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

September 20, 2018

Not all network switches are created equal. Although there is a dazzling array of Ethernet switches with fancy feature sets, these switches can be judged by one primary factor: transmission speed. Fast Ethernet switch and Gigabit Ethernet switch have been around for over a decade, and both play a significant role in the network edge. So, what is the difference between the Gigabit switch vs 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 it to help you make a viable decision.

Fast Ethernet Switch: Still Can Be Used As Desktop Switch

Fast Ethernet is also 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). The Fast Ethernet switch 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.

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 today. Gigabit Ethernet switch, therefore, refers to the kind of Ethernet switch that operates at Gigabit Ethernet speeds - that is theoretically 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 interface and/or SFP slots, the Gigabit Ethernet switch works well using twisted pair copper cable (specifically, the cat5e and cat6 cables that follows 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.

gigabit 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, the Gigabit Ethernet ports cost four times the price per port compared to a Fast Ethernet switch. The price gap between the Gigabit switch and 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: The Gigabit switch on the network edge may prepare your local area network for the upcoming convergence or the next technology refresh.

Gigabit Switch vs Fast Ethernet Switch: How to Choose?

The cost of Gigabit switches has dropped dramatically, so even common users can afford to have it at home or in small businesses. You still have to weigh the choice between the Gigabit Ethernet and Fast Ethernet switch carefully. 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.

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.


We've run through the basics when it comes to Gigabit switch vs. Fast Ethernet switch, but which route you travel down is entirely up to you. It's important to understand when the Gigabit switch can offer an advantage and when it can't. Weigh the factors carefully before moving forward. FS.COM offers professional solutions and a complete set of the product line of network switch. For more details, kindly contact us at


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