If you’re in the market for a new gigabit Ethernet switch and have been doing some research, more than likely you’ve come across the highly reviewed 8 port TP-LINK TL-SG1008D. Most of that is probably due to the price. At a $24.99 MSRP, it’s around $3/port and less than half the retail cost of what I consider to be the gold standard in its class: Netgear’s venerable GS608.*
Unfortunately, the TL-SG1008D suffers from a glaring feature omission that seriously affects its UX: there’s no link speed indication. That’s right, there’s no way to tell what speed a particular port is running at. For the unfamiliar, this is the equivalent of a car shipping without a speedometer. All active port LEDs glow green no matter what. Many other gigabit switches such as the aforementioned Netgear and even the notoriously unreliable D-Link’s DGS-2205 have LEDs that glow green for 1000 Mbps connections and amber for 100 Mbps ones.
Thanks to the lack of LED differentiation, if there’s a speed issue with the TP-LINK it’s difficult to determine whether the problem lies with the switch or the client device it’s connected to. Fortunately, the impact of the deficiency can be mitigated by either:
- Deploying the TP-LINK as close to the outer perimeter of your network as possible. In other words, there should be no switches or access points downstream of it.
- Deploying the TP-LINK between clients that easily indicate link speed, such as a router that does so on the upstream side and PCs on the downstream side.
Sadly, this problem is more widespread than you may think, even among high end devices. Of 3 top dollar AC1900 gigabit routers – the ASUS RT-AC68U, the Linksys EA6900, the Netgear R7000 – only the Netgear offers link speed indication. Even my own ASUS RT-N66U lacks the feature, something that I only just noticed while writing this. In my router’s case, the issue is mitigated by implementing Option 2 above: all devices connected directly to it are either PCs on which link speed can easily be checked or switches with external speed indication.
Some astute readers may point out that many USB devices don’t have external link speed indication. That’s true, but Windows will alert you if a device is connected to a host-side port that is slower than the device-side port, e.g. a USB 2.0 device connected to a USB 1.0 port. There’s no equivalent for switches.
If you’re looking for a gigabit switch and aren’t on a tight budget, go with the GS608. As of this writing, you can find it for as low as $37.99 after rebate on Amazon.
*I own a GS605 – the GS608’s 5 port counterpart – that has been operating flawlessly since 2006. At 8 years of age, it’s probably the oldest active duty device I own.