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Unmanaged Switch vs. Hub: Are They the Same?

Updated on Dec 27, 2021 by
15.1k

Unmanaged switches and hubs are both networking devices that allow you to connect multiple devices to a single network. There are often some confusions between these two. Is an unmanaged switch the same as a hub? What's the difference between them? All answers are here.

Unmanaged Switch vs. Hub: What Are They?

Understanding Unmanaged Switch

Unmanaged switches are basic plug-and-play devices with no management or monitoring options. They are cost-effective compared to other switch types and provide essential switching functionality without the need for an IP address or advanced features like web or SNMP management. These switches come pre-configured and are ideal for small networks, such as home or small office/home office (SOHO) setups, where simple connectivity is required.

Despite their simplicity, unmanaged switches can offer features like Power over Ethernet (PoE), Quality of Service (QoS) management, security management, and loop detection. However, the configuration of these features is fixed and cannot be altered.

Understanding Hub

Hubs function like "extension cables" for networks, retransmitting all incoming messages to each connected device. Every device receives all messages, regardless of the intended destination, causing message collisions and unnecessary traffic, which can slow down network speed and lead to long response times. Hubs serve as central connection points in a network, sending data packets to all devices without filtering. There are two types of hubs:

  • 1. Active Hub: Has its own power supply and can clean, improve, and relay network signals.

  • 2. Passive Hub: Relies on power from connected devices and wiring, sending signals without boosting them.

Unmanaged Switch vs. Hub: How They Differ?

Since we know that unmanaged switches and hubs are not the same thing, then, what is the difference between them? Now I will illustrate the differences between them from the following five points.

unmanaged-switch-vs-hub

Network Layer

The Unmanaged switch is a data link layer device (layer 2). It records the MAC addresses of the computers connected to it in a tabular format. When the data packet arrives, it reads the destination address and sends it to the appropriate system rather than sending it to all connected devices.

A hub operates on the physical layer (Layer 1) of the OSI model. They lack inbuilt intelligence and cannot process Layer 2 or Layer 3 traffic, such as information based on MAC or IP addresses. It is responsible for bit-level transmission.

In summary, unmanaged switches are more intelligent than hubs as they operate at Layer 2 in the OSI model, whereas hubs function solely at Layer 1.

layer-1-vs-layer-2

Ports

Unmanaged switches usually have more ports than hubs and have a larger capacity to accommodate these ports. Different switches have different numbers of ports ranging from 4 to as many as 128 ports. On average, a switch is between 24 and 48 ports for wired connections. FS unmanaged switches are available in multi-port options like 24/16, as well as 4/8/12 ports, catering to diverse networking needs. In contrast, hubs are smaller and feature fewer ports. They typically range from 2 to 12 ports of different types, including Ethernet and DSL connections.

Connection

Unmanaged switches offer various connection options including USB, Ethernet, Firewire, and Wireless Mainstream unmanaged Ethernet network switches support either 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps, or 10/100 Mbps Ethernet standards. Networking hubs are also available for networks in USB, Ethernet, Firewire, and Wireless, with Ethernet being the most common choice for physical connectivity. They serve as cost-effective solutions for creating simple networks, especially at home.

Transmission Mode

Unmanaged switches offer more flexibility by supporting both half-duplex and full-duplex modes. This enables them to send and receive signals simultaneously, enhancing network efficiency and minimizing the risk of data collisions. FS's unmanaged switches typically support both half-duplex and full-duplex modes. For specific product capabilities, you can check the 1G SMB Switches section on the FS website. This section should provide detailed specifications.

On the other hand, The hub operates in half-duplex mode, allowing data transmission occurs in one direction at a time. They do not follow any policies for broadcasting data. This lack of data policy results in simultaneous data transmission by multiple connected devices, leading to data collisions and degraded network performance.

Application

Unmanaged switches can transfer data to any of the other devices. They are widely used in SOHO and SMBs. SOHO mostly uses a single unmanaged switch to access the various broadband services and devices. You can even build a small wireless home network with an unmanaged PoE switch because it can provide power to your PoE devices, such as TVs and laptops.

Hubs are mostly used in organizations for connectivity, they are mostly used for creating small networks or for network monitoring. All ports of the hub share one broadband, which may cause some poor network response time and collisions on the network. Thus, if you just want to use it on a small network where there are only a few users or devices and request no security or network speed, a hub is an option.

Conclusion

In summary, unmanaged switches and hubs serve different purposes within a network. Unmanaged switches are smarter, offer more ports, and provide better network performance, making them a preferred choice for small networks and businesses with basic networking needs. Hubs, while simpler and less efficient, can still be useful in very basic networking scenarios.

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