There are lots of small, inexpensive 10Mbps Ethernet switches on the market. There are lots of large, expensive 10/100Mbps Ethernet switches on the market. Digi’s new MiLAN series of Ethernet switches offers the best of both worlds: a small, relatively inexpensive 10/100Mbps Ethernet switch. (MiLAN is a subsidiary of Digi.) The advantage of the MiLAN series is that it frees up desk and rack space by offering both 10 and 100 Mbps Ethernet connectivity in a single unit that measures the same size as small dedicated 10Mbps Ethernet hubs. Previously, you had to buy a much larger (and more expensive) box to provide both speeds of the same switch.

Digi provided both four and eight port switches for us to test. Sixteen and twenty-four port units are also available, and all the MiLAN switches can be chained together for almost infinite expansion. The eight-port unit is compact, measuring eight inches wide, an inch high, and four inches deep. The four port unit is only six inches wide. The front panel of the switches holds the RJ-45 ports for devices, as well as one extra port for uplinking to other switches. This is a departure from many compact switches that make one of the ports double as an uplink, effectively robbing one port from use. Also on the front panel is a set of LEDs for each port connectivity and current speed, as well as a power indicator. The back of the switch has a small port for the wall-wart power supply. A wall mount kit is thoughtfully included. Each port features autonegotiation of speed and duplex (both half and full duplex is supported) and any mix of speeds can be handled on the ports.

To test the MiLAN switches, we replaced a much larger eight-port 10/100Mbps unit with the eight-port MiLAN. A mix of eight clients was connected, each capable of 10 and 100Mbps Ethernet, as well as switching between full and half duplex instantaneously through a software control panel. The MiLAN was then routed through the uplink port to a managed HP forty-eight port switch. The four-port MiLAN was connected to four network devices including a high-speed HP 8100DN color laser and a Tektronix Phaser 850 color laser. A CD-DVD tower (eight CD drives and four DVD drives in a networked subsystem and a separate RAID disk subsystem with 120GB disk space were also connected to the four-port hub. All four devices can be switched between 10 and 100Mbps speeds. We were curious about how well the MiLANs would handle clients switching between 10 and 100Mbps transfers of large files, as well as high-volume requests to the four-port connected devices. We loaded up the eight PC clients with scripts running under WinRunner and let the system run full-out for two days.

The MiLAN switches easily handled the devices changing speeds between 10 and 100 Mbps, as well as between full and half duplex. There appears to be internal logic in the switches that allows for fast transfers between devices of the same speed (100 to 100, for example) with forwarding of the packets to the different speeds handled with a beraly measurable delay. The MiLAN’s internal circuitry appears quite complex, with most of the tasks handled by dedicated chips. We were unable to make the MiLAN switch hesitate at all, easily routing all our requests despite high Ethernet traffic flows.

These are impressive switches not just for their size, but also for their capabilities. With the four port retailing at $140 and the eight-port retailing for $215, the prices are not far above those of 10Mbps-only switches. The added flexibility of switching speeds and interconnecting devices (especially without expensive managed dual-speed switches) makes these MiLAN switches a winner.

MiLAN 10/100 Mbps Ethernet Switches
4-port $140
8-port $215
MiLAN Technology / Digi International
1299 Orleans Drive
CA 94089

Summary: Inexpensive talented dual speed Ethernet switches. If you need a switch, this is a great buy.