As more and more appliances become networked, even the average home user is running out of essential ports to plug their cables into.
The world may be going wireless, but for many devices, wired is still the best way to go. And as we’ve found in our real-world lab testing, you simply can’t trust a vendor who promises gigabit networking from their powerline adaptor. Or a wireless router maker who assures you of 300Mbps data transfers.
If you need to get your data around, a good old fashioned length of ethernet cable always gets the job done. And wired networking usually gets much closer to delivering the speed it says on the tin.
Most home routers are equipped with four ethernet ports, enough to satisfy a printer, a PC and maybe a couple of NAS drives.
So what do you do when you want to plug in your Xbox, PS3 or television, and find you've run out of network ports on your router? You add a network switch.
The Lindy 8-Port Gigabit Desktop Switch is what’s termed an unmanaged switch. It’s a simple automonous device that takes care of itself, and requires no user setup or additional decision-making input.
This contrasts with the managed switch, which can perform extra duties such as network-address translation (NAT) to create new subnets.
Your basic unmanaged ethernet switch acts like a USB hub, or mains distribution block, letting many devices plug in at once, while still connecting to a single port on a router - typically, your broadband modem.
Setup is as simple as it comes: connect the Lindy switch to its external power supply, jack in a cable from your router at the back – any port will do – then add your other peripherals into the remaining ports, to a maximum of seven additional devices.
On the front of the Lindy switch are two lines of eight green LEDs. The lower line indicates a connected device, and will flash furiously when network traffic is passing through. The corresponding LED above lights in green to indicate gigabit operation. If that light is out, the device is syncing as 10/100Base-T. In other words, at 10 or 100Mbps speeds.
When first installed, we noticed that some Bonjour devices using zeroconf technology were not being presented to our PC.
This rendezvous protocol, used by Apple for example, allows devices on a network to ‘discover’ each other without manual intervention. However, when checked again a few days later, all was working as expected again. We can only guess that the ‘auto-learn of networking configurations’ mentioned in the unit’s feature list was fulfilling its duties.
The switch unit itself is tiny in its sturdy metal case. Placed on its side, it’s little higher than a CD jewel case. There’s no cooling fan inside, so the device remains silent in use.
You can connect either a straight-through, or a crossover/patch cable and the auto MDI-X function will recognise and configure itself to suit.
Performance is listed as full-duplex 2000Mbps, or 1 gigabit in each direction simultaneously, although sadly we can’t independently verify its transfer characteristics. In daily use for a few weeks though, we noticed no network issues.
This highly compact network switch could sit unobtrusively on any desk – provided you blot out its LED lightshow. In our tests, it worked exactly as described, and could be an indispensable addition to a home or business installation when you need to simply add more ethernet devices to your network.