A Simple Guide to Ethernet Switch vs Hub vs Router and How They Work

Comparison between Different Network Devices – Ethernet Switch vs Hub vs Router

This blog post will help you understand the comparison between Ethernet switch vs hub vs router and how they work. You’ll also learn which device is best for your home or office. Whether it’s an ethernet hub, repeater, splitter, ethernet switch, or router, all of this equipment is utilized to extend the network‘s reach. Devices may have similar functions, yet they all have unique applications. So let’s get started straight with the ethernet hub vs switch vs router comparison table.

Ethernet Switch vs Hub vs Route
Ethernet Switch vs Hub vs Router

I would also recommend you to read about VLANs, VLAN tagged vs untagged, and VLAN Trunking Protocol topics to grasp the basic understanding of networking.

Ethernet Switch vs Hub vs Router Comparison table

CriteriaHub or RepeaterSwitchRouter
OSI LayerLayer 1 - Physical layerLayer 2 - Data link layerLayer 3 - Network layer
FunctionHub - Hub repeats every signal it receives via any of its ports out every other port. For Example - To connect a network of personal computers, you can join them
through a central hub. A hub can be a repeater.

Repeater - Repeaters are usually used to extend a connection to a remote host or to connect a group of users who exceed the distance limitation of
10Base-T. A repeater cannot be a Hub.
A switch, in contrast, keeps track of which devices are on which ports and forwards frames only
to the devices for which they are intended. Switches allow connections to multiple devices, manage ports, manage VLAN security
A router connects two or more networks together for example - it connects a LAN to the WAN.
Data Transmission formelectrical signal or Bitsframe & packetpacket
Port2/4/12 portsMultiport, usually between 4 and 482/4/5/8 or more ports depends on the vendor and type
Transmission typeFrame flooding, unicast, multicast, or broadcastThe first broadcast, then unicast or multicast, depends on the requirementAt Initial Level Broadcast then Uni-cast and multicast
Device typeNon-intelligent and Passive device - Do not alter frames
or make decisions based on them in any way.
Intelligent and active device - Can alter frames
or make decisions based on them.
Intelligent device - Can alter IP received data packets
or can make decisions based on them.
Possibility of CollisionHigh possibility because Hubs repeat inbound signals to all ports, regardless of type or destinationNo Possibility - Switch can only forward a broadcast to a particular network segment or VLAN.No Possibility - Operates outside of the ethernet segment and on Layer 3.
Used in(LAN, MAN, WAN)LAN (Hubs are mostly used on user desks or in-home where 2-3 devices need to be connected)LAN (You can use switches inside the home as well if you have heavy network usage applications like multiplayer games or music file sharing.)LAN, MAN, WAN
Transmission modeHalf-duplexHalf/Full duplexFull duplex
Speed10Mbps10/100Mbps, 1Gbps1-100Mbps(wireless); 100Mbps-1Gbps(wired)
The address used for data transmissionMAC addressMAC addressIP address
STP - Spanning Tree ProtocolSTP is not possible.STP is possible.STP is not possible.
Store MAC AddressNOYesYes
AdministrationNot manageableManageableManageable
Broadcast DomainSingle Broadcast DomainA switch can create multiple Broadcast Domain through VLANs.Broadcast Domain ends at the router.
Collision DomainA hub generally expands a collision domain through all portsAn Ethernet switch creates a collision domain on each port
CostLess Costly than a SwitchCostly, it mostly depends on the number of ports and speed of the ports.Costly
CollisionsCollisions occur mainly in setups using Hubs.No Collisions.No Collisions.
Possibility of Broadcast StormHigh ChancesFewer chances.No Chance of broadcast storm.
Which is faster switch or hub or a router?Hub is slower than switch. Hub ports are usually 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps maximum.Switch is faster than Hub. They can provide 100 Mbps, 1 Gbps, 10 Gbps and 100 Gbps port speeds.Routers are almost equally fast as switches or, in some scenarios, faster than switches.

After going through the above comparison table for ethernet switch vs hub vs router, let us look at each device separately and understand what they have to offer.

Splitter vs Repeater vs Hub
Splitter vs Repeater vs Hub

What is a splitter?

When separating a network connection, Ethernet splitters are the most user-friendly solution. The gadget is a coaxial cable transmission system that divides a single cable into two.

Unlike hubs and switches, which require an external power source, a splitter is a passive device. In addition, they’re the most straightforward and most user-friendly to set up and utilize. Splitters are primarily used on a user desk or in a house where a single connection is coming, and you need to connect two devices. The optimum application for splitters in a home or business is to limit the number of long cables that you must run between rooms.

What is a repeater?

A repeater is a device that repeats a signal. Repeaters are typically used to extend a connection to a remote host or connect a group of users separated by a distance greater than the 10Base-T maximum distance limitation, 100 meters.

What is a Hub?

An ethernet hub is essentially a device with multiple ports that connects two or more Ethernet cables, allowing their signals to be repeated to every other port in a single network.

For this reason, hubs are sometimes referred to as repeaters; nevertheless, it is crucial to note that while a hub is a repeater, a repeater is not always considered a hub.

In other words, a hub is like a repeater, except that a repeater may only have two connectors, but a hub can have many more, and it repeats a signal over many cables instead of just one.

What does a hub do?

A network hub connects multiple ethernet devices on a network and provides a conduit for data broadcast between them.

In today’s network, hubs are typically used on a user desk where the single cable comes to the desk, and the user wants to split and be connected to multiple devices, like two laptops, a projector, a printer on the same desk. Although this is not a good practice, you must connect one cable to a single device. For this reason, You can also use hubs to expand the size of a network by allowing more devices to be connected.

Hubs main features are:- 

  • Hubs are predecessors of ethernet switches.
  • A hub is a multi-port repeater that has many ports. The several ports on the device accept ethernet connections from various network devices.
  • A Hub is considered the least intelligent device because it does not filter data and does not know to which destination the data is supposed to be transmitted. 
  • When a data packet arrives at one of the ports, it is automatically copied to all the other ports. As a result, the data packet is received by all the devices, even though not intended for them.
  • A hub generally has 4 to 12 ports.
  • Hubs are purely physical and electrical devices
  • Hub works on the Physical layer of the OSI model.
  • Hubs are simple devices and not as smart as switches as routers.
  • The majority of packet collisions occur within a hub.
  • Hubs are primarily used on a user’s desk, home networks, or smaller LAN environments.

Types of HUB

  • Here are two kinds of Hub: Active Hub and Passive Hub

Active Hub

  • An active hub has a power supply. It is a multi-point repeater and can regenerate signals in the network.
  • It can also clean, improve, and relay the signal along with the network.
  • The device can be used both as a repeater and a wiring center.

Passive HUB

  • As the name implies, it is a passive device meaning it does not have its power supply and relies on the active hub or external device.
  • A passive hub is a connector that connects wires coming from other systems.

Advantages and Disadvantages of HUB

Advantages of a HubDisadvantages of a Hub
It is a simple-to-use device.It is an unintelligent device as they do not alter frames or make decisions based on them in any way.
It can be used as a repeater to extend a connection strength distance greater than 100 meters.Hub can only support half-duplex.
Hub can use it for network monitoring.It has only one collision and broadcast domain.
You can use hubs inside small home networks, or only sharing and signal repetition is required.Hubs cannot differentiate devices and are not smart, so you should not use them in large networks.
It is not secure as it can broadcast data and send it to an unintended user.
Hubs don't offer dedicated bandwidth.
You cannot reduce or increase network traffic when using Hubs.
It does not support VLANs or STP.

What is a Switch?

The switch was the next logical step in the development of Ethernet. Compared to hubs, switches are more involved in the frame forwarding process. Remember that a hub repeats every signal it receives via any of its ports out of every other port. On the other hand, a switch maintains a record (mac-address-table) of connected devices and ports and forwards frames exclusively to those devices.

Ethernet Switch is also a multi-port network bridge or a bridging device since it connects network segments.
Besides, a network switch can accomplish everything a hub can do more efficiently, including identifying the source information’s intended destination.

What does an Ethernet switch do?

Ethernet switches send frames only to specific devices having specific mac addresses and only intended to receive that frame.

So now the question comes:-

How does the switch decide where to send the frames transmitted from different devices on the network?

Every frame has a source and destination MAC address field, and a switch opens up (if it needs to) that frame and looks at that information. Then it cross-verify that source MAC address in its table. If the source MAC address is not present in the table, it adds the MAC address and the port into the table. This table is referred to as the content-addressable memory table ( CAM table) in CatOS and the MAC address table in IOS holds a map of which MAC addresses have been detected on which ports and is used to identify which ports have been discovered.

The switch then identifies the destination MAC address of the frame and examines the table to see whether there is a match. If there is a match, that frame is only forwarded to that port. The frame is transmitted to all ports if a match is not found.

Ethernet switches can segregate network devices into groups by using VLANs.

Types of Switch

Below are the main types of switches:-

Manageable Switches

As the name implies, manageable switches are manageable locally and remotely.

You can assign an IP address on a console port of a manageable switch to manage it remotely.

Manageable switches are mainly two types.

Fixed-configuration switches

Fixed-configuration switches are smaller, usually 1 RU and up to 48 ports. These switches are designed for situations where larger switches are unnecessary.

Cisco 2950, 3550, and 3750 switches are fixed-configuration switches.

Modular switches

A Modular gigabit switch is bigger, usually 2-10 RU, and has more than 100 ports. These switches are designed for larger and high-speed networks.

Cisco 6500,4500 are modular switches.

Unmanageable Switches

You cannot manage an unmanageable switch from a remote location.

It is impossible to assign an IP address as there is no console port.

Advantages and Disadvantages of an Ethernet Switch

Advantages of an Ethernet SwitchDisadvantages of an Ethernet Switch
Switches have port ranges between 8-48 ports suitable for small and large Local Area Networks. You can use switches inside the home as well if you have heavy usage applications like multiplayer games or heavy music file sharing.Switches with more ports are costlier.
Switches are more Intelligent than hubs and have many features, including device identification, layer2 security, flood identification, prevention, Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), etc.You need networking knowledge to configure a switch properly. A wrong or improper switch configuration can do disaster in the network.
The switch reduces the number of broadcast domains.Switches are not as good as routers in limiting a broadcast; however, nowadays, there are layer3 switches that can handle broadcasts like routers.
The switch supports VLANs for logical port segmentation.Some switches only support normal VLAN ranges from 1-1005 and do not support extended VLAN range(1006 to 4094). Therefore, you should always check a switch VLAN limits as per your requirement.
Switches can use the CAM database or MAC address tables to map the port to MAC.Some switches have a specific limit for MAC address tables; you should always check the maximum CAM database size before deploying switches.
Switches are robust and can handle broadcast and multicast packets.Although switches can handle broadcast and multicast packets well, handling Multicast packets in switches requires careful planning and design.
Administrators can manage VLAN security and turn ports on and off using intelligent ethernet switch features.Again these advanced features need proper networking knowledge and careful planning.

Conclusion: Which One Should You Use – An Ethernet Switch or A Hub?

To conclude, the ethernet switch vs hub debate is that you should always pick a switch if you have to decide between these two. But if a hub is readily available, you can still use it for a tiny network but should not connect more than three to four devices to it. On the other hand, you must use a manageable Ethernet switch with all the functionalities you need for a more extensive network, as discussed in the switch advantages section. 

I hope you liked the topic, please share.

Are hubs still used today?

Hubs have been largely replaced by network switches, except in very old installations or for very specific applications, since the introduction of network switches. Repeaters and hubs have been deprecated by IEEE 802.3 as of 2011. More details on this Wikipedia article about ethernet hubs.

Why are hubs slower than switches?

Hubs operate only at half-duplex and cannot send and receive data at the same time, that’s the reason they are slower than switches and routers.

Each port on a 10/100Mbps switch gets a full 10/100Mbps, unlike a Hub. In other words, no matter how many computers are sending data, everyone will always be able to use their full share. When it comes to network connectivity, switches are superior to hubs because of these reasons.

Does an Ethernet hub reduce speed?

If you are the only one (or two to three other devices) utilizing it, the hub will not slow down your internet speed. But if the same number of users start to send and receive traffic at the same time, hubs will drastically reduce the network speed.

And the reason is hubs can only work on half-duplex and have less speed on ports (not more than 100 Mbps), so you can either send data or receive data at one point in time.

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Afroz Ahmad

My name is Afroz. I am a CCIE, and I have been working in Networking Industry for more than 14 years. Currently, I work as a Network Designer for a large Organization. I write about technical topics and challenges a Network engineer faces in day-to-day life in my blog. I love to teach people, and I believe in the simple concept that teaching makes you a better learner.

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