Holiday Buyer's Guide 2005

Being Netsafe With Netgear's Prosafe Switch

The Netgear ProSafe 8 Port Gigabit Desktop Switch Model GS108 teaches an old dog a neat new trick in its revised GS108 8-port switch: jumbo frame support. In its latest form, the GS108 improves efficiency capability for resource-hungry applications by increasing the maximum Ethernet frame size With compatible adapters at each end of a connection, a gigabit capable LAN with a large MTU (up to 9 kbits) can achieve blistering performance hitherto impossible on non-optical network media.

Utilizing a larger frame size increases the efficiency of data transfers and optimizes intranet point-to-point performance. Standard TCP/IP specifies an MTU of 1.5 kB (or 1500 Bytes). In the newer GS108, MTU size grows to as much as 9 kB (9216 Bytes)! This theoretically increases performance by up to 50%.

Each gigabit-capable port has its own 56 kb memory queue buffer, an improvement over the previous GS108 design, which used a smaller 32 kb buffer. The trade-off, however, is that the newer GS108 model retains only 4,000 MAC addresses, whereas its predecessor could retain twice as many; this is irrelevant on smaller LANs though. The GS108 keeps its garden variety feature set: IEEE 802.3i (Ethernet), 802.3u (Fast Ethernet), and 802.3ab (Gigabit Ethernet) standards compliance, multi-platform compatibility, link-state LEDs, full- and half-duplex operation, and an ultra-compact size in a fanless, well-ventilated metal enclosure.

The GS108 is completely plug-and-play. Netgear's trademarked Auto-Uplink functionality automatically adjusts for straight-through or crossover cables, and the unit determines line speed automatically for each of its 8 RJ-45 ports. However, there is one caveat for holiday buyers: only GS108 models manufactured after September 2005 support jumbo frames - and older versions can't be field-upgraded. This might prove problematic for online e-tail shoppers, because you must eyeball the vendor packaging to make this call.

Because the GS108 is an unmanaged unit, it's a cost-effective solution for savvy end-users who want to eke a little more performance out of their local networks. The GS108 is an affordable stocking stuffer, and an ideal gift for avid multi-player gamers or home theater PC buffs, both of whom have ample cause to rejoice at gaining jumbo frame ability. Given the GS108's ultra-compact dimensions, it might actually be stuffed into a stocking - provided, of course, that Santa was savvy enough to stash the box and other elements elsewhere! At $99 or thereabouts (MSRP), it won't kill your Christmas budget, either.

Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a long-time IT writer, researcher and consultant, and occasional contributor to Tom’s Hardware. A Windows Insider MVP since 2018, he likes to cover OS-related driver, troubleshooting, and security topics.