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What is the purpose of a gigabit ethernet switch?

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January 7, 2011 5:05:45 PM

So my old router needed replacement and my dad bought a Netgear gigabit ethernet switch instead of a router. It said that it gets 1Gbps when I look inside the local area connection speed. The problem was we tried to use it like a router but only 2 computers could connect to the internet at one time but it was indeed noticeably faster when it came to video streaming speed. We since returned it and bought a Netgear N600 router that says the speed is 300mbps but like my old router it shows the speed is actually 100mbps and the streaming is good for the most part but every now and then slows down. Would using the ethernet switch with our new router help with streaming speeds and connection stability and of course let more computers connect and also use the routers wireless.
January 7, 2011 6:16:43 PM

This is a common mistake that people who are new to networking often make. There is a very large difference between a switch and a router.

Routers:

- Connect multiple networks together and manage traffic between them
- Often Provide:
- Addresses for all computers on the network
- Firewall Services
- Traffic Management (QoS)
- Security Restrictions
- Wireless Access

Switches:

- Connect multiple computers together within the same network and managestraffic between them
- Do not provide advanced services such as firewalls, etc.
- Are generally used to expand the capacity of a network with more ports
- Are usually unmanaged (in the residential sector)
- Do not provide addresses on the network
- Are not supposed to be the first point of contact between your computer and the outside world
- Are used in tandem with a router

So basically, a router is "the brain" of your network and handles security, traffic, the important stuff. A switch is designed to pass traffic through as quickly as possible without too much interference (which is why it doesn't need to think as hard). Switches are helpful when you need to use more ports on your network than your router has available.

A gigabit switch used in tandem with a gigabit router will allow you to use your local network at speeds up to ten times greater than the previous generation, 10/100 Mbps Fast Ethernet. If either of these components, however, are not gigabit, the entire network will be limited to 10/100 speeds. So, in order to use the maximum amount of speed your network can pump out, you need every single component in your network (including you computers) to be gigabit compliant.

Also, upgrading to gigabit speeds WILL NOT help your internet speeds, it will only help your speeds between the computers on your network for file sharing, transfers, etc.
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February 21, 2012 7:54:10 AM

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February 21, 2012 8:46:38 AM

A home "router" such as the Netgear N600 is actually an integrated router that also includes a 4 port gigabit switch, and a wireless transmitter with this particular model transmitting 'up to' 300mbs over the air. There are also additional features included such as a firewall, QOS, etc. The definitions of router vs switch usually refer to enterprise routers and switches, NOT home 'routers', this misunderstanding is common.

If you go to Best Buy when you ask for a router they will show you what are actually integrated routers that usually have a 4 port switch included, this is where the definitions from router vs switch on a Google search get confusing because an enterprise router is much different. If you ask for a switch while at Best Buy, they'll show you to some lower end switches that would generally be good for a small business. These will have more ports available, however they won't have any of the features available in an integrated router, and the main feature you'd be loosing is DHCP and NAT which allows multiple PC's to automatically acquire an IP address and access the internet.

The next thing I want to clarify is regarding to how gigabit works. This is ONLY available using one of the 4 ports on the N600, you cannot get gigabit speeds connecting to it wirelessly. Keep in mind you will only have gigabit speeds in your local network - in other words - you can only transfer files at gigabit speeds between devices in your house that also have gigabit ports, none of this has any effect on your internet speeds. If your PC says it is connecting at 100mbs then your PC probably only has a 100mb NIC card. You could upgrade, but unless you have a home server from which you stream movies from this wouldn't help improve your internet speeds one bit.

If you connect wirelessly you can connect 'up to' 300mbs with the Netgear N600, but various factors can effect this, and just like with gigabit, you need a wireless NIC card that supports 300mbs.

With all that said I highly recommend against using both a 'router' and a switch together, (by which I mean an integrated router found at Best Buy or similar stores). Unless you need more than 4 wired ethernet ports you don't need an additional switch. If you are connecting wirelessly to the N600 this is probably the reason for fluctuations in your speed. If your PC supports it, I would connect via "N" as opposed to "G". Distance from the router as well as thickness of your walls will also play a role connection speeds. I would test your speed both from your wireless connected PC and also a PC connected with an ethernet cable to rule out the speed fluctuations being attributed to your service provider.

Feel free to ask any further questions, the advertising jargon that Best Buy nimrods repeat usually just ends up in people paying too much for a home router that has features they can't even use in their current setup. I'd gladly help someone avoid paying too much at Best Buy - I guess I consider this my payback for them not hiring me when I was a teenager because I couldn't sell the boss a stapler during the interview :ange: 


So with all that said, to answer your question: Gigabit switches increase the throughput (speed) of a local network. Most home users don't need a gigabit switch because most people don't do much more than simply access the internet. Home routers with gigabit ports are mostly just a marketing gimmick to convince people to shell out money for something they don't understand. However, gigabit switches are popular in businesses because employees are connecting to local servers, and in some cases doing voice over IP, etc. For those purposes a gigabit switch makes perfect sense, but at my home I could care less.
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September 6, 2012 8:26:21 PM

Hi i really liked your explanation on the subject. I'm new to networking and i am looking for information since i'd like to start a small internet cafe with aprox 10 computers to start with. I would like some information on how to setup this type of network. Do i need a router to connect from the DSL then a switch to connect to the client computers? or can i connect from the DSL to a switch and then to the client computers. I'd really like your help thank you


aaron88_7 said:
A home "router" such as the Netgear N600 is actually an integrated router that also includes a 4 port gigabit switch, and a wireless transmitter with this particular model transmitting 'up to' 300mbs over the air. There are also additional features included such as a firewall, QOS, etc. The definitions of router vs switch usually refer to enterprise routers and switches, NOT home 'routers', this misunderstanding is common.
If you go to Best Buy when you ask for a router they will show you what are actually integrated routers that usually have a 4 port switch included, this is where the definitions from router vs switch on a Google search get confusing because an enterprise router is much different. If you ask for a switch while at Best Buy, they'll show you to some lower end switches that would generally be good for a small business. These will have more ports available, however they won't have any of the features available in an integrated router, and the main feature you'd be loosing is DHCP and NAT which allows multiple PC's to automatically acquire an IP address and access the internet.

The next thing I want to clarify is regarding to how gigabit works. This is ONLY available using one of the 4 ports on the N600, you cannot get gigabit speeds connecting to it wirelessly. Keep in mind you will only have gigabit speeds in your local network - in other words - you can only transfer files at gigabit speeds between devices in your house that also have gigabit ports, none of this has any effect on your internet speeds. If your PC says it is connecting at 100mbs then your PC probably only has a 100mb NIC card. You could upgrade, but unless you have a home server from which you stream movies from this wouldn't help improve your internet speeds one bit.

If you connect wirelessly you can connect 'up to' 300mbs with the Netgear N600, but various factors can effect this, and just like with gigabit, you need a wireless NIC card that supports 300mbs.

With all that said I highly recommend against using both a 'router' and a switch together, (by which I mean an integrated router found at Best Buy or similar stores). Unless you need more than 4 wired ethernet ports you don't need an additional switch. If you are connecting wirelessly to the N600 this is probably the reason for fluctuations in your speed. If your PC supports it, I would connect via "N" as opposed to "G". Distance from the router as well as thickness of your walls will also play a role connection speeds. I would test your speed both from your wireless connected PC and also a PC connected with an ethernet cable to rule out the speed fluctuations being attributed to your service provider.

Feel free to ask any further questions, the advertising jargon that Best Buy nimrods repeat usually just ends up in people paying too much for a home router that has features they can't even use in their current setup. I'd gladly help someone avoid paying too much at Best Buy - I guess I consider this my payback for them not hiring me when I was a teenager because I couldn't sell the boss a stapler during the interview :ange: 


So with all that said, to answer your question: Gigabit switches increase the throughput (speed) of a local network. Most home users don't need a gigabit switch because most people don't do much more than simply access the internet. Home routers with gigabit ports are mostly just a marketing gimmick to convince people to shell out money for something they don't understand. However, gigabit switches are popular in businesses because employees are connecting to local servers, and in some cases doing voice over IP, etc. For those purposes a gigabit switch makes perfect sense, but at my home I could care less.

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September 7, 2012 8:03:46 AM

The 600 your N600 is refering to is the speed of the wireless network. To achieve 600Mbps you will need to be using a dual band (simultaneous) wifi adapter on the PCs connecting to the router's wifi network. This means that your wireless NIC must have two antenae (1x2.4GHz and 1x5GHz) that can transmit and receive simultaneously at 300Mbps to give you the 600Mbps you paid for. A reasonable range with the least possible obstructions is also needed to ensure the best speed possible.
Using a Gigabit switch on your network along with you router is (in my opinion) a very good Idea. By using a switch on you network you are decreasing the traffic going through your router, allowing your router to do it's job with alot less effort. A router's main job on the network is to route traffic from inside your network to the internet. When a switch is available on your network it will take care of most of the internal network traffic and take much of the stress off of the router. This would work best if the switch is connected in an area of the network with the most traffic, like for instance your livingroom where you would have a TV, a Media center, a Gaming console etc.
I believe that most of your devices probably don't have gigabit network ports but having the extra bandwith available is a good thing, even if it is only between the switch and router.
I believe your dad's idea of using both router and switch was very smart and you should definately impliment it in your home if it is possible. Doing so will allow for smoother networking that is for sure.
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December 4, 2012 5:03:17 PM

ngrego said:
The 600 your N600 is refering to is the speed of the wireless network. To achieve 600Mbps you will need to be using a dual band (simultaneous) wifi adapter on the PCs connecting to the router's wifi network. This means that your wireless NIC must have two antenae (1x2.4GHz and 1x5GHz) that can transmit and receive simultaneously at 300Mbps to give you the 600Mbps you paid for. A reasonable range with the least possible obstructions is also needed to ensure the best speed possible.
Using a Gigabit switch on your network along with you router is (in my opinion) a very good Idea. By using a switch on you network you are decreasing the traffic going through your router, allowing your router to do it's job with alot less effort. A router's main job on the network is to route traffic from inside your network to the internet. When a switch is available on your network it will take care of most of the internal network traffic and take much of the stress off of the router. This would work best if the switch is connected in an area of the network with the most traffic, like for instance your livingroom where you would have a TV, a Media center, a Gaming console etc.
I believe that most of your devices probably don't have gigabit network ports but having the extra bandwith available is a good thing, even if it is only between the switch and router.
I believe your dad's idea of using both router and switch was very smart and you should definately impliment it in your home if it is possible. Doing so will allow for smoother networking that is for sure.


I don't mean to hijack this thread, however my scenario is related: a router with switch combo.

All my devices are wired through my current router (10/100). My desktop NIC and PS3 are gigabit capable, but my router currently is not (10/100), so my router is bottlenecking my HD streaming quality (1000<-->100<-->1000). Sure I could buy a new gigabit router, but I'm wondering if I could get the result I want with a gigabit switch for 1/4 the cost.

If I connect all my devices through a gigabit switch (I'm looking at the Netgear GS605) and then my switch to my current router, I'd have great bandwidth between devices, but how would that limit my Internet connectivity? (I don't care about Internet dl speeds since that's limited by my ISP anyway and my goal is high internal network bandwidth, but without external Internet conflicts.) If I supply the GS605 with Internet from my current router, would my desktop and PS3 conflict? Would there be a problem browsing online on my desktop while I stream Netflix on my PS3? What are the ramifications of connecting everything through the switch, and then connecting the switch to my router (and then to the modem and off the the interwebs)? Thanks.
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December 4, 2012 5:23:05 PM

The design you propose is the preferred method when you have a lan you want to really run gig speeds.

How would it limit your internet in anyway. You have a 100m connection between the switch and the router. Now how big is your internet connection... I doubt it is a 100m.

Why would you think the router is bottlenecking your video in the first place. Unless you are doing something strange even 1080p blueray needs less than 40m.

A gig switch is cheap but it will not actually improve your video performance, the more common thing it is used for is to improve the performance of network disk devices.
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December 4, 2012 6:25:26 PM

john-b691 said:
The design you propose is the preferred method when you have a lan you want to really run gig speeds.

How would it limit your internet in anyway. You have a 100m connection between the switch and the router. Now how big is your internet connection... I doubt it is a 100m.

Why would you think the router is bottlenecking your video in the first place. Unless you are doing something strange even 1080p blueray needs less than 40m.

A gig switch is cheap but it will not actually improve your video performance, the more common thing it is used for is to improve the performance of network disk devices.


Thanks for the reply. I am definitely new to networking so bear with me.

I don't think my internet would be limited in terms of speed, I just don't understand the consequences (if any) of connecting my devices through the switch, and the switch to the router. I simply don't understand the limitations of using a switch versus a router in this configuration. Would there be a problem accessing the internet/download/gaming on my desktop while simultaneously accessing the internet/downloading/gaming on other devices?

Streaming from my desktop to my PS3 has been completely unreliable using PS3 Media Server, Tversity, whatever. Inconsistent problems have made troubleshooting a nightmare: skipping/stuttering , out of sync A/V, dropped connection, quality loss, invalid formats (not consistent either), you name it. I've been all over their respective forums tweaking everything I can, but alas the issues remain. My PC is transcoding the files, but it should definitely be powerful enough. My next thought was that my router was the bottleneck, which you say is incorrect. If my 10/100 Linksys truly can handle whatever file size/bandwidth I pass through it, I'll go back to tweaking the media servers.
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December 4, 2012 7:35:27 PM

Even very cheap switches now days are what are called full wire speed. If for example you have a 8 port gig switch it can run 16g of traffic total. That is enough for every port to be receiving and sending 1G of traffic at the same time. This is all due to very cheap and simple processor chips called asic.

In your router you must look at it as 2 devices...I will ignore the wireless part. You have a 4 port lan switch and you have a router with a single wan port and a single connection to the 4 port lan switch. Even in 10/100 routers if you read the specs and understand how they say it the switching part is running at wirespeed. This means every port can run at 100m in and out at the time. It should never slow you down to go lan to lan.

Now when you start talking about going lan to wan it gets very complex because the router is a cpu and it must actually manipulate the packets which can't be done at wirespeed. But in almost all cases the CPU is still fast enough to send packets faster than any home user can afford to buy a internet.

Its not like its expensive to buy a 8 port 10/100/1000 switch so its worth trying.

To test the pc/ps3 you could always cable them directly. If both are gig you should be able to just plug a cable in and it will come up. You would have to set the IP manually though.
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December 4, 2012 8:39:20 PM

john-b691 said:
Even very cheap switches now days are what are called full wire speed. If for example you have a 8 port gig switch it can run 16g of traffic total. That is enough for every port to be receiving and sending 1G of traffic at the same time. This is all due to very cheap and simple processor chips called asic.

In your router you must look at it as 2 devices...I will ignore the wireless part. You have a 4 port lan switch and you have a router with a single wan port and a single connection to the 4 port lan switch. Even in 10/100 routers if you read the specs and understand how they say it the switching part is running at wirespeed. This means every port can run at 100m in and out at the time. It should never slow you down to go lan to lan.

Now when you start talking about going lan to wan it gets very complex because the router is a cpu and it must actually manipulate the packets which can't be done at wirespeed. But in almost all cases the CPU is still fast enough to send packets faster than any home user can afford to buy a internet.

Its not like its expensive to buy a 8 port 10/100/1000 switch so its worth trying.

To test the pc/ps3 you could always cable them directly. If both are gig you should be able to just plug a cable in and it will come up. You would have to set the IP manually though.


Again thanks for the reply. Of course this would happen. I took your advice when I got home. Tested with the current config, terrible skipping as per usual. Connected directly to the PS3 and voila, the problem .mkv streams like a dream, so there's something up with my router, yeah? Well, reconfigured everything back through my router, reset PS3 Media Server and the problem .mkv is running without issue. What the hell? No software or setting changes (aside from resetting the manual IPs), and the streaming works fine. Honestly this is more frustrating than if I could pinpoint my router as the issue; it's the inconsistent issues that once again leave me not knowing at all what's going on.
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December 4, 2012 10:07:19 PM

Bet the you had a port running half duplex. Kinda rare nodays but you get all kinds a collisions. Hard to tell most devices have no indicators anymore.
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January 12, 2013 3:06:51 PM

Psychoteddy said:
This is a common mistake that people who are new to networking often make. There is a very large difference between a switch and a router.

Routers:

- Connect multiple networks together and manage traffic between them
- Often Provide:
- Addresses for all computers on the network
- Firewall Services
- Traffic Management (QoS)
- Security Restrictions
- Wireless Access

Switches:

- Connect multiple computers together within the same network and managestraffic between them
- Do not provide advanced services such as firewalls, etc.
- Are generally used to expand the capacity of a network with more ports
- Are usually unmanaged (in the residential sector)
- Do not provide addresses on the network
- Are not supposed to be the first point of contact between your computer and the outside world
- Are used in tandem with a router

So basically, a router is "the brain" of your network and handles security, traffic, the important stuff. A switch is designed to pass traffic through as quickly as possible without too much interference (which is why it doesn't need to think as hard). Switches are helpful when you need to use more ports on your network than your router has available.

A gigabit switch used in tandem with a gigabit router will allow you to use your local network at speeds up to ten times greater than the previous generation, 10/100 Mbps Fast Ethernet. If either of these components, however, are not gigabit, the entire network will be limited to 10/100 speeds. So, in order to use the maximum amount of speed your network can pump out, you need every single component in your network (including you computers) to be gigabit compliant.

Also, upgrading to gigabit speeds WILL NOT help your internet speeds, it will only help your speeds between the computers on your network for file sharing, transfers, etc.





Hi I want to ask you something else .
currently i have 13 servers connected to gigabit switch with 16 port , so i have only 3 free ports.
the idea is that the bigger server is transfering content to the other smaller one and it is also used to control and monitor them , so we are talking here for bigger amount information(minimum content is 100 GB,we are not transfering all the time but still... you understand my point) sharing constantly true that switch .

So I wanted to ask if the free ports on the switch are related to the speed of transfering and if we get for example 24 or 26 port switch on wich we are going to have 11-13 free ports the transfer will be better ?

thank you
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January 12, 2013 3:11:22 PM

Psychoteddy said:
This is a common mistake that people who are new to networking often make. There is a very large difference between a switch and a router.

Routers:

- Connect multiple networks together and manage traffic between them
- Often Provide:
- Addresses for all computers on the network
- Firewall Services
- Traffic Management (QoS)
- Security Restrictions
- Wireless Access

Switches:

- Connect multiple computers together within the same network and managestraffic between them
- Do not provide advanced services such as firewalls, etc.
- Are generally used to expand the capacity of a network with more ports
- Are usually unmanaged (in the residential sector)
- Do not provide addresses on the network
- Are not supposed to be the first point of contact between your computer and the outside world
- Are used in tandem with a router

So basically, a router is "the brain" of your network and handles security, traffic, the important stuff. A switch is designed to pass traffic through as quickly as possible without too much interference (which is why it doesn't need to think as hard). Switches are helpful when you need to use more ports on your network than your router has available.

A gigabit switch used in tandem with a gigabit router will allow you to use your local network at speeds up to ten times greater than the previous generation, 10/100 Mbps Fast Ethernet. If either of these components, however, are not gigabit, the entire network will be limited to 10/100 speeds. So, in order to use the maximum amount of speed your network can pump out, you need every single component in your network (including you computers) to be gigabit compliant.

Also, upgrading to gigabit speeds WILL NOT help your internet speeds, it will only help your speeds between the computers on your network for file sharing, transfers, etc.





Hi I want to ask you something else .
currently i have 13 servers connected to gigabit switch with 16 port , so i have only 3 free ports.
the idea is that the bigger server is transfering content to the other smaller one and it is also used to control and monitor them , so we are talking here for bigger amount information(minimum content is 100 GB,we are not transfering all the time but still... you understand my point) sharing constantly true that switch .

So I wanted to ask if the free ports on the switch are related to the speed of transfering and if we get for example 24 or 26 port switch on wich we are going to have 11-13 free ports the transfer will be better ?

thank you
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March 17, 2014 3:12:35 AM

i can only say no theoreticaly as i dont actually know, but my guess is that the ethanet cables are restricted to 1Gb/s, by having more free ports i think you will still be bottlenecked by the 1Gb/s ethanet speeds...
which is like10mins to transfer 100GB? i think thats pretty fast tbh?
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April 15, 2014 5:22:12 PM

Psychoteddy said:
Also, upgrading to gigabit speeds WILL NOT help your internet speeds, it will only help your speeds between the computers on your network for file sharing, transfers, etc.


1. Why won't gigabit setup help my internet speed?
2. If it won't and I only have 1 network, I do not need a gigabit router to boost my LAN speed, right?

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April 15, 2014 6:22:18 PM

john-b691 said:
Even very cheap switches now days are what are called full wire speed. If for example you have a 8 port gig switch it can run 16g of traffic total. That is enough for every port to be receiving and sending 1G of traffic at the same time. This is all due to very cheap and simple processor chips called asic.


Not quite. Even companies like DLink and TrendNet sell $250 L2 managed switches with 16 ports but only 12gb/s of total bandwidth.

Even TP-Link has 1gb switches, with no rated bandwidth, but claims 1488000 pps per port. 1488000 with 64byte packets is only a hair under 100mb/s. 1488000 pps does mean the switch can support 2gb/s per port, but only if your packets are at least 1345bytes each

My HP Procurve on the other hand is a 24+2 port with exactly 52gb/s of bandwidth(2gb/s per port) and can do so with 64 byte packets. One Cisco 24+4 port switch claims to have 72gb/s of bandwidth or 2.57gb/s per port but the same PPS as other companies for a "non-blocking" switch.

I can't find any non-"non-blocking" switches from Netgear, HP, Cisco, Jupiter; but the other popular companies do have quite a few options for switches that cannot do "line-rate" either in bandwidth or PPS or some mix of the two.
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May 15, 2014 8:55:41 PM

mudev77 said:
Psychoteddy said:
Also, upgrading to gigabit speeds WILL NOT help your internet speeds, it will only help your speeds between the computers on your network for file sharing, transfers, etc.


1. Why won't gigabit setup help my internet speed?
2. If it won't and I only have 1 network, I do not need a gigabit router to boost my LAN speed, right?



Hi, I'll start by saying this about question two. Technically you are using two networks, one is your home network (internal), and the other is your internet connection (external). Your router takes the data from one network and hands it to the other, back and forth.

So to answer question one. The reason it most likely wont improve your internet connection is because your internet connection is probably your bottle neck. If you imagine your self as the internal network and say you can read and type 500 words per minute, and the external network as a friend who can read and write at 40 words per minute. You can see that while your communicating with that friend you can only read at their 40 wpm and you have to wait for them to read your message at their slower rate as well.

To answer question two, the short answer is no probably not. However if you are using an old cheap router, you may notice a slight difference especially on wireless. The wireless radio on many cheap / off brand routers are notorious for over heating causing them to communicate poorly. (Kind of like grandma without her hearing aid, you have to repeat half of what is said.) They tend to have small amounts of ram and slow processors, so they run well under light loads, but under heavy load, like if your streaming HD on multiple devices their speed will actually drop or they crash because they can not keep up. Made all the worse by being poorly coded with glitchy and usually bloated firmware. Mid level / name brand routers usually have good hardware and slightly better firmware, a lot are still a bit skimpy with the memory. Performance can also degraded over time, so if it's old it may or may not be worn out. One n router I was using (Emergency backup) was running around 8m to 11m.

If you were running a DC and using roaming profiles, network booting an OS, or anything else that uses a lot of bandwidth across your internal network then going to gigabit would have an impact or rather reduce the impact of network congestion. If not, then really the only good way to improve your internet speed will be to upgrade to a faster plan or ISP.

An easy way to tell if it may make a difference at all is to directly connect your modem to a single computer and see if you see a difference. If so you may benefit from an upgrade.

I hope this helps, sorry if it got a bit long.
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