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Old January 13, 2018, 04:39 PM
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Default NETGEAR GS9098E - 8-Port Gigabit Ethernet Switch

Well, either I did something right or I did something wrong, but after I posted my battlestation (from the BlueMax build log on this site) I got a message from someone from Netgear asking me if I could review a product for them.

First time for me so I said what the heck. Although probably what I forgot to mention was that I am not exactly uber-net savvy, maybe on a scale of 1 (if I step on the network cable does it slow down my netflix) to a 10 (well if I was a 10 then I would be able to put something here that would make sense) I am probably around a 4. On the pure hardware side closer to a 7, which will be reflected a bit more in this review.

Anyway (and be gentle) here goes with my review...
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Old January 13, 2018, 05:12 PM
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On the surface, its not a bad looking switch. Taking a look at some of the promotional videos posted on line they show the device front and center in the workspace, presumably as a way to connect a bunch of network devices that you might have on your desk (say if you didn't have your router nearby).

Couple of random things that I liked:
- the power brick is low profile / right angle so if it's in the top receptacle of a wall jack then it's not going to interfere with the lower outlet
- there is a button to turn of the front LED - for me, if I actually had this thing on my desk, having a blinky flashy light can actually be distracting to some people (including myself) - definitely a neat touch
- Squirrel!

Things that don't really work out -
- their solution for cable management - while on the promo video it looks like it works like a charm, I did not have so much luck (see upcoming posts)

They did a good job with the industrial design - nice and clean looking (although I don't think the V-shaped side-walls would work well if it was wall mounted), with an unobtrusive blue LED on the front.
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Old January 13, 2018, 05:22 PM
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So, since I don't know the real in-depths of testing the networking side of things - I did the ignorant person's test and just checked out the one thing I think is important to me: does putting this inline with my network decrease my latency? I suppose through-put is also important although I didn't expect this to impact throughput at all.

So I ran some before and after speed tests - from the following you can see 3 tests without it inline (on the left) and 3 with it in line (on the right) - no impact to the performance (although while I am sure I ran this test 6 times and screen-capped each one, it seems oddly coincidental that there are two identical pairs of readings (one on each side).
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Old January 13, 2018, 05:31 PM
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For the next steps, I tried to follow the instructions to access the switch to check out the configuration options. Although try as I might, I couldn't get it to show up on my network devices. Network discovery was turned on, I tried disconnecting everything to it (incoming and out) except my computer and still nothing popped up. This might just be that I don't know what I am doing, or that the instructions weren't written correctly (I imagine its the former and not the latter) but it just wouldn't show up.

There was an option to download an app and try and connect to it using the phone, but that required setting up an account and I was not up for doing that.

So, the only other thing I can highlight is what was my biggest gripe - the "cable mgmt" solution at the back. Now I will try not to go overboard on this, but I have built a lot of hardware in the past and I am particularly fussy / picky about this (which is why all of my custom PC builds drive me crazy as they are never perfect or as pretty as what I see other folks doing), and I just can't figure out why they would've released the product like this.

The theory is - there are slots in the back of the case that cables are supposed to slot into, making them look clean and organized. And while I highly agree that some form of cable mgmt should be included with this type of product, this approach did not work.

Here is a closeup of the back of the switch - the slots for the cables are wedges (instead of a keyhole style) which means that even if the cables fit, they are going to naturally want to slide out. You can see from the picture that one of my network cables was soft/flimsy enough that I could jam it into the wedge (not a good idea in general) whereas the other blue network cable wouldn't fit in at all. Note that the power cord would fit if I had it vertically orientated.
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Old January 13, 2018, 05:38 PM
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The result of this design means that when you close the lid, it doesn't close all the way (unless you put a coffee cup on it, or perhaps a really heavy Warthog joystick on it). This ruins the clean lines of the device, and ultimately I don't think this was the correct approach anyway.

A couple of changes I would've made here:
1) As I mentioned above, use an upside down keyhole shape instead of a wedge - this means you can slide the cable through the tight spot on the top into a larger hole at the bottom where it will stay in place
2) Make sure that when the lid closes, that it can completely close flat - well technically this is how it is meant to work already but as you can see by the next pictures, my cables are a little thick and don't squish down into the slot (and the one that did is sort've coming back out)
3) Perhaps looked at a sideways exit option for the cables (see my next picture) - this could also be used in conjunction with the keyholes but would be more practical, especially with a wall mounted unit that will have all of the cables coming out in one direction

You can see from this picture that the top lid doesn't close all of the way.... Booooo....
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Old January 13, 2018, 05:40 PM
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This is how I would see the majority of installations going - all of the cables bundled and going out one end or the other. (see my quasi attempt to show how this would look).

This would take a little more space but ultimately would then look a lot nicer.
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Old January 13, 2018, 05:52 PM
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So, for a quick summary:

Functionally wise - on the surface it looks like it works like a charm. Easy to install, no impact on latency/throughput - a one stop shop to plug in a bunch of local devices (perhaps off a single run from a network jack) and I could see any small business (or heck even at home) where suddenly I realize that between my TV, my AppleTV, gaming console (if you have one, or 4), and my NAS that I need some more ports. And at under $100 its very reasonable.

And granted a lot of these devices can connect wirelessly, but to be honest I like using hardlines where possible. Just one less thing to go troubleshoot, or to have to re-enter because some new firmware update erased my network settings.

Unfortunately, from an esthetics perspective its a pass for me. I can't get past the obvious drawbacks / failure in the design of the cable mgmt that will cause the back-flap to not stay shut. Good news is that's easily rectifiable by re-jigging that one piece of plastic before attaching it to the main container. I also would've liked to been involved in the product mgmt. discussion / review of the device when they had the prototypes - did this issue not come up? Is it just me that has super fat RG45 cables? I used to be involved with making commercial hardware (I managed the product design life-cycle at Polycom for 4 years) and this should've been spotted pretty early on.

Well, that's all I have. Here's hoping they fix that one little mistake and then you would have a nifty little box here!
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Old January 13, 2018, 05:53 PM
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Yeah, poor design for sure. I don't see how a standard CAT5 cable would fit in those groves, only the super cheap low-gauge ones would. And now with CAT6 and CAT7 cables, there's no way.

Since Netgear sent you this - have you relayed back your comments to them? Maybe there's some "trick" to it?

I would personally say grab the cutting tool of your choice and notch out the end like you are thinking to allow all the cables to come out together.
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Old January 13, 2018, 06:22 PM
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Whether right or wrong, I just posted this without giving them a head's up of what I was going to post. I did keep it as objective as I could, but also spoke my mind (which granted has gotten me in a lot of trouble in the past).

As for your comment about whether there is a "trick" or not to the wedge issue, yours is a good suggestion: I could've reached out to them. But while I am not super savvy on the soft side of networking, my hardware skills are a little more advanced. Yes I could've drilled it out to make it work but no-one should have to do that (and most people won't have the tools to do it).

I forgot to ask if they want it back (I am guessing it's not worth the hassle to them) in which case I will post here to see if anyone wants it. Its still a very capable device but I already have a router (and I already ran 3 hardlines to my entertainment center so I am covered).
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