Linksys SRW224 review
The number of companies in the UK still using shared Ethernet has dropped massively over the past four years. The tally is now down to single-figure percentiles at the workgroup and small businesses level. It’s not surprising, as prices for switched Ethernet are now at rock bottom with basic costs per switched Fast Ethernet port panning out at little more than a fiver each.
Linksys, now part of the mighty Cisco empire, has been one of the vendors that has driven these prices down and has traditionally focused on the home and SoHo markets. The SRW224 marks its move up the food chain, as this is the first Ethernet switch from the company that combines dual-speed ports with fibre and copper gigabit uplinks and remote management capabilities. With the inclusion of the latter the switch also supports a basic range of features including VLANs, port trunking and 802.1p prioritisation.
The SRW224 looks well designed with a sleek brushed aluminium chassis, but weighs next to nothing, so care should be taken to avoid damaging its shell. A lack of internal fans also means the air vents on each side must not be obstructed in any way. But a big bonus is silent running – something a small office will appreciate. The ports are accompanied by a basic LED matrix showing link status and activity but only the gigabit ports indicate negotiated speeds. You get a pair of copper gigabit ports and one is accompanied by a mini-GBIC port, and being ‘dual personality’ means you can use one or the other but not both at the same time.
Installation should be a cinch and Linksys ensures that it is: you simply point a browser at the unit’s default IP address. You can use the CLI via a local serial port connection but access is limited to basic switch functions, such as the default IP address, changing the password and running firmware uploads. The browser interface is a simple affair that’s easy enough to use. You can create port and 802.1q tagged VLANs, divide ports into trunk groups for bandwidth aggregation and apply different traffic priorities to specific ports.
Our only request is for the manual writer to be shot, as the documentation is virtually devoid of any useful help. Apart from pointing out the obvious differences between copper and fibre optic cables and the typically vacuous glossary, it doesn’t even explain what VLANs, port priorities and trunk groups are and why you might want to use them.
Linksys wouldn’t tell us what the switch’s backplane capacity is but our performance tests showed it capable of handling high traffic levels. With 12 ports hooked up to a SmartBits SMB-6000B switch-testing chassis, we saw the SRW224 deliver a clean sheet for forwarding efficiency with 100 per cent traffic loads at 64- and 1518-byte frame sizes. Latency at full traffic loads was also good, with the backplane switching 64-byte frames in 11 microseconds and 1518-byte frames in 127 microseconds, which compares well with the competition.
Along with good overall performance the SRW224 is offering some useful management features. It’s good value for small businesses moving from shared Ethernet or simply increasing their switched port count.