Best Network Switch 2021 • 6 Network Switches Reviews
In comparison to routers, which are responsible for interconnecting networks, switches are in charge of connecting the different devices that make up a local network. In that way, network switches can connect computers, printers, gaming consoles, and smart TVs, among other devices.
Network Switch Leaderboard 2021
What is a network switch and how does it work?
A network switch’s main function is to best connect electronic devices. However, note that the switch in itself doesn’t provide connectivity with other networks. You cannot use it to connect to the internet; this is what your router is for. As a test of what a switch can do is, for instance, allow all computers in a network to share the same printer.
With this device, all devices connected to a specific network will also be able to use the same internet connection. Computers can share any file and make it accessible to the rest of the devices on the network. The more advanced switches integrate different functions for monitoring and managing data traffic.
What types of network switches are there?
There are many ways to classify this networking hardware. We like to keep things practical, which is why we think that a test for manageability is a great method to identify the best models available on the market. In the following table, you can build your own opinion about the main features of the three types of switches we have chosen: managed, intelligent, and unmanaged models.
They have characteristics and features like VLAN, IP routing, quality of service (QoS), link aggregation, Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP) snooping, and bandwidth restrictors, among others. But you will need more advanced knowledge to configure them correctly. Their price depends on their performance, but in comparison, they tend to be more expensive.
You can manage some features of the device. Since they allow you to modify certain parameters, in our opinion, having some knowledge will help you get the most out of them.
They are slightly more affordable and, therefore, more accessible to non-professional users.
They come with a factory default configuration that you cannot modify. They are very easy to use, often plug-and-play devices. They are quite affordable.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Network Switches
In our opinion, the widespread use of network switches has everything to do with the number of great advantages that they offer. To begin with, they provide some of the highest levels of connection stability, while allowing you to make the best use of your bandwidth. This is because it only sends the information to the device it is intended for — not to every single one on the network. You can easily test this function.
With a network switch, you can also send information and access shared resources with much more efficiency. There is a wide range of products on the market, from those with the most basic functions to those with very advanced features. This means that you will always find the best product for your needs. And best of all: they are very easy to use.
- Provide connection stability
- Making optimum use of bandwidth
- Easy to use
- More difficult to debug
- High latency
Shopping Criteria for a Network Switch
Are you still considering purchasing your own network switch? Then you have to learn more about the key shopping criteria you should test for. In the following section, we will delve into the aspects that can really make a difference in your final decision. Once you are done reading them, we are confident you will know how to choose the best switch for your network.
- Personal use
- Management of data traffic
As you know, you won’t need the same switch for a domestic network as for a professional network. If you’re looking for a device to complement your router, a model with a small number of ports will probably do the trick. You won’t need it to come with many configuration options, either.
It’s a totally different story if you want to get the most out of your fiber optic connection and have greater control over the data traffic on your devices. If you need a switch to manage a large corporate network, test a product with a high number of ports and more advanced setup options.
When it comes to ports, you should consider both their number and their type. Nowadays, you can find network switches with anywhere from four to several hundred ports. Note that the current Ethernet standard supports two types of wiring: twisted-pair cable and fiber optic cable – the connector for each being distinct.
The more basic network switches only feature twisted-pair cable ports, the connector of which is the RJ-45. The more advanced models with fiber optic ports have different types of connectors, although the most used is the SC type. In addition, they include modular ports to which a module with a port is connected.
Ethernet allows for different data transfer speeds. This is why you should test the rates at which a model can work before purchasing it. The main types of ports on the market and the standards and speeds at which they can are the 10/100 ports. These ports operate under the 10BASE-T standard with theoretical speeds up to 10 Mbps, and the 100BASE-TX standard with rates up to 100 Mbps.
In addition, the 10/100/1000 ports can operate under the 1000BASE-T standard with a maximum theoretical speed of 1000 Mbps. Nowadays, they are the most common for domestic networks.
Furthermore, the fiber optic ports include the 100BASE-FX and 1000BASE-X standards, among others.
Management of Data Traffic
Both manageable and smart switches integrate a number of functions with which you can manage and monitor data traffic. Among them, VLAN allows you to set up separate logical networks within a physical network. IGMP snooping, on the other hand, prevents IP TV traffic from bringing down the whole network.
One functionality tested that many find very handy is that it allows limiting the bandwidth of the connection ports. You may also want your model to support link aggregation in order to combine several Ethernet connections into a single one with a higher transfer speed. The Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology is designed to power devices using an Ethernet cable.
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What is a network switch used for?
Its main function is to connect electronic devices. However, note that the switch in itself doesn’t provide connectivity with other networks. You cannot use it to connect to the internet either since this is what your router is for. A concrete example of what a switch can do is, for instance, allow all computers in a network to share the same printer.
With this device, all devices connected to a specific network will also be able to use the same internet connection. Computers can share any file and make it accessible to the rest of the devices on the network. More advanced switches integrate different functions for monitoring and managing data traffic.
What is the difference between a network switch and a router?
First of all, routers are smarter devices in comparison to network switches. In fact, they can perform the same tasks as switches while also interconnecting several networks at once. Besides, they can connect a local network to the internet. Finally, routers generally include additional features like firewalls.
What devices can I connect to a network with my switch?
You can do so with virtually any electronic device that counts with an Ethernet network interface. This means that you connect anything from computers – whether portable or desktop – and printers to gaming consoles and smart TVs. You can naturally connect your router to access the internet.
This list of devices is relatively long and includes IP cameras, TV receivers, door stations, and even IP phones. And these are not the only pieces of equipment you can connect to your switch. As the internet of things (IoT) continues to grow, an increasing number of devices are connected to each other and the internet.
Who should buy a network switch?
Any individual user or company that needs to set up a local network with several computers and wants to establish the connection using Ethernet cables will benefit from having one of these devices. Your home router may not manage to cover all your computers, or it can get blocked due to the high internet traffic. A network switch will solve these problems.
Its use is fundamental for business networks, these specific models generally featuring many more entries. If you still manage your network with an Ethernet hub, you may also want to replace this obsolete device with a quality switch. You will notice a significant improvement in terms of performance.
The product recommendations in this article are made solely by the sponsor and are not recommendations made by VentureBeat.