Best Ethernet Switches

Updated September 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

23 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
112 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best Ethernet switches

Last Updated September 2019

Having a simple home network allows you to share an internet connection among multiple devices. Many people will do this over a router with wireless (WiFi) capabilities.

But when your home network starts to become more complex with, for example, game consoles, shared printers and network storage devices, you may need some additional hardware. This is where an Ethernet switch becomes a key piece of equipment.

The Ethernet switch accepts connections from devices through an actual wire — an Ethernet cable. Using Ethernet cables with an Ethernet switch provides quite a few advantages in performance level and security over a router alone.

So if you’re disappointed in the level of performance you’re receiving from your WiFi router, an Ethernet switch may be just the upgrade you need.

A Gigabit Ethernet switch is one that can reach data transmission speeds up to 1,000 Mbps or 1 Gbps. A Fast Ethernet switch maxes out at 100 Mbps.

Key considerations

Think of the Ethernet switch as a central hub or connecting point for all of your devices. Often times, people share an internet connection through an Ethernet switch. But it has quite a few other advantages, too.

Ethernet switches versus routers

If you’re confused about how Ethernet switches can benefit your home network, here are some advantages of a switch over a router.

  • Faster communication: The right Ethernet switch will allow data to travel extremely fast on the network. In fact, the network speeds through the switch may be faster than the internet connection speed you have. Ethernet cable speeds certainly outperform WiFi speeds.

  • Better traffic movement: If you’re using a router for your network, it won’t have the same ability to manage data traffic like an Ethernet switch. Traffic signals going through the switch will not interfere with other traffic signals. This allows for greater efficiency of data movement than a router can provide.

  • Connecting multiple devices: An Ethernet switch can handle more devices more effectively than a router can. You can even daisy-chain a few pieces of Ethernet switch hardware, gaining access to more ports. This process doesn’t work with a router.

Benefits of switches

Here are some reasons people may choose to use an Ethernet switch.

  • Gaming: Internet gamers using a network need an Ethernet switch for its low latency benefit. (This means the switch reacts quickly, avoiding lags.) A fast response time creates more realistic gameplay, as the game functions seamlessly without time skips and lags. This is an especially important feature for multiplayer games, where all users are on your network.

  • Media streaming: As with gaming, skips or lags can cause problems with media streaming. No one wants to watch a movie or football game with lags, which ruin the action. Beyond better performance now, an Ethernet switch has the speed required to handle 4K resolution media streaming in the future.

  • Printers: For home networks where multiple devices will be sharing one printer, having a switch simplifies this process. Any device connected to the switch can access a printer that’s also connected to the switch.
     

Certainly, a WiFi network can provide some of these same benefits. However, the Ethernet switch gives you a more reliable and faster connection than what WiFi can offer.

Some managed Ethernet switches have QoS (Quality of Service) technology. This allows certain connected devices to receive priority for better performance.

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BestReviews

Features

When comparing different Ethernet switches, it can be confusing because their physical characteristics appear to be so similar at first glance. However, here are some key features you should understand to use this hardware successfully.

Unmanaged versus managed

An unmanaged Ethernet switch is a simple piece of hardware.  It’s ideal for use in a basic home network. Users don’t need to actively manage any of the connections with the unmanaged switch.

A managed Ethernet switch provides access to extra features for those who need them, such as Quality of Service (QoS) or virtual networks (VLANs). These features are overkill for the majority of home network users, though.

PoE

A standard Ethernet port only transmits data across the cable, but a PoE  (Power over Ethernet) port in an Ethernet switch transmits both data and electrical power. You may need a PoE-capable Ethernet switch for certain types of devices on the network. For example, a security camera connected to the network can use PoE instead of a battery for its power needs.

Speeds

Commonly, Ethernet switches support transmission speeds of 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps, and/or 1,000 Mbps (or 1 Gbps).

The majority of Ethernet switches sold currently will support the 1 Gbps speed (called Gigabit Ethernet). Should you make a connection to a device that can use only the 100 Mbps speed, the Gigabit Ethernet switch will be backward compatible.

A Gigabit Ethernet switch is sufficient for most home networks. However, should you need even more speed, some switches can support 10 Gigabit Ethernet protocols. These are rare for home networks, although large commercial networks may use them.

EXPERT TIP

Some Ethernet switches can be mounted to a wall or a rack. This frees up desktop space for other pieces of hardware.


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Ethernet switch prices

Basic Ethernet switches are not overly expensive pieces of hardware. Consider which devices you will be connecting to the Ethernet switch before spending the extra money for PoE capabilities. If your devices don’t need PoE, then save some money and choose a simpler switch.

Ethernet switches require you to supply Ethernet cables — you can buy a 10-foot Ethernet cable for roughly $8 to $15 — so there are a few extra costs with this hardware beyond the switch itself.

Inexpensive: An average Ethernet switch for use at home will cost $10 to $20. The body of the hardware may be constructed of metal or plastic. Metal switches will cost a little more than plastic switches. These Ethernet switches probably will have anywhere from five to eight ports.

Mid-range: Ethernet switches in this range will cost $20 to $40. Some of these will have up to 16 ports. They nearly always will consist of a metal construction.

Expensive: The priciest Ethernet switches cost anywhere from $40 to $500. Devices closer to the $40 price point often will include one PoE port, along with several standard ports. For 16 or more ports in a managed switch, with several of those ports supporting PoE, you can pay $100 or more. However, such large Ethernet switches are made primarily for large networks, rather than home networks.

DID YOU KNOW?

With an internet router connected to an Ethernet switch, you’ll be able to access the internet from any device connected to the switch.

Tips

Making full use of your Ethernet switch is easier if you follow the usage tips we’ve collected here.

  • Keep it simple. Although it may be tempting to spend quite a bit of money to obtain a dozen or more ports in a switch, it’s not always necessary. The typical user will have a home network with fewer than 10 connections … and sometimes fewer than five. A simple, inexpensive switch will work nicely in the majority of cases.

  • Gigabit Ethernet yields the best speeds. Gigabit Ethernet switches cost a bit more than other, slower Ethernet switches. However, gigabit will give you the best value over the long run, so it’s not worth trying to save money with a slower switch speed.

  • Look for the lights. Inexpensive Ethernet switches may not have LED indicator lights on them. However, we’d suggest choosing a unit with LED lights, which let you know the ports are working properly. Some LEDs also indicate the speeds at which the ports are working.

  • Remember, one port is taken. When buying a five-port Ethernet switch, keep in mind that you’ll really have only four ports for your devices. One port will be occupied by a connection to your internet service modem.

Other products we considered

We expect the majority of people will be able to make use of one of the switches in our matrix. However, if you need something a little out of the ordinary, we have considered a few other Ethernet switch products. The D-Link 5-Port Unmanaged Gigabit Switch has LED lights on the front to indicate which ports are working. This is a smaller than average sized piece of hardware, which is helpful in tight spaces. Should you need a large number of ports, the TP-Link 16-Port Gigabit Switch is a reliable choice. It also has a lower than expected price point for hardware with 16 ports. For those who need PoE capability, the NETGEAR 8-Port Gigabit Switch has four PoE ports. It’s pricey, but it’ll deliver high-end performance. We also like the NETGEAR 8-Port Gigabit Unmanaged Switch a lot. It doesn’t look like other switches, giving you a stylish option in areas where the switch hardware will be visible.

Ethernet switches allow for hard-wired connections for devices. This is different from a WiFi router, which allows for wireless connections.

FAQ

Q. How do I know if my Ethernet switch is working properly?
A.
Manufacturers often place LEDs on the switch hardware. These will light up when the switch is working properly, usually with a green or blue color. An orange or yellow color often indicates an error. If a device connected to the switch is not responding, check the LED lights.

Q. How does an Ethernet switch compare to a network hub?
A.
The Ethernet switch is a newer type of technology that has more features than a hub. Both the hub and switch accept connections from Ethernet cables. However, the hub takes an input signal and duplicates that signal out to all connected devices. The switch takes an input signal and sends it to a specific address on the network.

Q. How do I connect my ISP modem to my Ethernet switch?
A.
The modem is a device that deciphers and manages the internet connection from an ISP (Internet Service Provider) as it enters your home. You can connect an Ethernet switch to the modem with a simple Ethernet cable.

Q. How can I gain more ports in my Ethernet switch?
A.
You can connect more than one Ethernet switch together, and they will act like a single piece of hardware. This is called daisy-chaining the Ethernet switches. As a general rule, you can daisy-chain up to three Ethernet switches together without causing a loss in performance.

The team that worked on this review
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Kyle
    Kyle
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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