ZyXEL XGS 1210-12 and XGS1010-12 multi-gigabit switches at 1/ 2.5/10 Gbps review

Do you know that 10-Gigabit Ethernet was introduced back in 2006, and was created mainly for file servers of small companies, and even after a decade and a half, it still remains a curiosity for many consumers in the small business environment. The reason is simple to the point of banality: there were no speeds for which you can invest in 10-Gigabit switches and expensive cable infrastructure. The concept of using personal laptops, wireless MFPs, smartphones and monoblocks required the development of wireless networks, and Gigabit wire, as a rule, was enough for everyone.

Progress did not stand still, and in order to somehow move things from the dead end, in 2015, network equipment manufacturers proposed intermediate standards Nbase-T (802.3 bz) with speeds of 2.5 Gbit/s and 5 Gbit/s. They solved the main problem that hindered the spread of 10-Gigabit networks in small businesses: they allowed the use of CAT-5 cable, that is, a conventional twisted pair with the same connectors as for 1-Gigabit networks. In fact, manufacturers offered to use existing cables for new fast networks, and from about 2015-2017, there were also available network controllers on Aquantia and Broadcom chips with support for 10GBase-T and NBase-T, which were used in top-end computers for enthusiasts and in NAS-s. But, again, these decisions did not cause any excitement.

Standard Number of bits per 1 cycle Requirements for the type of cable to connect to a distance of up to 50 meters Cable type requirements for connecting up to 100 meters Bandwidth, MHz
10Base-T 1 CAT3 CAT3 16
100Base-TX 3,2 CAT5 CAT5 100
1000Base-T 4 CAT5 CAT5 100
2.5GBase-T 6,25 CAT5 CAT5E 100
5GBase-T 6,25 CAT5 CAT6 250
10GBase-T 6,25 CAT6 CAT6A 500

The thing is that by the time the Nbase-T equipment went on sale, those users who were interested in high LAN speed had long since switched to 10 Gbit/s using optical or copper cable, and to include 2500BASE-X networks in projects, a driver was needed, and it appeared only at the beginning of 2020.

This driver is the wireless access points of the 802.11 ac and 802.11 ax standards, whose total bandwidth has long exceeded 1 Gbit / s and is limited to the possibility of a wired connection. Today, the availability of fast modern wireless access to the network has already become mandatory not only for commercial, but also for government facilities: in offices, hospitals, trains, MFC, conference rooms and pleasure boats, where yesterday they put access points 802.11 ac, today they are changing to 802.11 ax. And here the 2500BASE-X standard acts as an ideal cure for low speed: you do not need to move the cable and crimp chips: just change the access point and switch - and get an interconnect speed of 2.5 Gbit/s under the same conditions. A good competitive advantage, isn’t it?

Zyxel DGS 1210-12 and XGS1010-12

Of course, it is necessary that distribution switches support such high speeds, and Zyxel has recently introduced new universal budget switch models that combine 1, 2.5, and 10 Gbit/s ports in one package. According to the manufacturer’s plan, one such switch is installed on the entire object: whether it is a conference room, waiting room or hotel complex. A pair of 10-Gigabit SFP + slots is used for connecting optics to a backbone cable or data storage system, two 2.5-Gigabit RJ45 ports - for access points or workstations, and 8 regular 1-Gigabit connections - for distributing traffic to workplaces or other connections.


I have only one question: where did Zyxel see NASS with SFP + slots in 2020? All 10-GB models have long used copper cable, and the optics are only used in corporate machines for installation in a rack. Naturally, game motherboards that collect workstations and specialized boards also use the copper standard, and roughly speaking, 10-Gigabit optics can be found today, except on Supermicro boards… Although… if the client does not hesitate to Tinker, then a 10-Gigabit network adapter with one SFP + port can be purchased on Avito for about 20$. Naturally, this will be a used Mellanox ConnectX-2 type card that has served for 10 years in the data Center, and it will still serve you :slight_smile:

Zyxel has a whole bunch of multi-Gigabit switches: core-level managed XS1930, Web-managed XPS 1210-12 for distribution network, unmanaged XGS1010-12 for desktop installation. Moreover, the latter has a hardware-level QoS function for 1-Gigabit ports:

  • 4 ports have low priority
  • 2 ports-medium
  • 2 ports - high priority

The PoE function is currently only available in XS1930-12HP, which seems strange to me: since we are talking about Wi-Fi access points, PoE should be everywhere, and perhaps it will appear a little later, but now we will look at the design of switches.

Both models in question, XGS1010-12 and XPS 1210-12, have the same metal body designed for table mounting: there are no rack mounts either in the basic configuration or in the form of accessories. Both switches use passive cooling, and when we remove the case cover, we see a massive radiator plate that removes heat from the four chips.

The switching matrix is represented by the Realtek RTL9302B processor, which has a frequency of 800 MHz and supports up to 16 ports. The total switching performance is 66 Gbit / s, which means that the physical capabilities of the ports are fully disclosed. A single 128-Megabyte DDR3 NANYA NT5CB64M16AP chip is used as a buffer: a decent amount for a 12-port switch.

To work with the physical connection layer, the following chips are used: one Realtek RTL 8231 for 8 1 baseT ports and two Realtek RTL8226, one for each 2.5 GB port. SFP+ slots do not require the use of PHY, and this results in significant savings. By the way, at the moment Zyxel offers only SFP + optical transceivers of the following types.

10G transceiver Zyxel SFP+ SFP10G-SR SFP10G-LR
Connectir Duplex LC Duplex LC
Wavelength, nm 850 1310
Maximum distance, Km 0,3 10
Fabric type Multi Mode Single Mode

Those who want to use 10GBase-T SFP + modules can use compatible devices.

In terms of circuitry, the XPS 10-12 and XPS 1210-12 models are absolutely identical, so the only difference is the control of the older model via the web interface, which we will now get acquainted with.

Web interface

This is a familiar ZyXEL platform that is used in the initial series of DGS switches. Settings here are minimal, only the most necessary. A single port can only be included in multiple VLANs, and pre-defined groups are available for combining ports:

  • Ports 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Ports 5 and 6 Ports 7 and 8 Ports 9 and 10
  • As you can see, it is not possible to combine SFP+ ports into LAN, but hardly anyone will need it.

When configuring QoS, you can access queues based on the port number, as well as using the IEEE 802.1 p algorithm.

I also want to note the support for IGMP Snoop for multicast traffic and the ability to disable STP. ZyXEL periodically updates the firmware for entry-level switches, but the changes are so minor that they may never be updated.

Testing

During testing, network cards were connected via a loop through the switch, measuring the speed of operation with themselves. The switches have a very small buffer that smooths performance on all the main interfaces, and in the most sparing conditions, we see throughput at the level of the declared characteristics.

If we do not take the measurement error, then we are dealing with port restrictions. It is quite different when we reduce the packet size to 512 bytes.

On 1-Gigabit ports, everything is very good, and even fine: yet we are dealing with modern Realtek logic with a switching capacity of 49 million packets / sec. Here we have a bandwidth of 945 Mbit / s, which is great. But then the miracles begin: 2.5-GB ports with speeds up to 2100 Mbit / s already face a lack of buffer size and lose their speed as much as 1400 Mbit / s, and 10-GB ports completely overload the stack, maintaining a stable speed range of 1900-2000 Mbit/s. In General, everything is as it should be for an entry-level switch.

Conclusions

Retail prices for switches are $ 180 for the unmanaged XGS1010-12 and $ 260 for the web-managed XGS1210-12. When integrating into an office network, it makes sense to take the XGS1010-12 just as a device with 10g and 2.5 G ports, and put all the control “over” it on a more advanced switch. This switch is devoid of any disadvantages, and if you are satisfied with the port configuration, you can take it! The xgs1210-12 model is just asking for a WLAN installation, but I am seriously confused by the lack of PoE, so I can’t match this switch as a platform for modern access points.

Of course, a full-fledged switch with 12 multi - Gigabit ports, and even with PoE, such as Zyxel XS1930-12HP, costs like a cast - iron bridge: about$ 1000 retail, and given that most wired connections in modern networks are still 1-Gigabit, and the real bandwidth of 10G is rarely required even in data Centers of small enterprises, these multi-Gigabit solutions with 1G/2.5 G/10G ports are our future for the coming years, which will be provided by 5G and Wi-Fi 6.