Following on from my post Good Enough for a Network Engineer, I thought I would take the time to review my TP-Link TL-SG3210 8 Port Gigabit switch that I purchased about three weeks ago.
The switch is actively in use in my home network, replacing my Cisco 2950T access layer switch and I have to say it’s fantastic with a few caveats.
The switch lives in my study as my access switch, serving my desktop PC, a pair of ports into the bedroom for the Sky box, Xbox and anything that I may want networked in there. Additionally, it also serves as the access for our Vonage VoIP phone gateway as the internal phone wiring master socket is also in the study so it makes it easier to connect to downstream phones from here.
The first thing you notice about the TL-SG3210 is it’s size. For an eight port switch, it’s pretty big, measuring just shy of 12 inches wide. It’s this reason that TP-Link actually supply it with 19″ rack adapters for people who may wish to use it in a rack mount scenario. For your £80, you get a IEC C13 kettle plug type power input on the rear, one RJ-45 console port on the front, along with eight 1000Mbps Gigabit RJ-45 ports and two SFP slots which should accept all industry standard GBIC modules. TP-Link sell their own range of GBIC modules, however one omission in their range are 1000Mbps RJ-45 GBICs so you would have to try using Cisco, HP or another brand if you wanted to use the two SFPs as your trunk ports to upstream switches.
The second thing you notice is the volume. None, nada. The switch is totally silent being passively cooled which is fantastic for my study come home office. My previous use Cisco 2950T switch quotes 47 dB on the Cisco product specification, then add a decibel or two for dust and age of the fans.
Start-up and restart of the switch takes about two to three seconds which is really fast if ever you need to. Configuration is simple thanks to the webmin although TP-Link have console access and Telnet and SSH access too via a Cisco-a-like CLI. The commands in the CLI are fairly syntax akin to Cisco with subtle differences just enough to keep them out of patent infringement but close enough that with the Tab key, most users who know Cisco IOS could tab their way through completing the commands.
The web interface is good and easy to navigate. My only problem with it was that configuring VLANs and assigning them to ports wasn’t as obvious as I would have liked. Creating port channel groups (LAGs) is easily achieved although one item to note is that I like to hard set my LAG ports to the required interface speed, and changing the port from a standard port to a LAG port sets the port speed and duplex back to Auto leaving you to force it back again.
My only problem with the switch relates to firmware updating. After configuring a few bits and pieces on the switch, I noticed the option for firmware update and checked the TP-Link website to find an update available. I downloaded and installed the update only to lose access to the switch afterwards. It appears that updating the firmware causes the switch to reset to factory defaults, causing me to have to re-configure my machine with a static IP in the 192.168..0.0/24 range to access it and configure it again.
Performance wise, I connected two machines, a desktop and a laptop to the switch. One of the machines has an SSD, the other conventional SATA HDD disks. I performed a file copy from the SSD machine to the HDD machine and the transfer speed was sustained at 74MB/s (Megabytes) which to me looks to be the limitation of the disk and disk subsystem and not the switch. With two machines SSD to SSD, it wouldn’t surprise me if I could max out the gigabit link at 100MB/s (Megabytes).
I haven’t fully explored all the features as they are beyond my needs, but some of them include DSCP and QoS configuration, port security, 802.1x authentication, Layer 2 to 4 firewall, switch clustering and more.
For general home use, this switch is totally over the top and I would suggest actually a TL-SG1008D which is an unmanaged 8 port gigabit switch without the SFP slots. For IT pro at home and power users, this switch is fantastic. For £80 you can’t beat the fact that you are getting (including the SFPs) ten ports of gigabit Ethernet without wasting any of its watts on noise and cooling. It supports so many features that it quite frankly makes Cisco and other high end brands look woefully overpriced and under specified; the Cisco 2960 Express which is an analogous form factor and targets the same sort of market is over £500 and only allows you to configure firewall policies up to Layer 2. Based on just these comments, I couldn’t recommend this switch highly enough.
For small businesses on the other hand, I would not recommend this switch on the basis that updating the firmware causes it to totally factory reset it’s configuration which could leave the uneducated types stuck wondering what is wrong and why they have to access to any network resources, but with that said, that only applies if you are using VLANs and your native VLAN isn’t the switches default VLAN of 1. If you aren’t using VLANs or you are, but your native VLAN for access devices is VLAN 1 then by all means, purchase away.