* Prices may differ from that shown
So, switches and hubs: what's that all about then? Well, quite simply, they both do the same thing: connect together devices on a computer network. So, what's a router then? Well, it connects different networks together, securely. Basically though, they all do more or less the same thing: enable computer data to get from one place to another. In a typical computer network you may have one, some or all of these. Routers may be wireless, wired or both; hubs and switches are only wired. If you have just a wireless network in your house you are unlikely to need either a switch or a hub.
When I wired up our house (having been in IT for 37 years I have a well-developed distrust of wireless networks) I only put a single network port in each room. However, in some rooms I wanted to connect more than one device; in my wife's office I needed to connect both her laptop and also a network attached printer. To enable both to be connected to the single network port I needed a hub or a switch. But which?
Well, a hub can only deliver data to one device at a time whereas a switch can enable data to be delivered to multiple devices simultaneously. Therefore, a switch performs much better but is, naturally, more expensive, though the difference in price doesn't usually amount to a lot. The extra is probably worth it for the improvement in performance.
When I first wired up my wife's office she only had an old Packard Bell laptop which offered only a 100Mbs network interface, so I bought a cheap and cheerful 5 port 10/100Mbs switch from Maplins for just under £20, which I reviewed here some time ago. It's still doing a good job but my wife has since swapped her old laptop for a new Packard Bell which has a 1000Mbs (Gigabit) network interface, so the switch was now something of a bottleneck, especially when carrying out backups to our NAS (network attached storage) server.
At the same time, our need to buy a new TV (recently reviewed here) introduced the need for two devices to be connected to a single network port in the lounge: the TV and my wife's old laptop, now pressed into service as a media server underneath the TV. As the TV, like the old laptop, has only a 10/100Mbs network interface, the old network switch could be pressed into use behind the TV, replaced with a new 10/100/1000Mbs switch in the office, to enable maximum data throughput there.
So, which to buy? The best value for money that I could find was the D-Link DGS-1005D 10/100/1000Mbs 5-port switch, which I got from Amazon for the very reasonable price of £22.75, including delivery.
The whole device is very compact, just a little larger than the switch it replaces. The top is slightly curved from side to side and contains the LEDs that indicate the status of each port. The rear of the device has the 5 Ethernet ports and also the socket for the supplied power plug. Note that it doesn't look like the picture shown at the top of the page.
Installing could not be easier: plug in the power lead; plug in the Ethernet network cables; you're done. As expected, it worked first time. To check it out I did a backup of my wife's computer using Synchredible and checking the data flow with BitmeterII. The backup completed far faster than previously and the BitmeterII barchart showed that data was being shifted across the network as fast as is probably possible, considering only CAT5E cabling is installed rather than the recommended CAT6.
The other big plus with this device is the advertised energy savings. This is the first switch I've seen that bigs this up. Apparently the circuitry on each port switches itself into standby when the port is not active. The claiming is for up to 85% electricity savings. Though I have no practical way of proving it, I'm prepared to take their word. It should keep the device a whole lot cooler as well.
So, overall, very pleased with my purchase. At the price it seems unbeatable value for money. Only time will tell if it proves reliable. No reason why it shouldn't. There's really not much that can go wrong. If you have the need for more connections, they make an 8 port version as well.