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Last updated: 04/05/2020

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While routers 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 others.

This is why these devices are commonly found in both large businesses and domestic networks. The days when homes were free of computers are long gone now, and more and more electronic devices are connected to the Internet. In this context, setting up a proper local network is fundamental.

Key Facts

  • Switches are essential devices in the design of networks – especially local ones. They are also found in corporate networks that are composed of thousands of computers.
  • You can connect your network switch to any device with an Ethernet interface. This includes computers, printers, routers, IP cameras, gaming consoles, smart TVs, and even IP phones. And the list will continue to grow with the ongoing progress of the Internet of Things.
  • There are various criteria that you need to take into account before purchasing your own network switch. From how you plan on using it, to the number of ports available, or the maximum speed they support, they will help you choose the perfect model for your needs.

Our Selection: The Best Network Switches on the U.S. Market

In the following section, you will discover our very own selection of the best network switches currently available on the market. We have chosen a variety of products tailored to the preferences of different types of users. In addition, every manufacturer boasts a great reputation and offers value-for-money network switches.

Best Value-For-Money Network Switch

Presented in a sleek design, this Gigabit network switch features eight 10/100/1000 Mbps auto-negotiating RJ45 ports, making it ideal for a truly connected domestic network. This model integrates energy-efficient technology to enable up to 80% energy savings. No installation or configuration is required to start using this plug-and-play network switch. In addition, it is extremely quiet and comes with a 2-year warranty. True bang for your buck!

Best Network Switch for Small Businesses

If you have a small business with several devices – computers and tablets – that you want to interconnect more efficiently, then Linksys’ SE3016 is a great network switch for you. This Amazon’s Choice features sixteen Gigabit RJ-45 10/100/1000Mbps ports and a power-saving mode that detects unused devices and turns the connection off. This intelligent network switch is compatible with auto MDI/MDI-X cable detection.

Best Network Switch: Amazon’s Choice

TP-Link’s TL-SG1005P is a rugged metal-enclosed network switch with five Gigabit RJ-45 10/100/1000 Mbps ports and auto-negotiation speed, as well as an energy-saving system. You can monitor the network to check data traffic behavior and prioritize traffic. With IGMP Snooping, you can optimize the delivery of multimedia traffic to ensure a better network experience. Ideal for domestic networks, this affordable switch integrate PoE technology.

Best Large-Capacity Network Switch

Do you not have enough with 5, 8, or even 16 ports on your network switch? Don’t worry; the TL-SG1048 is there to save the day. It has a whopping 48 Gigabit 10/100/1000 Mbps ports! This model is ideal if you want your large data transfers to be instantaneous with its non-blocking technology and a switching capacity of up to 96 Gbps. If you weren’t convinced just yet, you should know that this product has a lifetime warranty.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Network Switches

You will have to evaluate various important aspects when buying your own network switch. As you have noticed in the section above, there is a wide range of models on the market. In addition, you have to know how to differentiate those intended for domestic and professional networks. We will now answer the most frequently asked questions regarding these devices to clarify any remaining doubts you might have.

connecting a network witch

Network switches allow you to send information and access shared resources much more efficiently.
(Source: Kolbjornsrud: 19198970/ 123rf.com)

What are network switches exactly?

Also called switching hubs or MAC bridges, these interface devices are designed to connect different equipment to form a local LAN network. Note that they are used to establish wired networks. If you want to have a wireless network, you will have to turn to Wi-Fi access points.

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. The more advanced switches integrate different functions for monitoring and managing data traffic.

network switch connected

Network switches are designed to connect different equipment to form a local LAN network.
(Source: Moisseyev: 35965234/ 123rf.com)

What is the difference between a network switch and a router?

First of all, routers are smarter devices than 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: IP cameras, TV receivers, door stations, and even IP phones. And these are nor the only nor the last pieces of equipment you can connect to your switch. As the Internet of Things continues to grow, more and more devices are connected to each other and the Internet.

Network switch

Switches offer a wide range of advantages that have made them extremely popular.
(Source: Kolbjornsrud: 63796637/ 123rf.com)

What are the advantages of network switches?

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 much better 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.

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 right product for your needs. And best of all: they are very easy to use.

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 all your problems.

Its use is fundamental in 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 by a quality switch. You will notice a significant improvement in terms of performance.

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 manageability is a great method to identify the different models available on the market. In the following table, you can learn more about the main features of the three types of switches we have chosen:  managed, intelligent, and unmanaged models.

Managed Intelligent Unmanaged
Characteristics that you can manage They have characteristics and features like VLAN, IP routing, QoS, Link Aggregation, IGMP Snooping, and bandwidth restrictors, among others. You can manage some features of the device. They come with a factory default configuration that you cannot modify.
Ease of use You will need more advanced knowledge to configure them correctly. Since they allow you to modify certain parameters, having some knowledge will help you get the most out of them. They are very easy to use, often plug-and-play devices.
Price Their price depends on their performance, but they tend to be more expensive. They are slightly more affordable and, therefore, more accessible for non-professional users. They are quite affordable.

Buyer’s Guide

Are you still considering purchasing your own network switch? Then you have to learn more about the key shopping criteria. In the following section, we will delve into these 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 perfect switch for your network.

Personal Use

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, look for a product with a high number of ports and more advanced setup options.

amount of switches

As the Internet of Things continues to grow, more and more devices are connected to each other and to the Internet.
(Source: Moisseyev: 36968508/ 123rf.com)

Ports

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 hundreds of 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.

Speed

Ethernet allows for different data transfer speeds. This is why you should check the rates at which a model can work before purchasing it. Here are the main types of ports on the market and the standards and speeds at which they can run:

  • 10/100 ports: They operate under the 10BASE-T standard with theoretical speeds up to 10 Mbps, and the 100BASE-TX standard with rates up to 100 Mbps.
  • 10/100/1000 ports: In addition to the above, these ports can operate under the 1000BASE-T standard with a maximum theoretical speed of 1,000 Mbps. Nowadays, they are the most common for domestic networks.
  • Fiber optic ports: These 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 that many find very handy is that which 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 higher transfer speed. The PoE technology (Power Over Ethernet) is designed to power devices using an Ethernet cable.

Summary

Switches aren’t reserved for business networks anymore; their use is increasingly common in domestic environments where the number of devices connecting to the Internet is continuously growing. That being said, you won’t need the same type of switch for an office network with dozens of connected computers as you do for your home network.

This is why you have to know what your needs are before you can make your purchase. Keep in mind that there are specific models for different tasks – such as online gaming or streaming multimedia content. Regardless of the type of switch you opt for, don’t forget to consider the number of ports it has and its maximum data transfer rate.

We hope that you found our shopping guide on network switches helpful and informative. If that’s the case, feel free to leave us a comment in the section below. You can also share this article on your social media!

(Source of featured image: Wklzzz: 42502782/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Brett Holmes Technology Geek
Brett is a keen observer of the latest technology trends and knows his way around the industry because he runs an electronics store. He writes about it in his spare time and wants to help others learn more about the technology industry.