Review: Mototech Dual E-Switch 8

Review date: 14 September 1999.
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.


A proper eight port 10/100 duplex compatible switch for about the same price as a an eight port 10/100 hub sounds like a misprint. Switches are supposed to be big and black and expensive, as befits their network-accelerating function (see the sidebar to the right, if you're wondering what exactly that function is). But this one's the size of a hub with the same number of ports, runs from a mains plugpack just like a cheapo hub, and only costs $240 (Australian dollars).

For comparison, you'll have a hard time finding a plain eight port hub with 100BaseT compatibility for the same money; 10BaseT-only eight port hubs are roughly half the price. Most switches with the Mototech's specs cost upwards of $AU600.

What you get

Mototech switch

The Mototech is a nicely turned out unit, with a pleasingly solid steel case. Its power supply plugpack is a weighty 1.5 amp 9 volt unit, and apart from that all you get is some stick-on rubber feet, a warranty card and a single sheet brochure-manual. Since a switch like this is essentially a plug-and-go proposition, though, there's no need for exhaustive documentation; the manual tells you how to cascade the Mototech to another switch or hub, and what all the little lights mean; other than that, there's not much to know.

Setting up

Getting the Mototech working is not exactly a brain-teaser. Plug in power pack. Plug in network leads. Observe network now working better. Continue with everyday life.

Fancier switches with remote administration capabilities and multiple interface types can require more thought at the setup stage, but the Mototech is as easy to use as any ordinary hub.

Using it

Because the Mototech supports duplex mode, any computer which is the only device hanging off one of the Mototech's ports can have twice the normal bandwidth available to it. Duplex mode sacrifices collision detection to get another data transfer line, so devices that use it can send and receive simultaneously. But without collision detection, only two devices can be on the network segment at any given time, so you've got to have a switch or similar network segmentation device, or a grand total of two computers on your whole network.

The actual effect of duplex mode on performance is, for most applications, slight, since most network transfers involve a lot of data going one way and comparatively little going back. Servers that push a lot of data both ways, though, will get a great deal more responsive, and you might as well turn duplex on if you can use it. It never hurts.

Buy one!

At this price, small networks which don't actually really need a switch might as well get one. If you were going to buy an eight port 100BaseT compatible hub, the Mototech is essentially the same price, but better. You're looking at a bit more money if a 10BaseT hub is the alternative, but still not much more than a hundred bucks Australian.

(Aus PC Market don't sell this switch any more, but they have lots of better networking gear.)

What the heck's a switch?

In a regular 10BaseT or 100BaseT network (check out my networking guide for all the definitions you could ever want), every computer on the network shares the available bandwidth, be it 10 megabits or 100 megabits per second. If ten computers are trying to talk at once on a 10BaseT network, they get one megabit per second each - but the "collisions" caused by their simultaneous chatter actually give them even less.

You can stick 90 computers on a plain Ethernet network like this, and if none of them use the network much, it'll work. If some computers have 100BaseT network cards and some only have 10BaseT, though, the whole network will be choked back to 10BaseT speed, because the ordinary hubs that connect them all together can't keep the fast machines from talking to the slow ones, even if the data they're sending is intended for another fast machine. And, realistically, 90 computers on one Ethernet segment will cause traffic problems galore.

To cut down the chatter, you can use a switch, which chops the network up into smaller segments, each of which can have its own hub or hubs, or just be one computer. Traffic only escapes a segment when it's actually addressed to a computer on a different segment, and it doesn't pollute any other segments on the way.

A switch has enough brains to know what machine addresses are on each side of it, and block the passage of traffic addressed to a section of network which does not contain the intended recipient of the data.

Switches also let you mix 10BaseT and 100BaseT; when a 100BaseT segment communicates with a 10BaseT one they both must run at 10BaseT speed, but when Fast Ethernet segments communicate with each other, everything steams along at full speed.

Give Dan some money!
(and no-one gets hurt)