Gigabit Switch vs Fast Ethernet Switch: What Is the Difference?

Updated on Dec 30, 2021

Fast Ethernet switch and Gigabit Ethernet switch play a significant role in the network edge. What is the difference between the Gigabit switch and the Fast Ethernet switch? Which one is more suitable for you? Let’s first go through the basic principles of Gigabit Ethernet and Fast Ethernet switch, then we will compare the two types of Ethernet switches to help you make a viable decision.

Fast Ethernet Switch: Still Can Be Used As Desktop Switch

Fast Ethernet is known as the updated version of the original Ethernet that further enhances the speed of Ethernet - It pushed the transfer rate of Ethernet from 10 Megabit per second (10 Mbps) to 100 Megabits per second (100 Mbps). Meanwhile, the Fast Ethernet switch also supports the 10/100 protocol which is capable of working at 100 megabits per second. Typically loaded with RJ45 ports, the Fast Ethernet switch works over Cat5 cables to connect PCs, servers, routers, etc. Many Fast Ethernet switches also feature high-speed uplink ports where copper/fiber modules can be used to connect fiber optic or UTP cabling supporting speeds of 1Gbps or more.

Figure1: Fast Ethernet Switch

                                                          Figure1: Fast Ethernet Switch

Gigabit Ethernet Switch: Address Bottleneck at the Network Edge

The Gigabit Ethernet is ten times faster than its predecessor, Fast Ethernet. It is designed to address the high speeds needs of internet service providers. Gigabit Ethernet switch, the higher version of Fast Ethernet switch, supports the transmission speed up to 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) (1000 Mbps). It is also backward compatible with the legacy 10/100 standard. Usually built with multiple RJ45 interfaces and/or SFP slots, the Gigabit network switch works well using twisted-pair copper cable (specifically, the cat5e and cat6 cables that follow the 1000BASE-T cabling standard), as well as SFP optical transceivers working on corresponding patch cable types. It’s common that some Gigabit Ethernet switches also have a couple of 10G SFP+ ports for uplinking a higher speed 10GB switch. For more detailed information about the Gigabit switches, you can click: What Is a Gigabit Switch?

Figure2 Gigabit Ethernet Switch

                                                          Figure2: Gigabit Ethernet Switch

Gigabit Switch vs Fast Ethernet Switch: What Is the Difference?

Aside from the notably enhanced transfer speed and improved performance, the Gigabit Ethernet switch differs from Fast Ethernet switch in the following aspects.

Cost: According to IDC, each Gigabit Ethernet port costs four times as much as a Fast Ethernet port. The price gap between the 1 Gigabit switch and the Fast Ethernet switch may be the most significant factor impacting network engineers’ decision on upgrading.

Feature Sets: The Gigabit switch is usually built with the latest network management features, allowing network administrators to assign QoS and security policies to specific applications. These advanced features help guarantee service level agreements and enhance security. Fast Ethernet switches with similar management and security functions often demand a premium, in order to narrow the price gap compared to the Gigabit Ethernet switch.

Power Standard: The original PoE technology delivers 12.94 watts for wireless access points and other IP-enabled device. This fails to satisfy the power requirements of the newer equipment. The latest Gigabit switches support the enhanced PoE+ standard that delivers 30 watts of power. Still, vendors are not updating their existing Fast Ethernet switches with the new power standard.

Power Consumption: Except for providing higher bandwidth and more robust management, Gigabit Ethernet switches are also more energy efficient than Fast Ethernet switches. Enterprises could lower their power consumption by deploying Gigabit Ethernet switch at the network edge.

Future Growth: Compared to the Fast Ethernet switch, the Gigabit switch with great flexibility prepares your local area network for the upcoming convergence or the next technology refresh.

Gigabit Switch vs Fast Ethernet Switch: How to Choose?

Before choosing between a Gigabit Ethernet switch and a Fast Ethernet switch for your network, you'd better take your current deployment, budget, requirements for transmission speed, and future needs into consideration.

Fast Ethernet Switch-----Slower Speed at a Lower Price

The cost of Gigabit switches has dropped dramatically, so even common users can afford to have it at home or in small businesses. Certainly, there are many good reasons to migrate to Gigabit switch as they boast obvious advantages of speed and performance. At the same time, not every type of business requires that speed. If you only plan to expand your internet traffic to 100Mbps and beyond, or simply use the internet for non-resource-intensive tasks like e-mail, instant messaging, or surfing the web, you may not see enough benefit to upgrading to Gigabit switch. Instead, a Fast Ethernet switch that has one or more Gigabit uplinks can also justify the need.

Gigabit Ethernet Switch-----Faster Speed and Great Flexibility at a Higher Price

If you need to perform other network-intensive tasks, such as hosting files on a server, or playing online games, you would likely benefit from a Gigabit switch. In addition, medium to large enterprises that have multiple users that access the same network device, or need to add devices that require PoE+ for power, might want to consider upgrading the edge to Gigabit because it will be more efficient. The Gigabit switch comes in various port configurations, such as 8 port Gigabit switch, 16 port Gigabit switch, 24 port Gigabit switch, etc to satisfy different cabling needs.


What is the meaning of 10 100 1000 Ethernet port?

The 10/100/1000 Ethernet port represents the data transfer speed that piece of networking hardware can handle. And note that, a Gigabit network switch supports up to 1000 Mbps, and it also can negotiate connections with slower devices that operate at 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps.

Is 10/100 Ethernet fast enough for gaming, streaming audio, streaming 4K UHD TV?

For some number of stations on the same LAN, and some level of traffic, 100Mb/s is fast enough for gaming, streaming audio and streaming 4K UHD TV. And if 100Mb/s isn’t enough, Gigabit Ethernet (1000Mb/s) will be the answer for you.


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