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LAN & WAN Reviews


Six 8 port gigabit switches

As long-time readers of our reviews know, we don't generally review or test Ethernet adapters and unmanaged switches. The reason for this is that I'm a firm believer that these are commodity products, to be purchased based on price, brand preference and perhaps warranty.

The technology at the heart of these products is well-established and has long-ago been encapsulated into single-chip solutions which offer "wire-speed" performance, i.e. equal to that of a naked cable, both for adapters and switches.

But I have to confess that I had never done any testing to back up my assertion that all switches and NICs (network interface cards) are created equal. That, plus a comment from one reader that he was unable to find a gigabit switch that had performance equal to a straight cable, brings us to this roundup.

We asked the "big three" consumer networking companies—Linksys, Netgear and D-Link—for eight port gigabit Ethernet switches that supported jumbo frames up to 9K. We started with these companies because their products are widely available and chose 8 ports because of the price point and, well, because having those extra ports is cheap insurance for probable network expansion. After perusing the Pricegrabber listings, we decided to also ask Belkin and Trendnet to submit their products to add a bit of variety. In all, we ended up with six switches, because Netgear decided to submit two products.

Since these are all "dumb" or unmanaged switches, there are no functional features to review. So I'll dispense with the usual walk through of each product and distill the few differences among the products into Table 1.

Product Price Ports Switch Chip
$72.42 - $222.59
Check price
Rear Vitesse VSC7388
$48.48 - $82.63
Check price
Rear Vitesse VSC7388
$60.08 - $119.99
Check price
Rear Broadcom BCM5398
$60.20 - $134.48
Check price
Front Broadcom BCM5398
$54.99 - $125.88
Check price
Rear Broadcom BCM5398
$35.99 - $53.00
Check price
Rear Broadcom BCM5398
Table 1: Switch Feature Summary

I tried to get switches with a variety of chipsets, but it seems like Broadcom is the chip of choice for two of the "big three". D-Link also uses a Vitesse 5 port gigabit switch (VSC7385) in its DIR-655 draft 11n wireless router [reviewed here]. I was surprised to find no products using Marvell switches.

You can get a closer look at the products at each of their websites (linked in Table 1) if the opening group shot (or its larger version) doesn't meet your needs. Internal board shots can be found in this slideshow, along with board design commentary.

Check out the slideshow See the slide show for the inside details on each switch.

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