File sizes on computers have increased without, for the most part, a corresponding increase in the speed of connections between computers on a home network. Most of us are tied to the 10/100 switch on our routers, even though our computers might have gigabit capability built into them. Memphist0 examines the Belkin 5-Port Gigabit Switch, which promised to help release that capability and satisfy the need for speed.
Speed has been the life blood of the computing industry. Speed increases fuel consumer upgrades. It is rare that consumers buy new computing equipment due to hardware failure. Typically when mentioning speed the talk is about faster processor, video cards, or even optical drives for home users. There is seldom much discussion about networking speed increases or upgrades for home users, but the speed increases are there.
For nearly two years Intel has integrated a gigabit network controller (NIC) in the 875 and higher chipsets. Many motherboard manufacturers have been incorporating gigabit NICs with chipsets not specifically designed for them, such as the nVidia nForce2 chipset and the AMD 9100 IGP. The odds are that almost all newer machines have a gigabit NIC of some sort. It is also a safe bet that the majority of those NICs are not being used to their potential.
Most users have not bought the supporting equipment for the gigabit protocol. Even users with multiple machines are probably only using a router to complement their broadband connection and to share files. Unfortunately, no one has offered an affordable router with a gigabit switch integrated into the router. For users that only have a single machine this is not a big deal; if their NIC is being used at all it is only for connecting to the Internet. The gigabit protocol will not help speed up an Internet connection unless it is a very expensive Internet connection. Even the fastest home and small business Internet connections operate at 5 megabits per second (Mbps) or less. The benefits of the gigabit protocol will matter most to those with multiple machines.
Over the last several years data storage has gone down tremendously in price. It is not uncommon to find machines with 300 GB hard drives and a gigabyte or two of memory. This works well to offset the large file sizes users create. More and more people have been creating larger multimedia files, including huge PowerPoint presentations, home movies, large audio files, and so forth. This poses problems when sharing these files across a network. A full double layer DVD can hold 8.5 GBs of data; transfering that amount of data between two machines with the previously standard 100 Mbps connection would take just under 15 minutes! A gigabit connection promises to speed up that transfer substantially.
There are a few questions that need to be answered about the gigabit protocol before running out and buying a gigabit switch, such as: how much of an improvement does a gigabit switch offer? How difficult is it to integrate with a existing network?
Today we look at and evaluate Belkin's 5-Port Gigabit Switch, Part No. F5D5141-5. Belkin also offers 8, 16, or 24 port gigabit switches. Belkin is the same company that seems to make almost everything in computer that is used outside of the computer's case. They are especially known for making high quality patch cables for networks.
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