: Inside the package, you can expect the Cisco SG300-28 unit, a Power cord, a serial cable, a rack-mounting kit, a Quick Start Guide and a CD-ROM with user documentation.
2. Mikrotik CRS226-24G-2S+IN
The Latvian Company, Mikrotik, isn’t as large as Cisco, but it has managed to capture the attention of the entire world with its computer networking equipment (especially since we are talking about a relatively new company – it was founded in 1996). Besides the great router and switch series, Mikrotik has also brought us the RouterOS, a Linux based software that can turn a computer into a network router (along with the implementation of various features, like VPN, QoS, firewalling, the ability to serves as a captive-portal-based hotspot system and many more features).
The device I’m going to focus is the Mikrotik CRS226-24G-2S+IN, a cloud Gigabit router Switch that features 24 ports, Layer 3 management, PoE functionality (Passive PoE) and the license L5 RouterOS. This switch is a desktop model, but there is also a second variant, the CRS226-24G-2S+RM that can be rack mounted (with the small LCD display positioned on the front).
The Mikrotik CRS226-24G-2S+IN is a neat looking device, having a bit more aesthetic value than the other switches from competition. The case is rectangular and metallic, covered with a white finish. On top, you get a small touchscreen. Obviously, it was not created to be the main input method, since it doesn’t have the functions, nor the responsiveness of a smartphone’s display, but it can be used to setup the IP address of a LAN interface and some other simple configuration options.
This isn’t necessarily a recent device, but Mikrotik has adopted the new trend of making switches as compact as possible. This statement is true for the Mikrotik CRS226-24G-2S+IN, because it is a very compact device considering it has 24 ports (it measures 11.2 x 5.7 x 1.7 inches) and it’s also quite lightweight (it weighs 2.9 pounds). The switch can be positioned flat on the surface (this is the only position available), but allows a certain degree of ventilation thanks to its four feet, since there are some vent holes on the bottom of the device. Near one of its feet, you can also find a label with printed info about the switch (Serial Number, Model Name).
The front of the device is home to the Ethernet RJ-45 10/100/1000 Gigabit ports positioned in three groups, there’s also a Console port and two SFP+ Ethernet ports (the first SFP+ port supports 1.2 Gigabit and 10 Gigabit, while the second SFP+ port supports only the 10 Gigabit mode). The Ethernet port 1 allows you to power the switch over Ethernet (PoE In).
Underneath the Console port, there are three LED lights for Power, RES and USR 1. Additionally, every LAN port has a LED light (green for 1000Mbps connection, amber for 10/100Mbps connection) and the two SFP+ ports have two LEDs: one for ACT/LINK and the second for 10G. The interesting thing about this Mikrotik switch is that through the RouterOS, it allows the users to configure each LED activity the way it suits them better.
The back of the switch has a DC input (10-28V) and different types of vents, from which one seems to be designed for a fan. In reality, the CRS226-24G-2S+IN is fanless (relies only on passive cooling), so it’s not noisy and the unit has remained surprisingly cool (considering that it features a strong performance).
Under the hood, the CRS226-24G-2S+IN sports a Qualcomm Atheros QCA8519, clocked at 400MHz, backed by 64MB of RAM and 128MB of Onboard NAND (multiple OS partition support). The chip comes with a non-blocking design, so every port can be used full-duplex simultaneously.
The Mikrotik CRS226-24G-2S+IN features the RouterOS software, an extensive tool that allows for a huge number of configurations (it has level 5 license, which means that almost all features are licensed at an unlimited level). In terms of features, the RouterOS has everything you would need and more, and because of the large number and the complexity of some of them, Mikrotik has created a dedicated wiki page to help out those in need: http://wiki.mikrotik.com/wiki/Main_Page.
Let’s get it straight, setting up the CRS226-24G-2S+IN is a pain, but once you do it for the first time, you’ll understand the flow of the switch. That being said, remember that you talk to the CPU directly, which talks to the switch chip at 1GBps. Now, if you access the settings from ‘/interface ethernet switch’, you are controlling the switch chip, any other configurations are done on the CPU (which is not really that powerful).
Also, you need to understand that the RouterOS uses the concept of master port and slaves in order to configure groups (especially useful if you want to configure ports for VLAN). Additionally, any ports can be removed from the switch and be used for routing. If you want to set up Link Aggregation, you must do it in the ‘/interface ethernet switch trunk’, but, unfortunately, the CRS226-24G-2S+IN does not support LACP (nor Spanning Tree).
3. Ubiquiti EdgeSwitch ES-24-250W
Ubiquiti Networks is a fairly young American company that specializes into the development of networking products and focuses mainly on the emerging markets. Ubiquiti is well known for its EdgeMAX series, the UniFi series, as well as airMAX, airFiber (for outdoor wireless) and the sunMAX Grid-tied solar kit technology (an awesome plug and play alternative energy solution).
What I’m going to focus is on a member of the EdgeSwitch family, the ES-24-250W, which is a 24 RJ45 Gigabit ports switch, one that claims to be able to deliver the forwarding capacity to simultaneous process traffic at line rate without any packet loss. Besides the ES-24-250W, there are some more powerful models available, like the ES-24-500W, the ES-48-500W and the ES-48-750W.
The Ubiquiti EdgeSwitch ES-24-250W features a very simple design, having a rectangular metallic case, covered by a black matte finish and with white accents for the LEDs, the logo and info for the ports (the black and white colour choice manages to give an elegant overall effect). The EdgeSwitch ES-24-250W is a fairly large device, far from the other more compact switches from this list (it measures 19.09 x 1.72 x 11.24 inches and it weighs 10.4 lb), but, as you may have noticed this is not a desktop switch, so you don’t have the option to either wall mount it or place it flat on a surface, you can only rack-mount it (1U High).
The front side has the common protrusions for rack-mounting and on each side (both left and the right side), there are three blocks of ventilation holes and in-between them, there are two circular vent holes patterns for the fans. The four fans run surprisingly quiet (although there was a small problem before, which is fixed now by the newer firmware versions) and while installing the switch on a rack, make sure to leave about 0.8 inches clearance to maintain a proper airflow.
On the front panel, you can find the 24 10/100/1000Mbps RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet ports positioned in two blocks, each with two LED lights, one for the PoE status (if the LED light is amber: IEEE 802.3af/802.3at; if the LED is green: 24V passive) and the other for the Speed/Link/Activity (if the LED light is amber, it means that there is an established link at 10/100Mbps, otherwise, if it’s green, it means that there is an established link at 1000 Mbps). On the left side of the ports, near the Logo, there is a small System LED that lights a white colour if the device is ready to use and a blue colour, when the bootup is in progress or if it resets to factory defaults.
On the right side of the 24 Ethernet ports, there are two SFP 1Gbps ports, each with its own LED light for Speed/Link/Activity (solid green indicates an established link of 1Gbps, flashing indicates activity). Near the SFP ports, there is a small RESET button that can return the switch to the default factory settings. On the rear side of the ES-24-250W, there is a Power port (input: 100-240V, 50/60Hz) and some info about the device.
From what I saw, inside the case, the Ubiquiti EdgeSwitch ES-24-250W is equipped with 256MB of DDR3 RAM and an ARMv7 processor. Furthermore, the ES-24-250W features a switching capacity of 52 Gbps.
The EdgeSwitch ES-24-250W has a comprehensive interface that allows you to monitor and configure all the features and, for advanced users, there is a CLI (Command-Line Interface) available through SSH and telnet (you can access the CLI by a direct serial connection or by using a remote logical connection – you can have a look at the interface syntax here: https://dl.ubnt.com/guides/edgemax/EdgeSwitch_CLI_Command_Reference_UG.pdf). In order to access the user interface you have to open a browser of your choice and go to 192.168.1.2. Here, you’ll be prompted to enter the user name and password (ubnt for both) and click Login to access the interface.
The layout of the UI has three main sections: the Device View, the Navigation Menu and a small menu for the Save Configuration and Logout buttons. The Device View offers a graphic image of all the physical ports, along with the info, current configuration and specific colours for the status of the ports (grey means that the port is down, amber shows a connection at 100Mbps, green indicates a connection at 1000Mbps and the small white dot indicates PoE output).
The Navigation Menu has the following main tabs: PoE, System, Switching, Routing, Security and QoS. Each of these tabs opens an individual UI page and, since we are dealing with a managed switch, you can expect an enormous amount of settings. Obviously, I won’t go into details about every feature and every aspect, but I will name some of the most interesting ones: LLDP, Virtual LANs, Link Aggregation, Flow Control and Ethernet priority, Broadcast Storm Recovery, DHCP Snooping, DHCP Server Functionality, CoS, MAC Filtering, Jumbo Frame Support, Voice VLANs, internal 802.1X Authentication Server, IPv6 Management and a lot more. Additionally, there are also L3 routing features, such as Static Routing and Policy Based Routing.
Note: The package contains the Ubiquiti EdgeSwitch ES-24-250W unit, a Power cord, the four mounting screws, the four cage nuts and a Quick Guide.
Unmanaged vs Web-smart vs Managed switches
As you have probably guessed, you will find three main types of switches: unmanaged, Web-smart and managed switches.
The unmanaged switches are the most basic from the bunch, as they require no configuration, no management and they work as plug-and-play devices (just add your devices one by one using Ethernet cables). But, this doesn’t mean that the unmanaged switches are devoid of any features. Quite the contrary, because most come with a basic form of QoS, there is PoE port prioritization (if PoE support is present), but, everything is done automatically and works as you power on the switch until you turn it off, there is no way to configure these options in depth (some can still be monitored by LED indicators).
In terms of appearance, there isn’t a difference between an unmanaged and a managed switch, they can be positioned on a desktop, wall or rack mounted. But, is an unmanaged switch the best device for you? Well, if a plug-and-play switch that doesn’t require any configuration and works well by its own sounds good to you, then yes, you should go for it (also, take into consideration the built-in PoE support). Also, don’t forget that unmanaged switches are the cheapest out of the three variations.
The Web-smart switches are a form of managed switches, but with a more limited feature set (they fall between the unmanaged and the managed switches niche).
Smart switches are easy to set up and offer a web interface that allows you to configure a lot of features (a more basic set, comparing it with a full managed switch). You get Link Aggregation, Port Monitoring, VLAN, QoS, LAG and some other L2-level features, but, while most of the managed switches can be managed using a CLI (command line interface), a smart-managed switch lacks any console port, SSH or telnet support.
While some may argue that a web-smart switch may have a poorer management spectrum, less features and not enough security, technology has evolved a lot lately and some web-managed switches can now rival the full-managed ones. But, this will be reflected in the price tag (although, usually, smart switches are cheaper than the enterprise ones). But, do you need a Web-smart switch? Since these type of switches are the middle ground between the unmanaged and the managed switches, it means that they will work great with small businesses, as they offer some degree of configurability (especially if the features of a managed switch may be overkill) and, usually, they come at a more reasonable price. If this are your needs, then yes, smart switches are perfect for you (again, take into consideration the advantages of PoE support).
A fully-manages switch (also known as enterprise switch) offers the most out of the three variants and the biggest difference between them is the level of control over the network. As expected, the fully managed switches provide the greatest amount of management and control. You also get access to more than one interfaces (including CLI, SSH and SNMP) and layer 3 features (routing capabilities).
Now, do you need a fully managed switch? There is an IT joke that if you wonder if you need a managed switch, then chances are you that don’t. And there is a bit a truth into this, because a managed switch gives full control over the network and the manager can see everything that is going on and adjust it in such a way that the network will be perfectly optimized. This requires a clear understanding of how things work and a steep learning curve. Usually, medium to large enterprise-level networks would need such high-end switches, but lately, even small businesses seem to take an interest for the fully-managed switches.
What Features Should You Look For Before Choosing The Best Network Switch?
1. Number of Ports
One of the most important factors to consider is choosing the switch with the right number of ports (Ethernet switches, usually come with 5, 8, 10, 16, 24, 48 and 52 ports). For example, if you have 4 or 5 devices to connect, then a 5 or 8-port switch would fit the bill.
Also, if you have 15 devices, then a 16-port will handle them, but if you want to expand the network in the future, you may want to consider purchasing a 24-port switch. At the same time, if you have over 50 users (a small business), then you may have to consider purchasing two switches to handle your network.
2. Gigabit or Fast Ethernet
The Fast Ethernet is a term that refers to a traffic rate of 100Mbps (an upgrade over the usual 10Mbps rate), while the Gigabit Ethernet is a term that refers to a traffic rate of 1000Mbps.
Obviously, a Gigabit switch is preferred, but depending on your network setup, it may not really be a necessity. You need a Gigabit switch if you need to push 1000Mbps per port and it’s ideal if you need to transfer large volumes of data and have a fast performing network with a low latency.
Obviously, there will be more stress on the link, but you get a better performance, more bandwidth and less congestion, but if your network focuses on Internet access or just for the transfer of low volume of files, then a Fast Ethernet switch (100Mbps) will be more than enough. Regardless, you should still consider a Gigabit switch, simply because the technology got less expensive than before and it’s clearly future-proof.
The PoE (Power over Ethernet) technology refers to any system that passes electric power along with network data on an Ethernet cable.
This technology helps to reduce the cost (since you don’t need to install any power cables), is safe (has protection for overloading or underpowering) and is flexible (compatible devices can be installed anywhere, without worrying about having a nearby power outlet).
Some of the devices that use the PoE technologies are VoIP phones, IP cameras and wireless access points. The last two types of devices are the reason why PoE switches are becoming more popular everyday. Nowadays, people value a lot more a flexible network infrastructure and a PoE switch allows you to connect any type of devices, but recognizes the PoE-compatible devices (such as IP cameras) and it enables power automatically.
The PoE technology obviously offers a series of advantages and can be found implemented on unmanaged switches and on the managed ones, but will definitely increase the price (and sometimes even the size of the switch).
4. With Fans or Fanless?
This one may seem simple, because everybody prefers their devices to be as quiet as possible, so a fanless switch is the preferred one. Unmanaged and Web-smart switches are usually fanless, simply because they don’t emanate a lot of heat (due to a less powerful setup), but, if switches have the PoE tchnology and are managed (therefore a better performance), then the passive cooling may not be enough, so when things get heated, the fans can come into action to cool the situation down.
If you have a server room, having a noisy switch won’t really make a difference, but if you keep your devices on the desk or wall-mount them, then a fanless switch will be the preferred option.
5. Desktop, Rackmount or Wall-mount
Ideally, a switch will feature all three options, but, depending on the size, the rack-mounting option may not make much sense. A desktop switch will have the default position horizontally, with four feet on the bottom, but, usually, you can also wall-mount it. The rackmount switches, on the other hand, will feature only this position (on a rack) as the only one available (the case will have no screen or LED on top) and some switches will also have the rackmount ears built into the body of the switch.