The IBM Etherstreamer 8271 ultimately has to emerge as the best product reviewed here. In spite of being short on ports and lagging behind the others in the fast uplink stakes, it is way ahead with its reassuring build quality and dependability, as well as its facility when it comes to installation and configuration. A very close second is the PlainTree clone, the Fibronics FX8616. It can really only be faulted for its lightweight accompanying documentation, otherwise it is soundly made and represents good value to the end user in comparison with other clones. The 3Com LinkSwitch is also good value from a user perspective, although it is worth noting that this is really best suited to a workgroup environment rather than a full enterprise-wide network.
Just because a switch is a clone of another does not mean that they will perform identically. For example, if the firmware used by two apparently similar switches is different, they can perform at totally different levels. An important distinction between switches is cost per port, which can put the quality of a well made switch into perspective. Comparitive figures for all five products are listed below.
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