Every person will have different needs for their home network. One person may value the number of available ports, while another will put a greater value on something like granular control. Most importantly, take inventory of what you have and what you need to make your home network more accessible and usable. The future also needs to be taken into consideration. Just because you may have five devices that you want to physically connect to a network, that number may rise over time.
Size is one consideration, since switches come in all shapes. One brand’s four-port switch may not be same size as another comparable brand. Will you have the space to properly set up and maintain the equipment? Generally, as port count increases, so does the size of the housing that the ports are enclosed in. It is also important to remember that most switches require a certain amount of space around them as they generally vent their heat through the sides of the enclosure.
Speaking of ports, the number of them is one of the most important variables to note. This also requires some level of planning beforehand. Once you run out of ports, that switch’s capacity has been reached and another device must be purchased. It is best to take an inventory of what you currently have and what you wish to physically connect. As stated earlier, it is best to also plan for the future. At some point, you may wish to add devices that you may not have thought of previously, such as set top boxes, game consoles, streaming boxes, IP cameras and IP phones.
Speed and reliability are also important factors. At the consumer level, you will be looking at switches that support speeds of 10/100/1000 Mb/s. Older 10/100 Mb/s models can be considerably cheaper than gigabit (1000 Mb/s), and are generally fine for light streaming of video and audio. However, most modern devices support gigabit and, for the most part, are not much more expensive than 10/100 switches. Gigabit-class transfers can become increasingly important if you are connected to a server’s network share or are sharing/transferring data between two or more devices. The speed difference alone can make up for the cost difference, as your time will be utilized more efficiently. As we move further into the future, enterprise-level speeds like 10 Gb/s will continue to fall in price. For now, 10 Gb/s is still too expensive; the cost/performance ratio cannot be justified by a majority of home users.
Wireless networking will generally be slower and less reliable than a physical connection, and is contingent on a myriad of factors like environment and placement. If speed is most important to you, then you definitely want the reliability of a physical network capable of delivering more consistent and stable results.