There are few products which we wholeheartedly recommend. One of them is a MikroTik CRS305-1G-4S+IN. It is not the fastest switch. It is not from a big name networking vendor. What represents is perhaps the best value in 10GbE networking for a home or small office environment. In our review, we are going to show you why this four-port SFP+ 10GbE switch (plus single 1GbE) is a must-have at only around $125-$149 new. At $500 we could not give the switch the same recommendation, but at this price level, it is a great tool.
MikroTik CRS305-1G-4S+IN Video
We are releasing a video on the MikroTik CRS305-1G-4S+IN as an update to this review.
In this video, Patrick goes into some of the color commentaries about why we replace these low-cost models often. In this article, we have an analysis of why.
MikroTik CRS305-1G-4S+IN Overview
Before we get into the overview, you have probably seen the MikroTik CRS305-1G-4S+IN and perhaps not even known it. Here is an example from Arm TechCon 2019 last week. If you look to the left of the VMware ESXi on Arm demo booth below the Ricola and coffee cup. The silver box covered in wires is a CRS305-1G-4S+IN running a demo with Mellanox Bluefield SmartNICs running VMware on Arm. These switches are small and low power which makes them great whenever you need a small switch but do not have the power/ space for something larger.
Here is the front, or the “business end” of the MikroTik CRS305-1G-4S+IN. There are five ports in total. The 1GbE port on the left we normally use for 1GbE networking. This generally goes to our management network plus it has a special feature: it is a PoE input. The CRS305-1G-4S+IN is such a low power device that you can power it from a PoE input minimizing the number of cables you need to run to it. More on power soon.
The other four ports are SFP+ ports. In a switch like this, you are most likely going to use either SFP+ optical transceivers or SFP+ DACs. We have used Cisco, Juniper, Arista, Mellanox, and Intel coded optics and DACs without issue. MikroTik, thankfully, does not make this low-cost switch picky on optics. If you want something MikroTik branded, they have very inexpensive options based on what kind of fiber run you are doing.
On the side of the switch, you can see the various LEDs and a reset button. We wish these were next to the SFP+ connections so it is easier to tie ports to LEDs, but at this price point this is an acceptable solution.
Moving to the rear of the unit, we find what may be one of the most unique features. There are two power inputs. Technically, that means that this switch has three power inputs or one more than our 32-port Dell Z9100-ON 100GbE switch that costs over $10,000. On a device in this price/ performance range, if it had a single DC input or was simply PoE only, it would be everything we expect. In this case, we have one more.
Underneath the unit we have rubber feet installed. There are also mounting points in the event you wanted to put this switch under a desk, in a closet, on a wall or similar.
You probably noticed throughout the overview that the case is very porous. Holes are everywhere. This is a passively cooled device. That means there are no fans and it runs silently. It also means that if you do mount this on your workspace, you need to be careful of liquids so they do not pour into the switch. The switch also gets very hot during operation, so ensure you are not going to bump into it. You can see the hot surface warning triangle label. It is small, just keep it away from where you may accidentally swipe it.
The Counterpoint: MikroTik CRS309-1G-8S+IN
There is a very good reason not to get this switch. For only about $110 more, or less than twice as much, you can get a MikroTik CRS309-1G-8S+IN. This is a larger, still passively cooled switch with eight SFP+ ports and a single 1GbE port. Effectively, one gets twice as many ports with that switch than with the MikroTik CRS305-1G-4S+IN.
If you recall how we mentioned that in this segment if a switch only has a single DC input that would be our expectation, the CRS309 has only one input. It is not often a lower-end model has redundant power inputs while the higher-cost model does not.
In either case, these are very affordable options. The MikroTik CRS309-1G-8S+IN is the better switch if you need more SFP+ ports. On the other hand, a MikroTik CRS305-1G-4S+IN is smaller and less costly.
When to Use These Switches
As a quick aside, we have many users that start their forays into 10GbE networking getting two 10GbE SFP+ NICs and a DAC or have a direct connection from a PC to a NAS for example. The MikroTik CRS305-1G-4S+IN is a perfect switch to turn that direct connection into something more useful. For example, with this switch you can connect a NAS, plus a 1GbE switch like a MikroTik CSS326-24G-2S+RM to get 1GbE networking as well. You can use another port to get 10Gbase-T via a MikroTik CRS312-4C+8XG-RM. Moving to a switched topology gives one much more flexibility in their networking versus a direct attach topology.
As a plus, the MikroTik products run RouterOS standard which has a number of features. The Marvell 32-bit Arm processor is not going to run an enormous number of services, but you will see a lot of L3 services available. There is also a SwOS which is a more stripped-down OS designed for switches.
In either case, you can use GUIs like the WebFig or WinBox to manage your devices. If you are a novice but need to set up a VLAN, this is much easier than learning a new CLI to make a set-and-forget style configuration.
As with any device, ensure you change your passwords and put the management port onto a secure management network.
A Note on Performance
We typically use these for fairly simple networking either with flat networks or using some VLANs but without routing. Since our typical network usage is file transfers, we generally get line rate minus overheads when we pass traffic over 10GbE. If you need highly specialized networking or the lowest latency switch, you probably are not looking at the $130 price bracket. For its intended use, it is fine. Here are the official switching results from MikroTik:
Here are the Ethernet results:
As you can see, as you start to add features like IP filters and small packet sizes, the throughput drops to sub 1GbE speeds. If you are using it as a simple Layer 1/2 device for general home/ office usage, then you will get 10GbE speeds. Think of this as a simple Layer 1/2 switch.
We tested power consumption on 120V power since that is common at the edge where these will be deployed in North America. In terms of actual power consumption we saw:
- Idle Power: 10W
- Max Observed Power: 13W
- Max Power from Spec Sheet: 18W
This is minimal overhead for using a switch instead of a direct-attach setup.
This is a switch that we have in the lab that is not powered on 24×7, but we use it weekly. Its small size and deployment flexibility allow it to be used to add SFP+ network ports just about anywhere. At this price point, having a low-power, low-cost, and silent 10GbE switch, even if it is only four ports, is something that we recommend highly over stringing together direct connections. When one adds some of the company’s other low-cost products such as its 24x 1GbE switches that also have SFP+ networking, one can make an inexpensive and still reasonably fast network.
At this price range, it is an excellent switch for your desk. It is not the highest-performing switch out there with a low power CPU and 512MB of RAM. It has a WebGUI which increases a security attack surface but makes it more accessible. Our units have been reliable and there are features like redundant power, but it is not what we would want to see running the backbone of JPMorgan Chase’s banking network. Your office, home, a trade show demo, or a coffee shop, all are the target applications for the switch
At the same time, it is very easy to plug-in and start running for basic switching. So long as you are aware of the limitations, the MikroTik CRS305-1G-4S+IN is a great little switch. They are easy to find at your favorite MikroTik reseller or even on Amazon. Pricing is very reasonable and is almost always under the $149 list price.
We debated this within STH. This is a product that we have more than one editor that has purchased. We these switches used in trade show demos all the time by very knowledgeable people. While it is not perfect, for the price point, it is a stellar device. In the end, we decided to hand out our fourth ever STH Editor’s Choice award to the MikroTik CRS305-1G-4S+IN.