Have you ever wondered what that 10G SFP+ port was for on the back of your router? 10G is commonly used in the commercial and enterprise scene, but not always in your home or small office. Despite this, you might notice is slowly starting to creep up into powerful consumer routers from companies like Netgear.
One example is the Netgear Nighthawk X10 ad7200 router, which contains a single yet powerful 10G port on the back that works quite well despite Netgear’s claiming it will only support NAS storage devices. We have noticed the question of “will it work with anything else?” has been popping up more frequently, and commonly answered by others as no (which, is not true). So to cover all of the questions you might have in one shot, we set out to show that you can use other devices (ie, a switch) and how that could be useful to you. We will be doing so using a Zyxel Multi-Gig 12-Port Switch Web Managed Switch (Model XGS1210-12).
To show that you can make use of something like a Switch (and not “just” NAS storage devices), we plugged the switch into the back of the X10 and it immediately took to it. The switch popped up in the list of attached devices and we were able to plug devices via Ethernet into the switch where they are recognized just like any other switch.
The difference between the 10G switch and a normal Ethernet switch, is that you are connecting it to the router using a 10G DAC cable, which creates a 10Gbps bridge between the two devices. Normally, you’d connect a switch to a router using a normal Ethernet cable, which usually limits you to a 1Gbps connection, and then all of those devices on that switch are sharing the same 1Gbps connection. With the 10G switch connected via a DAC cable, all of those devices are sharing a much larger pipeline so that none of them are bogging down the connection for others on the switch.
Now, with the latest Ethernet standard, things are changing, but we will save that for another story in the future since not enough consumer devices make use of that just yet.
For now, let’s say we have 10 devices plugged into the switch via Ethernet, and each of these devices is a 1Gbps device. Thanks to that 10G DAC connection to the router, each of these devices actually has its own 1Gbps pipeline to play with. No more sharing, which greatly strengthens the use of a switch in your network, and the overall performance of everything connected.
This also means you can make use of devices that support 2.5Gbps (and sometimes other opportunities depending on the switch) over newer Ethernet standards (ie, Cat7, Cat8 cables) by simply plugging them into one of the two ports (for this model of a switch) that support up to 2.5Gbps. No need for learning how to use link aggregation or anything. Everything is simply plug-and-play.
All of this helps you when it comes to the speeds between all of your devices across your network more than anything. Mostly since the average consumer doesn’t have an internet connection fast enough to make use of anything beyond 1Gbps. However, when you need one device to access another device within the network (ie, Xbox One for streaming to a PC, or a media server for streaming your digital video/music content, or accessing a 1080p or 4K security camera to view its feed), the connection between the two devices won’t be bottlenecked (or at least, as bottlenecked) as it would be if many of those devices were sharing the same Ethernet connection back to the router. It’s technology like this that keeps Ethernet alive, despite WiFi speeds growing so fast.
The only caveat is the fact that 10G SFP+ devices are a bit more expensive. Then again, if you are spending that much on a router that supports it, chances are that you are willing to pay a little more for performance. An average managed/unmanaged Ethernet switch would run you around anywhere within $10-$60 typically. A managed/unmanaged 10G SFP+ switch will likely run you between $100-$200+.
So how about the performance of this switch?
As mentioned, in our demonstration, we are using the Zyxel Multi-Gig 12-Port Web Managed Switch (Model XGS1210-12). This switch will run you around $179-$196 on average (at the time of this story). It was a plug-and-play connection to the router using the DAC cable where it immediately began to work like any normal switch would (only far more powerful).
The DAC cable is very user-friendly. You just have to treat it well since it is more durable than your typical rugged Ethernet cable. These DAC cables can come in two flavors. You can buy the cable and the modules that attach to both ends separately, or you can buy DAC cables that come fully assembled (like the one we used in this scenario/test). You should handle them with care and store them in an anti-static bag when not in use.
You can get a more solid understanding of DAC cables by looking at the following video by Gigmedia that talks about their cables (just one of many brands available out there).
This model is a managed switch, so this means it takes things an extra step by including an onboard web-based interface that allows you to manage the devices connected to it (similar to your router). It shows you the stats of all of the ports in use and the speed of the devices connected to them. It also allows you to downgrade the speed of specific ports so if you want specific devices to only make use of a 10Mbps or 100Mbps connection (great for balancing a fully loaded switch that also makes use of the 2.5Gbps ports). There are other features you can make use of, such as VLAN and QoS, but either this may be a little too advanced for you (for this story), or your router already offers similar options, to begin with (ie, its own user-friendly QoS setup).
If the interface sounds confusing or you feel you don’t need any of that, you can simply look for an “unmanaged” switch (Zyxel offers an unmanaged version of this switch here). This will operate like any normal consumer switch that is plug-and-play and without any interfaces to play with.
Either way, connected to the Netgear X10, this switch immediately showed its strength. All of the ports displayed the exact connection speeds of the devices plugged into it and it had plenty of speed to offer everything. It has been incredibly user-friendly and filled with some of the most common features you’d expect within its price range.
There are a few things missing from the managed interface we would have liked to see, like the ability to separately control the down and up-stream speeds of a port vs only being able to switch between 10M, 100M, and 1000M overall. Some other switches will give you this ability, thus you can say a specific device can only make use of 60Mbps down and 10Mbps up. In the case of this switch, you can only switch the overall speed of the port between 10Mbps, 100Mbps, and 1000Mbps (and 2.5Mbps for ports 8 and 9). It would also have been nice to have the ability to name/title ports from the interface, which makes it easier to identify what each port is actually being used for, right there on the screen. Instead, they are listed by port numbers and anything else. So you have to walk over to the switch and trace everything down manually or inspect any physical labels you might have stuck to it.
Beyond that, this switch is a fantastic option for making use of your 10G SPF+ connection with those routers. Of course, you can use that connection for a NAS (network-attached storage) device as well, instead of a switch. This would allow you to set up a RAID setup within a NAS enclosure and store all of your media on there to be accessed by all of the devices on your network. Great for solutions like Plex. However, you can also use the switch, and then use the second 10G FPS+ connection on it for your NAS device, allowing you to reap the benefits of both worlds, all using the single 10G connection on the back of that router.
So it is safe to say that many of these routers would benefit from the use of any 10G SFP+ connection they may offer. You can plan to pay a bit more to do so, but the performance gain can be huge. Especially, if you are a graphic, sound, or video designer, that has their content spread around the network. Even more so if you are or someone else in the house is also a gamer, and you have many devices spread all over that are making use of the network. Maximizing your pipeline in every way possible is important for building out a powerful, yet stable, network both at home or at the office.
This switch proved to be an excellent demonstration of this. It performed just as one would hope for, and in ways better. It is missing a few basic features from the interface/settings (well, one of them isn’t so basic), but everything else about this switch shines. If you are looking to give this a try, this would make for an excellent model to go with (let it be the managed or unmanaged version).
$179 – $196
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
- IEEE 802.3 10BASE-TX Ethernet
- IEEE 802.3u 100BASE-TX Fast Ethernet
- IEEE802.3ab 1000BASE-T
- IEEE 802.3bz 2500BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet
- IEEE 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet
- IEEE 802.3x full-duplex operation and flow control
- Switching capacity: 66 Gbps
- Switching forwarding rate: 49 Mpps
- MAC address table: 16 K
- Packet buffer: 1.5 MB
- Jumbo frame support up to 12 KB
- Web-based management
- Auto-MDI/MDIX in all ports
- System password
- VLAN (Port supported)
- Port-based QoS
- 802.1p QoS
- Broadcast storm control
- Loop detection/prevention
- DHCP client
- Static Link Aggregation
- Port mirroring
- Weighted Round Robin (WRR) priority QoS
- IGMP snooping v1/v2/and v3 compatible
- Supported multicast groups: 128
- Firmware update
- 8 x RJ-45 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet port with metal shielding
- 2 x RJ-45 100/1000/2500 Mbps Ethernet port with metal shielding
- 2 x SFP+
- Hardware reset button
- PWR: Power
- Port 1~8: Link/Activity
- Green: 1000 Mbps
- Amber: 10/100 Mbps
- Port 9~10: Link/Activity
- Sky Blue: 2.5Gbps
- Green: 1Gbps
- Amber: 100Mbps
- Port 11~12: Link/Activity
- Blue: 10Gbps
- Green: 1000Mbps
- AC-to-DC external power adapter
- Input: 100-240V~50-60Hz
- Output: 12V DC/1.5A
- Item dimensions (WxDxH): 250 x 104 x 27mm(9.84” x 4.10” x 1.06”)
- Item weight: 768g (1.69 lb.)
- Packing dimensions (WxDxH): 306 x 225 x 64mm (12.04” x 8.86” x 1.06”)
- Packing weight: 1217g (2.68 lb)
- Power adapter
- Quick Start Guide
- Safety warning and DoC
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.
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Great, thank you. I have my eyes on this one. It’s too bad it doesn’t allow you to label the ports in the web interface. That would have been a deal maker right there. I might still consider this though.
Interesting switch – but unfortunately missing LACP (802.3AD) support – so kind of handicapped 🙁 At that price range, one would expect more!