Author: Ronald Pacchiano
Review Date: 1/18/2002
Model: 3C16790-US – $109 MSRP
– Auto-sensing Ports
– Extremely easy setup
– Stackable design
– Might seem a bit expensive compared to similar switches
Continuing the Tradition
Since their introduction, 3COM OfficeConnect hubs have built quite a reputation. Their relative ease of use, stackable design and low cost have all attributed to the product line’s success. Yet in today’s world of high-speed DSL lines and bandwidth intensive applications, simple hubs are having a tougher time delivering the performance the once did. Many owners have started to replace their older hubs with more efficient network switches. (If you’re not clear on the difference between a hub and a switch and router, check Bridge Types.) In light of this trend, 3COM is adding a series of duel speed switches to its OfficeConnect family of products, such as the 3Com OfficeConnect 5 Port Dual Speed Switch.
With a list price of $109 and street prices as low as $79, the OfficeConnect 5 Port Dual Speed Switch is a bargain. In addition to the highly respected and dependable 3COM name you get a quality switch that’s as easy to install and configure as your favorite household appliance. Installation of this OfficeConnect required nothing more then unpacking the unit and plugging it into our network devices (workstations, servers, etc.). The stackable design makes them ideal for home and small business environments and easy to read link lights means you can identify the status of your network with just a glance. If the 5 port switch doesn’t offer you the capacity you’re looking for, then an 8 and 16 port version is also available.
As good as the original OfficeConnect products were, some users still had problems installing them. If it was the only hub in your network you normally wouldn’t have any problems. If you were trying to connect the unit to another hub, you had to connect the hubs using a crossover cable that had to be installed on the uplink port (usually port 8). A mechanical (MDI/MDIX) switch changed the operation of the uplink port to make it compatible with the crossover cable. This procedure, though simple in theory, could be somewhat confusing, especially for new users. However, this new generation of OfficeConnect switches uses auto-sensing ports that automatically detect the cable type and the speed of the attached device, so you won’t have to waste time fiddling with cables.
Another unique feature of the OfficeConnect is a process called Priority Queuing. According to 3COM, it’s a method of ensuring that high priority traffic gets propagated along the network with greater urgency then normal traffic. With this capability in place, streaming services, like voice and video traffic, get delivered before other network traffic, optimizing picture and sound quality. Without this capability, operation of these services would depend solely on the load on the network. So if traffic levels are high, performance suffers.
I ran the standard Qcheck suite to test performance, with the following results:
Qcheck Transfer Rate (Mbps)
[1MB data size]
Qcheck Response Time (msec)
Qcheck UDP stream
(Actual throughput- kbps)
(Lost data- %)
Client to Client
(Details of how we tested can be found here.)
The OfficeConnect products have always been exceptional values and this latest offering looks to maintain that tradition. If you’re in the market for a low cost switch then do yourself a favor and give the OfficeConnect a try.