BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Expert Shopper Electronics

Ethernet splitter vs. switch

Adobe Stock

Ethernet splitter vs. switch: Which one do you need? 

Ethernet switches and ethernet splitters seem, at first glance, to be basically the same thing. Their names and functions are similar. However, when comparing an ethernet switch vs. splitter, the two devices perform different tasks with dramatically different results. 

To make things easy, think of a splitter as a way of turning one ethernet port into two ports using the same wire. Think of a switch as a hub with multiple ethernet ports, like a network surge protector. You plug the switch into your router and it gives you more ports — more places to hook up an ethernet connection. 

Shop this article: ToneGod Ethernet RJ45 Splitter and TRENDNet 5-Port Gigabit GREENnet Switch

Ethernet splitters

Ethernet splitters work simply. They’re a similar premise to special headphone adapters that allow two people to listen to music on the same iPod. The ethernet cable splitter takes one port and creates two, allowing you to have wired connections with more devices. They’re usually much cheaper than switches and they require no real setup or configuration. An ethernet splitter has its fair share of drawbacks, with the strength of connection being the most apparent. Ethernet splitters appear to offer an effective solution to your problem of not having enough ethernet ports, but think twice before you go out and buy them, because they might cause more trouble than they’re worth. 

Ethernet splitters are a questionable investment given the existence of switches and ports, but there are some unique instances when they might be useful. It makes sense to use a splitter if you don’t have many devices to connect. If you don’t need all four connections a switch might offer, a splitter might be suitable for your two devices. 

Ethernet splitter pros

Ethernet splitters are good for people who just want a wired connection and aren’t that worried about the signal speed and the strength of the connection. The device is simple, since all you have to do is plug it in. An ethernet splitter is inexpensive and doesn’t have many components. It’s made out of a thick plastic and can be made for male or female connections. It allows for two devices to have a wired connection at the same time.

Ethernet splitter cons

While the ethernet splitter allows for two wired connections where you only had one before, it does so at the expense of the signal’s strength. By splitting an ethernet connection, you’re causing it to lose a drastic amount of speed, because both of your devices are, in essence, hogging one connection, thus diminishing the strength of the connection to less than half its original strength. 

Best ethernet splitter

ToneGod Ethernet RJ45 Splitter

This basic ethernet splitter offers space for two connections. It’s made with a gold-plated pin core and integrated mechanical welding to ensure reliability and security. It’s compatible with cat6, cat7 and cat5e ethernet cables and it promises 100 megabytes per second. It’s an affordable solution.

Ethernet switches

Ethernet switches do what splitters do, but optimally. They do this by “packet switching” in order to get, process and forward data from one device to another. Essentially, the ethernet network switch creates new ports and allows you to expand the amount of hookups and ethernet ports you have without diminishing your speed and forcing the quality of your media to suffer. Switches facilitate communication between devices, actually increasing your speeds. Standard ports run at 100 Mbps, but if you get a gigabit switch, you can get 1,000 Mbps. However, if you purchase a gigabit switch, make sure your computer and your router both have a gigabit port.

Ethernet switch pros

Ethernet switches provide more connections than splitters, while potentially reducing workload on individual computers. They’re easy to connect to: just plug your ethernet cord into the port. Many switches are energy-efficient since they can sense which ports are not being used and adjust power accordingly. They increase the available bandwidth of a network, meaning your speeds don’t suffer as they might with a splitter. Switches can manage the flow of data in such a way that your specific device receives it in an organized fashion. Switches also provide network security.

Ethernet switch cons

Ethernet switches cost more than splitters, as their technology is significantly more complex. It’s important to know which type of ethernet cable is best, and be prepared to snake it through your home or apartment, depending what devices you need hooked up to the switch. Not all switches offer the same features or amount of ports — know how many you need before buying.

Best ethernet switch

TRENDNet 5-Port Gigabit GREENnet Switch

This switch can increase the speed of your internet while providing you with four new ethernet ports (the fifth port is connected to your router). This gigabit router was built with green tech, reducing its power consumption by 70%. It includes link down technology, which detects unused ports and cuts off power to them. It has high bandwidth and a 10 Gbps switching capacity, which helps data traffic to move more quickly and prevent bottlenecks. The switch is well-built with a meta case, simple design and lights that indicate status.

Should you get an ethernet splitter or an ethernet switch?

When it comes down to what makes more sense to buy between a splitter and a switch, choose a switch. A splitter does the same job more poorly and for almost the same price. It doesn’t take proper advantage of your network and only provides you with one additional connection, whereas a switch can add four or more new ethernet ports, all with an even faster speed than the one you originally had. Switches simply do the job better than splitters. 

Prices listed reflect time and date of publication and are subject to change.

Check out our Daily Deals for the best products at the best prices and sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter full of shopping inspo and sales.

Share this post: