A managed switch gives you more useful options than a 'dumb' switch, giving you more control over your network. For example, you can work with VLANs, set traffic priorities such as voip, or bundle ports for extra bandwidth – useful for a NAS. Is your network ready for such an upgrade? We have turned eight managed switches inside out for you and will update you.
Do you have too few network ports or do you want more options for your network? With a managed switch you kill two birds with one stone. But the offer is large and the technical terms fly around your ears. That is why we were looking for relatively simple and affordable (up to about 120 euros) managed switches for the home or small business network. They offer five to 16 gigabit Ethernet ports (and sometimes a stray fiber optic port), a handy web interface and lots of extras. You may not need all of them now, but you might later!
This is how we tested switches
You usually put a switch somewhere out of sight, so it doesn't necessarily have to look nice. In this test, we pay more attention to the quality of the housing and mounting options. We have updated the firmware for all models on first use, which is almost always recommended. Sometimes options are added or security holes are closed. Furthermore, it is especially important that they support the options you are looking for as a home user or small business, with a user-friendly web interface to set everything up. Many managed switches are full of business gimmicks that you probably won't need quickly and that we consider to be a bonus. The possibility to work with virtual LANs or VLANs is perhaps one of the best reasons to get such a switch. We therefore pay extra attention to this. For the test, we use a router with both a LAN port and a trunk port with three VLANs on it. The router handles the traffic between VLANs and towards the internet. On the switch we connect a few PCs to the different subnets. In addition, we use an access point that can handle multiple VLANs, for which we use a trunk port with the desired VLANs. Some of the switches we tested have been on sale for years, but we are usually a few hardware revisions and firmware versions. So you could say that they are at least quite future-proof.
Move to multi-gigabit?
You have come across them before: switches that store 10 gigabits per second. This is usually done via one or more fiber optic ports of the sfp+ type, but it can also be done directly via a normal Ethernet port. In this test, one switch, D-Link's model, uses fiber, but those are SFP ports. The added value in this case is not in the speed (which is equal to gigabit Ethernet with SFP) but the much greater distance that you can bridge. You could use it at home to connect two switches, for example, which is also an important application with SFP+, but the investment in modules and cables does not actually outweigh the use of ordinary copper wire cables.The ability to use VLANs is one of the best reasons to get a switch.
Working with VLANs
The ability to use VLANs is of course an added value of managed switches. With VLANs we usually talk about 802.1q, where the switch determines which port the traffic belongs to on the basis of VLAN ID (a label on the traffic). A managed switch naturally offers more useful features. For example, QoS (quality of service) with which you prioritize certain traffic per port or on the basis of 802.1p. Furthermore, you can often bundle ports thanks to static or dynamic link aggregation. The latter is also called lacp (link aggregation control protocol) and solves problems such as incorrect cabling itself. Such a bundling is useful between two switches, but can also be used, for example, towards a NAS or server with multiple network ports. It usually doesn't give you double throughput but more bandwidth: two users can transfer files at full speed, as long as the rest of the NAS can keep up, of course. Many models allow you to use IGMP Spoofing to enhance multicast traffic such as a TV signal. Furthermore, switches can protect your network against excessive traffic (such as broadcast, multicast or unicast). And with port mirroring you can mirror traffic to another port, for example to monitor network traffic.
Manage your switch
Of course you also have to be able to set all those beautiful features. Managed switches have a web interface for this. Many managed switches nowadays take over the ip configuration via dhcp, which is very practical. There are also switches that are set to a fixed IP address and that causes several problems. You may already have a PC in your network at that IP address. In addition, you cannot use several at the same time, because all those switches are on the same IP address. Finally, you need to 'fit' your management PC's network configuration to get in. What helps is that you can detect some switches in your network via software and give them an appropriate IP configuration.
Power over Ethernet
One of the most important trends in recent years is powering peripherals with Power over Ethernet (PoE). The power then goes over the network cable itself, ideal for access points, for example. Many switches are available with or without power over Ethernet. It does drive up the price, depending on the desired power. The main standards are 802.3af which can deliver 15 watts per port and 802.3at which can deliver up to 30 watts. Incidentally, many PoE-enabled network devices come with a so-called injector: a power supply that you can connect just before the network cable and then loop through to the switch. With such an injector, it doesn't really matter whether the switch itself offers PoE. In the test of the GS1200-5HP with PoE, we will elaborate on this feature and its usefulness.
In the DGS-1210 series, D-Link offers Gigabit switches with 8, 16, 24 or 48 ports, with models with PoE also available. We take a look at the DGS-1210-10 without PoE. There is also a P version with PoE which is a few bucks more expensive. It's a sturdy switch that's even bigger than some 16-port models, but with the benefit of a built-in power supply. In addition to eight RJ45 ports, you will also find two SFP ports for a fiber optic connection. You configure them like the other ports. With the D-Link Network Assistant (DNA) software (also available for Windows), you can easily locate the switch in your network and you can activate DHCP, for example, because that is not the case by default. Finding the right firmware was a bit of a quest, but the installation did not cause any problems. The web interface works comfortably, but those who have little network experience prefer to go straight to their goal, such as the VLAN configuration, which presents few (extra) challenges. It is the most complete switch in this test, although most of the extras are especially interesting in a business environment, or of course to learn something. It is very important that you save configuration changes, because the switch reverts to those saved settings after a reboot. Fortunately, if something goes wrong, there is a reset button that - with some sense of timing - resets the device to factory settings.
D-Link DGS-1210-10 (Best Tested)Price
//eu.dlink.com/nl/nl 8 Score 80
- Built-in power supply
- Lots of extra options
- Quite big and heavy
- Less accessible for beginners
The Netgear GS108PEv3 is one of the cheapest in the test and hardly more expensive than some unmanaged models. The solid box offers almost all the features you expect from a 'smart' switch. We skipped the configuration tool for Windows. You can easily set up everything via the structured web interface. We did run into some problems in the Chromium browser, but by switching to Chrome, they were solved immediately. The settings usually change themselves, although setting up VLANs is not very user-friendly. You first have to add the VLANs individually and then configure the ports per VLAN in a separate screen, where the overview is hard to find. It could be better, but once you've set it up right, you probably won't have to worry about it again. The switch is the only one of the tested models that does not offer link aggregation, for that you have to look at the 16 or 24 port models. In a home situation you will not miss it so quickly, at most perhaps if you have a lot of traffic from different devices to a NAS or server, which must also have two network ports.
www.netgear.nl 7 Score 70
- Solid housing
- No link aggregation
- Set up VLANs unclear
The TL-SG108E is an affordable and compact switch that closely resembles the Netgear model. There are several hardware versions that differ little. Importantly, since version 2.0, the switch has a web interface for management. And the 4.0 we received is set to dhcp by default, which makes it easier to use. Also useful: the configuration is now preserved after a firmware upgrade. A reset is also easy to do: press and hold the reset button for ten seconds while connecting the power. As with most inexpensive managed switches, access to the web interface is not so easy to shield, for example by putting it on a separate VLAN, so you have to choose at least a strong password. The configuration of VLANs is basic but clear. Link aggregation is also present, but only statically. And with two groups with up to four ports per group, your switch is immediately full. Note that IGMP Snooping is enabled by default. If there is no multicast traffic, such as IP television or streams via AirPlay and Chromecast, it is better to turn it off. All in all a neat no-nonsense switch. For the enthusiast, there is also the TL-SG108PE with four 802.af PoE ports and a budget of 55 watts, which can be divided over the first four ports.
TP-Link TL-SG108E (Editorial Tip)Price
www.tp-link.com/nl/ 8 Score 80
- Solid housing
- Static link aggregation only
Occasionally you will need just a few more network ports. Especially in the meter cupboard, where you will connect most network devices and often the connections to other places in the house also come together. The TL-SG1016DE then seems an attractive option. It is the cheapest managed gigabit 16 port switch on the market. In appearance, it is almost a copy of the popular unmanaged TL-SG1016D. You will see fans in switches more often from 16 ports, but this one can do without and therefore remains quiet and cool. The housing is also solid, with hooks to screw it into the meter cupboard, for example, although you need almost half a meter in width. A power supply is already built in. Functionally, there are virtually no differences with the TL-SG108E, so you mainly buy it for the extra ports. The biggest lack, if you have the gates for it, is lacp for dynamic link aggregation (static is possible). Those who want to get started with PoE in addition to network devices can consider the TL-SG1016PE. It supports both PoE and PoE + and with a considerable power of 110 watts. It also makes it almost twice as expensive.
www.tp-link.com/nl/ 8 Score 80
- Many network ports
- Power is built in
- Functional somewhat limited
Ubiquiti UniFi Switch 8
Ubiquiti has an entire ecosystem of network devices that work together beautifully. You can manage and monitor them centrally from the comprehensive UniFi Controller software. We installed the software on a server, but there are more options. You only need the software for configuration, not during use. In terms of network terminology, the manufacturer sometimes deviates from the usual, but it usually benefits the ease of use. And standards are followed, so you can just combine everything with other network equipment. You actually do the configuration of VLANs separately from the switch by adding them separately as a network. Then you can assign them to the network ports, if you browse to the UniFi switch that is already automatically found in the network. You also immediately see which devices are connected to the switch and at what speed. The management software may be a bit overkill if you stick to an 8-port switch as tested here, but it definitely has added value if you expand with, for example, a UniFi access point. It can broadcast a unique ssid per VLAN (with a maximum of four). As far as hardware goes, there's nothing to complain about either. The housing is solid and completely silent, at most a bit warm, but that doesn't cause any problems. The power consumption is modest: we measure 5.6 watts with four active devices. In addition to the US-8 with PoE pass-through tested here, there is also the 8-60W with 'real' PoE: 4 ports for 60 watts. That version is hardly more expensive, so it's an attractive alternative if you think you can use those extras.
Ubiquiti UniFi Switch 8Price
www.ui.com 8 Score 80
- Comprehensive management software
- Fits nicely into ecosystem
DrayTek VigorSwitch G1080
The G1080 looks like two drops of water on the 8-port models from TP-Link and Netgear and also offers the same features, with a few extras. For example, it supports (only) dynamic link aggregation (lacp), incidentally with only one group with two ports. Although the switch has a fixed IP address according to the manual, it gets that via dhcp after connecting. So we can go straight through the user-friendly settings menu. Setting up VLANs in particular is easy and clear: aided by colors you can immediately read the setting of all ports. What can also come in handy is the table with MAC addresses of the connected network devices. New firmware is easy to find on DrayTek's Dutch website. The upgrade from version 1.04.05 to 1.04.07 went smoothly and even brought a nice new feature: the ability to isolate ports. You then actually ensure that the devices on those ports can no longer communicate with each other, which you notice from, for example, a blocked 'ping' between the devices. It is therefore also called private lan. In short, quite a few nice extras that may be worth the extra cost for a few.
DrayTek VigorSwitch G1080Price
www.draytek.nl 8 Score 80
- Dynamic Link Aggregation
- Port insulation possible
- Clear VLAN configuration
- Relatively expensive
The GS1200 from ZyXEL is a typical entry-level model and is slightly above the Netgear model in terms of price, calculated according to the 8-port model. We tested the 5-port version, but it is otherwise the same as the GS1200-8 except for the price. For the test we actually came up just one gate short. But if you are going to upgrade your entire network with VLANs, there are plenty of places where this is usually more than enough. For example with the television, where you can easily tuck it away thanks to the compact housing in, for example, the television furniture. The sturdy metal housing can take a beating and you can also attach it to the wall. The switch has a brother with PoE, among other things, which we discuss below. Small downside of the switches: no dhcp is set by default. The web interface can be found at 192.168.1.3 and that is typically an address you may already have in use. To get in, give your PC an IP address of, for example, 192.168.1.4 with subnet mask 255.255.255.0, after which you can access the router in your network. After this you can still set the address assignment to dhcp.
www.zyxel.com 7 Score 70
- Very compact housing
- Solidly executed
- no dhcp
ZyXEL GS1200-5HP v2
The GS1200-5HP v2 is similar to the GS1200-5 above with the addition of PoE. The box is about one and a half times wider and heavier and is supplied with a much larger power supply (with separate on/off switch), necessary to be able to power network devices directly from the switch. Both PoE (802.3af) and PoE+ (802.3at) are supported. This makes it one of the most affordable switches with support for both PoE standards. With PoE, 15 watts are possible per port, with PoE+ that is 30 watts. The actual consumption is especially important. You have a total 'budget' of 60 watts that you can divide over, in this case, four ports. You can see which ports those are on the front under the connections. Incidentally, the 8-port GS1200-8HP has the same budget and as many PoE-capable ports. In principle, it is not a problem that PoE is active for all ports by default, because the power demand is negotiated, but we prefer to turn it off ourselves when it is not used. Then to power consumption. When we connect an access point, the configuration page of the switch neatly shows its consumption (3.2 watts) and remaining budget (56.8 watts) for other devices. We see the consumption of the switch itself increase from 3.1 watts without an access point, to 8.9 watts with an access point. If you don't use PoE, the GS1200-5 is slightly more economical (2.2 watts).
ZyXEL GS1200-5HP v2Price
www.zyxel.nl 8 Score 80
- Cost-effective option with PoE and PoE+
- Handy consumption display
- Cool and completely silent despite PoE
- Relatively large housing
- Heavy duty power adapter
When choosing a switch, the possibilities are actually paramount. In terms of performance, you will not measure any significant differences, as long as there is no 'kink' in the cable. Many of the tested switches offer almost the same possibilities and also have an almost identical housing. They are all completely silent and consume little power. You have to pay attention to a few possibilities. For example link aggregation, which is not always supported and sometimes only static or only dynamic. For most people, the ability to work with VLANs will be the greatest added value and fortunately this is possible with all models.Setup is easiest on the DrayTek and ZyXEL switches. Ubiquiti also makes it easy for you, but first you have to delve into the almost inevitable management software. If the price has to be the deciding factor, then we tip the TP-Link TL-SG108E. The D-Link model is a good option if you are looking for additional options now or in the future. A built-in power supply is also quite practical. But the price is a lot higher and the added value of SFP ports is somewhat limited, unless you want to connect your fiber optic internet directly, for example. If you want to get started with PoE, the ZyXEL GS1200-5HP v2 is an attractively priced switch with both PoE and PoE+. Or you can immediately choose the more complete (not tested by us) 8-port GS1900-8HP.