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6 Reasons Why I Would Avoid a NETGEAR 5-Port Ethernet Switch

Are you considering buying a Netgear 5 port Ethernet switch for your home network? While a simple plug-and-play unmanaged switch may seem like an easy way to add more wired ports, there are several compelling reasons you may want to avoid entry-level consumer-grade switches like the popular Netgear GS305 for home use.

As an IT professional with over a decade of experience building and managing networks of all sizes, I‘ve seen the good, bad and ugly when it comes to Ethernet switches. While the GS305 and similar switches have their place, they often fall short for the needs of modern households. Before you pick up that temptingly cheap 5-port switch, consider these important drawbacks:

  1. Your home network will outgrow 5 ports very quickly
    The primary limitation of a 5 port switch is right in the name – it only provides 5 ports for wired devices. That may seem like plenty today, but home networks are growing rapidly. Think about all the devices you may want hardwired with Ethernet in the near future – multiple computers, a NAS (network-attached storage) device, gaming consoles, smart TVs, set-top streaming boxes, and more. As you add more and more devices, those 5 ports will fill up fast, leaving you needing to buy yet another switch.

When planning your home network, I always recommend choosing a switch with at least 8 ports, with 16 or 24 being ideal for future-proofing even for a small household. It‘s better to have some extra ports you‘re not using than need to daisy-chain multiple switches together.

  1. Unmanaged means un-configurable
    One of the biggest issues with cheap consumer-grade switches like the GS305 is that they are unmanaged – basically plug and play. You don‘t get any configuration options or advanced features, the switch simply passes traffic between the devices plugged into it.

While this simplicity makes setup easy, it greatly limits what you can do with your home network. With an unmanaged switch, you can‘t monitor traffic, adjust quality of service settings for certain devices or applications, create virtual LANs (VLANs) to isolate and secure devices, or access security features.

Spending a bit more on a "smart" or managed switch opens up a lot more possibilities and granular controls for your network, which is well worth it for power users, techies, and anyone who wants to get the most out of their home network. Being able to see what‘s happening on your network and optimize performance is a huge benefit.

  1. Cheaper build quality and reliability
    Another area where these bargain basement switches fall short is construction quality. Netgear‘s GS305 and other cheap switches use lightweight, flimsy plastic housings with poorly shielded ports. They‘re meant to be cheap and "good enough" for basic use.

In contrast, a higher-end unmanaged switch or managed switch from Cisco, Ubiquiti, or even TP-Link or Trendnet will have a more rugged metal chassis, shielded ports, better surge protection, and improved active cooling with vents or even fans. This improves long-term reliability and performance in harsher conditions.

I‘ve seen no-name unmanaged switches die after a year or two, while a quality switch will last 5+ years without breaking a sweat. Even if you‘re not pushing it to the limits, a well-built switch is cheap insurance and peace of mind for a stable network.

  1. No PoE support
    Power over Ethernet (PoE) is an extremely handy feature found on many managed and higher-end switches. It allows the switch to provide both data and power to devices using a single Ethernet cable, with no need for a separate power adapter.

This is great for devices like IP cameras, VoIP phones, wireless access points, and some smart home products that are PoE capable. You can locate them anywhere you have an Ethernet connection, even far from power outlets.

Cheaper switches like the GS305 lack PoE capability, so you‘ll need to use dedicated power adapters and outlets for each PoE device. If you anticipate using any PoE devices now or in the future, it‘s well worth getting a switch that provides PoE on some or all ports.

  1. Limited to Gigabit speeds
    The Netgear GS305 and comparable switches have a maximum speed of 1 Gbps (Gigabit) per port. When these switches came out, this was perfectly adequate, as most home internet speeds topped out far below 1 Gbps. But with the rise of fiber and other high-speed broadband options, it‘s increasingly common to have home internet speeds of 1 Gbps or even 2, 5, or 10 Gbps in some areas.

If you have or plan to get multi-gigabit internet speeds in the near future, you‘ll need a switch (and router and Ethernet cables) capable of faster speeds, or you won‘t be able to take full advantage of your connection. While 10 GbE switches are still quite expensive, reasonably priced 2.5 GbE unmanaged and managed switches are now available from brands like QNAP, TRENDnet, Zyxel and others. If you want your network to be ready for faster speeds, skip gigabit-only switches.

  1. Lack of support and documentation
    This probably goes without saying, but the level of documentation, firmware updates, and support you get with a cheap consumer-grade switch will be minimal at best. Maybe a quick start guide and very basic specs, but not much else. Netgear does offer a limited lifetime hardware warranty on the GS305, which is nice, but don‘t expect detailed support articles and how-to guides like you would get with an enterprise-class switch.

This isn‘t necessarily a dealbreaker for simple plug and play use, but it‘s something to be aware of, especially if you‘re newer to networking and may need some help. I‘ve wasted hours trying to find information on or troubleshoot cheap no-name switches. In contrast, you can easily find tons of documentation and configuration guides online for business-class switches from major brands.

  1. No VLAN or security features
    Unless you‘re routing all your traffic through a highly secure and configurable router or firewall, the lack of any VLAN or security features on an unmanaged switch like the GS305 may be a concern in some cases.

With a managed switch, you can segment your traffic with VLANs, keeping devices isolated for better performance and security. You can put less trusted smart home devices on their own VLAN, separate from your main computers. Managed switches also support security features like 802.1X authentication, ACLs, and DHCP snooping to prevent unauthorized access and attacks.

Cheaper unmanaged switches are essentially a wild west where any device can talk to any other. For a small, trusted home network this is probably fine, but the larger your network grows, the more you may want the ability to organize and secure it.

  1. More than you need for basic use
    While a small Ethernet switch can be useful for adding wired devices, in many cases it‘s overkill for typical home network needs. Most households will do just fine with a good Wi-Fi router and a couple Ethernet ports built in.

If you just need a couple extra ports, say to wire up a home office or entertainment center, you can probably get by without a dedicated switch. A basic Ethernet splitter is a cheap and easy way to share one Ethernet connection between two devices. For larger homes where the Wi-Fi doesn‘t reach, a mesh Wi-Fi system or powerline Ethernet adapters are also good alternatives.

Unless you have 5+ devices that absolutely need wired Ethernet for top speed and reliability, a small unmanaged switch may be more complexity than you really need to add to your network.

  1. Size and power consumption
    A final small downside of a cheap switch compared to a splitter is the larger form factor and power consumption. The GS305 and comparable switches have bulky wall wart power supplies, while a splitter just runs off the device. The switch also uses a few watts of power continuously, which adds up over time vs. a passive splitter.

For a small network setup where space and energy efficiency are priorities, even the small difference in size and power use between a simple splitter and a dedicated switch may be a consideration. Why add another power brick when you can avoid it?

  1. Better options for a few dollars more
    The GS305‘s low price point is tempting, but consider what you can get for just a small step up in cost:
  • Trendnet‘s 8-port unmanaged switch offers more ports and a metal housing for under $30
  • TP-Link‘s 8-port easy smart switch adds basic management features for under $35
  • Cisco‘s CBS110-8T-D 8-port smart switch brings enterprise features and quality under $70

When you look at the alternatives, the value proposition of a bargain-basement 5 port unmanaged switch starts to erode quickly. In most cases, I think it‘s well worth spending a few dollars more for the extra ports, improved quality, and additional features of a slightly higher-end switch, even for home use.

The bottom line: for a starter home network or adding connectivity to a few wired devices, a basic 5-port unmanaged switch will work. But in most cases, I would recommend starting with an 8-port or larger switch with at least a few advanced features to give your network room to grow. Taking the time to plan for your current and future needs will pay off in the long run.

As an IT pro, it pains me to see people buy cheap, underpowered network gear they quickly outgrow or that causes headaches down the road. Invest a little more up front and your network will thank you! With so many great options for homes and small businesses, there‘s little reason to settle for the rock bottom switch you‘ll likely need to replace soon anyway.