Unmanaged Gigabit Ethernet Switch Round-Up

We rounded up unmanaged gigabit Ethernet switches from Netgear, Amped Wireless and ZyXEL to see which one deserves a thumbs up.

In our Network Switch 101 article, we defined unmanaged switches and discussed the features they provide, hopefully giving you a general understanding of switching technology.

For this initial review, we rounded up three unmanaged switches to test: Netgear's GS308, Amped Wireless' G8SW and ZyXEL's GS-108B. Each contender comes armed with eight 1 Gb/s ports.

Specifications

Naturally, there are features shared across all three models, including a memory buffer, a MAC table and jumbo frame support.

The memory buffer stores incoming packets until the switch can determine where they're going and the interface to send them out over. The MAC table is a repository for physical addresses. When a device sends out information, the switch records its address and corresponding port. The switch looks to the MAC table as a reference to see if it already knows what port to send information out of. This greatly reduces traffic, so the switch is not flooded entirely once physical addresses are known. Jumbo frames are Ethernet frames that contain more than 1500 bytes, with 9000 bytes tending to be used as a conventional MTU size. Jumbo frame support can be useful for lowering resource utilization, as the switch's CPU only has to process one large frame instead of multiple smaller ones, and increasing throughput.

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54 comments
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  • dealcorn
    Gigabyte ethernet switches often run 24/7. Power consumption data should have been measured.
    6
  • Aslan7
    Useful info to have, but there's a lot more switches out there than this. 8 port switches are only big enough for the living room.

    TV
    Blueray player
    2 consoles
    Streaming media player
    Audio amplifier
    Home theater PC

    8 port barely does it for the living room. We need some reviews of 16 and 24 port gigabit switches for the home, plus I'm sick and tired of gigabit and want 10GBE already, but all of the equipment seems horrifically expensive or has flaky drivers.

    What' is good in 10GBE both adapters and switches?
    0
  • CaedenV
    Quote:
    Useful info to have, but there's a lot more switches out there than this. 8 port switches are only big enough for the living room.

    TV
    Blueray player
    2 consoles
    Streaming media player
    Audio amplifier
    Home theater PC

    8 port barely does it for the living room. We need some reviews of 16 and 24 port gigabit switches for the home, plus I'm sick and tired of gigabit and want 10GBE already, but all of the equipment seems horrifically expensive or has flaky drivers.

    What' is good in 10GBE both adapters and switches?

    For 16 and 24 port switches you are going to find the same: Netgear is so far beyond the competition, and so much cheaper than anything out there, that is amazes me that anyone else makes cheap unmanaged switches. Unless you need a cheap managed switch, there just are not any other real options on the market.

    For 10GbE switches, as far as I can tell there aren't any good cheap consumer items on the market yet. There is a flood of 'cheap' used profesional equipment available... but even then you are looking at $1-200 per adapter, and ~$1K for a switch, and typically not in great condition... and because it is pro equipment you have to do a bit of research to get it working properly.
    10GbE 'is coming' but I think we are still a few years out from seeing normal consumer 'plug and play' equipment, and a few more years before it becomes affordable.
    1
  • Onus
    This makes me glad I chose a Netgear switch for my motherboard LAN adapter throughput testing. The differences are very small, but might make a difference.
    0
  • Rookie_MIB
    Right now you can get 10GbE adapters for your computer for a reasonable price for used equipment ($20-$50), it really is the switches which are ridiculous. Overall though for the most part, it's only some fringe use cases where a home user might need 10GbE ethernet.

    First - unless you have some insane connection to the outside world, the most you can really get right now as far as internet speeds is 1Gb anyhow. That becomes your choke point.

    Next, overall, video is the most demanding when it comes to traffic, and the average bitrate requirement for 4k streaming comes in somewhere around 15Mbit. Doing the math, that means an average 1Gbit connection could support about 60 concurrent streams. Your average home WON'T be doing that. Honestly, a small apartment complex wouldn't even hit that.

    Now, who knows what the future will bring, perhaps some killer app might require that kind of bandwidth, but right now it's not here for the majority of the people. That doesn't mean that we should stop developing and investing in increased bandwidth, but right now 10GbE is a bit over the top for a home network.
    1
  • SirGCal
    Anonymous said:
    Useful info to have, but there's a lot more switches out there than this. 8 port switches are only big enough for the living room.

    8 port barely does it for the living room. We need some reviews of 16 and 24 port gigabit switches for the home, plus I'm sick and tired of gigabit and want 10GBE already, but all of the equipment seems horrifically expensive or has flaky drivers.

    What' is good in 10GBE both adapters and switches?


    I agree. I personally went with a Cisco SG100-16 for only $109 at the time (Amazon), but it hasn't changed much either. Up now, down later, etc. Like everything on the net.

    I do have some 10G gear myself but it's easier just to do some port ganging, teaming or aggregation. But that requires a different switch yet again. Wee... But then also you'd burn through ports faster.
    0
  • InvalidError
    How is the lack of heatsink a 'con' when there is no significant heat even without one? If no heatsink is necessary to keep temperatures reasonable, putting a heatsink in is just a waste of material and an unnecessary cost since it won't improve performance or reliability in any way.
    6
  • tsnor
    (1) Good test. Really nice to see data confirming we should just buy whatever switch is on sale.
    (2) would have been nice to see a large file transfer done 3 times using one switch to get the variance and then done for all switches just to confirm that the micro benchmarks (which say we won't see a difference) are accurate.
    (2) I did not see what was measured for response time. Maybe I missed it. Interesting to note most SSDs can deliver 4K of data in roughly the same time as the measured 'response time'
    2
  • nukemaster
    Quote:
    How is the lack of heatsink a 'con' when there is no significant heat even without one? If no heatsink is necessary to keep temperatures reasonable, putting a heatsink in is just a waste of material and an unnecessary cost since it won't improve performance or reliability in any way.
    People like heatsinks :)
    0
  • firefoxx04
    Would love to see power consumption. I just purchased a TP-LINK TL-SG108 8-Port and could not be happier. I was very skeptical of the cost but it runs great. I still max out my gigabit cards at 100-120MB/s. Power consumption is VERY low and the switch itself is tiny. Very happy for $25 with prime shipping.
    1
  • blazorthon
    Quote:
    Right now you can get 10GbE adapters for your computer for a reasonable price for used equipment ($20-$50), it really is the switches which are ridiculous. Overall though for the most part, it's only some fringe use cases where a home user might need 10GbE ethernet.

    First - unless you have some insane connection to the outside world, the most you can really get right now as far as internet speeds is 1Gb anyhow. That becomes your choke point.

    Next, overall, video is the most demanding when it comes to traffic, and the average bitrate requirement for 4k streaming comes in somewhere around 15Mbit. Doing the math, that means an average 1Gbit connection could support about 60 concurrent streams. Your average home WON'T be doing that. Honestly, a small apartment complex wouldn't even hit that.

    Now, who knows what the future will bring, perhaps some killer app might require that kind of bandwidth, but right now it's not here for the majority of the people. That doesn't mean that we should stop developing and investing in increased bandwidth, but right now 10GbE is a bit over the top for a home network.


    You would be hard-pressed to saturate a Gb internet connection, but it would help to at least have more network bandwidth than you have internet bandwidth just in case. Downloads can easily use several times more bandwidth than a 4K stream, you might have multiple downloads running at once while streaming, and so on.

    Of course, GbE port ganging would solve that easily enough, but 10GbE would still have much higher performance while using fewer cables. It can help to keep ahead of the network's needs when affordable. 10GbE isn't quite there yet for most home networking, but it is getting close.
    0
  • alextheblue
    Thanks for the article. I wouldn't mind seeing one of the entry-level D-Link's thrown in there too next go around. Still, good to have some performance numbers to look at for some of the most common models.
    1
  • IInuyasha74
    I would also like to see power consumption tests if you can add it in.

    I actually have one of those Netgear switches connected to another switch in a less than ideal network configuration. I've been rather pleased with its performance and lack of problems.
    3
  • Flying-Q
    Quote:
    You would be hard-pressed to saturate a Gb internet connection, but it would help to at least have more network bandwidth than you have internet bandwidth just in case. Downloads can easily use several times more bandwidth than a 4K stream, you might have multiple downloads running at once while streaming, and so on

    I hope you mean 'downloads' inside your own network such as streaming a movie from your NAS to your HTPC. If you are suggesting a Gb switch would aid in downloading multiple items from the net whilst streaming from the net then that would not be the case. What might help in that situation would be a router with QoS capabilities where a rule could be created prioritising 'netflix' for example.
    0
  • Karsten75
    How can you call a 3-unit test a "roundup" when there's probably 50 or more different units out there?

    It's a small, nearly random sample of a few units.
    5
  • bit_user
    Anonymous said:
    Of course, GbE port ganging
    When I looked into ganging, I found that it cannot be used to speed up transfers of single files, which is my primary use case. It's mainly useful for fileservers supporting many clients. Reading about setup and the mechanics of it, it struck me as the kind of thing one would rather not do if it can be avoided.
    0
  • bit_user
    Anonymous said:
    For 10GbE switches, as far as I can tell there aren't any good cheap consumer items on the market yet. There is a flood of 'cheap' used profesional equipment available... but even then you are looking at $1-200 per adapter, and ~$1K for a switch, and typically not in great condition... and because it is pro equipment you have to do a bit of research to get it working properly.
    10GbE 'is coming' but I think we are still a few years out from seeing normal consumer 'plug and play' equipment, and a few more years before it becomes affordable.
    Your numbers are significantly out-of-date, but you're right that it's still not mainstream.

    Be aware that you need a compatible SFP+ cable for your adapter. You can't just use any brand. And if you go RJ-45, the power requirements are significantly greater (like 2x), because they support much longer ranges. I think the numbers are like 15W per port, for RJ-45 adapters. All this power dissipation makes the switches hot and loud, too.

    Due to the availability of inexpensive, used components and the lower power requirements, I went with SFP+ for my desk-area-network. I'm not using a switch, though. I just have 2 PCs connected to a server with a dual-port adapter and 3 SSDs in a RAID-5.

    Anyone who's interested in faster file transfers should look into it and price out the equipment on ebay. Adding a SFP+ connection between two of your machines is probably affordable & easy enough for most folks here.
    0
  • palladin9479
    Quote:
    Anonymous said:
    Of course, GbE port ganging
    When I looked into ganging, I found that it cannot be used to speed up transfers of single files, which is my primary use case. It's mainly useful for fileservers supporting many clients. Reading about setup and the mechanics of it, it struck me as the kind of thing one would rather not do if it can be avoided.


    Really depends on the mode used when you do a LACP 802.3ad configuration. First you will need a managed switch to do it properly, and then some knowledge on how your traffic will be shaped. In Round-Robin mode both the network switch and the host server alternate which interface they send packets down, other modes use hash's based on various header information. RR mode will let you use both ports for a single connection, which is what you probably desire but isn't very useful in an enterprise environment.
    1
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    Hi Eric

    There's a typo on page 3:
    "operating range of 32 and 105 degrees F (0 to 10.5 degrees C)"

    Thank you for a rather surprising article. The cheapest unit was the fastest! I would like to see power numbers on a 220V power source for idle, point-to-point, bi-directional and mesh though please. (Or if you only have a 110V power source, is there a formula for converting 110V power consumption to 220V please?)

    Thank you
    0
  • cynic77
    Anonymous said:
    ...
    Due to the availability of inexpensive, used components and the lower power requirements, I went with SFP+ for my desk-area-network. I'm not using a switch, though. I just have 2 PCs connected to a server with a dual-port adapter and 3 SSDs in a RAID-5.

    Anyone who's interested in faster file transfers should look into it and price out the equipment on ebay. Adding a SFP+ connection between two of your machines is probably affordable & easy enough for most folks here.


    That's an interesting solution. That said, the article is about switches and it's really said that in 2016, there are no 10 Gig "consumer" switches available. In response to others:



    I've heard that manufacturers have been making such a killing off the 10 GbE gear for telecoms/ISPs, there's been no incentive to bring 10 GbE to the masses. I don't know, but I'm just sick of 1 GbE already. We've had it since the early 2000's. It's time for something new.
    3