Pros: Cost effective (less than $100), Auto speed (10/100/1000) and cable type (MDI/MDI-X)negotiation. Full Gigabit (1000Mbps) speed capabilityCons: LED lights don’t indicate connection speed
Not long ago, it would have been impossible to find a Gigabit Ethernet switch for less than $100. Not anymore. The Linksys SD2005 is a small footprint Gigabit networking device that packs a lot of power into its compact and attractively priced frame.
What Is a Gigabit Switch?
The SD2005 is an unmanaged five-Port 10/100/1000 Gigabit switch. It comes in a sturdy-looking and sturdy-feeling metal case and is only 1.18 inches tall, 5.12 inches wide and five inches deep. It weighs a measly 15 ounces.
The included AC adapter, however, is a typical block size, which took up a bit more space than I would have liked in my UPS (then again almost all network devices these day tend to have block AC adapters so I should have expected it).
Features Put to the Test
One of the things that used to frustrate me about switches was making sure the right cable was plugged into the right port for upstream WAN vs. LAN capability and knowing where to plug in crossover vs. patch cables. Inevitably, due to time (or poorly lit conditions) whatever indicator or name etching that was supposed to indicate what port is what becomes unknown due to either fading or scratching.
Each of the five ports on the SD2005 supports something called MDI/MDI-X crossover detection, which means you can plug patch or crossover cables into any of the ports and the SD2005 will figure out what they are and what do with them.
As with most (if not all) 10/100 switches, the SD2005’s ports will autodetect which speed the connected PC is communicating at (10/100 or 1000 Mbps) and provide the required speed to the port. Flow control in the form of the 802.3x standard is also included, which is combined with head-of-line blocking prevention. That feature is supposed to ensure that high- and low-speed traffic can co-exist on the switch without the high-speed bogging down the low (or vice versa).
I dropped the SD2005 into a mixed network of 10Mbps, 100Mbps and 1000Mbps, and then hammered a wad of traffic across them all. In more than a month of heavy use, I did not record any significant lag or interoperability issues between low speed and high speed at all.
However, one thing that I would have liked is some indication of what the connection speed is for each port as well as the cable quality. The SD2005’s five ports have only a green LED light that indicates a connection and traffic, but there isn’t a color change or anything like that to indicate port speed. Another item that tends to be an issue with Gigabit connectivity is cable quality, which also could be indicated by an LED light or color change.
To be fair, thought, the SD2005 is by definition an unmanaged switch, so status information on connection speeds and cable quality are not necessarily to be expected (as opposed to a managed switch). Being unmanaged, there is also no SNMP control or monitoring capabilities.
Packets are automagically forwarded to the correct port based on the MAC address of the recipient NIC, and address learning as well as aging are both supported. The instruction manual recommends that “all the devices you will connect to the switch are powered off” before you actually connect them. On the first install, I followed Linksys’ instructions and everything worked well right out of the box.
I also purposefully contradicted the instructions and hotplugged a port as well. In fact, I hotplugged every port multiple times to multiple PCs with different cables (a mix of Cat5, Cat5e and even Cat6), while both the switch and connected PC were powered on. Over the test period of 30 days, I had no issues whatsoever. Traffic always went where it was supposed to go, at the best speed possible no matter how often I moved the cables among the five ports. Simply put the unit performed exceedingly well and worked under conditions not recommended by the instruction manual, which impressed me.
The Promise of Gigabit
Gigabit networking offers the promise of performance improvements that could reach 1000 percent over existing 100 Mbps networks. To date, cost has likely kept many small and home offices away from the technology. With the Linksys SD2005, cost is no longer an excuse. Though not a managed switch, the SD2005 is a functional device that will more than adequately serve the needs of most workgroups. Simply put, you drop the switch into your network, it works and you (hopefully) never have to think about it again.
Sean Michael Kerner is a frequent contributor to PracticallyNetworked.