NETGEAR GS110T Gigabit Smart Switch Review
By Bruce Normann
Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article has been supplied by NETGEAR.
Network switches are not reviewed by the press that often, but they are a necessary part of many home or small business networks, so we need to take a look now and then at what’s available, what works, and how well they work. NETGEAR is a major player in the networking market, and they have several different product lines to choose from. Today we’re looking at one of the less expensive offerings in their ProSafe SmartSwitch line.
First, let’s clarify what a network switch is. It is strictly a wired device, and is most often designed to switch Ethernet traffic. There are telco switches, and video switchers, and fiber optic switches, but the vast majority of network switches you and I will encounter handle Ethernet. In Wireless networks, routers and adapters generally communicate directly with one another, but wireless media bridges are starting to make that distinction a little fuzzy. You could use the couple of ports on the back of your router to connect a few devices together, but switches still have some advantages:
Switches allow dozens of devices to connect
Switches keep traffic between two devices from getting in the way of your other devices using the same network
Switches allow control of who has access to various parts of the network
Switches allow you to monitor usage
High-end switches have pluggable modules to tailor them to network needs
Until recently, there were only two types of switches, un-managed and managed. The first type is truly plug-and-play, there are no settings to make, no configurations to set, and they always work the same way, for every device plugged into one of their ports. This was the only kind of switch available to the average consumer, and they served their purpose well. The managed switches were strictly for the corporate LANs and data centers. They were configured by the high holy priests of corporate IT, called LAN Administrators. No one could make a change in the network unless one of them logged into one or more switches and made it, usually with cryptic command-line instructions. Nowadays, they can log in to a GUI via a web browser, but I know that some of them still use command line arguments.
Today, there is a new class of switches, commonly called a “Smart Switch”. It’s a blend of the two previous extremes, and is targeted to both corporate users and what the industry politely calls “ProSumers”. That’s you and me, in case you didn’t recognize your new title. If you’ve ever logged into your router, some months after you first installed it, and changed some settings you’re a Prosumer. If the SSID on your router is still “linksys”, you’re not. Definitely not.
The GS110T is a low-to-mid range model in the NETGEAR family of ProSafe Gigabit Smart Switches. It’s got enough ports to future-proof most home network installations, plus some special interfaces. Most of what I’ll be covering in this review is perfectly applicable to several other models in the ProSafe product line, so be sure to check out the full line in order to find a switch that meets your needs. Now, let’s take a closer look at the GS110T, and see what it offers in both features and performance.