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LAN & WAN Reviews

Closing Thoughts

A browse through your favorite shopping search engine will reveal a surprising number of 24-port 10/100 smart/intelligent/managed switches in the $150 to $200 price range. Netgear thinks that what makes the FS728TS unique is its stacking ability, and at least from the look that I had, I think I agree. (By the way, you can find a comparison matrix of Netgear's entire business switch line here.)

It's also nice that four 10/100/1000 ports are provided, along with the 24 10/100 ports. You still have two gigabit ports left even if you choose to take advantage of the stacking feature.

For businesses, the FS728TS is compelling. It deserves to be on your short list if you're in the market for a stackable 24 port 10/100 switch at a nice price that has most, if not all, of the features you need - with a couple of gigabit ports thrown in for good measure.

That said, is this "the" managed switch that the SOHO networking crowd will be lining up in droves to buy? At this point, I'd have to say no, for three main reasons. First, the user interface and documentation aren't designed with the Best Buy / CompUSA crowd in mind. There are too many documentation errors, not enough applications examples (none, in fact), and the GUI itself requires too much hunting around. Not to mention that the IE-only approach to GUI design should have been retired long ago, and HTTPS admin should be standard.

The second point, price, will probably be the first consideration for most potential SOHO buyers. While $200 is reasonable for a business switch, it is two times the magic $100 price point under which consumers are more likely to give something unfamiliar a shot. Four port routers with similar network processors sell for much less, and I'll bet that even eight 10/100 ports (or maybe even gigabit ones) could be included and still stay under $100.

Finally, while the VLAN features work fine, they need better documentation. Even worse, the bandwidth and QoS features don't appear to work correctly. They also have controls that are reminiscent of first-generation routers, which required a professional networking engineer to set up correctly.

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