Review: Best smart switches for under $500

Smart switches are typically targeted towards small and medium sized networks that don’t need the complete management capabilities and fine-tuning offered in fully managed switches. We looked at switches from six vendors.

best smart switches under 500 intro

Smart switches

Smart switches offer functionality found in managed switches, such as VLANs, port mirroring, and link aggregation. However, smart switches are typically targeted towards small and midsized networks that don’t need the complete management capabilities and fine-tuning offered in fully managed switches. We looked at switches from six vendors, the same vendors from our recent small business router review. So if you’re building an SMB network, reference both reviews to find a matching router and switch that meets your needs. Vendors include the big-name Cisco, popular home and business brands D-Link, Linksys, and Netgear, and also lesser-known names DrayTek and UTT Technologies. We setup and evaluated each switch and in this review we compare product in regards to price, features, and user-friendliness. Read the full review.

Cisco SG220-26P

Cisco SG220-26P

The Cisco SG220-26P is a smart plus switch providing 24 Gigabit PoE+ ports and 2 Gigabit SFP combo ports, with a MSRP of $949, but available online for around $450. This unit is set from the factory to get an IP via DHCP before setting itself to a default IP. If it gets an IP from your network, you can either check the client list on the router, or utilize the Cisco FindIT browser add-on to discover the IP of the switch and any other Cisco gear on the network. After logging into the web GUI, you see the Getting Started page with shortcuts to common settings. The GUI and navigation are simple and straightforward. We found this unit to be a solid offering with convenient help and advanced features, such as RMON, 802.1X authentication support, and access controls. The PoE+ support also offers a healthy 180 Watt budget among 24 of its Gigabit Ethernet ports.

D-Link DGS-1210-10P

D-Link DGS-1210-10P

The D-Link DGS-1210-10P is a Gigabit smart switch offering eight Gigabit PoE+ ports and two SFP ports, with a MSRP of $379.99, but available online for around $190. You can use the D-Link Network Assistant program to detect the switch on your network and configure the basic settings for IP and DNS addresses, admin password, time and date, and SNMP. It also allows you to perform basic maintenance, like upgrade the firmware, reboot the switch, backup/restore settings, and perform a factory restore. The first time you login to the web GUI, you’re presented with their Smart Wizard. After that, you’re taken to the Device Info screen. The GUI has a simple, yet still functional, look and feel. Though this unit offers the least amount of ports among switches we reviewed, it supports PoE+ with a 78 Watt power budget. It also supports advanced functionality, such as ACL rules, auto VLAN for voice and surveillance, RMON, and even a build-in RADIUS server for 802.1X authentication.

DrayTek VigorSwitch G1241

DrayTek VigorSwitch G1241

The DrayTek VigorSwitch G1241 is a 24-port Gigabit Ethernet switch with a MSRP of $290. This unit is set from the factory to get an IP via DHCP before setting itself to a default IP, which is convenient but not explained clearly in the documentation. After logging into the web GUI, you’re taken to the System Information page, which includes a graphical representation of the switch and the current state of the status lights for the ports, in addition to a text listing of the main system stats. The web GUI is very simple and straightforward. We found this DrayTek VigorSwitch to be a pretty basic switch, lacking advanced features such as PoE, SFP ports, RMON, and 802.1X authentication. It also could use improvement with documentation and help. However, it’s economically priced. And although the GUI has a very simplistic look and feel, we did like the port bandwidth utilization graph and the interactive image of the switch in the GUI.

Linksys LGS326P

Linksys LGS326P

The Linksys LGS326P is a smart switch proving 26 Gigabit PoE+ ports plus 2 SFP ports, with a MSRP of $599.99 and online prices of $500 or less. This unit is set from the factory to get an IP via DHCP before setting itself to a default IP. Once you login to the web GUI, you’re taken to the System Summary page, which includes an image of the front of the switch, but it doesn’t show the state of the status lights like some other switches do. The web GUI has two navigation menus. The Quick Start tab lists shortcuts to the main settings. The Configuration tab contains nearly all the settings.
On the very top-right of the web GUI, there’s a Help shortcut that usually leads to the full User Guide but it was a dead link for us. This Linksys unit has the highest online prices we saw and is most comparable to the Cisco switch. This unit offers the same amount of ports and supports many of the same advanced features, such as PoE, SFP, SNMP, RMON, and 802.1X authentication. It provides a little more power for the 24 PoE ports, at 192 Watts, but lacks a quick web GUI.

Netgear JGS524PE

Netgear JGS524PE

The Netgear JGS524PE provides 24 Gigabit Ethernet ports, 12 of which support PoE. The list price is $420 and it’s available online for around $260. You can utilize the Netgear ProSafe Plus program to detect the switch on your network and configure most of the settings. This convenient program prevents you from having to set your PC with a static IP to perform the initial setup or from having to search your DHCP list on your router for the assigned address. Though the D-Link unit we reviewed also offers a PC utility, it only allows configuration of basic settings and maintenance tasks. This model is economically priced for having 24-ports, but only half support PoE and it’s only 802.3af at 100 Watts max. Since it lacks SFP and other advanced features, this unit is best for basic networks or newbie IT pros, who might also find the Windows application more comfortable for configuration.

UTT Technologies SG 3124F

UTT Technologies SG 3124F

UTT Technologies doesn’t offer switches classified as smart; just managed and unmanaged. We decided to include the SG 3124F, a managed switch with 24 Gigabit Ethernet ports and 2 SFP Gigabit combo ports. The MSRP for this model is $339, but is available for around $300 online. The unit doesn’t come with DHCP enabled, so you must set a static IP to initially access the web GUI. We actually found that the default IP was incorrectly given in the manual, which added some confusion. After signing into the web GUI, you’re met with a Setup Wizard, which prompts you to set an admin password, IP details, edge or core switch configuration, and port mirroring. We found a couple of improvements that could be made, such as fleshing out the documentation and fixing dead links. Overall, it’s a fairly large, economical unit that allows you to centrally and remotely manage other switches. However, it lacks PoE and some advanced features, such as auto VLAN for voice, RMON, and 802.1X authentication.