Are currently used switches for Ethernet

Gigabit Ethernet vs. Fast Ethernet: What's the Difference?

Not all ethernet is created equal. There are two standards available today, Fast Ethernet and Gigabit, which are completely different speed interfaces. It is important to understand the difference between them and the one you should go for.

So that's where I bought a new ethernet switch, provided they all use the latest and greatest technology. I was wrong - I had a "Fast Ethernet" switch when I really needed a "Gigabit Ethernet" switch. It turns out there is a huge difference.

A quick lesson on Ethernet history

Ethernet was first introduced to the public in 1980 and it had a maximum throughput of 10 megabits per second. Fifteen years later, in 1995, an updated version of Ethernet was released. It was called "Fast Ethernet" - sometimes referred to as "10/100" - and had a throughput of 100 megabits per second.

Only three years later however a more balanced result newer version was introduced. It was called "Gigabit Ethernet" - or "10/100/1000" - and is currently the latest standard. Gigabit Ethernet has a maximum throughput of 1,000 megabits (or 1 gigabit) per second, hence the name.

There are faster interfaces. It currently uses 10 gigabits per second, but its use in consumer products is not yet widespread. An interface with 1,000 gigabits per second (Terabit Ethernet) is currently being developed.

Fast Ethernet? More like "fast" ethernet

Most modems and routers these days come with Gigabit Ethernet interfaces. Your home network is immediately equipped with the latest and greatest network speeds. As soon as you throw a Fast Ethernet device into the mix, your maximum network speed instantly drops by 90%. A previous article from us sums it up nicely:

“In order to fully utilize the maximum speeds, all devices in the transmission chain must have the desired speed or a higher speed. Suppose you have a media server with a Gigabit Ethernet card installed in your basement and a media console with a Gigabit Ethernet card in your living room, but you connect them to one another using a 10/100 switch. Both devices are limited by the 100 Mbit / s upper limit of the switch. In this case, upgrading the switch would significantly improve network performance. "

CONNECTED:Understanding routers, switches, and network hardware

I got myself into exactly this situation when shopping for ethernet switches. I went to Amazon, searched for "ethernet switch" and picked one near the top that had good reviews and was pretty cheap. I just assumed it was what I wanted and hit the buy button. But what I really bought was a slower Fast Ethernet switch instead of the Gigabit Ethernet switch I really needed.

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Fast Ethernet is still alive and well for some reason

If you do a search for "ethernet switch" on Amazon, the best result (at least for me) is a fast ethernet switch (this one to be precise). About half of all the results on the first page concerned Fast Ethernet devices that only support the measly 10/100 protocol.

I have no idea why this happens other than offering consumers a cheaper option when cost is more important than speed, but even then we're only talking about a few dollars difference.

What's More Important If You Don't Know Exactly Right for an Ethernet Device: It can be very easy to accidentally select Fast Ethernet when you really want Gigabit Ethernet.

This is especially true if the 10/100 or 10/100/1000 protocols are not mentioned in the listing titles. Someone may see the words "Fast Ethernet" and assume it's the latest and greatest without knowing what that term really means.

How will it affect my internet connection?

What if you do in the end a Fast Ethernet device rather than a Gigabit Ethernet device? Will your connection suffer? It depends on.

Unless you've switched to fiber, internet connection is very likely less than 100 megabits per second. Since a Fast Ethernet device supports 100 megabits per second, it can process more than your Internet connection can provide.

It's a bigger problem on your local network, though. If you have a mix of Gigabit and Fast Ethernet devices on your network, you are limited to that Fast Ethernet speed (100 Megabits) if your network is capable of much more (10 times 1000 Megabits). If you use your network to transfer large files, back up, and other high-bandwidth activities, you will notice a difference in the lower speeds.


In short, our advice is this. Buy Gigabit Ethernet devices instead of Fast Ethernet devices, even if they cost a little more. And make sure your ethernet cables are at least Cat 5e or Cat 6 for them to work at faster speeds too. Your local network will run faster, and if you get better internet speed in the future, your network will be ready to handle it.

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